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How to prepare for success over the next five years

This blog article by Helen Robertson of eCom Scotland, Scotland’s leading developer of digital learning and assessment materials, highlights how events of the last few years have forever changed the future of work and learning.

The coronavirus pandemic and the growing awareness of climate change have led to major changes in working practices over the last two years or so. Hybrid working – at least for knowledge workers – is radically changing the way we work and applying videoconferencing technology is both reducing carbon footprints and increasing workers’ productivity because, if nothing else, they spend less time travelling to and from meetings.

As The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s ‘The Future of Jobs Report 2020’ highlights, ‘The COVID19 pandemic-induced lockdowns and related global recession of 2020 have created a highly uncertain outlook for the labour market and accelerated the arrival of the future of work.’ In this new world of work – encompassing hybrid working, ever-faster technological change, faster skills-fade and, consequently, a need for faster upskilling and re-skilling – how can organisations and individuals ensure they remain ‘at the top of their game’ over, say, the next five years?

One important way is to make full use of digitally-delivered learning, development and assessment. As the world of work increasingly focuses on people’s knowledge and skills as the differentiator of success – rather than, say, who has the most technology and the best machines, as was the case in the 19th and 20th centuries – learning, development and assessment will now separate winners from losers, at both corporate and individual levels.

Learning, development and assessment are key activities for organisations and individuals. They’re key for individuals because jobs are the cornerstone of our economic and social lives. They give people meaning, self-respect, income and the chance to make societal contributions. Our mental health, day-to-day equilibrium and self-worth are all influenced by the job we do – or don’t do. Learning, development and assessment are key for organisations because they can make the difference between corporate success and failure, achieving or missing goals and targets.

In one form or another, digital learning has been a fact of working life since the 1960s. Video (film) delivered learning has an even longer pedigree – dating from the Bawden and Buffy sales training films in the USA, of the 1940s. Yet it was the growth of personal computers in the 1990s and the arrival of the internet from 1995 that allowed digital learning to become widely adopted and accepted.

If the internet encouraged digital learning, the coronavirus pandemic and the growing awareness of climate change have led to major changes in working practices since 2020. These changes, allied to technology advances, have made digital learning and assessment the most reliable ways of ensuring that a dispersed workforce gets instant access to the most up-to-date information, techniques and performance support data as well as offering secure, reliable opportunities to prove their competency.

It’s appropriate that we should use technology-delivered learning and assessment to meet the challenges posed to the world of work by technological change – as organisations seek to maintain their productivity and workers increasingly rely on the internet for help to enable them to get a job, keep a job and get the next job. This trend isn’t just about moving from face-to-face to online learning. It includes elements of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) immersive learning, as well as micro-learning and gamification.

Consequently, the biggest – constant – issue that everyone faces is how we can be sure we can rely on the accuracy and veracity of the digital information we’re accessing? In a work context – at least – this places great responsibility on those in the learning and development (L&D) sector to act as curators of relevant knowledge and skills. This applies both to in- house L&D professionals and to those who develop digital learning and assessment materials.

So, when it comes to commissioning or buying off-the-shelf the digital learning and assessment materials your organisation and workers need, you must be able to trust your supplier. In addition, that supplier must operate with integrity, be reliable, competent (especially in presenting the truth in an engaging way that motivates learners to learn), and, above all, have empathy with you and your organisation.

In their own ways, workers and organisations know that appropriate, up-to-date skills are key to continuing success. In its report ‘The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030’, published in 2017, the educational publisher, Pearson, commented, ‘History is a reminder that investments in skills must be at the centre of any long-term strategy for adjusting to structural change.’ Major factors affecting that structural change in the workplace over at least the next five years are likely to be environmental sustainability (climate change), demographic change (an ageing population), political uncertainty, globalisation and technological change – as well as the effects of the pandemic.

The WEF report notes that, ‘The window of opportunity to reskill and upskill workers has become shorter in the newly constrained labour market’ and acknowledges that, ‘Skills gaps continue to be high as in-demand skills across jobs change in the next five years… The top skills and skill groups which employers see as rising in prominence include groups such as critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility… Online learning and training is on the rise… There has been a four-fold increase in the numbers of individuals seeking out opportunities for learning online through their own initiative, a five-fold increase in employer provision of online learning opportunities to their workers and a nine-fold enrolment increase for learners accessing online learning through government programmes.

Those in employment are placing larger emphasis on personal development courses… Those who are unemployed have placed greater emphasis on learning digital skills such as data analysis, computer science and information technology.’

There’s every reason to believe that these trends identified by the WEF will continue over the next five years – as well as every reason to believe that the most efficient, effective and productive way to meet these trends’ challenges is to make full use of digitally delivered learning and assessment materials.

For further details of eCom’s predicted trends for L&D in 2022 visit:

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