UpSkilling – Change the Mindset

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Remote workers.  Deskless workers.  Regardless of the preferred term, your employees, your customers are likely working from home.  They are not coming into your office or some other facility.  

And with that, becomes a challenge for L&D and Training. 

The Good Old Days  – As in early Feb. 2020

Let’s look into our crystal ball of the past and remember:

  • Physical ILT – in your conference room, in a training classroom, at a hotel, at a trade show
  • OJT – On the job training

On-site training at some level could be one on one – similar to coaching or it could be the manager training their staff on some thing.  How about those new employees?  The multi-day training of them, learning where folks sit, watching a video, reading the manual that nobody reads, are what seem essential.

And, well, that is all gone.

How, then can we train them on new skills, if we cannot physically be present and as of important what skills do they need to know in the current business situation?

Change the Focus

In the past, (like a few months ago), people were being trained specifically related to their job role.  If they were in consideration for leadership, they received leadership development training.   If they were looking at a new role in the company, they were provided (or should have been) content related to that new role.  Everything was job role based.  

Acceptable for sure. And when it came to onboarding the premise was provide them the information they need quickly, to onboard them quickly and have them into the fold.

Those days are gone.

Nearly “25 percent of workers reported that their skills were mismatched to the demands of their current job.” (World Economic Forum)

Think about that for a second. 

That stat was before the pandemic.  Imagine, what that is now?

Six Drivers

In the report, “Future Work Skills, 2020” they identify six drivers of change.

1. Extreme Longetivity – This is to say, that by 2025, 70% of Americans will be over 60 years old.

Add in the economic conditions that exist today and likely will for the next couple of years (according to some economists), people will continue to work, rather than retire.

Oh and add that for all the talk of “we can handle change”, people regardless of age in general, can’t.  Do you think, Carolyn, aged 62 is going to be thrilled that her role is going to require her to learn more skills, beyond what is she has been doing for 35 years?

2. Rise of Smart Machines and Systems.  –  Automation in the workforce will replace the need of humans doing those jobs.  We already see this happening, and occuring before the pandemic.  Robotics exists (you see in with manufacturing), now toss AI into the mix.  With a reduced need of humans for those roles, a company has two options – either re-skill them (ideal) or eliminate their role – i.e. lay them off or fire them. 

3. Computational World –  The world becomes one programmable system.  IT is in our lives.  The need for technical skills, even at the base level – learning Office for example, is an essential. 

4.  New Media Ecology  –  Powerpoint is dated.  Folks today must learn the latest forms of media including video and have the ability to dig deeper into the meaning of text and images, to extract essential knowledge.   Teaching your employees, Powerpoint – or how to create a deck in PPT, is the past, the new reality –  teach them how to shoot video and utilize it in an effective means for delivering knowledge, insight and communication.  

5. Superstructured Organizations – New forms of production and value via transformational social technology.  This was already taking place, pre-pandemic, but with the skills folks will need going forward will only expand. And you can be any size of business.

6. Globally Connected World. 

Reality Pre-Pandemic

  • One in four adults reported a mismatch in skills they have, and the skills they need for their current job (World Economic Forum)
  • Close to 30 percent (30%) of adults say they fear being seem as dumb or incompetent, if they ask for training in a skill that they should know or need to know for their job (Sitel, Future of Work and Employee Learning)
  • 46 Percent (46%) of full-time workers believe they have the skills that will enable them to compete, 10 years from now (Pulse of the American Worker Survey – Prudential)
  • It takes 36 days to learn a new skill (IBM Institute for Business Value
  • Depending on where/whom you read, the half-life of skills is five years, with it dropping down significantly for those in Engineering.  

The New Reality

You likely have employees working from home.  Even when the time comes to open up the office, the percentage of employees who will want to work from home, is likely to remain high (until a vaccine is available).    

As an employee working from home, you may prefer the office, just as some learners prefer sitting in a physical classroom to learn, even if they are not paying attention.  In other words, independent operation is similar to independent learning.   You either like it or you don’t. 

There are employees who need to be provided a daily task list or weekly for that matter, in order for them to feel comfortable, while there are others who would bristle at such a process. 

Those that need the daily task push (sure it is micro-managing, but look, there are people who prefer this), are now faced with a whole new dynamic paradigm, and one that is not favorable to them. 

Web conferencing is the rage.  Regardless if you use Zoom, WebEx or whomever, workers need to know how to use the application, and how to work with others in this new virtual setting.  

And with this comes new skills, they must learn.

  • Provide them with “how to” content covering whatever web conferencing solution you are using.  Include mini-quick reference cards.  3rd party off the shelf content does exist for some of these solutions.
  • Provide them with content on cross-collaboration, effective communication, emotional thinking, team dynamics and other soft skills that will be used in this new environment
  • Soft skills such as creativity, innovation (thinking out of the box) are crucial. 

