Two Steps for L&D to Drive Digital Transformation Post-COVID

Two Steps for L&D to Drive Digital Transformation Post-COVID

By Vinod Bakthavachalam, Senior Data Scientist and Adam Lewis, Skills Transformation Consultant

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing companies to transition to remote work, employees are adapting to new realities. Trying to balance work with life responsibilities during shelter-in-place has led to a decline in productivity for many and uncertainty about the future. Anxiety has risen, days have become longer, and existing operations have been disrupted.

In such a difficult environment, how can organizations best support their employees while keeping an eye on oncoming digital transformation?

Data suggests that companies have a real opportunity to jump on the demand for learning opportunities today to accomplish both of these goals. Individuals are migrating to online learning faster than ever. At Coursera, we have seen a more than 15-fold increase in new enrollments platform-wide and across every industry. Companies can take advantage of this with a simple two-step process: first, they should focus on employee well-being by providing targeted personal development training; second, they should create skill development paths to give people the chance to drive their company’s digital agenda.

Currently, five of the top ten skills on the Coursera platform are focused on personal development skills like mindfulness, happiness, and positive psychology—compared to none before the pandemic hit—and enrollments in personal development have surged more than 1,500% since March. This demand provides a great opportunity for companies to increase engagement in their learning programs by first providing learners with access to these personal development courses. 

Customers like Capgemini and Novartis, which have made courses on well-being and the science behind COVID-19 accessible to all employees, have seen enrollments in their learning programs increase by 270% on average, compared to an average of 44% for other customers that have not added content around these topics. Many of these additional learners have not only engaged with timely support skills but have taken the opportunity to acquire key digital skills, as well.

After helping employees to build personal development skills, organizations should ensure their teams are prepared for digital transformation.

COVID has fast-tracked this transformation in many companies—supply chains have been disrupted and in-person stores have shut down, forcing companies to migrate to digital products and services. Employees need the skills to be able to drive this agenda. Two skills that were already essential for digital transformation have only become more important during the crisis.

Data science has been critical to almost all of the strategic decisions we’ve seen during COVID. From tracking the pandemic to coordinating the production of health supplies, big data and real-time analytics have been core to decision making. It is no longer viable to make decisions by manually combining various data sources in overworked Excel spreadsheets. Employees need the ability to manage large datasets and integrate insights into their decision-making quickly and on an ongoing basis.

Similarly, cloud computing has come to the fore during the pandemic. Companies like Netflix, Zoom, and Microsoft, are at the frontier of cloud technology and were able to seamlessly scale their services to support triple-digit growth in a matter of days, taking advantage of new business opportunities while maintaining the quality of existing services. If businesses want to remain agile in an increasingly volatile environment, cloud computing skills are a must to enable technological adaptability.

On Coursera, learner behavior is matching the external emphasis on cloud computing and data science. Between 2018 and 2019, monthly average enrollments in cloud computing grew by 265% and in data science by 50% (vs. 30% on average in other skills). Since the start of this year, monthly average enrollments in cloud computing have grown 179% and in data science by an additional 166%.

To develop these digital skills, organizations are increasingly adopting digital academies that contain curated upskilling opportunities and career paths for every employee to easily follow. One of Coursera’s financial services customers currently has thousands of employees going through a cloud academy to drive new and innovative cloud-based products. Similarly, a leading energy provider adopted a data science academy and has realized data-driven efficiencies of $3M across its energy network in less than two years.

These digital academies have three essential components: a core set of skills to learn, a set of skill development paths tailored to the various teams and functions in an organization, and an understanding of how these functions can work together to take advantage of new technology.

For example, building a data-first marketing team means having marketers that can work together with data scientists to make personalized product recommendations to customers. Obviously, data scientists need to understand the latest machine learning techniques, but marketers will also need to increase their data skills to maximize the value gained. Marketers will need to understand how to translate their business intuitions into defining the exact problems to solve, and how to turn their insights into data science features. In addition to upskilling data scientist talent, a well-designed academy will provide marketers the opportunity to learn the basics of predictive modeling, how to communicate with data scientists, and how to make data-driven decisions based on analysis.

When properly executed, academies can provide clarity on the development options available to employees, the value of the skills being developed, and the career paths they open up, allowing companies to reap the benefits at scale across the organization. 

COVID-19 has injected urgency into digitizing operations, upending the day-to-day, but it can also create a parallel opportunity to accelerate the development of digital skills. As people look for support and guidance, it is up to company leaders and the learning community to provide them.

To learn more about how to continue your L&D efforts amid the pandemic, register for our on-demand webinar, Build an L&D Action Plan for COVID-19 based on Insights from 50M Learners, hosted by Coursera’s Adam Lewis, Head of Skills Transformation, EMEA.