14 May 2020

Interview with Learnlight CEO Benjamin Joseph – EdTech trends post Covid-19

Learnlight Expert Series

For our Learnlight Expert series, we sat down with our Co-founder and CEO Benjamin Joseph, to speak about workplace and technology trends post COVID-19, and what we can expect in the EdTech industry once these unprecedented times pass

Benjamin Joseph, Co-Founder and CEO at Learnlight

Learnlight: Right now companies have been forced to switch to remote work. But the general prediction is that tech companies that don’t adapt to remote work post-COVID-19 will suffer from an inability to attract or retain workers. Do you think there’s going to be a general shift to keep remote work now that many workers are used to it? Do you think workers are going to be less inclined to even accept office jobs? What’s your prediction on that?

Ben Joseph: Well, they’re very interesting questions, because a move more towards remote and virtual working has been a path that Learnlight has been on for many years now. So even before the current pandemic, we were a very remote organization. I do think there is going to be a shift towards more remote work, but I personally am visualizing a slightly different model.  Now there are many companies in which most days of the week employees go to the office and they’re allowed to do one or two days of remote working.  I think moving forward; we may see that inverted.

So we’ll come to a model where, employees work from home most days of the week or most days of the month, and go into the office occasionally. There’s still going to be value in people coming together every now and then with their teams, for a particularly important meeting or for brainstorming or whatever, so I think a model may emerge where people work principally from home and then attend, occasional face to face meetings with their boss or with their teams. This may also change the way work environments are configured, smaller offices with hot desks and meeting rooms as opposed to large offices where everyone has dedicated workstations.

Learnlight: How do you feel that has benefited us, given that we already have this implemented and people are used to it?

Ben Joseph: Well, I believe it’s made a big difference because it’s meant that in these difficult times we’ve been able to focus more or less exclusively on our clients’ needs and challenges as opposed to having to focus on how we ourselves internally are transforming the way we work. So that’s been great because we were in a way one step ahead and able to contribute all our energy to supporting our clients. The knowledge and experience that we have gained over the last few years going through this transformation has also meant we’ve been in a good position to assist and help others through that process. Our teams can provide them with training and support, which comes from real experience. The other thing is, when you look at remote working in general, one of the key things for us has been to be able to attract and retain the best talent, and when you can look for talent all over the world as opposed to one limited geographic location, obviously the talent pool is much greater and the possibility of finding truly amazing professionals to fill that role is higher. We’ve been able to benefit and will continue benefiting from that.

“I think the knowledge and experience that we have gained over the last few years doing this has also meant we’ve been in a good position to assist and help others going through that process and provide them with training and support […]”

The other interesting thing about remote working is it tends to lead to more diversity and more diversified teams in terms of their responsibilities and roles, which means you can balance workload. So all of a sudden, if you’ve got less work in France and more work in Germany, that doesn’t mean you have to let people go in one region and hire people in another region. That means you can balance that workload out across the professionals you have in your organization regardless of their geographic location, which is very useful in situations such as the one we’re going through at the moment.

Learnlight: In recent months, we have seen a greater demand for soft skills and leadership training such as change management and empathy, crisis management. How do you think companies will shift the training focus during these challenging times but also beyond? Do you see any new developments there?

Ben Joseph: It’s evident that there’s going to be more demand for courses which are designed to support people through the process of virtual working and remote working, and there’s a whole range of skills which one needs to learn to work effectively in that environment. So, we’ll definitely see that happening.

The other thing is, we’re going to see not only a change in the demand of what kind of training people need but a change in the way it’s delivered. Obviously, there is a before and after this pandemic for online and virtual learning, and there’s going to be a bigger demand moving forward for flipped classroom, virtually based solutions, which allow the training to be more personalized and enable organizations to shift more virtual workers into that training and benefit from it, when it is good for them and from where it is convenient for them.  So, as well as a shift in demand for the type of training required, I think we’re also going to see a change in the way that training is delivered.

Finally, another thing that happens with remote work is, inevitably you end up interacting with teams which are all over the world and have very different cultures and potentially speak different languages. This is just one more step towards globalization and the breaking down of barriers, geographic barriers in the professional world. So with this increase in remote working, that’s also going to lead to an increase in demand for intercultural training and language training to make sure that these truly international teams can work cohesively and efficiently together.

Learnlight: A lot of industries have been struggling obviously throughout this pandemic. But which industries do you predict will come out of this crisis stronger? Which do you see emerging in the long run from this?

