We’ve finally reached the day dubbed “freedom day” here in the England. The day Covid restrictions and rules apparently come to an end. And although face masks and other restrictions are likely to stay with us for a while – today marks a significant step in the return to “normal”. This step gives us the opportunity to reflect on the changes we’ve faced in the past 16 months, and look ahead to what our industry will hold in the future.

It’s safe to say that Covid-19 had a huge impact on the L&D gig economy. Here at Jam Pan we immediately saw a shift in demand when the pandemic hit, including:

  • 375% increase in requests for Community Managers
  • 50% increase in requests for Learning Experience Designers
  • 325% increase in requests for freelance Project Managers

But in the same period our demand for ‘traditional’ digital learning skills fell, with Animators and eLearning Developers demand falling by 90% and 62% respectively.

 

So, how did the pandemic change the global gig economy?

Speaking broadly, the pandemic transformed the gig economy. But this typically looks at gig economy workers such as delivery drivers. We relied on these workers during lockdowns, and they were quickly grouped amongst essential workers, keeping our country afloat. But the pandemic also caused a shift in perspectives about the 9-5 routine much of society followed. When forced to stay at home, people began to remember the joy in the small things – like spending more time with their families. And began to pledge to stop ‘living to work’. In fact, according to a study by Aviva, 47% of employees are now less career-focussed because of the pandemic.

But of course, we all still need to pay our bills. So many have decided to make a change to their career plans. Some turned to their employers and asked for more remote work, others have changed their focus entirely, placing more emphasis on their ‘side hustle’. In fact, Kathy Kristof, Founder of SideHusl.com noted that people realised the positive, secure aspect of the gig-economy. She commented: “The pandemic revealed how helpful it is to have this dynamic marketplace, where people can find work in literally a matter of hours. For people who didn’t have emergency funds, side gigs turned into something of a safety net.”

But it hasn’t all been rosy for the gig economy during the pandemic. One survey reports that 52% of respondents from the global gig economy lost their jobs, and another 26% had seen their hours decrease. A worrying statistic if you’re a full-time gig worker.

 

But what happened to the L&D gig economy?

Here at Jam Pan, we’ve continued to see the L&D gig economy go from strength to strength. We have continued to bring on new clients, including some huge global names, throughout the pandemic. And we’re realising a real shift in perceptions from larger corporates when it comes to utilising the external talent marketplace.

We’re also seeing a real shift in the demand for our talent too. Our clients are now requesting a range of skills from our freelancers that haven’t typically been in an L&D professionals tool kit before now. We’ve already mentioned the significant boost in demand for Learning Experience Designers over the last year or so. But we’ve also seen a demand for other skills, such as marketing and content curation pop up.

As we look beyond the pandemic and strive towards a new way of working, L&D freelancers must hone their skills. Now is the perfect time to brush up on software specific skills, such as making sure you know all the latest features in popular authoring tools. And it’s also a great time to learn something new, you might take a course on copywriting for example. The bottom line is: to thrive in the post-pandemic L&D gig economy, you must have a fantastic set of skills in your toolkit, because the competition is fiercer than ever before. 

 

And what’s happening in the wider L&D industry?

Aside from celebrating the increased adoption of the external talent marketplace; we must also contemplate how L&D itself has changed as a result of the pandemic. The learning industry has been speaking about the “future” and the innovations it will bring for a number of years now. We’ve been gearing up for a radical change in our ways of working – and it’s safe to say the pandemic has accelerated these changes. 

 

The change in delivery methods 

According to a People Management survey, 75% of respondents said they had changed the way some or all of their training was delivered as a result of the pandemic. And of course, that isn’t surprising at all, as face-to-face training came to a sudden halt. But this shift isn’t going to revert back because Covid-19 rules have been lifted. Many of the changes in our workplace are here to stay. For example, it’s unlikely that all learners will be in one location going forward – as many organisations have seen the monetary benefits of remote work. This adds an increased cost to face-to-face training of days gone by, and for that reason, digital learning is here to stay.

However, many of the ‘digital transformations’ that took place over the last year or so have been what we call “lift and shift”: simply taking a classroom course and plonking it in an eLearning module or delivering it via Zoom. That isn’t true digitisation of learning – and it certainly isn’t the revolution of our industry we’ve been dreaming about for the last decade. Of course, many organisations are ahead of this curve, and are implementing effective online learning solutions. But those that aren’t are likely to spend the next year or so refining their digital learning to ensure real impact. 

 

Embracing change 

L&D teams did themselves proud during the pandemic. They faced times of uncertainty and change – and they embraced it. In fact, Rebekah Wallis, UK Director of People and Corporate Responsibility at Ricoh said “…lockdown has shown that L&D teams can pivot and quickly adapt their programmes and processes” – which is a phrase that hadn’t been synonymous with L&D teams in the past. 

What’s more, the pandemic has shown the value L&D can bring to an organisation. Learning and Development teams can drive change and organisational growth – by engaging employees with the greater good. Here at Jam Pan, we think Covid-19 has shed a new light on L&D, and it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves.

 

Learning programmes rather than courses 

There has been a real shift in priorities lately. Instead of focusing on individual learning modules, organisations are starting to focus on learning programmes that span months – not minutes. And this shift is for good reason – it’s easier to ensure space repetition through learning programmes; which goes some way to ensuring skills mastery (rather than knowledge consumption). This shift echoes the shift in demand we’ve seen here at Jam Pan – and this is why organisations are looking for learning experience designers more than ever – those individuals who have the ability to look at the bigger picture of learning. 

 

So what does the future look like for the L&D gig economy?

If 2020 (and the first half of 2021!) has taught us anything, it’s that the only thing that’s inevitable is change. We can’t get out our crystal balls and predict what the future has in store – in fact, we wouldn’t even want to guess what the next 12 months have in store for us. But 2020 gave a new lease of life to learning – opening the door for L&D to innovate and change the status quo. The coming years will be a test: will we grab this opportunity by both hands and revolutionise L&D once and for all? Here at Jam Pan, we think we will. We think this is the start of a new phase of life for learning – and we know our army of fantastic talent is going to be the driving force behind it. 

If you’re interested in exploring your opportunities as an L&D freelancer, get in touch. Our talent team would love to help you.