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When COVID-19 forced countless small businesses to shut down their physical operations, many business owners faced a disaster that wasn’t addressed in their contingency plans. And now, as businesses reopen in fits and starts to a drastically altered reality, it may be time to recalibrate.
Including training in your recovery process can help restore your edge and ensure that your business is ready for the new challenges you face.
Upskilling and Reskilling Are Essential
Even before the novel coronavirus struck, upskilling and reskilling were essential to keep businesses competitive. As technology changes and automation increases, job descriptions—and the skills needed—evolve quickly. The “half-life” of a skill set is shrinking.
The constant need to update skills means that organizations can't “depend solely on recruitment” to find people with the needed skills to fill their open positions, according to a Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report published in January 2020.
The events of 2020 have only intensified the need for competitive labor strategies. The COVID shutdowns and shifts to remote and socially distanced working have brought unanticipated changes in the way we all work. Training can help. Consider:
Anticipate and Fill Knowledge Gaps
Including upskilling and reskilling in your recovery and growth planning will push you to anticipate skill gaps related to new ways of serving customers while keeping customers and employees safe:
The changes might be as simple as using new apps to automate money transfers and deposits or as complex as entirely new inventory and supply tracking systems. Once you’ve thought about potential shifts and planned for the changes, you’ll be on track to help employees not only cope with the changes but flourish.
Make Training the Norm
Whether your business is still focused on recovering from a COVID shutdown or has shifted to planning for its future, incorporating training into your growth and contingency planning will pay off.
“In a world where social distancing is making people feel more isolated, social learning—learning together in virtual environments—is booming,” according to the LinkedIn Leading with Learning report. In fact, March and April saw a 130% increase in the amount of time enterprise learners spent learning, when compared with numbers from January and February, the report said.
Why? Learners suddenly had to contend with remote work—and learn new tools, new ways to communicate with colleagues and customers, and new ways to market, package, sell, and deliver goods. When businesses began to reopen, the training shifted—workers now had to master safety and sanitization protocols, learn what social distancing looked like in their business environments, and figure out how to safely work and serve their clientele.
Upskilling and reskilling. Workers needed to do both—fast.
And the need is not likely to go away any time soon. “The impact of COVID-19, technological change, and the economic downturn are sure to usher in a period of rapid workplace changes for months—if not years—to come,” the LinkedIn report predicts. “The organizations that will rise from the chaos will be the ones that understand how to become more resilient amidst this change—and even find ways to thrive in the workplace of the future.” That’s where a strong learning culture could prove valuable.
Foster Continuous Learning — for Any Contingency
All the contingency planning in the world would have been unlikely to prepare you for the changes that the COVID crisis forced upon small businesses. Even so, companies with a strong learning culture and an openness to preparing for and anticipating change are better situated to pivot when a crisis forces nimble thinking.
Encouraging lifelong learning is essential in today’s unpredictable landscape. “Studies show that workers who maintain their ability to learn outpace other professionals,” a 2019 McKinsey report said. “The people who will thrive in the 21st century will be those who embrace lifelong learning and continually increase their knowledge, skills, and competencies.”
Building a continuous learning culture enables an organization to anticipate changes and proactively develop the skills to meet those changes and challenges head-on.
Give your workers—and your business—a competitive edge as you climb out of shutdown mode. Building continuous learning into your business plan can help you catch up—and move forward.
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