By Kathleen Eischeid, Edcor Business Development Coordinator
Lifelong learning is a key to survival and success during recovery from the coronavirus. During the pandemic consumers have changed how they consume products and services. The businesses are adapting to these changes in consumer demands along with restrictions on how it can operate. And employees are finding it necessary to enhance their skills to be productive in a changed workplace. All this means that lifelong learning is more important than ever.
A McKinsey consumer survey taken May 18 – 24 shows changes in consumer practices that will affect both business practices and employees.
• US consumer optimism is quite low. Only 33 percent of consumers expect an economic rebound within two to three weeks.
• Almost half of consumers reduced spending in May and 30 percent say they will reduce their spending this month.
• Consumers plan to continue online shopping for household items.
• Two-thirds of consumers who have changed brands or retailers intend to continue using the provider.
It is important that businesses respond positively to these changes in consumer demands. To do this they will need skilled knowledgeable employees. Giving employees opportunities to develop the right skills through lifelong learning will help create a successful response. Lifelong learning is also a way for employees to position themselves as valuable assets during the recovery from the coronavirus.
LinkedIn Learning Vice President Emily Poague says that soft-skills are among the most important skills that employees need to be sure they are developing. Right now there are 1.5 million entry-level jobs available in the US, according to LinkedIn data. Soft skills are the key to success in many of these fields. Skills such as customer service, communication skills and problem solving are transferable across jobs, occupations and industries. And Deloitte Access Economics predicts that soft-skill intensive jobs will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.
Providing tuition assistance for lifelong learning is a solid investment for businesses during the pandemic and recovery. Businesses, such as Edcor clients that encourage employees to develop valuable skills, will see a return on their investment. Across multiple industries and occupations, encouraging employees to access higher education creates dedicated, knowledgeable workers.
Customer service skills are important to developing and keeping a strong customer base. Consumer habits have changed during the pandemic. Top customer service is the way to keep new customers and to bring back return customers as the marketplace opens. Even though many customer interactions are online today, Emily Poague says that LinkedIn has customer service specialist as one of the top entry-level jobs right now. “Employees who know how to ensure that customers feel valued, especially as many services are conducted online without that face-to-face element, are in high-demand.”
Problem solving skills are critical for employees to develop through lifelong learning. People receive a great deal of information and data every day that impacts the decisions they make at work. In order to make good decisions employees must be able to analyze and interpret data. They need critical-thinking skills to evaluate data and know what information is reliable. They need to be able to predict outcomes, based on solid information. If they don’t have good problem solving and critical thinking skills it is hard to make the right decision. Without problem solving and critical thinking skills people often rely on their biases and gut feelings which could mean drawing wrong conclusions, says Poague. “The world is now more confusing and overwhelming than ever, and well-developed problem-solving skills — like critical thinking and rational analysis — will be vital in navigating the demands of a post-Covid workplace.”
The workplace is a highly technical place right now, and most jobs demand that people have technical skills. Workers understand that they must be able to adapt to changing work demands and adopt new methods of working. Most people recognize the need to keep up their technology skills, however, they may not see how important it is to integrate their technological knowledge with soft skills. Carla Bevins of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business says, “When talking with recruiters, I hear time and time again that they are looking for employees who are critical thinkers, have strong communication skills and are creative problem-solvers.” Soft skills are important to complement technical skills. They cannot be left out of the equation for success. “Open, clear communication is an essential skill, not just a soft skill,” says Bevins. “When you are able to connect effectively with colleagues and customers, then technology serves to bolster these relationships.”
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