Challenge #3: Accelerating Digital Transformation in the Wake of COVID-19

Published 18 February 2021 by Caroline Koktvedgaard

Should you be rethinking F2F training, moving away from outmoded learning approaches, and making the switch to online learning permanent? This week, we'll be addressing one of the most pressing issues of 2021: accelerating digital transformation in the wake of COVID-19.

What can you expect? 

Last year, “digital transformation” ranked in the top three of L&D leaders’ most pressing concerns, according to a survey from the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI). In 2021, digital transformation still ranks equally highly – but the focus has shifted towards dealing with the current and future impact of COVID-19. 

According to the LPI’s recent 2021 survey, L&D leaders are now asking themselves: “How can I accelerate digital learning adoption as a replacement for F2F training? And what will the situation look like post-COVID? Should I prepare for the return of F2F learning?”

In this series, we explore the top challenges faced by L&D leaders – and offer expert industry insight to help you get ahead of the curve. This week, we’ll be tackling Challenge #3: Accelerating digital transformation in the wake of COVID-19.

 

The scale of digital disruption

In the space of a few months, COVID-19 has triggered seven years worth of digital transformation.

Consumer behaviours have also become increasingly digital. Since the beginning of March, search interest in online shopping has grown by 2X worldwide. Food and household categories have experienced a 30% surge in online customers. And digital services such as Zoom and Netflix have seen their stocks skyrocket. 

By now, most companies have at least set up temporary digital solutions. On average, companies are now three times more likely to say that at least 80% of their interactions with customers are digital than they were before the crisis. 

When asked how long it took them to implement changes in response to COVID-19, the companies surveyed by McKinsey said they acted 20 to 25 times faster than expected. Before the pandemic, respondents estimated that it would take more than a year to implement remote working – in reality, it took an average of 11 days.

An overdue transformation

When asked why they hadn’t implemented these changes before the crisis, just over half of McKinsey’s survey respondents replied that digital transformation “[wasn’t] a top business priority” back then. 

Dr. Gerald C. Kane, Anh Nguyen Phillips, Jonathan Copulsky and Rich Nanda – authors of The Technology Fallacy (MIT Press 2019) – argue that the pandemic has created a “stress test” for organisations to invest in digital transformation. As one of their interview respondents puts it: “When the tide goes out, you see who’s been swimming naked” – and the companies who did little to accomplish digital transformation will now find themselves exposed. 

The question is: what’s holding organisations back?

Nearly one third of McKinsey’s B2B respondents cited “fear of customer resistance to changes” as a barrier to achieving digital transformation. Others directed the blame towards organisational and technology issues: the required changes were seen as “too big a shock” to established ways of working, and organisational silos impeded the progress of digital transformation.

The biggest barrier, however, according to Dr. Kane and his colleagues, was the widespread resistance towards experimenting and taking risks. “If there ends up being a ‘silver lining’ to the current crisis,” they write, “it is that in many companies, the pandemic is ushering in digital changes that were long overdue.”

In the end, the pandemic forced even the most cautious laggards to finally take the plunge: 97% of executives said the pandemic sped up their digital transformation, while 79% said COVID-19 increased their budgets for digital transformation, according to a recent survey from Twilio.

 

Accelerate digital transformation – with online learning

Given how fast things change – often from one day to the next – it’s clear that a “slow and steady” approach to digital transformation is no longer enough. 

Some companies are still busy firefighting on a burning platform. Some have been forced to reinvent their business overnight. And many are still failing to leverage emergent technologies in their businesses. 

However, more than half of executives are investing in technology to gain competitive advantage, according to McKinsey. Many organisations have ramped up their offering of webinars, and digital learning platforms have seen an increase in uptake of up to 3x in 2020. 

This is encouraging news, indicating that many companies are stepping up to the challenge of upskilling their employees and tackling digital transformation, once and for all. And it’s working: the companies who invest in new digital technologies during the pandemic are twice as likely to report outsized revenue growth as their peers. 

But what will happen once things go “back to normal”? 

 

How to respond to the disruption

Back in June 2020, face-to-face learning was still the dominant form of learning, according to the CIPD. At the time, 20% of organisations didn’t use any technology to support learning. What will that number look like once the pandemic is over? Will things return to normal? What does “normal” even look like, in the wake of a pandemic? 

Already, 70% of McKinsey’s respondents anticipate that remote working will remain in place after the crisis lifts. For L&D leaders, this triggers the most pressing question of 2021: Will we ever go back to face-to-face training? Or should we be making the switch to online learning permanent? 

In their study of digital disruption, Dr. Kane and his colleagues identify two different ways in which companies respond to disruption: first, there are “those that are treading water, waiting for the world to go back to what it was”; then, there are “those that are using this time to plan their place in the ‘next normal’”. The authors expect that “the companies that [will] emerge stronger from the crisis [will be] those that innovate through it, using the current crisis as an opportunity to digitally transform their company.” And we’re inclined to agree.

To weather the pandemic, and accelerate digital transformation, businesses must embrace technology, upgrade their learning programs, and equip their employees with the digital skills they need to survive in this “new normal”. And we believe the best way to do that is through online learning.

Online learning increases productivity, accelerates the learning process by 15%, while simultaneously reducing training costs and time taken off for learning by 20%. It’s also cost-effective, scalable, and accessible.

 

Partnering with Circus Street

As a global online learning business, we partner with global organisations to develop tailored learning programs that help them build their marketing capabilities. And we believe in modern learning methods that ensure responsiveness becomes ingrained individuals. 

Our unique approach to learning uses professional presenters in 3D environments, and engaging animation to dive deep into the concepts of digital. All this is delivered through the “My Circus Street” hub, where learnings are available across any device, anytime, anywhere. 

Overall, the result is an education solution that results in your teams having the confidence, understanding and ability to succeed in a technology-driven world. 

“Their programme is exceptional, the content is fantastic, and it really drives greater knowledge and confidence in all aspects of digital”

– Jo Earl, Head of Global Marketing Excellence at Sanofi 

Ready to get started?

To find out how Circus Street empowers organisations, see our testimonials page. Or sign up for a free trial of our lessons to see how we can help drive business transformation in your business.

 

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