A new survey of more than 1,100 marketers conducted by Econsultancy and Marketing Week has revealed how and to what extent organisations have prioritised learning and development initiatives for employees during lockdown.

With marketers working from home since March, lockdown has brought the concept of remote learning to the forefront of organisations’ minds. Among 110 senior executive respondents (from larger organisations with revenue above 50m), 93% cited the “ability to rapidly train our workforce to be effective at working remotely” as either a critical or important factor in staying competitive.

Similarly, 96% of respondents said that “up-skilling the workforce through virtual training” is either critical or important. Ninety five percent agreed that “providing effective on-demand learning resources for remote workers” is also either critical or important.

Overall, the survey found that:

  • the majority of larger organisations (55%) already have some kind of virtual learning programme in place for marketers;
  • a further 17% are planning to introduce virtual learning for marketers in the near future;
  • over half of organisations currently provide “training about working remotely” (54%) or “best practice resources for working remotely” (52%);
  • just 42% of larger organisations currently have “best practice resources for marketers” in place, suggesting that there’s still scope for broader learning initiatives to be implemented.

64% of marketers pursued learning in lockdown

Alongside greater recognition from organisations, employees are also displaying their interest in additional education and training.

Sixty-four percent of marketers said they have pursued some type of learning during the lockdown. This breaks down as 40% of marketers pursuing training in their core job role, 39% who said they have focused on a new skill related to their current role, and 31% who have pursued education in something unrelated to their current role.

When it comes to motivations for learning, the survey results largely point to circumstances that have arisen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said that they “wanted the feeling of control over an aspect of my career”,  with the uncertainty of the past few months appearing to have driven marketers to take command in any way they can, which in this case means getting ahead with learning opportunities.

What’s more, 29% of marketers said that “additional time in schedule due to lockdown” has motivated them to take on learning. While this additional time might reduce in the coming months – with some people resuming their daily commute as well as taking on busier work schedules – the clear benefits could impact organisations’ remote working policies. This is because our survey shows the majority of organisations have found that productivity is the either the same or improved, but rarely diminished when working from home. In fact, 74% of respondents (of managerial level or above) agreed that they are “more efficient when working from home than in the office.”

Challenges to consider

With 17% of marketers saying their organisations are planning to introduce further virtual training / learning resources, it’s important to consider any particular challenges that have arisen during the past few months (and how employees might be better supported going forward).

One thing to consider is the type of content that current on-demand learning and best practice resources include. In other words, a greater shift towards digital since the start of the pandemic means that knowledge priorities for many organisations may have changed. Similarly, with 40% of executives describing the “management of junior employees” as a challenge, it’s important that organisations ensure current resources include best practice for working at home, particularly when it comes to junior roles.

Lastly, organisations should consider how they can better incentivise learning – particularly when it is self-directed. Incentives can come in the form of rewards (such as bonuses), or even just ‘learning reviews’ to give the practice more structure.