Before COVID-19, perhaps you were on a steady path to converting traditional classroom training to more blended learning solutions. Maybe you were further down that path and had connected most, or even all, of your content to some form of blended solution. Maybe your organization has adopted flipped classroom methods, or maybe you’re far enough ahead of the curve that you were looking five or 10 years out, thinking about which individual and organizational capabilities will be required for success as technology continues to dramatically impact how we work.
Then, COVID punched you in the mouth.
- Many employees work remotely at least some of the time and for the foreseeable future.
- The use of virtual conferencing experienced 10 years of growth in about three weeks.
- Some industries experienced step function changes in the capabilities required for success. At minimum, everyone has had to figure out, on the fly, how to do their jobs differently.
- Most learning and development (L&D) organizations have had to deal with radical changes to their budgets as organizations scrape and claw their way to mere survival.
Learning and development leaders must now deal with “change squared”: Your organizations are experiencing dramatic change, and you are experiencing dramatic change in adapting to that change. Redefining your L&D strategy and its execution is vital to success. Here are some guidelines that can help:
1. Recreate Your Strategy: Understand How You Create Value
For learning and development organizations, strategy defines how you create value for your organization. Regardless of how great your strategy was pre-COVID, much of it must change now and in the post-COVID era. As you recreate your L&D strategy, consider these questions:
- How do the forces impacting your organization (COVID, societal, technology, competitive, etc.) change the capabilities that are required for success at every level of your organization?
- What unique things do you do that create value and enable the company to be successful?
- How can you help accelerate the execution of the organization’s vision and strategy as it evolves?
- How can you help align organizational energy toward the most critical business drivers — even as they may have changed overnight?
- As importantly, what you should stop or avoid doing, either because it no longer fits with the environment or because it doesn’t optimize the value you provide?
2. Master the Art of Right, Right, Right
It’s critical to have the right people in the right roles with the right capabilities to execute your learning and development strategy. The capabilities in your L&D organization may no longer fit your training needs. You may have trainers who are competent in a classroom environment who need to adapt their skills and capabilities to virtual delivery. Or, your instructional designers may be great at designing for traditional classroom delivery but haven’t yet developed the capabilities to create effective blended learning or to include gamification and flipped classroom concepts in their designs.
As you think about your team’s needs, consider:
- Which capabilities do you need in your organization as learning needs and methods evolve at lightspeed pace?
- How are you recruiting and selecting the talent you need for today’s and future needs, not last year’s (or last century’s) requirements?
- How intentionally are you upskilling and reskilling the members of your team to be effective in this rapidly changing environment?
3. Update Your Learning Architecture
Your learning architecture includes the systems, structure, processes and even culture by which you develop your organization’s capabilities. As your learning and development strategy rapidly evolves, it’s likely that your learning architecture must evolve, too.
One of the major opportunities in this new environment is the ability to connect the practice field to the playing field. In the “old state” — of just six months ago! — L&D professionals often built training curricula around one- or two-day classroom experiences which, in turn, were driven largely by travel logistics. In that environment, it was impractical to think about breaking learning events into smaller, more logical chunks. By the time people finished the program and, perhaps, traveled back home, much, if not all, of the learning had vanished before they even reached their desks.
Virtual delivery breaks that paradigm. We can divide learning events into digestible chunks without concern for travel costs and hassles. We can easily build in practice session between the chunks, which leads to greater learning transfer. And, we can focus group learning sessions on the high-value activities rather than simply disseminating information.
As you consider your learning architecture, consider these questions:
- To what extent can you adapt your learning content to take advantage of virtual delivery methods?
- How quickly can your L&D organization adapt your learning systems, structures, processes and culture to take advantage of this flexibility?
- To what extent can you adopt flipped classroom concepts so learners can access content asynchronously and on demand?
- To what extent can you include more cross-functional or geographically dispersed participants, because travel is no longer an issue?
- How can you embed practice between virtual sessions so participants can gain, then share, experience?
4. Align Your Team’s Performance to Your Evolving Learning Strategy
Executing your learning strategy ultimately requires that the efforts of everyone on the L&D team are aligned to that strategy. In this next normal, you’ll almost certainly need to:
- Redefine your team’s goals based on the new results you must achieve.
- Realign your scorecards to reflect progress toward your new goals.
- Identify new performance drivers (the critical tasks, behaviors and actions that lead to success) that reflect dramatically different best practices to achieve the necessary results.
- Rethink your follow-up and follow-through process and rhythm. In this environment of radical, adaptive change, no one fully knows or understands what it will take to be successful. Crisp, consistent follow-up and follow-through is critical to generating the learning necessary as we experiment and stumble, bumble and fumble our way to success.
The next normal for learning and development looks significantly different than the last normal. It will be uncomfortable to adapt to this new state — but it’s also a great opportunity to rethink and redefine learning and development strategy and execution to create more value than ever.