Ben Joseph: There’s been an awful lot written about this, and I’m not going to pretend to be an economic visionary. I think there are some obvious ones. The pharmaceutical industry, will not be negatively impacted by this. In fact, it may benefit them in the midterm. I think all of the internet-based industries, to do with providing internet to people and internet-based services will also benefit. There is definitely a belief that EdTech is going to grow exponentially because distance learning is going to be much more widely accepted after this, after many people have been forced to try it and actually seen that it’s pretty good. There’s going to be a much greater demand for EdTech. Those three areas internet, pharmaceuticals and EdTech are the clear three that I believe are going to come out strongest from this.

However, what we’re going to see is that the companies that are able to survive this are going to be those that are able to transform. It’s the companies with the ability to change and adapt to the new circumstances which will come through this crisis, they could be from any industry. So that may all of a sudden be restaurants who potentiated their online delivery or any other kind of business which has been able to adapt and shift to the changing circumstances in which we’re all living.

Learnlight: Are there any particular cool technological innovations you expect in the EdTech industry for the rest of our 2020 year and a greater shift? Intercultural training, we already mentioned, but is there anything else you expect to come out of this for the EdTech industry specifically?

Ben Joseph: There are a number of things that we can see in the EdTech industry and some of them are technological and some of them are strategic. One thing that’s really interesting is we’re going to see more mainstream technologies adapting their offering to be good for the learning environment. Perhaps technologies like Microsoft Teams, which have been more meeting focused. We can see they’re beginning to move, and what we’re going to see is some of the technologies which were more mainstream and not focused specifically on learning are going to soon incorporate features that make them very strong competitors for the ones that were built originally purely for those online classroom environments. That’s something that I expect to see.

‘We’re going to see more mainstream technologies adapting their offering to be good for the learning environment.”

We’re going to see more immersive learning and VR or simulation-based learning. As this technology becomes more accessible, in areas like medicine or flight simulators all those kind of things, we’re going to see that immersive learning and virtual reality simulations of real situations become more prevalent and more dominant.

We’ll likely see more data-driven learning and artificial intelligence-based content selection because as more people go online, more data is going to be made available. We all know the value of data, so I think there’s going to be more data-driven learning experiences. These are the things that I really expect to see. Also, as more learning goes online, that inevitably means there will be more funds available to invest in the solutions which are being used to deliver that learning. I think we’re going to see an acceleration of investment in EdTech, maybe not immediately but in the next year or so, as this trickles down because there will be more being spent on it, which means there will be more money to invest in development and new technologies will be delivered faster.

Learnlight: What would you say have been your own greatest lessons during this pandemic? How has it impacted your own leadership and your leadership skills? Have you noticed any changes in you?

Ben Joseph: I don’t know whether I’d call it a lesson, but one of my realizations is the great importance of self-discipline, and at the end of the day, your success or failure as a professional really only depends on yourself in these situations. Because when you’re at home and you have to force yourself into a routine, hopefully a constructive routine, you need to make sure that in that crucial moment where you’re trying to make the decision between whether to sit down on the sofa and watch another bit of Netflix or whether you actually take that book off the shelf that you’ve been meaning to read for the last three years – you make the right decision. And you do things which are going to make you improve as a person and help yourself develop and in the long-term become more content. So I’ve been focusing in this lockdown on what I would call “the importance of those 30 seconds” – that’s those 30 seconds where you say: Yes, I’m going to do some yoga or yes, I’m going to do some exercise or no, I’m not going to go to the fridge to take out another snack, and just making sure that when you face those decisions, in those critical 30 seconds you make the right choice. For me, self-discipline has been something that I’ve been working on, because I think it’s really important in the current situation.

“In terms of leadership skills, empathy and clear transparent, honest communication is fundamental.”

In terms of leadership skills, empathy and clear transparent, honest communication are fundamental. I think, being truthful about the difficulties and challenges, while at the same time being optimistic and positive and having a can-do attitude about what can be achieved is the right balance. And of course, making sure you take time to connect to people personally who may be having a difficult time and reassuring people and communicating with them proactively about how their professional future is likely to develop. That has been a fundamental part of how we have been dealing with the current situation.

Further reading

Learnlight: I think this is something that we all notice, having more mindfulness in whatever we do – may it be in being mindful about the creation of new habits or mindful of how our emotions are swaying in this extreme situation, so that we can be that leader for other people who may need it the most.

Ben Joseph: Exactly, I mean, you can’t lead others if you’re not well yourself, right?

Learnlight: Is there anything you are personally looking forward to most in the near future when all this is over, something you really miss? Have you felt your priorities have shifted?

Ben Joseph: Well, you know, the really obvious one is seeing family and friends that I have not been able to see, except virtually for a period of time. I’m very much looking forward to seeing – the list is too long to elaborate, but father, sisters, friends who I’ve been separated from.

And the other that is enormous for me is the sea. I’m a sailor, I love sailing, and for me the next time I feel that saltwater around my ankles and I’m able to jump into the waves again, that will be a very refreshing moment.

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