As ambitious companies look past the current economic slowdown and prepare to take advantage of the rebound, staff training and upskilling top the list of ways to build a competitive edge amidst the Covid-19 disruption. There have been plenty of moments throughout the coronavirus pandemic where it has been hard for business leaders to think about anything other than survival. With the commercial world turned upside down and inside out by the virus, companies have battled to keep the wheels turning however they can, doing their utmost to make sure they make it through the crisis alive whilst taking the best possible care of their people along the way. Now, however, although a picture of what ‘economic recovery’ still remains blurry at best, businesses are turning their attention to explore ways to make the most of the situation in front of them, with staff training a key strategic initiative for many. Turning obstacles into opportunity One of the enduring characteristics of the current health crisis has been a trend for businesses around the world to find new opportunity amid the frustrations and blockages caused by the pandemic. Restaurants and retailers have opened delivery and e-commerce platforms at record speed, consultants, coaches and even personal trainers have swapped client visits for Zoom sessions. And, across a range of sectors, the slowdown of the Covid-19 pandemic has created a unique opportunity to invest in staff training and skills testing. With employees either on furlough or working reduced hours, employers are putting the opportunity to good use by offering staff the chance to learn new skills or brush up on rusty knowledge that needs a refresh. The gift of time In many cases, strategic needs for increased staff training struggle to compete with the urgencies of daily business. Customer requirements, internal issues, service delivery or product improvements win out over an underlying need to focus on skill-building, and investment in training workforces gets pushed further and further down the task list. Despite the many setbacks the pandemic has caused for businesses, a major upside has been the time necessary to address long-standing issues which have never received the attention required during the frenzy of normal operations. With this extra time, businesses face a choice: sit statically and wait for external economic recovery, or double down on improving employee knowledge and ability, ready to take the market by storm when things pick back up. Upskilling: a long-term investment Boosting staff skills not only serves to fill a short-term need to keep employees engaged, it also represents a long-term investment in the quality and capability of a company’s workforce. Staff with a more comprehensive skill set or deeper expert knowledge return huge benefits to employers, from delivering greater output to being able to handle a broader range of tasks. Most importantly still, the investment is mutual – team members value the contribution made by employers to upgrading their competency, and equipping them with valuable skills they can take with them their throughout their professional careers. When the Covid-19 storm passes, employees will reflect on how their companies chose to make use of the enforced slowdown – batten down the hatches and cross their fingers, or actively invest in their people, preparing to improve their market position and lead the pack on the other side of the downturn. ***** ISV.Online is the leading supplier of skills testing software and services to the UK Recruitment Industry. Used by 9 of the top 10 UK agencies, by number of offices, and 7 of the top 10, by revenue, ISV.Online offers candidate skills assessment and evaluation software and online training tools, allowing agencies and in-house HR/recruitment teams to validate the skills of potential candidates and existing employees across a wide range of areas.