Overcoming 5 Critical Challenges for a Future-facing Workforce

Article9 min read

June 8, 2022

The world is changing faster than ever, and companies are struggling to stay ahead of the curve. Savvy organizations recognize that the answer lies in developing and leveraging their most valuable asset: their people. 

However, people’s values are shifting, and with them their relationship with the places they work. Studies have found workers are more stressed than ever, with a staggering 81 percent reporting that they feel at risk of burnout and one in five saying that working for a company whose values don’t align with their own is the cause of that feeling.1

This is one of the factors driving the ‘Great Resignation’, which has intensified competition for top talent. When you consider that in the U.S., it takes 36–42 days to fill a vacancy, costing $1,633 per hire,2 it becomes clear that employee retention is critical.

Workers are also fighting to keep pace with change. Remote work, e-commerce, and automation are all reshaping work as we know it. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the impact of these trends. McKinsey revised their estimate for the number of workers that will need to change their occupations: up to 25 percent more than previously predicted due to the accelerating effects of the pandemic.3

Professionals are also likely to work longer. Research shows that because of increased lifespans, organizations need to invest more in lifelong learning.4

It’s clear that human resource and learning and development managers face a growing range of challenges. Fortunately, there are resources available to help address these hurdles and take advantage of the opportunities they present.

Close skill gaps

As people begin to lead longer and more diverse careers, planning and managing their long-term skills development will become more important. Digital skills are now assumed, and knowledge of business processes and related concepts are considered core competencies within every worker’s skills toolkit. Analytical and critical thinking have evolved from being the exception to the necessary, while interpersonal and leadership skills are more valued than ever.5 Many companies are experiencing critical skills gaps, particularly in the retail, construction, real estate, manufacturing, education, and medical and health services industries6. In fact, a significant 87 percent of executives report skills gap challenges today or expect them within a few years.7

Student loan service Nelnet realized they had a widening skills gap as a result of the pandemic and automation, and recognized the risk it posed to businesses and employee roles. They partnered with edX for Business to help close skill gaps in critical areas like cybersecurity, information technology, finance, and compliance. The modular, stackable nature of the programs enabled employees to enroll in college-level courses with real credits and certificates while remaining flexible enough to adapt their learning as their positions evolved.

edX Open Courses and Professional Certificates can help your workforce gain essential skills today so they’re prepared for tomorrow. 

Improve hiring Initiatives

In a world of labor shortages and job-hopping, hiring talented, qualified people has become absolutely fundamental to business success. It’s not easy, though. In the U.S., 74 percent of companies underperform when it comes to hiring, and only 60 percent of new jobs created are being filled.8

Businesses are trying to attract not just talented employees, but diverse staff too: 43 percent report finding diverse candidates with appropriate qualifications is the biggest challenge to their DEI goals. 9
The spotlight is firmly on the moral imperatives and performance benefits of diversity, along with the multiplier effect it brings: 76 percent of job seekers and employees identify a diverse workforce as a key factor in judging companies and job offers.10

Despite this, some industries remain deeply untransformed, such as technology, in which African Americans comprised just 7.4 percent of the total workforce in 2014.11
 Little has changed since then among major technology companies: In 2020, Facebook reported 3.8 percent of its staff were Black, Microsoft 4.5 percent, Twitter 6 percent, and Uber 9.3 percent. Reasons for this include companies being reluctant to recruit from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), internal referral systems that reinforce existing racial dynamics, and a lack of mentorship.12

Netflix recently set out to tackle this issue, partnering with 2U and seven HBCUs and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). The Netflix Pathways Bootcamps teach industry-relevant foundational and advanced data science, Java, and UX/UI design skills to under-represented populations, preparing them for entry-level jobs in the tech industry.

The boot camps have created not just opportunities for under-represented graduates to find employment, but also a pipeline of highly-trained and mentored future talent. 

Adding a “train-to-hire” program to your recruiting efforts is an effective way to close specific skills gaps or boost the effectiveness of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. Learn more about hands-on boot camps here.

Leadership development

Living in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world has become the status quo. Effective leaders require a high level of agility, constant re-evaluation and iteration of leadership practices, and a drive to build resilience for the future.13
 Building these capabilities has become a key focus area for L&D professionals, with 53 percent listing development of leadership and management skills as their top challenge.14
 Key leadership trends for 2022 reflect the shifts in practices and values brought about – or accelerated – by COVID-19. These include:15

  • Building a culture of well-being
  • Investing in employee development
  • Addressing workplace culture inequality
  • Building technological infrastructure
  • Embracing an experimental mentality

Communications consultancy PLMR took a future-facing view of leadership development, identifying the need to plan effectively for succession, improve strategic thinking, and reward and invest in their employees.

