Pandemic caused surge in digital learning, CIPD report finds

Being able to reskill and redeploy workers has become ‘essential’ during the last year, experts say

Pandemic caused surge in digital learning, CIPD report finds

The Covid pandemic has seen a rise in digital learning as employers adapt to the way the crisis has changed the world of work, a report has found.

In the poll of 1,200 UK employers, conducted by the CIPD and Accenture, 70 per cent of businesses reported an increase in the use of digital or online programmes over the last year.

However, while more than a third of organisations (36 per cent) have increased their investment in learning technology in the past year, a similar proportion have seen their L&D budgets shrink (31 per cent), while 32 per cent reported a reduction in L&D staff.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said the learning profession had stepped up and delivered, despite many seeing cuts over the last year. “Being able to reskill and redeploy workers during the last year has been essential for individuals and organisations to adapt to changing needs – and for the wider economy,” he said.

Cheese added that the pandemic had prompted learning professionals to prepare more for future changes down the track: “We hope to see the innovation and adaptability they’ve demonstrated over the past year continue as they help individuals and organisations adjust – and excel – in the ever-changing world of work.”

The poll found that half of surveyed firms (51 per cent) had assessed the impact of automation on roles and how to redeploy talent, up from 40 per cent in 2020, while two-thirds of firms (64 per cent) had assessed which roles were changing and how to reskill employees, up from 56 per cent in 2020.

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Organisations also reported being well placed to respond to future changes in the world of work, with four in five (81 per cent) either agreeing or strongly agreeing that they understood the skills in their own team and the skills they will need for tomorrow.

Andy Young, managing director within the talent and organisation practice at Accenture, said the report shows that “learning never stops”.

“The need for learning is greater than ever before, with businesses needing both better technology skills and more human ingenuity,” he said. “People want more growth and development at work, whether they are at home, in the office or a bit of both.”

The research found that the switch to digital models of learning has gone smoothly: more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of organisations said they were now successfully using learning technology, and seven in 10 (69 per cent) said they were innovating in their use of learning technology.

However, while the use of basic digital learning tools, such as webinars, had increased, the report said the use of more sophisticated digital learning – which can be more accessible, engaging and effective – had stalled. For example, the proportion of organisations using mobile apps for learning only increased one percentage point between 2020 and 2021 (12 and 13 per cent respectively).