You took all the right steps to ensure your learning program goes well—including proper planning for your analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation steps. You covered your bases on your project management plan and change management strategy. You planned for every risk you could imagine, yet we've still found ourselves facing a crisis that was previously inconceivable.
In our previous webinar, we discussed how you can come out of this pandemic more flexible and adaptable, now we've put together a few tips on how to continue to push your learning initiatives forward.
Initial research of the learning landscape reveals there are a few prevailing responses to the limitations the COVID-19 crisis has presented to learning teams. The primary responses learning organizations are having to the crisis are:
Learning organizations that have an adapting response are those seeking to immediately convert their in-person learning to virtual, digital, or online modalities. An adapting company’s primary goal is to avoid any break in the delivery of their in-flight learning programs—they need to convert to virtual modalities as quickly as possible.
The second type of response is a shifting mindset. The company with this response has previously held a firm conviction that employee learning best happens in person. A shifting mindset company has been heavily invested in facilitators, classroom scheduling, and robust instructor-led training manuals, but now finds they must make a change.
The third response is the learning organization that is strategically planning for the future. This is a company considering what they need to do to prevent this from happening again. Planning organizations may have realized they were not prepared for this type of crisis and its effects on their workforce. Learning leaders had a wake-up call and realized they need to put contingencies in place and plan for such events in the future.
It is important to understand which category your company’s response to the crisis falls into so that you can assess the pros and cons of each response and define strategies that best enable you to move forward.
Learning leaders who are trying to avoid making changes to their current deliverables and schedules may feel they are achieving success by delivering as much learning as possible; however this can create a higher risk of producing courses that have lower quality. Adapters may find themselves at risk for over-promising and under-delivering.
Before taking hasty steps to flip all your courses into eLearning, stop and asses your learning organization and resources to determine whether you have the skills and resource capacity to complete this transition successfully and with optimal quality. Consider:
Would it be better to hire outside?
Do you have the right tools or technology?
Is your approach best for your company?
What methods will you use to deliver digital courses?
Does it align with your current approach to evaluating learning?
As an option to pushing forward with the same plans and schedule in a virtual mode, consider having your instructional designers and developers look at breaking up the courses. Focus on the real learner need rather than trying to please all the stakeholders at once and tossing in more content. Find a way to balance quality with time and the level of effort. Consider negotiating with your business stakeholders—a global crisis may not be the time to promise stakeholders that you can deliver your courses on time and still include stunning videos or custom graphics. This will likely be a less flashy course, but may be acceptable to meet the learners' need.
Learning leaders who have spent years invested in the philosophy "learning happens best in a classroom" may now be finding—out of necessity—that eLearning, webinars, and other digital delivery modes are not so bad. However, they likely do not have a learning and development team or other needed resources such as a learning management system (LMS) to produce and deliver virtual learning.
The shifting mindset organization needs to consider the following:
What are the top reasons they have not trained virtually?
What contingency plans do they currently have for instructor-led training?
Who can offer me the best guidance in making the transition to virtual learning?
How could digital learning have better prepared us for this crisis?
As shifting mindset organizations begin to dive into digital learning, they may find digital learning delivery is simply not as bad as they thought, plus more effective and flexible than they assumed. For example, questions can be answered live in webinars, and opportunities to practice can be developed in online courses. Digital learning can also reduce the amount of time employees spend away from their jobs, and positively impact productivity.
Shifting mindset organizations will need to be realistic about ramp-up costs to build a digital learning platform, acquire learning development tools, or work with a partner who knows how to enable the change. They may also have to do some work to get their senior leaders to overcome their perception that learning needs to happen in person, but what better time to do it than when live training options are limited.
Future planning learning leaders may have been focused on how to prevent an event like this pandemic from derailing them in the first place. They may have already been using varied delivery modes and not have to rush to create new ways of training, or they may have realized they need to switch to using more nimble methods of keeping the training going in the future. In either case, this is an important time for them to re-evaluate their strategy and assess the preparedness of their resources.
Before completely overhauling your whole program consider the following questions:
What is working as it is?
What can work even if a disaster occurs?
What are the skills and resources of your team?
How much are you willing to spend?
How safe and sustainable are your course materials?
Future planning companies may want to consider designing or re-deploying courses and finding new ways to be flexible. Create a virtual version of the highlights of classroom training sessions. Build microlearning that supports those classes, so it can be delivered in small bites if class is cancelled. Develop engaging eLearning that’s part of a blended curriculum so you can space out the learning over several modes and intervals instead of delivering everything in a 4-day class.
Each of the above approaches can be tailored to the company’s unique needs. Choosing a learning partner who has not only successfully done these types of L&D organization transitions, but has successfully guided companies through it, will save you significant time and avoid mishaps, rework or re-starts. Consider finding a learning partner who is not only willing to show you what must be done, but who will tell you the secrets of how your transition is done. In a time of crisis when many other aspects of business are under stress, inefficiency or failure in learning and development is not an option.