To mesh training smoothly with work, PLMR invested in online executive education from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. PLMR enrolled its leaders in Online Oxford Programmes for professional service, women’s leadership development, digital marketing, disruptive strategy, and executive leadership. Leaders were able to apply their learnings to their everyday work challenges immediately, demonstrating applicable value for them and PLMR.

To learn more about how executive education can grow your leaders, click here. 

Workforce retention

The ‘Great Resignation’ has seen historic numbers of people quitting their jobs, with these sectors among the most affected:16

  • Leisure and hospitality
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities
  • Professional and business services
  • Education and health services
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction

Businesses are grappling with the question of how to retain staff. Providing learning and skills-based career growth opportunities to employees is one answer. Professional development opportunities are seen by employees as the top way to improve company culture,17
 with 94 percent of employees saying they would stay longer if the company invested in learning and career development benefits.18
 They’re key to attracting young talent, too — a 2021 study found that 66 percent of workers aged 18–24 ranked upskilling opportunities as the third-most important benefit in evaluating a new job, while 48 percent of workers in the U.S. would move jobs for such opportunities.19

Quick commerce and food delivery service Postmates chose edX to provide its thousands of workers access to more than 2,800 courses and certificate programs. As independent contractors, these workers could have sought alternative job opportunities when the pandemic hit. However, the learning made available through edX provided an attractive and valuable benefit, with many spending lockdowns or quarantines engaging in online programs safely at home. Courses in project management, health, entrepreneurship, Python, and business English were particularly popular.

Keep staff engaged with a range of courses on the edX Open Course Marketplace to promote a culture of learning in your organization.

Enterprise agility

Thriving in a highly dynamic world requires organizations to adapt quickly to changing technology, markets, and customer needs. Enterprise agility represents a shift away from traditional hierarchical structures and disconnected teams towards an operating model optimized across strategy, structures, processes, people, and technology.20
 As businesses re-examine their role in society, enterprise agility is becoming a necessary paradigm to respond to issues such as sustainability, the need for workplace diversity and inclusion, and corporate social responsibility. Agile enterprises are more likely to capitalize on emerging technologies and business trends to distance themselves from the competition rather than be stymied by the relentless pace of change. However, two-thirds of enterprises report that they’re unprepared for workforce disruptions caused by technology and market trends.21

Such was the case for CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate company. CBRE wanted to develop a training plan for its European senior leadership to help develop and drive an environmental, social, and corporate governance initiative. They enrolled 142 senior leaders in the Sustainable Real Estate: Creating a Better Built Environment executive education course, developed by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). CBRE has been able to see the impact the course has had in providing their leaders with the ability to apply their new knowledge back to the business operation.

edX Executive Education courses offer focused, immersive, cohort-based online learning designed to help prepare leaders to respond to the pressing issues of our time.

The transformational potential of learning

Employees and organizations are on a journey together, trying to navigate the complexities of a rapidly evolving world. Advances in technology are changing the jobs we do and how we do them, and workers need to embrace a culture of lifelong learning to stay relevant.22   The benefits for businesses are clear, with skilled workers more agile and motivated. Upskilling and reskilling have the potential to transform society at large, too, facilitating broader economic participation and inclusion for under-represented groups.

However, to unlock the true potential of continued professional development, workers need easy access to learning at every stage of their careers. edX for Business recognizes this and has brought to market the most comprehensive online talent-development product portfolio in the industry. edX for Business is uniquely equipped to craft nuanced learning and skills development solutions for today’s enterprises that will help position them to compete in today’s and tomorrow’s business environment. 

Is your workforce ready for the future of work? Contact an edX learning and development consultant to begin building learning and development solutions for your teams. 

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Program Spotlight: ISCEA’s Sustainable Supply Chain Professional Certificate Program

Article3 min read

March 30, 2022

There is a growing global push toward sustainable practice driven by consumer, government, and industry pressures. The United Nations has released Sustainable Development Goals to drive change and commitment to sustainable practice before 2030. According to a Deloitte report, COP26 and the Paris Agreement Commitments will lead to a focus on supply chain decarbonization, reduction in emissions, and supply chain transformation to meet environmental goals.

In today’s world, our markets for goods and services are so interconnected that it will take global transformation to make significant progress toward sustainable practice. Fortunately, sustainability in the supply chain isn’t just good for the environment—it’s good for business, too. Sustainability within the supply chain doesn’t force businesses to compromise profit in the long term. In fact, optimization of supply chains to maximize value and minimize waste will allow markets to be both financially and environmentally sustainable.

