News & Analysis

Importance of Continuous Learning during Covid-19

By: Satyanarayanan Visvanathan

Locked down but not locked out from learning. Amidst certain aspects of convenience that a work-from-home model offers, the employees are getting connected with the digital learning platforms enabled by the employer.  While the infection curve is yet to show signs of flattening out, the learning curve is on a new high!If the download rates of virtual collaboration tools are any indicator, virtual learning has indeed breached past the barriers of social distancing. IT service providers who are dexterous enough to take advantage of their digital skilling frameworks do so for the advancement of employees. Amid a pandemic and the ensuing harsh economic headwinds, employees are enhancing their employability through continuous learning.

Upside of a Downturn

A positive side to the downturn of our times is visible during remote working conditions. This downturn reflects the truthabout ateam’scollaboration, productivity, and efficiency. When the economic engines decelerate, it indeed is a bad time. But amidst the challenges it also offers an opportunity for professionals to recalibrate themselvesfor the emerging technological requirements. Irrespective of market conditions, continuous skilling is the byword by which professionals live to stay relevant and employable. The difference now is that COVID-19 has cast the focus on diversifying and deepening of skills.  Obviously, those with deep technical or domain skills are always sought after and canmeet the challenges of job market due to economic slowdown.

Importance of Skilling

Honing one’s skills across new-age technologies has come as a saving grace for employees caught in the thick of the interim phase. Employees who had to spend approximately 1 to 3 hours of commute daily can redeploy the extra hours and energy in areas of self-development. On the one hand, the unstable economic scenario has witnessed employees signing up for training programs to stay competitive; on the other hand, those who already are on a robust skilling plan are the focus of top management. At a time when organizations are treading cautiously about costs, new investments and additional hiring, employers are looking to do more with less.  Employees who are agile, flexible, and quick learners are much sought after. Those who are willing to seize learning opportunities and implement what they learn are assets for the organization.

Online Learning Opportunities

Learning for the purpose of achieving personal goals or professional advancement never ceases. The digital workplaces of today offer a myriad of continuous online learning avenues. The Learning & Development function has risen to the fluctuating demands of clients; they have their task cut out in bridging the skills gap. Learning Management Systems are utilizing best practices such as online learning opportunities through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), micro modules, university programs, online certifications, and bite-sized courses. Thanks to new-age skilling frameworks, homes and workspaces have become like training labs for employees to sign up and skill up based on their convenience or their demanding projects.

Spotlight on Productivity

In an evolving technological landscape, witnessing changing client demands, the wheels of continuous learning are grinding swiftly, but the question remains as to what’s the net impact of it. A common pet peeve aired by project managers is, “Don’t tell me you’re on a nonstop learning journey but tell me how you’ve translated that learning for the benefit of the client.”

Impact of learning wanes unless it has a practical application. Employers overlook employees who are content with what they learned yesterday in favor of those abreast with technological developments. With the availability of many learning opportunities, employers raise concerns about course completion rates as well as the practical significance of learning during this downturn. Employees must think beyond earning certificates and apply concepts such as AI, automation, and analytics.The proof of the pudding, therefore, is in the eating. The future of work demands that IT professionals display their productivity by applying their newly learned skills in projects.

The Big Picture

Long periods of confinement have demanded a high degree of discipline from professionals who have extra time on hand. Between household chores and professional responsibilities, employees find themselves pulled in different directions. On the bright side, being at home with family and relatives offers solace to the homesick workaholics who otherwise glue themselves to their desks in a different city. On the brighter side, prolonged days of confinement mandate a systematic approach to learning new skills. Employees need to make everyday count to be on a par with the speed of change. Irrespective of crisis or normalcy, learning must be a perpetual enriching experience full of practical implications. The maxim “…Learn as if you were to live forever,” rings true.

(The author is SVP & Head – HR (Global), Corporate Quality & SSQA, CSS Corp and the views expressed in this article is his own)

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