We all know what happened last year.
Suddenly, everything turned on a dime. Organizations across all industries — including L&D — had to figure out how to adapt and fast.
This means a lot of people ended up doing a lot of different things with varying degrees of success.
As we continue emerging from the pandemic, let’s take a moment to pause and examine how companies responded, trace the challenges of the last year and see what lessons we can bring with us into the future.
HOW DID COMPANIES RESPOND?
The pandemic forced companies to rethink their training programs.
Some who used to do classroom training simply transformed the presentation into an eight-hour webinar. But there’s a problem with this. All-day webinars are not a best practice for instructional training because they don’t account for the need for interaction and connection. Not to mention, employees don’t like it, partially because it disenfranchises them from the experience. This results in unmet training goals.
Others took a more flexible approach and designed virtual instructor-led training (VILT) programs. These types of programs are intended to provide companies with different options for holding training on the screen versus in the classroom.
Others completely re-envisioned training with a digital-first solution, leveraging more online capabilities for eLearning, self-study programs and collaboration.
Finally, some organizations stopped training altogether (and are now looking to restart efforts in 2021).
While the methods of training varied across the board, everyone had three challenges in common:
- Technology Hurdles
Corporations are a very diverse audience. For example, the technology available in the corporate office may not be the same as what’s in the satellite office. So, finding a technology platform to continue with training was a hurdle for a lot of people.
- Lack of Experience
The lack of experience with not only using these technology platforms but also implementing these new methods of training made it difficult for companies to do VILT in a way that was really meaningful.
- Lack of Motivation
In the past, classroom training meant employees would go to a different environment to focus on learning. But during the pandemic, everything that used to happen in different work settings happened in the same place: Online. There was no separation from what you do for work versus training. This led to widespread burnout, or “Zoom fatigue.”
All of these challenges played into companies’ varying responses and levels of success — and will play into the longevity of the material they produced during this time.
Just as companies took different approaches for their training at the onset of the pandemic, we’re seeing companies take different approaches as more and more teams slowly trickle back into the office.
Some have committed to remaining completely virtual. Others are going hybrid, two-to-three days in the office with the option of working from home. Still others are planning to go fully back into the office just as things were.
This variation leads us to one question: Where does in-person training stand?
The reason we’re asking this in the first place is because we’re consistently hearing that people still desire in-person classroom training — despite everything about digital work that may have been validated over the pandemic.
Though people might be efficient and collaborative in online interactions, people still like the connection they gain from going to the classroom. Now more than ever, they are hungry to interact with co-workers on both a professional and personal level. They want to learn about people: Who they are, their background and what drives them. The only way to build these long-term relationships is through the types of informal conversation that are hard to recreate over a Zoom call.
So, while virtual-only companies will likely continue to master the art of VILT and digital-first training solutions, the hybrid or fully in-person companies will have to decide what training approach to take moving forward.
THE FUTURE OF IN-PERSON TRAINING
As companies move partially or fully back into the office, they are armed with lessons learned and new tools to bring back into the training classroom. There’s a clear opportunity to transform in-person training, instead of just going back to the way things were.
Because the way things were before the pandemic might have been comfortable, but not necessarily the most optimal for training outcomes.
Before the pandemic, classroom training was designed to deliver knowledge. This is, generally, the most comfortable schema for how we learn (most of us were raised entirely in a classroom, after all). But long lectures and presentations neglect critical problem-solving and other soft skill development opportunities.
So, while employees crave the interactions of the classroom, we have to be mindful of how we reintroduce it. We must strike a balance between knowledge sharing and group problem-solving. To do this, we can complement in-person training with the virtual tools we leveraged during the pandemic.
It comes down to two simple principles:
- Build knowledge with online tools.
- Build skills in the classroom.
With virtual tools, there’s an opportunity to complete pre-work prior to engaging with others in the classroom. More complex trainings that involve a simulation or solving problems together as a group don’t work well online — but sharing content does. People have become adept at learning core information through a computer screen. But the critical interaction component works best in the classroom.
In an ideal world, we see in-person training used for what it does best: Collaboration and skill building. At the same time, digital training can be used for what it does best: Delivering information to keep everyone up to speed.
At this point, we’re all used to having to do things differently. We should use this mindset and apply it to our return to in-person training, instead of reverting back to the status quo. Now, we are able to use the best of virtual and in-person training —instead of only virtual by necessity. We have the opportunity to create a new future for in-person training that may just deliver better outcomes than we’ve ever seen in the past.