Make Sustainable Supply Chain Your Organization’s Next Competitive Advantage

The Sustainable Supply Chain Professional Certificate Program from the International Supply Chain Education Alliance (ISCEA) empowers employees to develop expertise in integrating both sustainability and professional supply chain knowledge. This program helps organizations develop their next generation of leaders in this in-demand field and bridge the gap between supply chain and sustainability. Professionals with a strong background in the supply chain will benefit from sustainable education and incorporate it into their practices. And professionals with a sustainability background can also develop supply chain expertise. While the lessons in this program can apply to any type of business, it’s especially valuable and applicable to professionals in the supply chain, manufacturing, sustainable business, and service industries.

The program, which is designed for mid- to upper-level professionals, consists of three courses that deliver a comprehensive understanding of supply chain sustainability, including circular economy practices, and fosters decision-making to fuel a “green supply chain” that benefits the planet and your bottom line.

Additionally, this program prepares learners with resources for the ISCEA certification exam (for those interested in earning the Internationally recognized CSSCP designation), and will highlight real-world examples, including case studies of relevant industry practices, to demonstrate current innovation in the supply chain industry.

Employees who complete the ISCEA program will bring new sustainable strategies for the supply chain process (production, sourcing, distribution) and foster a commitment to reducing wastes within the supply chain to your organization. With multiple professionals educated in a sustainable supply chain among your ranks, expect a seachange across your enterprise as leadership and the organization as a whole experience – and advocate for – sustainable processes that benefit the environment and support your company’s success and longevity.

Start Your Transformation With edX For Business

Whether you want to equip your employees with the right skills to transition to a new role in sustainability, spark sustainable company initiatives, or provide continuing education for those who currently work in a sustainability role, The Sustainable Supply Chain Professional Program will help meet your goals.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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3 Predictions About the Future – and Fusing – of Work and Education from IBM, The Linux Foundation, and World Bank Group

Article5 min read

Anant Agarwal

March 30, 2022

The future is unknown—there’s been no better lesson than the pandemic to teach us that. But within this inexorable truth, what we’ve learned over the past two years is that the worlds of work and education are incredibly resilient and adaptable. They’re capable of not only weathering great change but also embracing new ideas that challenge the status quo to meet the ever-changing demands of the future. These worlds are also more interconnected than ever.

The level of flexibility needed to navigate today’s unknowns is fueling a more skills-driven workforce, and those skills continue to be shaped and defined by a high-speed, technology-driven economy. At edX, we’ve seen demand rise for more modular, stackable, and affordable learning options—such as innovative boot camp credit waivers and credit-backed MicroBachelors® programs—that empower individuals with the tools they need to establish rewarding careers and pivot to whatever comes next.

We have also witnessed firsthand the powerful impact that university-industry partnerships can have on learner outcomes, as well as rigorous high-quality curricula that’s intentionally designed to align with workforce needs and continually adapt to the latest tech skills and job trends. By working more closely and collaboratively together, we’re better positioned to deliver educational solutions that drive societal impact and superior value for learners at scale, while helping universities and businesses strengthen their institutional vitality for the digital age.

As we move forward in 2022 on the path to new frontiers and possibilities, we asked three of our corporate partners from the technology, business, and finance realms—IBM, The Linux Foundation, and World Bank Group—to share with us what the future of work and education looks like to them. They drew connections further emphasizing that these worlds are not mutually exclusive, and that we’re mission-aligned in understanding what it will take to meet tomorrow’s demands.

Here are their predictions and perspectives.

From IBM Skills Network: Leon Katsnelson, CTO and Director

In his 2016 letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos wrote, “If you fight powerful trends, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them, and you have a tailwind.” The trends affecting higher education today are lifelong learning and job-ready skills. These trends will redefine the role of universities, and for those who embrace them, they will no doubt offer great new opportunities.

With the current dizzying pace of technology evolution, universities can no longer be expected to equip students with the knowledge lasting a lifelong career. When training a medical doctor, universities provide in-depth knowledge of human anatomy. This knowledge will serve graduates their entire careers. AI engineers, on the other hand, may find their skills in need of an update soon after graduation.

Today, employers are not satisfied with foundational knowledge alone; they demand job-ready skills. Satisfying this demand is not something universities can attempt on their own. What holds promise is a trend of university-industry partnerships, especially partnerships focused on continuing education and skills development, backed up by certificates and micro-credentials. These types of partnerships are quickly becoming the tool of choice for many universities willing to embrace these powerful trends.

See what courses and programs IBM has to offer.

