Future-Proofing L&D For COVID-19 And Other Disruptions

The COVID-19 outbreak is having a profound impact on our lives and the global economy. What are the strategic steps L&D can take for Coronavirus and other future disruptions?

Some of the learning strategies previously outlined for 2020 now seem suddenly outdated, in light of the current COVID-19 crisis.

Brandon Hall Group poses the question, is L&D prepared for Coronavirus or other disruptions?

The answer at this stage is ‘no’. There is no question that COVID-19 is having a profound impact on the global economy, our behaviour, and work. Conferences and virtually all travel – are being cancelled, which means many training events are also being cancelled or postponed – throwing learning programs into disarray.

According to Brandon Hall Group, the most challenging areas for organisations during COVID-19 are:

Interruption of business travel: 83%

Sales Impact: 50%

Employee Stress: 49%

Learning in the flow of disruption

We know that learning is continuous and in the flow of work. But the work flow itself is being massively disrupted – right down to working from home for many of us.

In many ways, we see learning to be more mission critical and urgent than ever before, in light of the current pandemic.

So if we rewrote the 2020 Learning Strategy rule book, we would see a new column to the right for ‘disruption learning is’ …

For organisations who rely heavily on virtual and eLearning, it’s no problem. However, research shows that many organisations still use in-person and instructor-led training, and this is a critical point for many organisations.

How can organisations fast-track digital transformation, or quickly convert content to online assets? The Coronavirus crisis is kicking this into high gear.

According to David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst at Brandon Hall Group, challenges like this can have far-reaching implications for learning.

“As learning paths are put on hold and delayed, any outcomes that were to be achieved will also be delayed. It is not just learning completion that could suffer, but the business itself. Implications could be felt months or even years after this situation has been resolved. And while it may be too late to prevent disruptions, the effort can at least help right now and lay a foundation of preparedness for the next challenge.”

According to McKinsey & Company, businesses can’t afford to put capability on hold, in an effort to deliver value and to prepare for the next disruption: “Whether the effort is reskilling at the business-unit level or a company-wide aspirational transformation, companies can’t simply push the pause-button on critical workplace learning, even as they move rapidly to put employee safety first.”

Whether the effort is reskilling at the business-unit level or a company-wide aspirational transformation, companies can’t simply push the pause button on critical workplace learning, even as they move rapidly to put employee safety first.”

Digital and virtual learning programs were already on the rise and widely embraced by a younger workforce pre-Coronavirus. Now with social distancing and working from home the new normal, here are some strategic steps your organisation should look at implementing as soon as possible:

Set up a COVID-19 learning response team

  • Create a comprehensive picture of learning offerings and how to adapt them to the current new environment.
  • Set up a team comprised of cross-functional and relevant stakeholder groups, to create a comprehensive learning response team.
  • Define clear decision points and be transparent about the criteria for cancelling or deferring a program, and parameters for decision-making.
  • Conduct a triage of the entire portfolio of learning offerings and prioritise must-have programs, eg. remote-working skills, remote-management skills and leadership skills in a time of crisis.
  • Develop several minimum viable products, a rolling six-week calendar of upcoming programs and milestones, and an exposure ‘heat map’ (eg. the number of affected participants by region or program type).
  • Prioritise a list of programs for redesigning, and a dashboard for showing progress, key indicators and decision triggers.

Adapt In-Person Learning Delivery

  • For those ongoing learning programs with an in-person delivery component, adapt the delivery to reduce participant risk.
  • If travel restrictions mean in-person facilitation is out of the question, consider using local employees, managers or alumni of previous programs as subject matter experts, pushing out content through virtual live sessions such as webcasts, virtual classrooms, and video-based LXPs.

Ramp Up Virtual Learning

  • Quickly convert in-person classes or workshops to virtual. But keep in mind how effective your in-person instructors are at facilitating virtual sessions.
  • Consider using your own organisation’s SMEs for content and delivery via a leading LXP platform that capably delivers social learning.

Explore Alternative Digital-Learning Strategies

  • As the current crisis has prompted organisations to consider the move towards an all-digital learning environment, a fundamental rethinking of the learning experience is underway, to enable collaborative, interactive and social-learning experiences for groups of learners.
  • Several principles can help migrate in-person programs to digital, starting with reframing the ‘learning problem’ as a design opportunity and rethink the learner’s end-to-end experience as a designer would.
  • Set priorities for the essential learning objectives and focus on selecting the content that will meet them.
  • Design for shorter interactions, providing more time between sessions to strengthen learning.
  • Focus on human connections, creating intentional, meaningful connections and a seamless learning experience from first to last to ensure a consistent experience for all participants.
  • Consider non-mainstream technology solutions that could reduce the need for face-to-face interaction and engage learners, such as virtual reality technology and higher end moderated virtual classrooms.

The Bottom Line? Promote and Enhance Digital Learning

With organisations here in Australia and around the world using digital learning to increase collaboration among teams working together remotely, across different time zones and take courses together, collaborating in virtual formats, the emphasis on digital learning has never been greater.

With governments around the world invoking social distancing and remote working policies, there has never been a more important time to ramp up digital learning strategies, and moving towards digitally enabled experiences.

COVID-19 is a catalyst for this transition, and as digital learning technology providers and enablers, we are looking to help our corporate customers accelerate their transformation.

Talk to us about new trials and complimentary service offers to help you accelerate such a transition.


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