Work from home has been and continues to be one of the few benefits (for employees) of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is also a logistical challenge for many businesses as they lack the infrastructure to properly train and engage their staff remotely.

In fact, deskless workers, such as those in food & beverage, retail and manufacturing industries, account for up to 80% of the world’s workforce

These industries do have a very high employee turnover rate and that leads to increasing costs such as rehiring and learning & development.

There is a potential solution to this problem that taps into the fact that most of us tend to retain and understand critical information in short and quick bursts. 

The workforce has been evolving. We look at the changing benchmarks as we move ahead.

Called ‘nanolearning’, this is a mobile technique of educational material delivered in 5 to 10 minute frames. Given the adaptive nature of technology, companies are also able to conduct training for their workers on-the-go using content-rich, engaging programmes designed by trainers so as not to diminish the human touch.

We had a chance to speak to ArcLab co-founder and CEO, James Chia about this evolving industry and how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the industry. Founded in 2018, ArcLab is a web-based SaaS learning & development tool for companies to host and create content for their employees. They have worked with over 2000 organisations in 3 years, including The Lo & Behold Group, SUTD and The Hour Glass.

How has business been since the lockdown? Were companies more receptive to technologies such as ArcLab’s?

The biggest obstacle to adopting new solutions has always been INERTIA – ‘this is how we’ve always done things so there is no reason to change’ (it’s possibly risky to a corporate career too, to propose something new that may not work).

Inertia has been turned on its head with COVID-19. Organisations now no longer question the value of digital learning as remote work becomes the default. Last year, our meetings with prospects were typically about – “why should we move training online, to mobile, what’s the benefit etc”. Since COVID, we no longer have that question – it’s just a matter of ArcLab’s ease of use and how soon can they sign up.

We’re blessed to have more users trust us during this difficult time for everyone.  In fact, our platform usage accelerated when countries started going into lockdown and remote working became default. Since Feb, ArcLab’s monthly average sign-ups is 4-5 times higher than pre-Covid.

We’re also part of a larger Digital Transformation Journey of companies, and we’re helping EY/WSG with a Transformation pilot for selected companies, and part of a larger discussion with one of our customers to ‘virtualise’ their experience for staff & their organisation.

We continue to invest in improving ArcLab’s platform, bearing in mind that our goal remains to serve Deskless Workforce Upskilling, through building the world’s Simplest Learning System. 

We’re still on Day 1 of that journey.”

As companies continue to move to remote work, do you see the opportunity to expand your solution to new business segments outside of your traditional industries like F&B and retail?

ArcLab is industry-agnostic as we’re not the source of learning content, but rather the authoring tool and platform provider. So any company and every company can (and should!) use ArcLab to upskill your workforce. Especially if your workforce is what we term as “deskless” – without a workstation or cubicle. 

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This year, we started to see manufacturing companies adopt ArcLab. Smaller companies across industries can also benefit as we have no upfront implementation costs. Just a very simple user-based pricing, with no minimums unlike what others in the market may impose; so there’s no cost barrier to adopt ArcLab.

Given the remote nature of work, it may only be a matter of time before companies start expanding their teams internationally at a lower cost and high efficiencies. Would ArcLab be able to help companies as they scale their teams internationally?

At ArcLab, we learnt a few things from serving our customers:

  1. How important it was for the workforce to learn In the Flow of Work. This reduces time away from the shop or factory floor and maximises productivity.
  2. How crucial it was for training to be Uniform, so the company’s standards can be taught without personal bias (or person-specific inadequacy).
  3. How useful it is to continuously provide Performance Support to staff through digital training material — Training Manuals, 101s, Primers, Standard Operating Procedures. So staff can easily access information for them to do their jobs AS-AND-WHEN they need it – to do their job better. This is especially important in today’s remote work environment where you can no longer gather staff in a training room, especially across country boundaries.

Hence, any industry and company that looks to onboard and train staff in a uniform and scalable way, especially companies with a sizable, multi-location workforce, stand to benefit from adopting solutions like ArcLab to do so.

Point 3 is especially important in today’s remote work environment where you can no longer gather staff in a training room, especially across country boundaries.

How do you see the entire workforce paradigm change across the next 24-months?

Except for tourism-related businesses where the recovery to pre-pandemic levels is likely to be some time away, other business sectors are slowly starting to recover, many adding or pivoting to newer (and often-digital) models. This gives some financial space to companies to at least think beyond immediate survival concerns.

With the workplace also transformed, teams in many countries will work remotely (at least part of the workweek) and in split arrangements for the foreseeable future. Employers will need to think about how to adapt their businesses accordingly, to operate as an ongoing concern and (if we dare dream it) to grow.

Now more than ever, businesses need strong leadership to strategise, and a high-performing team to execute. 

Teams need to be empowered with the right training, delivered efficiently and accessible remotely. So digital learning and platforms like ArcLab will be able to help firms do this fuss-free and cost-effectively.

What is next for ArcLab?

Our goal now is to scale growth & distribution in Singapore and beyond, and continue to build out ArcLab to solve more of our users’ needs. We’re grateful to have raised funding even during the pandemic, and we’re excited to tap on the network and expertise of our investors.

On the product front, we keep learning from our customers to see how we can best support them. We are going to keep building out more features, introducing more workflow automations, to make creating effective training on ArcLab even more fuss-free than before.

On the growth front, we continue to work hard to serve customers locally and are seeing where else we can help. We recently signed a channel partnership with a company in Hong Kong, and in discussions with a company in Japan. A little further down the road, we also have ambitions for bringing ArcLab further, to Europe as a next port-of-call – and in discussions with a potential partner with Italy and UK

Our core vision remains to build the World’s Simplest Learning System – to Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce to help Every Organisation Achieve More. If that resonates with you & your organisation, we’d be delighted to work with you.