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For many businesses, the pandemic has created an opportunity to address long-term challenges. Read on to learn how Circus Street helped FMCG giants Reckitt launch their global upskilling program, and discover how organizations are embracing digital and supercharging their efforts to upskill employees.

Read on to discover:


COVID-19 has forced us all to transition to almost exclusively digital ways of working. Many of us have been under enormous pressure to overcome these challenges quickly and efficiently. However, the pandemic has also created a fertile environment to solve some of the long-term problems that had been brewing for years. 

At the end of last year, one member of the Circus Street Advisory Board described how the first lockdown prompted their company to launch a digital learning platform.  This was something they had been discussing at length before the outbreak of COVID-19 – the pandemic merely forced them to make a decision. It turned out to be the right one: within a few months, they had doubled their original target of active users, and the shift to digital had supported the company’s wider objective to become more “virtually friendly”.

Another member discussed how they relaunched their digital learning programme during the pandemic, and saw a much greater uptake among those working from home. Several board members expected a high proportion of learning content to remain online even after the end of the pandemic – the future of learning and development programmes will likely be a balance between in-person and virtual learning.

The board members all had one thing in common, however: they all insisted that the shifts they had made to accommodate COVID-19 were necessary in the long run.


New disruption – long-term challenges

While the pandemic certainly disrupted “normal” ways of working, it also highlighted issues that have been brewing for a long time. 

According to research from PwC, one in three jobs are likely to be severely disrupted by technological change in the next decade. With 3.3 billion people currently employed, that’s approximately one billion people who will need upskilling. The World Economic Forum estimates that upskilling the 1.37m US workers whose jobs are threatened will cost $34bn in itself – multiply that by 100 to take in the rest of the world, and the sums become staggering.  

Already, millions of jobs are going unfilled, and it’s not possible to recruit enough skilled people to fill the gap. The only option is to help members of our existing workforce gain new skills to survive in the digital age. 

“Companies need to invest in their people,” says Carol Stubbings, Joint Global Leader of PwC’s People and Organization. “That’s how many companies will survive this crisis and become stronger.”

With face-to-face training out of action, the demand for flexible online learning is growing exponentially. Unfortunately, however, research from the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) reveals that learning providers are seriously lagging behind when it comes to digital. In fact, online learning ranked in the five lowest-performing areas for L&D providers in 2020-21, scoring a measly 11th place. 

The research shows an urgent need for effective online learning – but how are companies supposed to implement successful global learning programs when learning providers are failing to keep pace with new developments? 

To answer that question, it might be helpful to look at a tangible example from FMCG giant Reckitt.


Rolling out a global learning program – a Reckitt case study

For Reckitt, the pandemic coincided with the launch of its Circus Street Digital Academy, which was due to go live in April 2020. On top of that, they had just announced a huge company-wide transformation: the global organization was going to move from two business units to three, with the ambition of fully splitting and reunifying by July.

Merissa Pires, Reckitt’s Global Head of Learning and Development, saw this as an opportunity rather than a challenge: in her experience, team members were practically “crying out” for more opportunities to learn and stay connected with each other. 

Pires candidly explains how this was an investment that Reckitt wouldn’t previously have jumped upon. But she saw the opportunity and the ambition behind the learning program, and pushed to get it signed off. 

Luckily, Reckitt’s new CEO was on her side. Once they got that global endorsement, Pires was able to launch Reckitt’s new learning program across different divisions of the business – even in the midst of their huge transformation. And the learning program quickly grew from a pilot of 3,000 employees to over 23,000 company-wide users.

“Covid has already shown how important digital is across many industries and markets,” said Sandeep Gill, Reckitt’s Head of Learning and Development for Developing Markets. “This has really helped us make sure our employees are getting the right skillset and development to make the right choices for how the business is going to be shaped going forward. We had to understand what our digital objectives were, and align those across the entire company.”

Reckitt is now monitoring not just engagement and completion, but “knowledge uplift” to be able to map digital upskilling of its workforce alongside business results, using a survey mechanism pre- and post-completion. 

“From a business perspective against our digital objective, we want to see how well our changes are working,” said Gill. “Knowledge uplift in itself can provide a lot of confidence that we are going in the right direction. Business leaders are also asking for additional content and lessons, which is fantastic.”



What does success look like?

Reckitt’s example helps illustrate what it looks like to implement a global learning program in the middle of a pandemic. It can be done. Moreover, it can succeed and thrive.

According to the latest PwC Annual Global CEO Survey, 60% of CEOs who had introduced an upskilling program said their program was “highly effective” in improving culture and employee engagement. In the PwC 2020 Global Digital IQ survey, 86% of respondents said their digital training and education programs have improved employee engagement and performance. And according to Gallup, highly engaged business units have a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. 

The study also found that organizations that were further along on the upskilling curve were ahead of their peers in several ways. Of those who had begun implementing upskilling programs, 20% said they had been “very effective” in addressing the skills gap so far; among companies with more advanced programs, that share rose to 35%.

In addition to this general uplift, CEOs reported a range of added benefits associated with upskilling:

  • 41% said upskilling programs had been “very effective” in improving employee engagement; among companies with more advanced programs, that share rose to 60%
  • 93% said upskilling helped to increase productivity; 30% said it had been “very effective” in doing so
  • 30% said upskilling had accelerated digital transformation
  • 28% said upskilling helped improve talent acquisition and retention

In short: with effective online upskilling programs, organizations can emerge from the COVID-19 crisis more confident, more agile, and ready to benefit from growth when the economic climate improves. Those who have taken action are already seeing the advantages – and this should send a clear message to those still on the fence about upskilling.


Partnering with Circus Street

Circus Street is the only specialist provider of online training in digital skills, specifically designed for global enterprises.

We help organizations modernize and amplify business performance through exceptionally engaging online learning. We work with the world’s largest brands to build and develop their digital capabilities across their organization at pace and scale, helping them to understand how technology is changing the relationship between their business and their customers. 

Our curriculum currently holds 93 lessons across 49 different subject areas, including Digital Transformation, eCommerce, Content Marketing, Big Data, and Leadership. In addition to this, we have recently launched a series of bite-sized lessons called Spotlights. Taking inspiration from the world of television and film, these 10-minute lessons are designed to fit around busy schedules, deliver practical and focused learning at the moment of need, and complement our learning programs.

All of our learning programs are customized based on your organization’s goals, and your team skills – and we work closely together with our clients to build lesson plans and workshops that can plug into their current learning programs, working across functions, at scale. 




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