Are We In This Virtually Forever?

Five Actions to Take to Advance Your Learning Future

Now that we are many months into this pandemic, I think we’ve come to realize that many of our normal routines have changed forever — at home and at work. For learning professionals, those whose work weeks were largely filled with maintaining and delivering live instructor-led training were literally rocked to the core.

The upheaval exposed significant weaknesses at many organizations, as they lacked the technology, capabilities, and material to deliver training outside of a classroom. In talking with the Learning and Development people in many of these organizations, I found them scrambling simply to survive. Within a few weeks, learning functions were forced to convert their offerings to virtual-delivery as quickly as possible. They subscribed to Zoom, or a similar platform, and learned how to deliver training and engage their employees through their laptops. While many have managed to change lanes, it hasn’t been without a few bends in the fender.

The funny thing is that it didn’t have to come to this. The tools and technologies to deliver learning through digital channels were in place long before COVID-19 came along. And, learners were willing to learn this way for a long time. Like so many things, though, we’re sometimes slow to change until a disruption, such as a pandemic, comes along. So now what? Are we in this virtually forever? Well, yes we are.

Sure, as humans, we’re still driven to the personal connection. And someday, we’ll go back to the corporate training room but not as the singular place to learn. People have become accustomed to working and learning remotely. And, companies have discovered traveling, particularly for training, is unnecessary and a huge expense. As such, the corporate training room will be used judiciously going forward. And, I think that’s a good thing.

Five Actions for the Future

Now that learning functions have made it through survival mode, it’s time to switch gears and re-imagine how to deliver learning in the post-pandemic normal. Here are five actions to take you into the future:

  1. Get the funding you need for technologies that support digital learning. Now is the perfect time to make your business case. Sure, companies aren’t out of the woods yet financially. But, they’re saving money on items, such as travel and real-estate related expenditures. Some are even talking about reducing their office footprints. I see this as an opportunity to ask for the budget you need for things, such as upgrading your LMS and acquiring a learning experience platform, selecting or upgrading your e-learning tools (authoring tools, graphic packages, video and audio editing tools), or selecting augmented reality or virtual reality tools.
  2. Redesign learning and performance improvement offerings for a blended approach using the methods you already have available. Virtual learning platforms, social media channels, chatbots, and video are just a few that are in play to build an effective learning blend.
  3. Design learning paths that connect to clear business outcomes. It’s true that learners like the freedom of choosing what they want to learn. But, they also need direction on the learning that will best prepare them to do their jobs and develop the knowledge and skills needed for those jobs.
  4. Put more focus on learning that happens on the job, in the moment, and in the flow of work. Employees work best when they can get information and resources just when they need them. While formal learning has its place, sometimes performance support in the form of a simple job aid or a short video is all that’s required.
  5. Select the right people resources to build and deliver effective custom learning and performance support solutions. A building contractor uses people with different skill sets — architect, framers, electricians, plumbers, dry wallers, brick layers, etc. They have specialized expertise that a single person typically doesn’t possess. The same holds true for staffing your projects. One or two people generally aren’t experts at instructional design, LMS administration, e-learning development, graphic design, programming, virtual instructor-led facilitation, and so on. You’re probably better off hiring people with specialized skill sets or contract with companies that provide a wide-range of learning and performance support services that have the strengths your team lacks.

The world has dramatically changed, and you need to modernize your learning approach to align with it. While playing the role of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda boldly expressed, “I am not throwing away my shot.” Now is the time to be like Hamilton.

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