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"Degrees & Programs"

Accelerating staff skills during the pandemic through agile solutions

By Leo Goncalves
December 09, 2020 • 3 minute read

Technological advancements in recent years have forced organizations to rapidly upskill their workforce. According to PWC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO survey (2019), four out of five CEOs reported worrying about skills shortages of all types and the threat it had on business growth1. This has been and always will be a core business issue that cannot be ignored.

While attempts to keep pace with technology are not new, the sudden outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic this spring further accelerated the pace of change. How we work was disrupted, spurring the creation and implementation of new technologies, processes and systems to deliver services and goods in the new normal.

This unexpected acceleration has caused a ripple effect throughout organizations of all types.

Businesses now require agile solutions to meet the urgent need to fill skills gaps within their workforce. Certificates and/college credits can align with programmatic or industry recognitions, like SHRM, HIMSS, PMI, and others. In many cases, badging or microcerts are also recognized or used as “credit” for industry certs. Skills validation and badging are growing in popularity among employers looking to upskill and can be a faster approach to address short burst learning needs.

In the past, the content and structure of employee “learning and development” was often curated by an organization with an enterprise or company-specific curriculum. However, this strategy takes longer to create than most employers have time for, particularly in a fast-paced environment that is constantly changing to meet the needs of a post-COVID-19 environment.

The pandemic has rendered the traditional models irrelevant. Enterprises now need to lean on a new model for upskilling that is more agile to create the relevant content they need as quickly as possible.

Accelerating these skill-building opportunities often means identifying and incorporating professional development opportunities in the forms of industry-relevant certificates that can meet an organization’s immediate upskill needs.

A pathway that can also put employees on a possible degree-bearing program track may be a solution that motivates employee participation and provides an advantage in the race for relevancy.

Looking beyond “L&D”

The traditional way of looking at employee upskilling was done through learning and development (L&D) offerings. Within organizations, this often is the process of identifying employee skills gaps and developing trainings or programs that help bridge those gaps to increase performance.

While this approach is a key element in increasing effectiveness, L&D often is not able to provide employees the holistic approach to growth and development that upskilling can. Providing this requires work with educational allies to help create a rich option of curriculum opportunities that are specialized to the industry.

Focusing on in-demand needs and offerings

The ability to quickly upskill employees often requires curriculum and content in necessary professional development areas to be offered in-demand. Content can be packaged to meet the needs of an organization, while at the same time connecting the learning path developed for a business’s employees to accrue college-level credits.

For instance, opportunities abound in the field of computer science. Employees should have an opportunity to take coursework in in-demand disciplines with options to specialize in industry-aligned certificates. This can help forecast trends and prepare for industry shifts.

This is mutually beneficial for the employer and employee. Upskill solutions in the form of industry-aligned certificates, for example, provide a timely response to the organization’s needs and position employees as lifelong learners, not short-burst learners.

Emphasizing soft skills

Not to be overlooked is the relevance of developing and enhancing professional soft skills. Skills such as critical thinking, presenting and teamwork have increased in relevancy as technology takes over the operation and automated aspects of our jobs. Coronavirus demands soft skills on steroids as many people navigate remote work and new technological dependencies.

Employees should be poised to learn how to effectively work in teams in a new environment. And for those in management roles, leadership skills should be honed to ensure a connection to their team and effectively motivate and coach employees through and beyond changes.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the acceleration of relevant skills is here to stay. We may very well see this grow further as we adapt to changes in how we work.

Approaching upskilling in a holistic and mutually beneficial way for employers and employees can result in a lower total financial and time investment for the organization, help close the skills gap for their workforce and set their company apart from competing organizations, as well as provide college credit to employees and support retention and loyalty initiatives.