From The Linux Foundation: Clyde Seepersad, SVP and General Manager, Training and Certification

Digital transformation was driven into overdrive by the pandemic. Yet there remains huge amounts of technical debt within organizations around the world. It will take a major effort to lift and shift legacy systems into the cloud. We need more individuals with expertise in cloud technologies to make this happen, and we need them ASAP.

However, knowing how to deploy and maintain a cloud instance isn’t enough. DevOps has become the standard methodology for building, deploying, and administering software, so no matter what role you fill, DevOps will be critical. We’ll also see demand for skills with emerging technologies, from AI to blockchain to edge computing, continue to grow.

When it comes to the future of education, we’re already seeing the rapid migration to remote methods, and that is not going to slow even as the pandemic wanes. People want the option to learn anywhere, anytime. They also want options in how remote learning works. This means not only increasing the number of courses and platforms they can be taken on, but also having options for watching videos, reading or listening to lessons (including in different languages, like Spanish), and performing hands-on tasks. Online learning will continue to displace in-person education, which will require innovation for many subjects that require students to do activities live rather than simply listening to a lesson.

See what courses and programs The Linux Foundation has to offer.

From World Bank: Sheila Jagannathan, Head of Open Learning Campus

The coming together of COVID-19, the massive skilling challenges generated by the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the youth bulge have compelled the world to reimagine their education models quickly. Innovators like edX are taking edtech and the accompanying novel pedagogies to the next level to raise the quality, equity, effectiveness, and resilience of learning.

Learning is key to solving complex global development challenges such as climate change, fragility, gender equality, and building back better after COVID-19. Digital learning and teaching tools are reshaping the educational landscape to meet the new challenges of closing the skills gap and helping upskill and reskill at scale. It is no longer a question of whether digital learning is a viable option, but rather of how do we go about the transformation—and how soon can we get started?

See what courses World Bank Group has to offer.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Reshaping L&D Programs in 2022: 3 Key Insights from EY India’s Head of Learning

Article4 min read

January 6, 2022

Learning and development leads have been doing more with less for the last two years. Departments have been tasked with completely rewriting learning plans and rewiring how employees think about skills development.

In a recent webinar, Udit Bhatia, EY India’s Head Of Learning, shared insights into navigating this complex new world to help prepare learning leaders reshaping their own workforce development program this year. Below, we dive into three of key learnings from the webinar:

  1. Why it’s critical to understand your company and industry landscape
  2. How the pandemic has impacted workplace culture
  3. Despite the impacts and opportunities new technology brings to learning, why people remain your secret ingredient

Watch the Webinar

1. Understand your business and industry before redefining learning at your company

The last two years have ushered in huge shifts, from lifts in industries and technology from telehealth and at-home fitness to cloud kitchens and chatbots to changing strategies in areas such as manufacturing and supply chain. Understanding your organization’s and industry’s unique future amidst these changes is crucial to navigating the complex budgeting decisions facing L&D leaders as we head into 2022.

Asking the right questions can help you and your learning team develop a strategy that drives learning success at your organization. Bhatia shared a few questions to help you start the deep dive into your organization and industry:

  • What is the future of the industry or business I work for?
  • Do I understand the competitive landscape, both existing and potential?
  • What are the top five threats or weaknesses I see in our business or industry today?


Not only can understanding your organization’s priorities help shape strategy, it can also help drive engagement. Show your employees how L&D initiatives and opportunities ladder up to business goals to contextualize the impact of learning new skills.

2. Previous learning plans were built for a different workplace and employee

According to Bhatia, learning plans created in 2019 are essentially obsolete. Not only has acceleration in innovation and automation changed the types of skills and tech workforces need to thrive, but also the way employees engage with their organizations and learning. Bhatia shared a few data points to help illustrate:

  • One third of the skills needed for a job in 2018 will not be needed by 2022.
  • Today’s average employee can absorb half as much change as they could manage in 2019.
  • 47% of employees feel disconnected with their teams or organizations.

As you examine where to invest your budget, reexamine the skills your organization lacks, including the ever-important human skills, and how you can create a culture of learning that engages and motivates your workforce.


Human skills, like hard skills, need nurturing. In the Virtual Age, these types of skills, from communication to critical thinking, are essential to making remote and hybrid environments feel productive, efficient, and collaborative.

3. Mentorship will play a large role in the future of learning

Learning isn’t just about sitting in a classroom anymore (virtual or otherwise).

When talking about how employees will learn post-COVID, Bhatia shared, “On-the-job learning, managed coaching, mentoring, team-based development action plans—these are mentor-based models where you need somebody to mentor you. In the future, organizations are going to make their middle and senior managers more impactful so that they can actually train and mentor well.”

