The Importance of Upskilling and Professional Development Despite the Covid-19 Downtime
As online learning continues to make headlines across the globe, it is important for organizations to prioritize continuous learning for workforce development. Upskilling and reskilling initiatives help to keep employees engaged and motivated. Not only does innovation thrive in a growth mindset environment, it signals to staff that you care about their development and will also build staff loyalty and lead to higher talent retention. Sandra Slager, President of Skye Learning (a MindEdge company) and Chief Operating Officer of MindEdge Learning shares a few thoughts:
Tell us a little about yourself Sandra …how has your journey at MindEdge been and what have been some of the biggest challenges you / the team as a whole has had to overcome because of the Covid-19 pandemic?
I have been with MindEdge Learning, and now Skye Learning, for over 20 years. I started in the industry in 1998 and grew with the company to what it is today. Through my time at MindEdge and Skye Learning, I always found new challenges, new beginnings, and new opportunities as the company has grown and evolved. And now in the age of uncertainty, the pandemic has accelerated the world of online education, placing even greater importance on quality online learning programs.
For many of my team members and I, the transition to being a working parent with two young children – twins at that! – at home has been the most challenging and the most rewarding part of my career so far. As an organization, we have pivoted to recognize that these workers are juggling work and life in a way that has never been asked of employees. Not only did it force our executive team to address work-life balance head-on, but it also forced us to embrace our colleagues’ new backgrounds of kids and pets joining our meetings. Throughout the past few months, we have become more efficient, more effective, and more engaged in our teamwork to continue to push us toward success and remain prepared for whatever the future brings.
Given the various adjustments to the new normal, what are your thoughts on the need to optimize online learning and reskilling of staff across the hierarchy: how are companies adjusting to this today?
The two things I believe should be the most important priorities are fostering connections and offering career development opportunities. Reskilling an organization’s workforce not only benefits their employees but also the business as a whole. Connection and development form a more well-rounded and resilient workforce in a changing landscape.
Can you tell us a little bit about MindEdge’s latest offering(s) and what are some of the plans you are working on that we can look forward to in the next few months?
Recently, MindEdge announced an Online Marketing Certified Associate (OMCA™) test prep program for digital marketing professionals, a certification by OMCP, which is regarded as the worldwide standard. Through the online course, professionals can prepare and develop skills to become more effective digital marketer. This offering is part of MindEdge and Skye Learning’s commitment to offering online learning that is meaningful in improving the lives and careers of students and professionals.
Taking advantage of continuous learning helps professionals grow their careers faster and more effectively in a changing job market. To support this, we have a number of exciting partnerships in the pipeline that we’ll be announcing in the coming months.
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Seeing how the global workforce has adjusted by now to changing workplace norms, what are some of your thoughts on the Future of Work – across sectors and on a global level.
With the onset of COVID-19, workforce expectations are changing, and organizations need to prepare to keep up with them. In fact, our research found that remote work is here to stay with 36% of managers expecting that they will continue full-time remote work after the impact of the pandemic, and only 29% expect to return to the office full-time once deemed safe. The increased desire to work remotely long-term has accelerated since organizations were forced to take the leap, making the idea of the future of work a more tangible place. In response, industries across the globe are seeing changes occur in hiring and training processes to keep up with these expectations of a newly transformed workforce.
For example, more and more workers are capitalizing on the idea that credentials and certificates hold true value in the hiring landscape, and our data proves that close to three-quarters (72%) of managers say that certifications on a candidate’s resume hold a great deal or fair amount of value in their consideration. This new sense of value tied to online certificates is recently seen in the news with Google’s announcement that a few specific courses will now hold the same prestige as a four-year college degree. As the future of work evolves, the workforce will continuously evolve with it to reveal that continuous learning may hold the key for success.
What are the top 5 things you would tell B2B / Tech companies as they prepare for the next normal?
- Consider your product—Are there ways your product needs to be adjusted for this new normal? Allow your staff the time and resources to brainstorm ways to fine tune your product offering to stay ahead of market requirements.
- Be mindful of team connections—Some members of staff are more than happy to work independently 100% of their time. Be careful that connections between staff members are not lost in a remote work setting.
- Set goals as a company, and be realistic. It is hard to set goals in an uncertain time, but asking yourself and your team where you want to see the organization a year from now is a healthy goalpost to work toward.
- Stress the importance of soft skills—Communication skills are very important in a world of remote work. During a hiring cycle, pay special attention to candidates’ communication and collaboration abilities.
- Prioritize company stability—You can’t always promise a stable work environment, but if you can, you should. Your workers have a lot on their plates, and if you can offer encouragement and stability, you’ll build company loyalty that you can bank on if things get tough.
How would you advise companies to enhance their overall employee experience using a balance of traditional HR practices and new technologies during this time with (in some cases) majority staff still being remote?
Remote work has brought a new set of challenges and opportunities to the workforce. To embrace this period of transformation, businesses need to find creative ways to support their workforce. Digital communication tools will continue to become more prevalent in the day-to-day interaction of teams, and new tactics like implementing an upskilling program will engage employees in a way that maintains engagement and inspires curiosity.
By adding upskilling initiatives into current HR practices, organizations will see the deeper impact of connection when it is coupled with learning new skills. Especially at a time where ideas and brainstorming are forced to happen remotely, building continuous learning into the fabric of professional development will help organizations remain agile while supporting employees’ inherent desire to connect and learn with their colleagues.
A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?
While many organizations have been impacted negatively since the pandemic, we found that just under two-of-five (37%) managers report that their companies are still hiring. Among managers whose companies are hiring:
- 42% are looking to hire more experienced workers
- 17% are looking to hire recent college grads
- 31% say that it depends on the job, or that they do not have a preference
This data shows that while the current landscape for hiring is not what it once was, many companies are looking for skilled workers to join their teams. One way that we believe candidates will have an advantage in a competitive market is to hone in on the skills they currently possess and to look to new areas of expertise to upskill. Continuous learning helps workers remain in the mindset of being a lifelong student, always looking for the next big opportunity. This is a perspective that will inspire creativity and instill success in the workforce of the future.
Sandy Slager is the President of Skye Learning, and Chief Operating Officer of MindEdge Learning, founded in 1998 and based in Waltham, MA.