Mark Onisk is the Chief Content Officer at Skillsoft. Mark is responsible for leading all aspects of the strategic direction, roadmap, and development of Skillsoft’s content catalog. Prior to his role as Chief Content Officer, Mark was SVP of Skillsoft Books (formerly Books24x7), successfully launching the company’s book summary product and increasing the company’s audiobook collection by more than 60%, making it the largest collection of audiobooks within the corporate learning market. Mark began his career in Skillsoft as VP Content Production after the Element K acquisition in 2011. His career with Element K spanned 15 years, where he was responsible for the company's product strategy, content development, and operational execution.
At the People Matters L&D Conference 2020, Mark shed light on how in the new normal, leaders set an ambitious digital and technology agenda that brings one single source of truth, improves the speed of decision making, and enables more productive work. As a precursor to his session, we interviewed Mark on some of the trends around reskilling and upskilling post-COVID-19.
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
The pandemic has also brought back the importance of reskilling and upskilling of resources as part of the larger business transformation in the wake of the crisis. What do you think are some of the trends around reskilling and upskilling post-COVID-19?
Some of the key trends which I see emerging during the post-COVID-19 era are as below.
Optimizing the learning experience: With most of the leading organizations now slowly shifting towards extending remote working policies in 2021, there will be a need to deliver an optimized learning experience for a wide variety of screen sizes. Providing learners with access to different learning modes (audio, visual, and kinesthetic) will play a key role in how they internalize what you have for them.
Active content discovery: Optimizing learning experience and see how to elevate learner’s search criteria and move them to more active content discovery. When learners spend less time in searching, they end up having more time to hone their skills. Think of it more like personalizing their continuous learning that’s meaningful and relevant.
Connecting learning with future job roles: When you asked learners this simple question – what do you want to achieve through this learning program? The answer on every learner’s lips would have been ‘personal growth’. But fast forward three quarters, today’s learner does not just want to learn for personal interests but rather to deliver results in their current role and prepare for their next role. With so much uncertainty around, the workforce today is more invested in how their performance impacts business results. If there is a clear connection between what they learn and their current or future job role, then the learner will be more motivated for their own development.
Recognizing learning accomplishments: Just a quick glance at your LinkedIn feed and you find people posting either the screenshots of their completed training programs or happily sharing the digital badge they have earned. Digital badges are nothing new, but they hold immense power, portability while showcasing the digital history of skills that can aid in future roles. Encouraging learners to share their accomplishments across various digital environments will not only motivate them to continue their learning journey but also help them build their personal brand.
How can leaders lead through these unprecedented times to build a continuous learning culture?
As Peter Drucker used to say, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” - that’s because to get anything done, people must first act and it’s the company culture that dictates how its workforce acts far more than strategy will do. As a leader, you are responsible for your organization’s culture and to see how your leadership impacts you need to promote a positive learning culture. As a leader, you need to demonstrate your commitment to their learning and development.
Move away from buying talent to building talent internally. By fostering a continuous learning culture, you can enable constant training, re-training of your talent pool, sharing of knowledge, testing new ideas, and promoting innovation at every level. This plays a critical role in securing a competitive advantage in the future
How can leaders design an ambitious digital and technology agenda that brings one single source of truth, improves the speed of decision making, and enables more productive work?
To design and implement ambitious digital and tech agenda, leaders need the support of reliable tools including learning management systems (LMS) which in many ways address the challenges that come with digital transformation.
How leaders leverage LMS will be a key growth driver for organizations by bringing together strategic planning, commitment, and learning.
LMS can act as a support system for leaders and prepare their organizations to efficiently tackle critical elements such as compliance, facilitating continuous learning, reducing attrition, and more.
How do you think we can cast this distance as an opportunity for learning, rather than a drawback or a burden?
It is a widely acknowledged fact that ‘learning is a continuous process’ and when you invest in refining your existing skills, you are multiplying your chances of success in any given situation. With today’s uncertain times, it is imperative to think positively as many things will be beyond your control. Take this time as an opportunity to effectively take charge of honing your existing skills and learning new ones to develop cross-functional expertise.
If you want to survive in the ever-changing and fast-paced tech landscape, then you need a high degree of versatility. Organizations will look for T-shaped employees who are not only skilled in their domain but also go above and beyond to support team members in multiple tasks. Which is why, this is a perfect time to strengthen your arsenal with additional skill sets, which can provide you with an edge that is hard to find.
As leaders reimagine workplace learning, what are some of the non-negotiables for improving the learning culture in their organizations?
As I see it, the non-negotiables for improving the organization’s learning culture include and not restricted to:
Providing a supportive environment: Are you open to disruptive ideas? Do you encourage your workforce to try new things? If not, then now is the time to establish an environment that encourages innovation, risk-taking, and where failures are nothing but learning.
Focusing on the learner’s experience: Everyone learns differently and over the years the way we follow a learning program has evolved drastically. With remote working, it’s hard to distinguish between what is virtual and physical anymore. You need to have learning solutions that are not only cost-effective but also interactive, relevant, and provide context to the learner.
Learning with a meaning: Learning to expand one’s knowledge is understandable. But in today’s context, the role of corporate learning is critical in building a future-ready workforce. While it’s true that learners might enjoy learning, in the context of work, they must focus their learning in areas relevant to the job they have today, or the job they want to be doing in the future.
Ability to share accomplishments: As mentioned earlier, digital badges will play a huge role in amplifying learning. As a matter of fact, between February and August of 2020, learners using the Skillsoft Percipio platform earned an unprecedented 4.5 million digital badges upon the completion of select courses.