Bhatia also stressed the importance of peer-based learning and how that will impact the learning methods that organizations utilize. While some mentor-based learning is already happening at work, it isn’t always formalized or helpful to your employees.

Learning is changing, but so is your team

Heading into 2022, change will continue to be the only constant across work environments, industry landscapes, technology, and organizational priorities. Learning has had massive shifts, and so have our team members. As a learning leader, you have the opportunity to redefine what learning looks like as employees return to the office and the skills employees need changes.

To learn more, watch the full webinar with Udit Bhatia for actionable advice and key data points that will help you build a lasting learning and development experience.

Watch the Webinar

Discover more about how edX For Business supports learning and development.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Financial Services Skill Highlight: Business

Article2 min read

October 13, 2021

Business skills have always been foundational to keeping organizations competitive. As businesses become more digital, learning content that helps employees in all types of roles keep pace with the latest in business technology and practices has become critical. On the other hand, as technology changes the way we work, core competencies in areas like communication and project management are even more important.

Read on to learn how fellow financial services L&D professionals use business courses to develop relevant, mission-critical skills in their organizations.

Cultivating Technical Literacy, Leadership, & Collaboration

While developing technical talent is important, so is growing technical literacy and understanding within business roles. Knowledge of fintech and related emerging technologies and their implications and applications for the business is critical.

Technology isn’t the only area where skills are shifting—business leadership is changing, too, requiring new competencies even for seasoned managers and executives. Within financial services, L&D teams focus learning in areas like leadership and management—skills that improve workflows, operations, morale, and innovation.

Communication skills are also a priority. Especially for remote work, communication is key for effective collaboration with both internal and external stakeholders, and complement technical skills by ensuring ideas, products, and services are effectively communicated, developed, and delivered to others.

Popular edX Business Courses

From FinTech to project management, explore a sampling of business courses and programs from the world’s top universities used by financial services organizations.

Learning That Takes You From Keeping Pace to Staying Ahead

Investing in learning platforms and programs designed to build on-the-job capabilities in data science, business, computer science, and more is a critical component of driving company and employee success.

Learn how your organization can take advantage of edX For Business’s expert guidance, flexible online platform with advanced analytics and customization features, and catalog of top courses and programs to take your team from keeping pace to staying ahead.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Financial Services Skill Highlight: Computer Science

Article2 min read

October 13, 2021

The pandemic has only increased businesses’ acceleration towards digital transformation and underscored the power of technology and computer science skills to help overcome economic disruption across industries, including financial services. Under the lens of the pandemic, opportunities sharpen focus specifically in areas that help reduce costs, enable remote work, and sustain operations, which a Deloitte report says will help businesses prepare for and endure whatever comes next.

Read on to learn how fellow financial services L&D professionals use computer science courses to develop relevant, mission-critical skills in their organizations.

Broad Upskilling & Targeted Competency Building

Within computer science, financial services companies offer a variety of opportunities:

  • Building skills in universally useful programming languages such as Python— a gateway to upskilling to roles in priority areas such as data science and productivity enhancer across functions.
  • Nurturing competencies in other business-critical areas, such as cybersecurity and DevOps.

Popular edX Computer Science Courses

From programming basics to cybersecurity and web development, explore a sampling of computer science courses and programs from the world’s top universities used by financial services organizations. 

Learning That Takes You From Keeping Pace to Staying Ahead

Investing in learning platforms and programs designed to build on-the-job capabilities in data science, business, computer science, and more is a critical component of driving company and employee success.

Learn how your organization can take advantage of edX For Business’s expert guidance, flexible online platform with advanced analytics and customization features, and catalog of top courses and programs to take your team from keeping pace to staying ahead.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Financial Services Skill Highlight: Data Science

Article2 min read

October 7, 2021

As one of the industries most affected by pandemic-induced disruptions and acceleration of digital transformation, it’s no surprise that data science is a top skills area that financial services companies are investing in.

Read on to learn how fellow financial services L&D professionals use data science courses to develop relevant, mission-critical skills in their organizations.

Growing Data Science Teams & Cross-Company Capabilities

With data science roles in high demand, competition for talent is fierce. Reskilling your existing workforce into data science roles, with capabilities in machine learning and big data, and arming employees across functions with data analysis skills can:

  • Save resources and costs spent on hiring
  • Improve retention rates
  • Increase productivity
  • Accelerate your organization’s competitive edge


According to a Harvard Business Review article, one global professional services firm found that the billing rates they could charge for consultants who had been through a data analysis upskilling program went up 3%, “more than justifying their investment.”

