Key Research Released on Impact of Covid-19 On Training Sector

Continuing on in our series of articles looking at how the pandemic has changed the face of the training sector; in this post we’re going to be presenting some key findings from recent research into how attitudes and behaviours have changed in the wake of Covid-19.

Of course, we all know how big the impact of the pandemic has been on workplaces across the globe. But, with any issue like this, it’s important to be able to quantify what exactly has changed. Without any data, we’re relying on anecdotal evidence and gut feeling – which is fine up to a point, but to be able to make smart business decisions we need data to back up our hunches.

We’ve had a look at 3 key pieces of research from Fosway Group (Covid-19 L&D Research First Take), LinkedIn Learning (2021 Workplace Learning Report) and Donald H Taylor (Global Sentiment Survey 2021). All of these pieces of research looked specifically at the impact of Covid-19 on the learning and training sector. In this article, we’re going to dig into where the reports agreed, where they disagreed, and what it might mean for you.

Quantifying the overwhelming shift to digital

The Fosway Group’s survey was carried out in the more immediate aftermath of Covid-19, while the other two pieces of research took a slightly longer view, asking participants to complete the survey while we’d had more time to adjust to the pandemic’s effects.

It’s perhaps no surprise then that the Fosway Group research spoke the most about the overwhelming shift in training from face to face to online. 94% of the learning and development pros they surveyed said that they’ve had to change their L&D strategy in response to Covid-19, and 71% said they had experienced increased demand for digital learning for end users.

92% of respondents said the demand for digital learning from senior stakeholders had increased, too. So, there’s certainly strong impetus to move training online from both users and managers. Despite the pressure on budgets caused by the pandemic, 21% of respondents said they’d implemented a wholly new digital learning solution or expanded their licenses for an existing solution. And, the L&D sector is embracing communications platforms they’re already using, with 84% saying it’s now more important to integrate digital learning into corporate collaboration platforms like Teams or Slack.

The LinkedIn Learning report corroborated this shift to digital and suggested that it’s here to stay. In their survey, 73% of L&D pros said they expect to spend less on in-person training in 2021, and 79% said they expect to spend more on online learning. Amongst Fosway Group’s respondents, only 5% said that they think the learning strategy will go back to what it was before the pandemic began.

However, many organisations are alive to the idea that they might not have the expertise in-house to accommodate this shift to digital. 59% of respondents to the Fosway Group’s research said they thought their organisation’s adoption of digital learning was “immature”. As this survey was a “First Take” response to the pandemic, though, it will be interesting to see how this changes over time as businesses get more used to the online-only world.

The Global Sentiment Survey (GSS) from Donald H. Taylor suggested a more mature response to the digitisation process. In this survey, the data suggested that learning and teaching pros were moving away from brand-new technologies and returning to familiar, tried and tested methods. Things like “learning experience platforms” and “virtual reality” dropped in sentiment, as those in the sector “turned from considering what they might be able to do tomorrow to focusing on what they have to do today”.

The GSS responses suggest that those in the learning sector are doubling down on the collaborative, digital only methods in an effort to ensure their training provision is effective and mature.

Learning and development is becoming a priority for more and more teams

The pandemic has also made learning and development more important. The shift to digital learning has meant more people are having to learn new skills to operate effectively remotely. We’ve also seen people taking advantage of an enforced break caused by lockdowns to focus on training.

62% of respondents to the LinkedIn Learning survey said that their CEOs were prioritising learning in their organisations. This was compared to 27% the year before, so this is a massive difference.

We’re also seeing changes in the way that L&D professionals demonstrate the value of their work. In the UK, 43% of L&D pros are now using survey tools to measure the effectiveness of their programs. This may also be a natural shift due to the online nature of so much training over the last 18 months, as it’s easier to solicit live feedback at the end of in-person training session.

Reskilling/upskilling is a massive area

One key area for the training sector over the last year has been upskilling and reskilling. Both the LinkedIn Learning and Donald H. Taylor’s survey saw respondents report an enormous boost in how important they’re seeing this kind of learning and development.

Upskilling and reskilling are specific forms of training or learning designed to help employees either learn totally new skills or even train them to take on wholly new roles. The LinkedIn Learning survey saw 51% of L&D pros saying that internal mobility is more of a priority now than before Covid-19, and “upskilling and reskilling” is now the top priority for L&D pros globally. Similarly, on the Global Sentiment Survey, the “reskilling/upskilling” category was considered the most important option for L&D pros, despite being a new entry this year. 13% of the votes in this survey considered this to be the “hottest” topic in workplace L&D in 2021.

The question here is exactly why reskilling and upskilling is such a hot topic right now. Is it just a trendy topic for right now, or will it become part of a new approach to L&D? Obviously, given that the pandemic has totally shut down some sectors and industries, there’s lots of demand from some workers to reskill into other sectors, but does this explain the rise in interest in the term?

One potential answer is that young people in the office are learning, reskilling and upskilling at a massive rate. The LinkedIn Learning survey showed that the number of Gen Z learners increased by 2.5x last year, and each watched 50% more hours of online learning content than they had been previously.

With hospitality jobs few and far between, it’s possible that the big shift in upskilling has been caused by younger and junior employers looking to quickly build a wide base of skills to have a broad appeal in the job market.

We hope you found this run-through of these key pieces of research into the pandemic’s effects on learning and development across the UK helpful. For more insight, check out the full research pieces, linked below.

And, check out our recent blog posts on the next 5 years of leadership training and on face to face vs digital learning.

Sources

Donald H Taylor’s L&D Global Sentiment Survey 2021, https://donaldhtaylor.co.uk/research_base/global-sentiment-survey-2021/

Fosway Group Covid-19 L&D Research: First Take, https://www.fosway.com/research/next-gen-learning/covid19-research/

LinkedIn Learning 2021 Workplace Learning Report, https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report

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