We are living—and working—within a monumental paradigm shift. The COVID-19 pandemic has divided the global economy into “befores” and “afters". Before and after the normalization of remote work. Before and after the need of many companies to pivot completely. Before and after Zoom fatigue became a thing.

To cope with these changes, companies and individuals alike have turned to training. A recent TalentLMS survey on reskilling and upskilling training shows that an impressive 42% of companies stepped up their upskilling/reskilling efforts after the coronavirus outbreak. At the same time, 42% of employees have pursued training on their own.

Why does upskilling training matter so much, particularly now?

Looking back to the TalentLMS survey, a pattern starts becoming clear: It’s the COVID-induced uncertainty and instability that training hopes to vaccinate employees against—forgive the pun. Among the top reasons why managers felt the need to upskill or reskill their employees are “to handle changes within the organization” (68%) and “to train employees on new technologies” (65%).

Upskilling and reskilling training, within this context, becomes not just useful but almost mandatory. It can be the difference between employees collapsing from stress—or learning how to cope within their new environment. It can be the difference between a company taking a major hit or the same company continuing to thrive.

But how exactly? Let’s have a closer look at some of the unique challenges companies are facing right now and discuss how employee training, particularly upskilling training, can help solve them.

Rising stress levels

While this year has been hard on everyone, certain groups of people experience higher levels of daily worry at work. Small business owners are one of these groups, as are female business owners (according to a Gallup article). Other groups are people with mental health problems; people who are called to work from home while also having to homeschool their kids; and people in abusive relationships at home.

And then, there is the stress that comes from all the unexpected changes brought into a business due to COVID-19. Employees feel uncertainty over whether they will be let go or furloughed, whether their compensation will change, or even whether their company will keep operating.

Work stress compounds the already high stress levels, leaving many people prone to burnout and panic attacks. Now more than ever, you need to make your employees feel safe.

Solution: Offer total transparency—and training

Companies have to help employees handle all these changes from a distance. For that reason, transparency is key. Set regular updates of where the company is headed. Gather everyone on a Zoom call to inform them of your plans. Offer an open Q&A session on a regular basis for everyone who has concerns.

Along with transparency, make sure to offer continuous training. According to the TalentLMS survey, 91% of companies and 81% of employees say upskilling/reskilling training has boosted productivity at work. Why? Upskilling employees will not only help them feel like they can cope with the COVID-induced changes, it will also make them feel they remain an important part of the company’s future.

Maintaining a great company culture, even from afar

COVID-19 hasn’t just affected the way companies sell products (or the type of products they sell). It’s also affected the way a company presents itself to its employees—and the world.

Companies like Twitter and Square plan to allow their employees to continue working remotely forever. Also, 66% of founders are reconsidering their investments in office space.

Company culture is your set of values. These values should not be affected by whether your company has a physical space or not—in theory. In practice, however, things are not so straightforward.

How can you keep your employees excited, motivated, and willing to be your best ambassadors when each of them is currently working from the privacy of their own bubble? How can you keep your company culture thriving without things like water-cooler conversations, lunch breaks, and company events?

The short answer is, you evolve.

Solution: Promote continuous communication and socialization

Now more than ever, cultivating a sense of shared vision and community will have a huge impact on employee productivity and retention. But communities don’t have to be anchored in the physical world to be impactful.

Make sure to create (and promote the use of) online spaces for your employees to connect. For example, you can dedicate specific Slack channels or Basecamp campfires to non-work related matters. The goal is to maintain a line of continuous communication and socialization.

At the end of the day, you want your employees to be on the same page—both on a practical and on an emotional level. That’s how you keep a company culture thriving.

New technologies popping up

New technologies will always emerge. Even more so nowadays, where many new SaaS companies have exploded into the scene, offering solutions to pandemic-induced problems. Likewise, companies are forced to transition to digital services (e.g., e-commerce) to serve their customers.

And although this is good news, tech can also be an added stressor for your employees who are constantly called upon to interact with new software and products.

Solution: Offer upskilling/reskilling training

The joy of learning new things can bring to a person should not be underestimated. According to the TalentLMS survey, 66% of employees ranked the joy of learning new things and developing new skills as the top upskilling motivator. Another 80% of them said that upskilling/reskilling training has boosted their confidence.

Upskilling employees is more than a strategic decision in order to maintain your staff’s competitive edge. It’s a way to offer them a sense of certainty and security, during these highly uncertain times.

Final thoughts

The last thing overstressed employees need right now is for training to feel like “more work". As new challenges keep arising, it’s important to be flexible when you train employees. Use your LMS reports. Analyze data often. Check what’s working and what could be improved.