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Digital Workplace
Learning: How
the pandemic
changed learning
at work

Author: Phil Muncaster

Investing in your employees has never been more important. The pandemic forced mass cancellation or postponement of in-person workplace learning programs, all while it accelerated disruptive labor trends forcing major investments in reskilling and upskilling.

The World Economic Forum predicts that 44% of the skills that employees need to do their jobs will change by 2025. Digital workplace learning holds the key to effective training and retraining in a post-pandemic world.

Learning at work framework

A learning at work framework describes any learning activities supported by digital technology designed to enhance knowledge and job performance. According to CIPD, it could include:

  • Formal, fee-paying courses
  • Informal learning and knowledge-sharing delivered using digital technology
  • Blended and supported learning, where formal or informal learning is combined with other types of learning

Typical technologies include virtual classrooms, video conferencing applications, file-sharing, webcasts and whiteboard-style content co-creation platforms. Demand for these kinds of programs is on the rise, driven by rapid technological, societal and organizational changes. The global market for online education is predicted to reach $350 billion by 2025—and it will likely keep rising long afterward. According to a LinkedIn study, 76% of Gen Z learners believe continued improvement is the key to a successful career. That same group watched 50% more learning content in 2020 than other age groups.

Benefits of digital workplace learning

Why are so many organizations investing in digital workplace learning? Because the increasing availability and reduced cost of supporting technologies, including managed services, can make it cheaper and easier to do. But beyond that, there are major benefits to establishing a learning at work framework.

  • Retaining your best and brightest: If your employees aren't given the support they need to progress, they might leave, spiking your hiring costs.
  • Advancing the business: A skilled, qualified workforce boosts your bottom line and helps you meet performance objectives more quickly.
  • Tailored courses for improved outcomes: No two learners are the same, but with digital technology, you can take a blended approach, which can mix classroom sessions with gamification and other techniques.
  • Asynchronous learning support: With flexible online options, learners can learn when and where it suits them, and personalized options optimize outcomes.

How COVID-19 changed digital workplace learning

Digital learning in the workplace was on the rise before the pandemic, and the pandemic sparked an even greater appetite—82% of senior business leaders and 71% of users reported greater demand than before the pandemic.

At the same time, the pandemic has "accelerated the arrival of the future of work," according to the World Economic Forum. This means more disruption and automation, and the displacement of about 85 million jobs through 2025. But it also means new opportunities for those with the right analytical thinking skills, creativity and flexibility. Data, AI, content creation and cloud computing will also be in high demand, further fueling digital workplace learning, the World Economic Forum says.

Challenges of digital workplace learning

Although there's plenty to get excited about, digital learning is not without its challenges. According to the European HR analytics firm The Fosway Group, 65% of organizations do not think that their learning platform is fit for the modern workplace.

There are major technological and strategic challenges to establishing a learning at work framework, such as:

  • A lack of remote employee access to supported devices and/or high-speed broadband
  • Low levels of digital competence among instructors
  • Limited tech support for students
  • Cyber security risks
  • Limited time for students to learn
  • Feelings of isolation among learners

A learning at work framework for success

On average, 66% of employers expect to see a return on investment in upskilling and reskilling within one year, according to the World Economic Forum. They also expect to redeploy 46% of their staff. However, the ability to realize a positive ROI in a short amount of time is heavily dependent on a company's learning at work framework.

Consider the following steps for success.

  1. Establish a diverse leadership group for crisis response. This group should comprise key HR stakeholders, learning personnel, IT and vendors, and it should adapt existing strategies to the post-pandemic reality.
  2. Adapt old ways to meet new needs. Ensure that your programs are evolved to minimize participant risk. For example, replace in-person events with video-conferencing sessions.
  3. Improve digital learning experiences. Consider adding a social learning element and smaller group programs to foster greater engagement.
  4. Create new methods to improve digital learning. Focus on shorter interactions and increasing time between sessions. Ensure that everyone has the same seamless, consistent experience. Virtual reality is already being used to immerse the learner in new experiences, and artificial intelligence can analyze large datasets and let learners know where their skills are lacking.
  5. Plan and adapt. New COVID-19 variants are prolonging the pandemic. That could drive demand for digital workplace learning. Teams should plan for multiple scenarios and ensure in advance that they have the technical capacity to deliver programs.

How managed services can help

When engaging with technology providers, consider how a managed services provider could support your digital workplace learning programs. Engaging a managed services provider to handle your web hosting, network connectivity, cyber security and more can take the strain off your IT team, letting you focus on your training initiatives.

Learn how Verizon's smart workplace technology can support your digital workplace learning requirements.