How skills will be essential as we adapt to the post-Covid world
Last year, the online learning platform Coursera released its first Global Skills Index to try to understand the changing nature of skills development around the world. The report builds on the skills benchmarking tool developed by the company to help organizations not only understand the skills they have, but also compare their workforce with their peers.
Last year’s report found that European countries have led the way in skills development, with US companies appearing to be focusing more of their energy on recruiting the talent they need rather than developing it. The Covid-19 epidemic has changed most things, so has the skills landscape?
The first notable trend in the report was the relative isolation provided by high skillset from the impacts of Covid-19, both from an individual and organizational perspective. In many ways, this should come as no surprise, especially since previous research has highlighted how low-skilled jobs are more likely to be affected by Covid-19 lockdown measures, as they tend to be performed face-to-face. face and therefore cannot be done remotely, as many knowledge-based jobs can.
What the report clearly shows, however, is the clear link between skills and organizational performance. Cousera’s data shows that across skill areas, the link between skill and stock returns is 43%, with that level of performance continuing largely during the Covid crisis.
They suggest that this could in part be because digital skills have been so important in effectively responding to the crisis in the short term, and will be so important in transforming businesses to respond to the consequences of the crisis in the long term. . They believe this transformation will include everything from managing change to automating processes that can no longer be safely performed in person.
“It is likely that we will see huge disruptions in the labor market in the years to come, with existing jobs lost due to economic and technological factors, and new jobs created which will require new skills.” Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera told me this recently. “It’s really sad that many jobs vulnerable to automation are also vulnerable to Covid-19, so if you look at industries like retail, travel and recreation, and food services, they might not. not come back, then you have to rehabilitate people to take advantage of the opportunities of the future. “
Skills for the post-Covid world
Data from the UK’s Institute of Coding suggests this is happening. They revealed a ten-fold increase in enrollments since the lockdown was introduced in March, with a significant number of those students actively seeking new work or existing students looking to boost their qualifications before entering the first time on the job. labor market.
This push reflects not only the continued interest in developing digital skills, but also some of the softer skills that I have identified as key in previous articles. For example, communication, interpersonal skills, and collaborative working courses were all extremely popular. This trend was reinforced by data from Coursera, which showed a 1,200% increase in course registrations in areas such as mindfulness and stress management.
Despite this growth, the focus remains on business, technology and data science skills within organizations, with around two-thirds of government and business enrollments in courses providing these subjects. Despite widespread interest in the industry, it remains to be seen whether small businesses embrace this shift in focus.
I recently wrote a few times about the productivity drag caused by the uneven diffusion of the latest technologies, both in terms of regional adoption and adoption by small businesses. The scale of the challenge is underscored by new data from Oxford Economics and Intuit QuickBooks, which draws on Digital opportunity for small businesses report published in March.
The data highlights the rapid adoption of various digital technologies by small and medium-sized businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report highlights how this trend is expected to continue, it could increase UK GDP by £ 4.1bn per year.
“We find that the recent adoption of digital tools goes beyond compensating for the potential loss of productivity, as workers adapt to remote work.” say the authors. “In some cases, recent changes have contributed to productivity by reducing the need for time-consuming administrative tasks, and may even have allowed people to work more flexibly and efficiently.”
However, digital skills cover a wide range and the report highlights how much developments for SMEs are at the bottom. For example, Covid-19 has prompted many of the roughly 50% of businesses without a website to get one for the first time, while many others have embraced technologies such as video conferencing and collaborative communication tools.
Despite the relative simplicity of many new tools adopted, 86% of companies surveyed say that digital transformation has changed the way their businesses operate in significant and beneficial ways, with most suggesting that these changes will be permanent.
Crucial for a successful recovery
Investing in skills development has a number of clear benefits, Coursera suggesting not only that countries see a $ 600 increase in GDP per capita for every percentage gained in mastering a given skill, but also that these countries see lower income inequality and a higher workforce. participation.
It can be tempting to assume that any kind of digital skills development needs to focus on skills at the cutting edge of the digital spectrum to be effective. These skills are undoubtedly crucial, but it’s also important to remember that many companies lag behind those at the cutting edge, and even seemingly basic developments can produce significant improvements across the board. the economy.
“In our own company, we’ve gone from all of our on-premises IT services to being hosted in the cloud, which is a great equalizer because small businesses can have the same resources as a large business.” Said Maggioncalda. “Google Analytics, for example, allows small businesses to be as marketing savvy as a large business, so providing the skills to interface with this software as a service tool can be extremely valuable. as investing in skills can improve inequality between individuals, but it can do the same between large and small businesses. “