How to avoid a pandemic pause on professional development

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Jobs of the future will require a focus on skills rather than degrees, and there may be no better time than the present for employers to consider digital training and upskilling opportunities in the workplace.

About 6.1 million jobs will emerge in high-growth areas that represent the future of work through 2022, according to an analysis by the World Economic Forum. The report identifies fast growing jobs in data and artificial intelligence, engineering and cloud computing, people and culture, sales, marketing and content and product development.

These jobs require not only disruptive technical skills but also business and specialized industry skills including so-called “soft skills,” such as caregiving, leadership, and the ability to provide learning and development. Meeting the demand will require an always-on approach to training that could add $11.5 trillion in GDP growth over the next decade, according to the report.

The new work environment has created an opportunity to introduce digital courses for upskilling to more people than ever, says Debasis Dutta, vice president and general manager of product and user experience at SumTotal, a learning and talent development software company.

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The company’s courses on virtual collaboration and team communication, for example, have grown 6,291% and 552% respectively since January. Dutta attributes the higher demand to emerging needs of collaboration among remote teams, a skill he says will only become more essential.

“We often call virtual instructor-led training an ‘overnight success, 20 years in the making’ because we’ve had the technology for a long time, but we’re finally finding the right ways to use it,” says Dutta.

Training and upskilling also brings the potential of increased employee engagement, retention, growth and profitability, according to a 2019 report by West Monroe Partners. But 56% of the report’s respondents said that their organization’s skills gap was moderate to severe, and 63% of respondents said their organization had not equipped its managers with upskilling resources.

For employers that have not engaged with online training before, investment in platforms and programs that host accessible learning content is the easiest way to get started, Dutta says.

“Having a session or two that the company can attend that involves a variety of modes for learning — from oral discussion, to modular testing, to live polling —will allow you to fully immerse teams in remote training and begin to establish new norms to power you through this next chapter of work,” he says.

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