I have been thinking about the impacts of the virus on businesses, and more specifically those who only deliver training in formal face-to-face classroom situations. Since learning supports organisational strategy, performance and bolsters workplace skills, it begs the question how will those organisations fare that only provide their staff with face-to-face training and haven’t planned to change the format of delivery?
I should add that organisations should be thinking about new ways to deliver learning, regardless of the increase in the number of staff working remotely as a result of COVID-19. We are currently experiencing a diverse workforce with the greatest age range of workers than at any time in history and therefore a one size fits all approach will not work for everyone. There is an increase in the number of people moving to different jobs and employers which creates a constantly evolving workforce with different skills and learning requirements. Finally, organisations hire geographically dispersed staff who need to be supported to work and interact using virtual and online solutions.
These changes as well as the need to demonstrate positive impact on business performance, are all things that need to be considered when thinking about how best to deliver training to staff.
Hope is not a strategy, so what’s yours?
The most valuable training delivery method is face to face, but in this changing world of work, learning needs to be accessible, agile and flexible. Many interventions are now delivered in the flow of work activity, not in a classroom. The learning content absolutely must be engaging and user-friendly and in small instalments. Digital technologies enable learning to be available anytime and anywhere with many also choosing to learn in their own time. With the proliferation of rich, readily available online content, learning design is shifting from not just creation but to curation as well.
Preparation for the future of learning cannot be left to chance. Leaders need to have a proactive strategy to ensure their teams are fit for ‘future’ rather than fit for ‘now’. The following are key considerations for your new way of learning.
It takes a very skilled facilitator to make a virtual session flow as smoothly as a face to face session. The amount of preparation for an online session is far greater than just showing up in person, hoping for the best and being able to bounce ideas from the people in the room. There are no body language cues from participants, the participants are distracted by things the facilitator can’t see and finally, but by no means least there are always technology challenges to deal with (regardless of how well you prepare!).
When choosing a facilitator ask them how they deliver their content virtually. Ask “what changes do you make to your content and/or delivery when you deliver training virtually?”. If their answer is “nothing”, run away and find another facilitator. For some suggestions about what they should say, watch this brilliant video from Marcel van Hove from Visual Friends. Marcel makes some great suggestions for facilitating virtual meetings that are equally relevant to training sessions.
In-class sessions, webinars, virtual classrooms, e-learning, blended learning, formal learning, informal learning and other modes of learning are prevalent. There are newer approaches becoming more popular and while they are important, consideration needs to be given to make the most of any face to face time available by using online tools. Can reading materials (and other resources) be provided prior to the session so that learners can absorb the information prior to the face to face (or virtual) session? Are the online tools reliable and are the materials easy to use and up to date? Technical issues encountered by employees, whether perceived or real, can be a significant barrier, so it is important to put measures in place for high availability and strong technical support.
There are inherent benefits of implementing online learning which include the following:
Online learning is not simply a question of moving training to a webinar platform. Organisations must be willing to invest in original, compelling content, and allow their teams to learn skills in alignment with the increasingly flexible working environments of today. It is important to create engaging and compelling experiences for learners to make learning enjoyable and worthwhile! It is important to blend different approaches, curate the right and best content, provide challenging opportunities and enhance the learner’s overall experience.
One of the most impactful and neglected practices for effective learning is providing immediate feedback and prompting reflection. Feedback promotes new associations, and reflection allows the learner to process what they’ve learned and generate takeaways. Incorporating a feedback loop into online learning can be a challenge but is certainly not impossible.
Where organisations are successfully shifting from a trainer-led to a learner-led model they are reaping benefits in learner engagement and motivation as well as business performance. An important point is that those that are leading the charge are moving from ‘courses to resources’ and building their technology infrastructure in support, rather than the other way around.
The move away from face-to-face training to provision of a range of flexible learning resources requires a shift in mindset not just for leaders but for their employees too who need to recognise their own responsibility to access the learning they need.
Delivering training in a new format can be challenging and requires a different way of thinking to the conventional view of training delivery. The future of work will very likely mean an increase in training being delivered online and so practicing the skills now will mean you are more prepared for the future of work.
Business Transformation & Org Development
Ali has more than 15 years of oil and gas, professional services and consulting experience at Wood, Jackson McDonald and EY. If you are interested in learning more about Ali’s background please visit this link.