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New learning in the new normal: The skills IT needs now

The pandemic has increased the importance of education and training in unexpected ways, and how we learn has changed forever. There’s never been a better time to learn new skills; HPE Education Services can help.

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 By Jean Bennett, HPE Education Services

We long for things to get back to normal. We want to go out for social activities and entertainment. We want to travel, see friends in bigger groups, frequent our favorite businesses, and enjoy conversations at the water cooler. There's light on the horizon, but experts are warning that the return to our previous normal is still a way off. Large gatherings will remain rare. Remote work will continue to gain ground. There will be temperature checks and masks, empty sports arenas and entertainment venues, an increased reliance on telemedicine, and international travel restrictions. In short, we are still in the process of achieving our new normal – for families, for enterprises and for IT.  We'll continue to change the way we live and work, and to acquire new knowledge and skills as digital transformation accelerates.

Even before COVID-19, developing in-house talent and extending training were important priorities for many organizations. In this time of uncertainty, they are more important than ever. We need to focus not only on skills related to technology, but also on those pertaining to working and learning remotely, planning and managing, and building a virtual culture. HPE Education Services can help in all of these areas, which I'll explore below. We offer a wide variety of training options to fit your schedule, learning style, and needs – find the style of learning that's right for you.

Learning better ways to work remotely

Telecommuting may be more permanent than previously realized. Fully 74% of CFOs say they expect to move previously on-site employees to remote work post-COVID-19, according to a Gartner survey. Many companies that can do so will continue to have employees work remotely – some temporarily, some permanently.  Employees who are new to working from home will need to learn a variety of new skills, including the ability to :

  • effectively use collaboration tools
  • fight isolation and stay engaged
  • balance home interruptions and stay focused on tasks at hand
  • execute new processes for approvals, security and data protection
  • find and use online resources, support and training.

Honing collaboration, communication and listening skills

In the absence of face-to-face meetings and collocated offices, employees' collaboration, communication and listening skills will continue to need honing for the virtual environment. Many of us are still learning to conduct meetings, brainstorm and collaborate without our usual office flipcharts and whiteboards, with the switch to virtual tools. Without the opportunity to drop by management’s offices, or knock on SMEs’ or colleagues’ doors, we need new ways of scheduling time for conversation. And we're still learning to be more diligent with our communications to keep everyone informed. Even if we use video, it’s easy to miss the body language and subtle signals our colleagues may be sending. Without video, it can be even more challenging.   

Management teams can provide support to newly remote workers to maintain morale, instill confidence, and ensure productivity. In addition to guiding employees through policy and process changes, management teams need to learn to lead effectively in remote environments. They will look for new ways to solicit team feedback and keep up employee engagement. In all of these changes, timely communication among teams is critical.

5 key challenges for IT

IT departments continue to face challenges of their own; here are some of the most pressing:

1. Innovation pressure is here to stay.

As we respond to the ongoing challenges and new realities, there will be no reduction in the requirements for innovation and agility. Early in the pandemic, school districts asked their IT departments to enable them to switch from 100% in-school services to 100% on-line, at-home services – for thousands of teachers and students – pretty much overnight.  New solutions will continue to be needed to address changing security, bandwidth and traffic requirements and support myriad colleagues now working remotely.

2. How we work is changing, requiring new skills.

IT staffers will continue to produce fast and adaptive new solutions, which will change how they do their jobs. IT sales teams will transition from face-to-face customer meetings to virtual meetings, using new technology. Support roles will provide remote services rather than on-site consultation.

3. IT silos will disappear – are you ready? 

As companies focus on tightening budgets and preserving capital in a difficult business environment, IT projects and staff are feeling the impact – job roles are changing as we learn to do more with less. Staffers will need to learn how to work across traditional IT silos and take on wider areas of responsibility. For example, a staff member who had recently been a server administrator might now need to also cover storage or network administration. Architects and system administrators who might have specialized in Linux or Microsoft in the past will need to know both. Add to this the knowledge needed to operate in a hybrid or multi-cloud environment, and it all translates to a much broader required skill set for IT.

4. New technologies will be required.

These key technologies will be increasingly important: 

  • Artificial Intelligence. AI is finding new uses case far beyond its initial applications in virtual assistants and chatbots; it will expand into all aspects of industry, education, and science.
  • Blockchain. This technology removes unneeded third parties from transactions and provides highly secure and immutable exchange platforms; it will be important for data security in many sectors, especially government, supply chain, and insurance and banking.
  • 5G. Multi-gigabit bandwidth throughput will enable real-time data at the edge; this will bring datacenter-like high-speed connectivity and edge computing analytics to the supply chain, retail, and sports and entertainment sectors, and many others.
  • Data analytics will continue to help businesses organize and interpret huge amounts of incoming data, upgrading it into useful information.

5. Professional skills will remain paramount.

While typically not “top of mind” for IT management, non-technical skills will be crucial for employees in enabling them to thrive. We all behave and operate differently in the face of uncertainty. These skills include leadership, creative problem solving, and the ability to perform crisis management. Business strategy and business continuity will be important focuses as we stabilize and build confidence. IT staff will need to develop a service mindset, which requires being able to walk a mile in the shoes of your internal or external customers.

How we learn is changed forever

Remote work means new opportunities for remote training and learning. Telecommuters can thrive with access to myriad resources and a mix of formats to develop competencies. When face-to-face, one-on-one or classroom sessions are not available, companies will develop and offer new ways of coaching and mentoring and new techniques for acquiring and delivering knowledge. Self-directed learning will continue to gain traction, requiring access to eLearning and performance support systems. Learners will need access to virtual classes, instructor office hours and remote labs. To accommodate the speed of change all around us, instantaneous learning from peers and experts will become a critical resource. In short, learning will require a mix of formats to ensure that we continue to develop individual talent and organizational knowledge to move forward in the new reality.

One eLearning resource you should definitely check out is HPE Digital Learner, our anytime, anywhere learning-as-a-service solution. It's currently available with a 7-day free trial!

For a great overview of HPE Education Services, watch this short video:

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The current crisis triggered huge changes in how we live, work and learn, and many of these will lay the basis for more fundamental change. It’s important to build on successful experiences. There’s never been a better time to change old habits and build new ones.

1. See this press release

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