Popular edX Data Science Courses

From advanced Excel to machine learning and big data, explore a sampling of data science courses and programs from the world’s top universities used by financial services organizations.

“I have finished six courses so far related to data analytics. I transferred the knowledge I got to my team and colleagues and we implemented new tools in Power BI for cell performance analytics both for EGA and for an external client. Now, analysis which took a few hours can be done in minutes.” – Manager, Modelling, Technology Development, & Transfer, EGA

Learning That Takes You From Keeping Pace to Staying Ahead

Investing in learning platforms and programs designed to build on-the-job capabilities in data science, business, computer science, and more is a critical component of driving company and employee success.

Learn how your organization can take advantage of edX For Business’s expert guidance, flexible online platform with advanced analytics and customization features, and catalog of top courses and programs to take your team from keeping pace to staying ahead.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Modernizing Your Employee Learning Journey, From Kickoff to Culture

Article6 min read

September 23, 2021

Technology has rapidly shifted what types of skills are critical to employee and company success—and the success of today’s learning and development (L&D) programs. Increasingly, L&D professionals are leveraging cross-functional skills, from data analysis to digital marketing, to build, launch, and manage their programs.

Effective learning programs are fueled by employee engagement. Read on for a collection of tips, prompts, and insights to help modernize and strengthen your approach to motivating learners across every step of their journeys.

The Kickoff: Think Like a Marketer and Understand Your Audience

Getting your learners engaged and excited right away is critical to motivation and engagement throughout the rest of their learning journey.

Think like a marketer and know your audience: How will you message learning opportunities and what tactics will you employ to market those messages?

Understanding a target audience is at the core of marketing, and it’s what you need to do to effectively motivate your learners. Your audience may be your entire company or a team of five information technology professionals and your launch and outreach plan should adapt accordingly.

Put on your marketing hat and ask yourselves these questions to hone in on your plan:

Frame your offerings

  • The value of learning is increased when the link between content and practice is clear: Are there key projects or reskilling opportunities that a team or individual’s learning aligns to? For company-wide messaging, are there larger company objectives or goals learning can be tied to?
  • What are the goals of learning for this audience, from their perspective? What’s the value, what’s the outcome, and how can you highlight that from the start?
  • What blockers or barriers would your audience perceive that you could address right away? E.g., How do you expect them to fit learning into their work day?

Choose your tactics

  • Where should your message be relayed? Think about where employees expect communications, e.g., a company newsletter or all hands meeting, or in what setting teams or individuals would be most receptive. Schedule reminders similarly—a series of emails expanding on the value of learning, a post in the company Slack channel, etc.
  • Who should your message come from? HR? A team manager? The CEO? A peer? Think about how you can leverage the messenger as a tactic. For example, role modeling is an effective way to get employees’ attention—structuring communications as an executive’s recommendation can go a long way, especially if they’re also participating in learning.

The Middle: Build, Test, and Iterate Like a Product Designer

How can you build a program that supports sustained learning? Like a product designer, it’s crucial to understand and anticipate the behaviors of your users and be ready to test and iterate your “product” over time.

Structure your program to create good learning habits right away with these tips:

  • Use milestones to illustrate progress: Where can you celebrate tangible progress? Setting time goals is important to help motivate your learners to complete courses over a longer timeframe. Use the expected course length as a guidepost to set expected milestones that help learners achieve wins along their journey.
  • Provide learning reminders: Gentle nudges can have a positive impact on learner motivation and performance. Where can you anticipate drop-off and align email or other marketing pushes? Use your platform’s dashboard to track learner progress, course activity, and enrollments. Remind learners of upcoming dates and encourage their learning progress.
  • Encourage your organization to make space for workday learning: Research shows there is a statistically significant positive relationship between workday learning and course completion rates, even if it’s just an hour a week.

To enhance your program over time, use data to find new opportunities for further engagement across specific learners, teams, content, subject areas, and more:

  • Look at trends over time in areas such as daily sessions (how frequently learners are engaging with course content): Are you trending upwards or downwards, and why? Are sessions decreasing because of seasonality (if so, are there ways to hedge against this?) or upwards as a result of your marketing push (if so, can you replicate it?)
  • Look for outliers: Who are your most engaged learners and how can you leverage their success? Consider highlighting top-performing employees (with their permission) as a learner story in your marketing to help inspire peers. On the flip side, who are your least engaged learners and could they benefit from a marketing or manager nudge?
  • Find patterns and amplify popular content and subjects: Are there any standout programs or courses in terms of completion? Can you survey those learners to understand why the content is compelling and promote it more? From a subject area or skills perspective, are there any patterns that surface “sleeper” successes, e.g., you may find that many employees are enrolling in entry-level data science courses, which you could further promote.

