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Learning in Lockdown

09 February 2021 •

By Charlotte Nancarrow | Learning and Development Manager

This week has been National Apprenticeship Week and, for those of us in England, our sixth week in Lockdown 3.0. The target milestone of 15 million people receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has also passed which represents an eagerly anticipated step forward towards a return to normality.

These events are tough across businesses, families, and communities alike, but collectively they foster and promote a sense of celebration, optimism, investment and readiness for life post-pandemic.

However, if you are feeling behind the curve or a little lacklustre when it comes to preparation and positivity for post-lockdown, all is not lost. Whilst life in lockdown can often feel paused or perhaps even written off, the down (and oddly calming) time can provide the perfect opportunity to focus on lifelong learning, both individually and for wider organisations.

At Unity5, we are passionate about all things learning and development and are delighted to share with you our top tips for learning in lockdown.

1. Furlough, but not forgotten

Being on furlough does not mean learning has to be forgotten. Quite the contrary. Whilst furloughed employees are not permitted to provide revenue-generating services to their employer (or a company linked or associated with their employer). They are, however, permitted and very much encouraged to complete training and learning whilst they are not working. This can include completing training courses, self-directed study or qualifications related to work.

2. Plan for progression

Focus organisational or individual learning and development plans on progression.

If you are a business, analyse what skills and qualifications are needed across the business to enable future growth. Consider your leadership and management teams, each department and even specific job roles. Analyse whether these skills and qualifications currently exist and if not, plan and execute accordingly to address any gaps.

If you are an individual, analyse where you currently are and where you want to get to in the world of work. Map out how you will achieve this. Are there any specific skills or qualifications needed? If so, it is the perfect time to get the ball rolling with gaining these.

3. Develop digital skills

The pandemic has resulted in a significant increase in demand and application of digital skills in the workplace. Even job roles where there previously was limited need to apply digital skills, now have been redesigned with the responsibility to effectively use a range of digital tools and applications becoming an essential person‑specification criteria.

Our digital skills abilities have never been so crucial, and this is unlikely to change post-pandemic. The great news is, if your digital skills are lacking, there are a plethora of free and easily accessible learning resources available, including YouTube tutorial videos, fully funded short courses via training providers and online free skills courses offered by the likes of Google, Amazon, BT and Barclays that you can signpost your employees to.

Digital skills extends to user training for specific technology applications you may use within your operations. If you are a ZatPark user, this is the perfect time to take advantage of your exclusive access to KnowledgeBase, our free learning support tool, providing access to training materials including instructional guides, webinars and how-to videos, to ensure your team members are up-to-date with and able to maximise the use of all our solution features.

4. Support soft skills

Don’t limit your learning and development endeavours to purely formal courses or qualifications. Consider development support for soft skills. Soft skills are the personal attributes or behaviours that underpin and are critical to success in a particular job role or organisational culture.

As a business you could run coaching 121s or workshops around your key organisational or job role soft skills, which may include situational awareness, empathy, teamwork and communication. You could task individual employees to undertake some self-directed learning around soft skills that can benefit from development, as identified in performance reviews and appraisals, via channels and activities such as reading, TedTalks, groups and forums and podcasts.

Individually you may wish to hone your time management, organisational and self-discipline skills. Practice and develop these, by applying to do lists, diary scheduling and deadlines to tasks around the home, such as cleaning, cooking and keeping fit.

5. Search The Skills Toolkit

It must be said the past 11 months tackling the pandemic have been a challenge, yet a whirlwind in time, all in the same breath. For those that may have missed the roll-out back in April 2020 of the Department of Education’s ‘The Skills Toolkit’, it is still available and is definitely worth a look.

The Skills Toolkit provides a collection of free digital training courses targeted around skills that are classified as in-demand or likely to be in-demand by businesses post-pandemic. A whole host of courses pitched at different levels and total study time are offered, from computer essentials, computer science and coding, to business and finance and personal growth and resilience. These courses are delivered by leading names including Amazon, The Open University, Google, FutureLearn and Cisco Networking Academy.

6. Explore Apprenticeships

This week we see the 14th annual National Apprenticeship Week, which like previous years will be a week of celebration around the great work employers, learners and training providers together achieve through apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are an exciting option for employers and learners alike, offering real jobs combined with gaining of hands-on experience, learning and qualifications. They are not only a great route directly into industry and career pathways, but offer employers the chance to up-skill existing employees with formal learning and progression pathways.

If Apprenticeships are a new concept to you then we recommend having a look at the National Apprenticeship Week website, and following some of their great webinars and Q&As this week to find out more.

7. Learn for love

Don’t forget the huge value to be gained from learning something purely for personal love and enjoyment, such as a new hobby, like cooking, craft, sport, music or a language. Whilst learning something new for love may not always provide a clear link back to our work, the mere act of learning encourages the following which improve our attitude and performance in the workplace:

  • keeps your mind active and engaged
  • promotes health and wellbeing
  • increases your creativity
  • improves concentration
  • increases resilience
  • increase adaptability

8. Review and measure

And finally, whichever learning and development activity you undertake as either an organisation or individual, no matter how big or small, or even how inconsequential at the time you may think it is, remember to keep a record of it and review at the end. Reflect on what has been learnt, considering how this will positively impact your life, at home or work. Note these reflections down and be sure to re-visit and measure back against them at an appropriate point in the future.


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