So, we’re into our fifth week of lockdown here in the UK and we’re beginning to see our new reality emerge from the fugue of fear and ambiguity. Businesses are pivoting, finding new ways to survive and strive for success amongst these complicated, curious times. Some are creating, many are innovating. Some are sadly closing their doors. But one thing’s for sure: as these changes charge forward (and they will), we’re going to continue to see some immutable changes to our industry. 

As I have noted in some of my previous articles, the learning and development industry is in a state of flux (even pre-Covid). Many have reacted to lockdown and a slowing economy with fear and the tightening of belts; but there are some who are channelling through the crisis with optimism, determination and a conviction to succeed. It’s interesting to observe these different approaches from businesses and I wanted to share some of my insights as to the market, as it stands. 

A change in what our businesses need

Many of you will have heard about the feast and the famine in the world of freelancing. One minute you have the veritable tumbleweed across your screen; a distinct lack of clients. The next, you’re inundated with work. Gig workers have been clamouring with this reality for years, but we’re also seeing it on a bigger scale with organisations seeking specific skillsets, resources and content too. 

A serious shift in skills demand

Before Covid hit, at Jam Pan we were searching high and low for Project Managers – the supply just could not meet the demand. Similarly, we’ve had continuous demand for elearning developers and IDs across a range of authoring tool work (sometimes for notable periods of time) with our clients. But coronavirus hit and suddenly, everything changed overnight. 

For some reason, Project Managers were one of the first group of skills to be hit with redundancies in our industry. My guess is many foresaw a decline in projects and therefore a reduction in the need for PMs (time will tell whether this prediction is accurate or not). The market was flooded overnight with talented, skilled PMs – and our customers suddenly had access to skills they’d been eagerly seeking without recruitment fees. Win-win. 

Equally, many long term elearning contractors have been released of their duties and have had to re-enter the gig market. I have no doubt those who are in the process of pivoting will also take advantage of the presence of this rare deluge of talent. 

Falling short for specific skills 

But, it’s not all hope and glory. There is already rising demand for very niche, specific skills of the few. Which inevitably means a looming skill shortage. 

Jam Pan is already seeing an elevation in the need and requests to support social learning platforms and more support for Office 365 (training, how to use Teams, collaboration tools and more) as we all move online. Unsurprisingly, as the world moved digital, so did organisations begin to use their LXPs and social LMSs with fervour. 

Overnight the LMS has shifted from being seen as a facilitator for capturing completions to something integral and critical for the delivery of learning in a digital workforce. For L&D, this appears to have exposed a lack of skills such as community managers, copywriters, content creators and LMS admin and support roles. 

What about when things go back to ‘normal’?

But those aren’t the only skills our clients are asking for. The reality is that many know that however painful this period of uncertainty is, it is not the norm. Many organisations will continue to put an emphasis on exploring what ‘normal’ will look like once lockdown lifts. Some of the common threads of thought I’ve already seen include: 

  • How do we continue this momentum of forced digital transformation? 
  • What on earth will be our WFH policy moving forward? 
  • How will we engage our people who have been furloughed? 
  • How do we, as L&D, continue to prove our value? 

This settling of our new status quo in tandem with a reduction in knee-jerk reactions is allowing many L&D departments to start to see a new route to success and position the world of learning as business-critical. It’s a time of evolution, of disruption and of opportunity if people can just shift their perspectives. I, for one, am excited about the possibilities of where it may take us.