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SHRM: Some Industries Boost Training in New Technology, Equipment During Pandemic

A man wearing a headset and writing on a laptop.

​The knowledge and service industries are giving employees more training on new technology and equipment. Employers in the service industry also are cross training more workers, according to a new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Additionally, 68 percent of all 1,087 survey respondents said they are sustaining their training budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, 25 percent have decreased those funds, and 6 percent have increased their training budget. That's the good news.

“Despite these unpredictable times, many employers are maintaining their upskilling and reskilling initiatives, which is critical to maximizing talent and bridging the skills gap," said Trent Burner, vice president of SHRM Research . "Although 25 percent of organizations have reduced their upskilling/reskilling budgets due to COVID-19, over 2 in 3 organizations (68 percent) have sustained funds and 6% have actually increased their budgets.”

“Nearly half of knowledge and service industry organizations have stepped up to offer additional upskilling and reskilling resources to their active employees," said Casey Sword, SHRM research analyst. "This is true even for those in the service industry who have been hit hardest by COVID-19 such as retail, hospitality, and healthcare organizations. Some of the resources offered include cross-functional training, leadership training, and soft-skills development, among others.”

The not-so-good news: More than half of all those surveyed—56 percent—are not offering additional training or retraining resources to their current employees. Employers also are not providing learning and development (L&D) opportunities to furloughed employees (88 percent) or laid-off employees (91 percent).

The findings are from Navigating COVID-19: Returning to the Workplace, a report SHRM released June 9. The research is based on a survey that collected responses May 13-20 from a random sampling of SHRM members working in HR. Academicians, students, consultants, people who are self-employed or retired, and HR professionals who were furloughed or laid off were excluded from the sample.

Digital, Virtual Learning 

Digital and virtual learning programs were already on the rise before the pandemic, said Jim Guilkey, author of M-Pact Learning: The New Competitive Advantage—What All Executives Need to Know (Advantage Media Group, 2019). He foresees virtual training increasing as more people likely will work remotely.

"The pandemic could spawn innovation in workplace learning," he said in a news release. "After months of social engagement and technological immersion, workplace learners and business leaders will have a higher expectation about how they want to engage and learn."

He cautioned that it's not enough to simply convert an in-person, classroom approach into instructor-led training provided online.

"Transformation doesn't mean duplicating your current classroom training but rather improving the learning for virtual distribution."

Guilkey advised managers and trainers to review technology options to find what works best for their organizations' needs. Some technologies, for example, allow for video, document sharing and virtual collaboration rooms. He also recommended using a blended learning approach of short, self-paced digital modules that contain foundational knowledge and performance-support tools that allow employees to use their new knowledge in the field.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing Employees]

There is a big opportunity for L&D professionals to create the right blend of live virtual experiences and online learning content, LinkedIn said in its report Leading with Learning: Insights and Advice About the New State of L&D. Its findings are based on a survey conducted in May among 864 L&D professionals in 21 countries. About one-fourth of L&D professionals expect to have more virtual, instructor-led training than in-person training.

Social learning will be a big part of learning programs, and L&D professionals expect an increase in features such as online learning groups and Q&As, according to the LinkedIn report. LinkedIn found that 75 percent of L&D professionals expect an increase in this kind of social learning.

When learning gets more social, learner engagement grows and "enables more subject matter experts in the organization to participate in learning experiences," LinkedIn said in its report, "creating an opportunity for teams to find hidden learning leaders who can talk to topics of most interest to employees." 


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