Bittnet Training, operating on the IT Training market in Romania, and Equatorial together with their partners have carried out a study on the effects on COVID-19 outbreak on the learning and personal development processes in local and multinational companies based in Romania. The purpose of the study was to measure the impact of coronavirus on Romanian business environment, learn how HR departments have adapted their employee learning programs and identify skills are the most sought after in employees at the time of pandemic and social isolation.
The study found out that the crisis generated by the COVID-19 outbreak negatively impacted three-quarters of respondents (77%). 18% of companies admitted corona-crisis did not have any impact as their business continues as usual, while 5% assessed that coronavirus had a positive impact. Based on the results of the study, companies that were not affected or positively affected by the crisis are primarily from domains such as education, IT&C, HR and recruitment, services and utilities, finance-accounting, consulting.
Almost all the respondents are facing challenges related to continuing training and employee learning processes as over 50% of respondents had or will have their training budget frozen for a period of crisis. 31% of respondents admitted training is not a priority for the management, while 23% are facing reluctance from their employees to follow online courses. Nonetheless, only 26.5% of companies have completely stopped training their employees while 47% continue with training. Rest of respondents decided to postpone training activities to the second half of 2020.
“The current crisis proves how important it is to learn to use technology to be more productive, more connected, more creative and smarter. Franklin said that investing in knowledge provides the greatest interest, but in Romania, too many companies fail to build lifelong learning projects among the active population. Only 7% of Romanians were involved in such a process in 2018, which is six times less than Czechs, Poles or Hungarians and eight times less than Belgians, Germans or Swedes. This can no longer continue. Together with my colleagues from Bittnet Education, we will launch by the end of this quarter, the largest national project of digital education and professional reconversion in Romania. We invite the public and private environment to join us in this endeavor because the country can no longer afford to want us to be fooled,” said Dan Berteanu, CEO of Bittnet Training and VP of Education within Bittnet Group.
When it comes to specific skills, the most sought-after training programs are related to remote management (indicated by 93% of respondents) followed by remote working abilities (89%), crisis leadership (84%) and re-skilling and up-skilling (67%). Recruitment and new employee onboarding were deemed the least important, in line with signals in the market that the companies are temporarily halting their recruitment activities.
“COVID-19 has completely reshaped the demand for educational training, as most companies are now determined for their management and employees to learn how to adapt and excel in the time of crisis. On the other hand, growing demand for up-skilling and re-skilling courses indicates that many companies are determined to keep their current staff, but require them to learn new skillset,” Dan Berteanu pointed out.
In terms of assessing the effectiveness of live online training programs, 58% of companies have admitted they find the virtual environment less efficient for their teams, 34% as offering a similar experience. In comparison, less than 9% found the virtual environment more compelling than live training. The absence of face-to-face social interactions is the main reason why respondents prefer classrooms instead of virtual learning.
“It comes with no surprise that the companies are questioning the effectiveness of online training, as the majority have adapted to the virtual environment while under immense time pressure. We expect that as the digital transformation progresses, more will embrace the change and will adapt to new realities in a more structured manner. Like this, we will be able to take the best of what technology has given us, without sacrificing the social aspect of it. This is especially visible through the result of the study, which indicates that all companies want to maintain some of the solutions or measures that were implemented in the time of the lockdown,” added Berteanu.
The period of social isolation and compulsive “work from home” model implemented in most companies in Romania has shed light on some opportunities and beneficial solutions, that companies wish to implement even after the lockdown and the pandemic end. Working from home will most likely no longer be an extra-salary benefit as 68% of companies indicated it as a measure they want to maintain after the crisis. 61% mentioned they wish to continue the process of learning digital skills. With no surprise, as most employees are looking forward to restarting their social activities, only 38% plan to keep organizing or participating in virtual webinars, 36% in e-learning programmes, and 23% in training on the topic of remote working.
The results of the study were used by Bittnet Training to adapt its course portfolio, and Equatorial to identify gamification projects that can help employees adopt digital skills to better adapt to the changing work environment. The study was carried out between April 8th and 22nd. The study was performed on the sample of 128 respondents, companies based in Romania from a variety of industries, and of different sizes, starting from 0-50 employees, up to over 2,000. 19% of respondents are active in the education and training area, 13% from IT&C, 13% from manufacturing, 9% from the automotive industry and 8% from management and consulting.