A mass migration from office working to home working took place this year and it all happened over a very short space of time. Research carried out by recruiter Robert Walters found that 47% of the 2,000 global companies it polled moved employees to a remote work environment within two days, with only 7% taking longer than a week.
In the UK, 70% of organisations transitioned their workforce in less than seven days, even though only 11% of businesses had previously said, prior to lockdown, that their workforce could work entirely from home.
The Covid-19 crisis response: going digital
The unprecedented situation has thrown everyone – L&D, organisations and business as a whole – into crisis mode. As a result, the focus the past few months has been on crisis management and having a crisis response. For L&D, this meant an immediate shift to digital delivery to enable mass homeworking to take place.
According to research by Fosway Group, called How is COVID-19 Changing Learning?, 94% of L&D professionals say they changed their learning strategy in response to Covid-19. However, the initial moment of crisis has passed and learning teams need to move on because crisis management is not a learning and development strategy. L&D has to move from crisis and survival mode to strategic L&D mode.
What needs to happen now in this ‘new normal’?
It is important that learning teams and business leaders recognise that the current situation is actually a huge opportunity for change. The Fosway research indicates that many in the profession do recognise the opportunity and want to take advantage of it.
It found that 67% of L&D professionals think Covid-19 has created a major shift in what they do and how they do it. The learning strategy opportunity Covid-19 and lockdown have given L&D the opportunity to support the business in new ways and show leaders how it can offer real value. Many of these changes needed to happen anyway (such as the move to digital), it’s just that lockdown accelerated the pace of and appetite for change.
In its study, Fosway asked L&D professionals what types of learning content have been most successful in supporting organisations through the pandemic. Video content took the number one spot, followed by curated content and then mobile learning. The most successful platforms cited were virtual classrooms, then LXPs and then collaborative learning.
Supporting the business
L&D has had a much broader, deeper remit for change than just learning content. It has also supported the business on a wide range of topic areas. Facilitating remote working has been an important focus for very obvious reasons. This included ensuring the workforce has access to and knows how to use digital tools, and helping people adjust to digital ways of working and learning. Digital skills training has been an important consideration for a lot of organisations in order for employees to effectively work digitally.
A focus on wellbeing
Wellbeing and mental health have been a key priority for employers as well, so L&D has had a lot of work to do creating and curating relevant content and signposting employees to any resources. Managers and leaders have needed additional support, such as helping managers learn how to manage remote teams and leading through uncertainty. L&D has helped create spaces for cohorts of people to learn, share and work collaboratively.
Over the past few months, L&D has been supporting business critical activities on many fronts. This has been a great opportunity for L&D to raise its profile and showcase what it can do. It has also been a great time for L&D to gain new friends and allies around the business. Now is the time to consolidate those relationships.
Crisis as a catalyst for change
A crisis can be a catalyst for change and Covid-10 certainly has been. Businesses are changing and L&D is changing. What L&D needs to do is make sure it’s going in the same direction as the rest of the business. What is the business doing differently as a result of Covid-19? How will things change in the future as we move through different iterations of ‘the new normal’? How can L&D support the business through these changes and beyond?
The landscape of work is changing and this is a real opportunity to do things differently, but L&D has to align everything it does with business needs and objectives. And the strategic vision needs to be future ready, which means it needs to be responsive, relevant and primed to drive value.
The threat to learning transformation
There will be a lot of pressure to deliver transformation at speed, but L&D mustn’t succumb to that pressure. It might be wise to slow down or put the brakes on altogether while determining what the new learning strategy looks like.
Learning teams need to give themselves permission and the space to work out what needs to happen in the short, medium and long term, in business terms and L&D terms.
Stop, reflect, discuss
When the pressure is on, it’s always tempting to up the ante and push on with delivering what the business wants, but it’s not often that the opportunity to transform L&D comes along, so L&D leaders need to reflect, discuss, dig deep, consider what has worked, what hasn’t, why and so on. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make fundamental shifts in how L&D is done so you don’t want to rush into it. Only 5% of the L&D leaders polled by Fosway for its study think their learning strategy, investment and resourcing will return to how it was before the pandemic struck, so that is a lot of people reshaping their offering.
L&D shouldn’t be afraid to be bold with its new strategy. What you don’t want to do is repackage and re-purpose what has always been done and think that will suffice. Don’t take all that content and all those courses and turn them into a digital version and think that counts as transformation. It doesn’t. If it hasn’t worked in one format, don’t think converting it to digital will magically make it work because it won’t. Think bigger than that. Think about what the business needs and how you can best deliver it.
Of course, not everyone will want to do things differently, so expect some resistance. That resistance could come in various forms and from various quarters, so L&D leaders will need to take their team on a journey of change.
This will require excellent leadership, management, influencing and communication skills. L&D will also need the visible support of the executive team.
There will be challenges ahead for L&D but that is always the case with change so L&D shouldn’t be put off by that. This really is a one-off opportunity for the profession to affect real, strategic change, change that drives business value and puts the learning strategy centre stage. L&D must harness the momentum for change, take the opportunity and make the most it. But, that doesn’t mean rushing in at full pelt and assuming that the answer is to make everything digital. That’s a very easy and tempting mistake to make. Instead, think about what needs to transform in your business, in L&D, and why. Think big.
What is transformation? What does it mean for your business? What does it mean for L&D? How can you bring business transformation and L&D transformation together to best effect? Have the bigger picture and the business focus at the core of your strategy.
10 tips for developing an effective post Covid-19 learning strategy
1. Understand which of the current changes in working and learning in your organisation are working. Share this insight with senior stakeholders.
2. Align L&D closely with the business to ensure you understand how the business will change as it emerges from lockdown. What has been the impact on how people work, how they communicate and learn?
3. Pause for thought – Covid-19 and the lockdown was a shock to the system. What have you learned from the experience that will be useful for your future learning strategy?
4. Do not go back to what you did prior to Covid-19. The world of work has changed. L&D has changed.
5. Resist the urge to make all learning digital. If it was little used before then making it digital won’t help.
6. Take this opportunity to get rid of the rubbish – if no one looked at resources then bin them.
7. Use your insights on what’s working in learning as a lens through which to support the current and future needs of the business.
8. Be confident in using these insights to inform your work – no one is expert in a lot of the things you now have to grapple with. Be prepared to challenge old ways of thinking, especially from senior leaders who are set in their ways.
9. Identify the skills and mindset your team will need to deliver a new L&D strategy and support them in making the shift.
10. Seize this opportunity for what it is – a once in a lifetime (hopefully) opportunity to reinvent L&D.
Use a platform that supports your new ways of working and learning. The 5App Hub can help in supporting your L&D strategy, creating a learning culture and in aligning learning with the business needs and objectives.
Get in touch to find out more.