Skills To Prepare

Your employee’s productivity is only as good as the level of training or learning you provide them, in their role.  If there was any form of learning that is ideal for your workforce, it is e-learning (i.e. online learning).

But with that, one must recognize the following:

  • Compliance training is one in and one out, this means that an employee will take the content/course right before it is due (the majority) or early on, complete and never return, thus usage of your learning system will be poor (if compliance is all you do)
  • Safety content is important, but if I am at home, and not on-site, then learning how to reduce chemical acccidents shouldn’t be at the top of the learn scale (not until, they return to their location on-site). 
  • Mindsets must change.  If you are providing any learning around safety, and those folks are all at home, is it still essential? At your location, absolutely, but will Dan need to know how to drive a forklift, if he isn’t going to be on-site, for the rest of the year? Can, you hold off on that forklift safety, until he returns to his location or until he gets close to returning?
  • If the percentage of your training/learning is job role specific, are you presenting your personnel with the skills content that provides new skills non-job related, but still of value to them?

There are a lot of distractions that come with working from home. Focusing on specific tasks if you will, may not be at the same  “let’s do it” mentality, because, they are home, away from prying eyes (at least you hope your employer isn’t using a keylogger or similar on that work laptop they provided you). 

Top Five Skills that are “MUSTS”

  1. Ability to not only know their own job skills, but learn at least some basics in other job roles and disciplines.  For example, an employee who is front-facing with a customer, should be provided content that breaks down some of the departments they may be asked upon.   Many of these employees, rarely receive customer skills training, communication and other soft skills that are relevant.   I remember back in the day, of having an employee ask if they could learn some of our content tied to our Ph.D. staff, because they were the first face folks saw when they came into a location and they were interested in learning about what folks were inquiring about.   I provided them and the rest of the folks in that group, with such information.  
  2. Differential Thinking – Thinking that is not dependent on “right now”, rather focuses on “what if”.  This requires content that isn’t just about their job role, it includes how to handle tasks that are not related to their role, but is essential in this new business environment.  Adaptability is a crucial skill set.
  3. Learning of new tools.  Bring out the content with Microsoft 365, toss in some content on MS Teams (if you use it) or Slack (if you use it).  Toss in articles or other forms of content to provide insight into the technological landscape, such as a machine learning or internet of things.   I’d definitely recommend content on how to use video as a form of “how to explain”.   The easy way is to just tell your employees to go to “YouTube”, but as someone in L&D, you shouldn’t go the easy way.  You should create content that pinpoints the tools you recognize are relevant to your employees, and will get them to access over and over again.
  4. Soft Skills – Now is the time to add this content to your learning system.  There are over 100 vendors out there who provide 3rd party content around various soft skills.  If your system does not offer soft skills content or offers it, but not with the vendor’s content you found, don’t fret.   You can still buy the content and have it integrated into your learning system via an API.
  5. Skills for tomorrow.  Too many folks focus on right now, and as a result you have people whose skills will become outdated, and/or jobs that did not exist in “right now”, that show up later on.

I recall a wonderful article that discussed all the new jobs in recent years within the gig economy. Nobody could foresee an Uber Driver, Doordash delivery person, personal shopper and so forth.  How many people recognized that data scientist would become a job in demand? 

Think of the global connected world.  Think about the millions of folks, perhaps yourself, that are currently learning a new language via an app on your mobile device or online.  Then ask yourself, why are you not offering the same opportunity to your workforce? Instead of just offering proprietary content, why not offer them 3rd party foreign language content?

Remember the distraction point? Or working from home?  To reduce indifference to using your learning system, because the only thing you are providing is “assigned”, tap into the interests. Learner-centric should now be the norm, not the “we never do that”, way. Training and Learning can be fun.  If that employee wants to have a family member take a soft skill course you have in your system, let them.   First off, they may be doing it already, and secondly, soft skills is about enrichment.

Be willing to re-skill your workforce.  We are very good saying “reskill”, as a country, but boy are we really poor at implementing it.  

 Leadership development must change.  A leader is one that just isn’t effective in their  job role, it requires so many more skill sets (soft skill wise) and even some multi-disciple too.  You can’t be observing someone any more, but you can observe the content that they are taking, and see where the gaps are.  

Future leaders in your company, will be those who adapted well during this time.  They are the ones who recognized and acted accordingly to the changes that have come about.  They will be skilled at communication, decision making, and collaboration with a remote workforce.

Bottom Line

vILT is hot and will continue to do so. But virtual ILT only works to a point. No one is going to retain any information by staring at someone’s face for an hour or two.  They need engagement and interaction, something that is beyond, typing in a chat room, or raising their “hand”.

Simulations should be something you should consider for your training.  3rd party content that goes beyond just text is something you should be offering.

And skills that are adaptable and available to all,

Must become the norm.

NEW: Here is the link to my webinar presentation on “How to Engage and Upskill with Training” 

E-Learning 24/7









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