Investing in skills is an investment in the future

Postgraduate Research - working on thesis

By Dr Louise Bright, Director of Research & Business Engagement at the University of South Wales

There is no doubting that the pandemic has led to a shift in the way we work. Although society and the economy are constantly changing and businesses are always adapting to these changes, COVID has led to changes of unprecedented scale and pace. In terms of the crisis, it feels like we are now entering the recovery phase, so what have we learnt?

We’ve seen some organisations thrive in adversity, turning well-established business models on their heads and responding to demands leading to thriving companies. We’ve also seen many organisations hibernate, or even fold, unable to survive in the face of wave after wave of infection.

Some of this is sector dependent of course, but now more than ever, we need to be able to adapt and reskill to emerge from the pandemic even stronger than before. To do this, we need to support our workforce to cope with rapidly changing technologies. We’ve proved that even our most technophobic colleagues can be competent users of virtual meeting software – almost overnight! We’ve seen managers, previously unconvinced that working from home is ever productive, now become the most vocal advocates for this way of working. This crisis has proved that we are all capable of learning new skills and changing previously set mindsets. Imagine if we continued to adapt and learn – where would that lead?

All too often when times get tough and budgets are stretched, staff development is one of the first casualties. An easy saving to be made with a seemingly negligible impact. It can be argued however, that tough times are precisely when companies need to double down on their commitment to upskilling their staff. In the wake of the pandemic, organisations would benefit from a plan to develop talent within their teams, taking into account a range of skills including social and emotional skills, adaptability, and resilience, as well as digital competencies and leadership.

To develop their plans, leaders need to reflect and identify the skills their workforce needs to be able to thrive. That way the skills gaps can be addressed, and the impact assessed, and so the cycle begins again. We must constantly adapt to the changing environment around us. The new learning landscape might make it easier for leaders to implement these talent plans.

Online courses are a great place to learn and have become more readily available and cost-effective in our post-pandemic environment. Learners can study online and reflect on the application of their learning, and with the advent of digital ways of recreating in person learning through video and social sharing, the learning can be highly personalised.

 This approach is often very effective.

Investing in skills is investing in your people. This can only be positive in terms of retention, morale and productivity.

Investing in skills is an investment in the future and will help to ensure your company or organisation doesn’t fall behind.

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