Addressing the post-pandemic learning and development gap


The pandemic has transformed how we work and with the majority of organisations focusing on survival over the last 18 months, training and development activities have stalled.


The World Economic Forum estimates that technology will replace 85 million human jobs, while 97 million new ones will be created in the next four years. Workforces are now moving toward increased automation at a rapid pace, driving the need for improved management and decision making as we embark on the journey of digital transformation – because it’s people that drive transformation, not technology; and success depends on the right balance of skills, experience, and personal traits.


The skill development dip


According to a recent LinkedIn research, 87 percent of UK business leaders admit that young employees had suffered a “development dip” during the Covid crisis. Asking 1000 people aged between 16 and 34 about their learning experiences, over two-thirds agreed that the pandemic was harming their professional development. On a positive note, the survey also indicated that 78 percent of leaders are planning to establish training courses to help employees adapt to new ways of working.


Organisations that are already investing in employee development stand to gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining the best talent, as well as driving innovation, agility, and resilience. It is also significantly more cost-effective to build a learning culture and invest in employees’ skills than it is to search for new talent. According to a 2020 survey, 97 percent of employees wanted to expand or at least continue the amount of time they spend learning, and opportunities to learn and grow have emerged as the strongest drivers of work culture.


New pandemic-induced business models and the economic changes created new roles and opportunities for organisations, with upskilling and reskilling being a critical factor in capitalising on them. A recent HBR study has shown that 82 percent of employees and 62 percent of HR leaders believe that workers will need to hone their current skills or acquire new ones at least once a year in order to maintain a competitive advantage in a global job market.


Leading a learning culture


Lifelong learning is considered an economic imperative and employees who consider, update, and improve their skills are the high performers, especially over the longer term. Organisations today require different skills of their workforces, including resilience, adaptability, digital, and interpersonal skills. Last year, LinkedIn has seen a 21 percent increase in job postings focused on skills and responsibilities instead of qualifications and requirements in the US, and the number of positions that don’t require a degree increased by nearly 40 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.


Leaders have a powerful influence on their employees as role models. Most of our learning occurs at work as we learn through those who lead us. Leaders who want to create an environment of growth for their teams should demonstrate themselves that they are committed to growth. Instead of making career and professional development a standalone experience, leaders need to build learning into employees’ day-to-day roles. Leaders who demonstrate that ongoing education is integral to personal career growth can help to foster a learning culture by encouraging employees to block out time for learning, and if leaders have dedicated learning time, employees are more likely to follow suit.


Organisations need to prioritize reskilling and upskilling to attract and retain the talent if they want to grow. Those that succeed will not only boost the motivation of their existing workforce but will attract the best new recruits and position themselves to emerge from the pandemic in a better position to move forward. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.