The “End”: Act Like a Founder and Create a Culture

One employee completing one course is a win, but, ultimately, a culture of lifelong learning keeps an organization thriving. Reinforce a culture of learning through continuing to:

  • Drive your initiatives at every level: Create opportunities for social learning in peer groups. Encourage managers to promote offerings and follow up with employees. Share success stories with executives.
  • Demonstrate how learning opportunities help employees and the company grow: Make this connection clear to your workforce in messaging beyond launching your program. How does continuous learning help the company stay competitive? How does it help individuals grow in their roles and stay relevant? Are you using industry and employee engagement data to inform the content you’re offering? Let your stakeholders know how and why available learning opportunities continue to evolve and fuel growth.

Your Partner in Employee Engagement

Work with the edX For Business team to up-level your engagement tactics, make the most of our powerful analytics features, and offer your workforce opportunities to learn today’s most in-demand skills.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Reaping the Benefits of Subscriptions: Q&A With edX’s Chief Commercial Officer

Article5 min read

October 26, 2020

Online learning has been a key lever for engaging employees and driving companies forward in a world upturned by economic disruption and a workforce adjusting to the challenges of productive remote work. To maximize the outcomes of E-learning investments, it’s essential to ensure initiatives are both aligned with business objectives and designed for a frictionless user experience.

edX For Business’s new subscriptions offering was crafted to do just that, giving employees the flexibility to discover and learn new skills with immediate access to essential, in-demand courses and programs. In this post, edX Chief Commercial Officer and Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Johannes Heinlein shares more about how this offering was built to benefit both the employee and the company, and create accessible pathways to business-critical skills.

How do subscriptions align with the edX For Business mission?

Our goal with subscriptions really goes to the heart of edX’s mission, which is to provide access to world-leading educational content, to improve learners’ lives, and to achieve positive outcomes for learners and organizations. This requires solutions that help companies and employees grow and thrive.

Subscriptions is a cornerstone of edX’s For Business offering as it presents pathways and options to both employers and employees. The world’s preeminent universities, companies, and organizations work with edX to provide access to a breadth and depth of learning experiences via our leading educational platform. The engaging, interactive educational content on our platform is designed with active learning at its core, and provides the opportunity to participate in a global learning community.

How are subscriptions designed to offer both breadth and depth?

With subscriptions, you’re providing employees with a catalogue that has the breadth and depth they need to further their career and keep them engaged.

As an employer you’re able to build pathways that will help employees be successful within your organization as the content offers the opportunity to go deep in particular subject areas and be responsive as the demands on your business and employees evolve. For example, you may build a pathway for advancement in a particular team such as information technology, to re-skill employees into specific critical roles such as in data science, or to move from individual contributor to management positions.

As an employee, you gain the ability to easily enroll in as many courses as you want throughout the year. Subscriptions offer the freedom to earn unlimited professional and verified certificates while exploring new skills and journeying through pathways that help employees accelerate their careers within the company.

What are some of the outcomes a subscription model enables?

One of the key aspects of enabling subscriptions for businesses was to remove friction and barriers. Enabling learners to engage with a variety of different content offerings at scale and with instantaneous feedback mechanisms removes barriers, as do—on a more operational side—our single-sign-on integrations with leading LMS platforms and company IT systems.

It is also important to highlight the aspect of community, even more crucial today as many of us are still working remotely. Subscriptions facilitate a collective learning experience, one which benefits both the employee and company. Large-scale corporations we work with in the finance sector or in manufacturing, for example, are looking to provide an experience for their employees where they can come together through online learning pathways, so that those who are interested and invested in the same outcome can be successful.

Last but not least, very critically for businesses, subscriptions create the ability to offer employees compelling, customized learning programs at a predictable, affordable price point.

How does the edX For Business team help companies make the most of subscriptions and skills pathways?

In today’s world, signing up for a subscription service can be overwhelming. Choice can be overwhelming, and while employers are looking for choice this cannot be at the expense of efficiency and effectiveness. So they are looking for a guide, and the edX team is here to provide that guidance to organizations.

Any organization can take advantage of our experience, be it a government entity, a multinational, or an NGO, to name just a few examples. The edX For Business team is your partner in enabling growth within your organization and to support change. We will identify pathways that are industry- or subject-area specific, solutions that offer the breadth and depth that businesses and employees are expecting and deserve from their learning experience.

In today’s ever more complex world, edX provides market know-how gained by delivering learning experiences to almost 40 million learners worldwide. It is this experience that helps us identify global, regional, and industry trends, which helps us serve your organization as a whole and your employees specifically.

Get Started With edX Subscriptions

Subscriptions give your team immediate access to hundreds of courses and programs, with the flexibility to discover and learn new, business-essential skills. Connect with the edX For Business team to learn more about how subscriptions and custom skills pathways can benefit your business.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Practical, Proven Steps Toward a True Organizational Culture of Learning

Article5 min read

October 13, 2020

Despite the flood of eLearning initiatives in corporate learning and development, leaders still cite a failure to build a strong learning culture as a top organizational challenge.

In this post, learn three ways to harness the unique potential of eLearning to create an organizational culture of learning and develop the dynamic new skills and capabilities that drive business results and workforces of the future. For a deeper dive, download our white paper, Three Key Steps Towards a Transformational Culture of Learning: Shifting From Investment to Scalability, co-authored by Daniel Mark Adsit, Principal Consultant at Mergence Systems, specializing in helping seasoned leaders use systems to scale remote and global teams.

Download the White Paper

Instill a Learning-While-Working Mindset

While traditional training programs often focuses on task instruction, eLearning focuses on work that equips people and organizations to thrive. eLearning has the power to facilitate a learning-while-working mindset that is an antidote to stagnant culture, fundamentally changing the relationship between learning and the workplace.

Practical logistics make eLearning compatible with schedules and integratable into organizations. Organizations can facilitate this learning-while-working mindset through example. In one approach, higher level leaders demonstrate commitment to learning, support unified understanding of new subjects, and serve as role-models by enrolling in eLearning courses themselves. For example, as reported in an MIT case study, Shell leverages MIT Architecture and Systems Engineering eLearning courses on the edX platform to build common vocabulary and understanding between technical experts and senior executives about bigger picture energy technologies of the future.

Facilitate Connections and Interactions

eLearning enables hundreds or thousands of learners to interact with each other simultaneously. They consume information collaboratively because the subjects themselves are works in progress. The content is a living organism. Pioneers discover different approaches. Interactive content includes stories, case studies, lessons from the front lines, or collaborative course assignments. Everyone has a unique learning experience. The highest value employee learning occurs when the course serves as a community hub around the content.

To build connections, it’s essential to leverage eLearning infrastructure— typically discussion forums— that bring together learners in different roles, companies, and industries. Ideally, conversations are unscripted. However, sharing through these learning platforms sometimes feels unnatural. Learners might be more inclined to flip through course videos or be hesitant to reveal confidential information. Full engagement can be difficult to achieve. For that reason, it’s important to facilitate some discussion and knowledge sharing. It’s also essential to recognize at a strategic level in the organization how new eLearning platforms open the door wide to opportunities, similar to the way that new scalable workflows facilitate remote workforces of the future.

Build Organizational Flexibility for the Future of Work

The future of work demands that organizations become more flexible in order to better adapt to change. The urgency is perhaps no more evident than through the global workplace disruptions during COVID-19. In a presentation at the MIT Systems Thinking Conference in 2015, Michael A M Davies proposed that organizations and teams across all industries “who learn the quickest, win” in innovation. This refers to how quickly organizations pivot and apply new approaches, such as 3D printing, rather than the speed that learners consume content.

While not a complete remedy, eLearning supports quicker pivots and change within an organization. Through eLearning, it’s possible to invest in many different skills and technologies of tomorrow. This flexibility is a critical success factor, especially during growing times of uncertainty. It’s about constantly reassessing where everything is moving. A knowledge portfolio from eLearning lowers risk by providing a set of real options that can be deployed efficiently and acquired and applied quickly for the benefit of the organization. In other words, it’s a toolbox of possibilities for the future.

Flexibility presents itself through eLearning in different ways. Some organizations, such as global automakers, have developed new cross-functional roles around subjects that started with employees enrolled in eLearning courses. Others strategically deploy eLearning to rally team members around a specific goal. For example, according to an MIT case study, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is enrolling its third group of learners since 2017 into the MIT Architecture and Systems Engineering eLearning program on the edX platform that is an integral component in an organization-wide model based systems engineering (MBSE) transformation. Enrolling groups in stages also helps to build a base to mentor new learners.

Three Key Approaches to Creating a Culture of Learning

While eLearning supports scalability when deployed effectively, this requires intentional effort, focus, and continuous investment. In our white paper, we explore the three key approaches that leaders implementing eLearning for scalability are taking.

Download the white paper to learn more about how to create effective learning goals, learning strategies, and learning programs that encourage continuous learning, increase employee engagement and retention, and develop new knowledge that will prepare your business for the future of work.

Download the White Paper


Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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