Most experts agree that while it is tempting to do so, pushing the pause button on training and development during this crisis is a mistake. After all, the crisis demands the development of skills and capabilities to help businesses recover and thrive in an uncertain world. In fact, reskilling and transformation necessitate ramping up training and development programmes.
While in-person training may not be a viable option in the Covid-19 era, it is certainly possible to make online learning engaging. If done right, online learning could even surpass the engagement quotient of in-person learning.
Many HR departments were actually already using e-learning options before the pandemic. LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report showed that 59 per cent of respondents spent a larger percentage of their training budgets on online learning. 39 per cent reported spending less on in-person instructor-led classroom training between 2017 and 2019.
HR leaders tell us that their online learning programmes are being built and augmented even more enthusiastically than before the crisis. However, having a system in place to create and review your programmes is crucial for sustainability.
Here’s how you can get started:
FORM AN HR LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT RESPONSE TEAM
Comprehensive and engaging online learning programmes require considerable input from various departments including HR business partners, HR learning and development personnel, IT personnel, and marketing and communications personnel to help design engaging online course material.
Among other things, this team should examine the current course offerings (both online and in-person), determine what’s missing from the online learning portfolio, and decide which programmes should be adapted to a virtual format based on business priorities. This team also needs to create new programmes to help employees deal with current challenges.
The next step is to prioritise critical programmes. HR leaders have mentioned that employee onboarding programmes, remote working and remote management skills seem to be most commonly prioritised. Other than these, technical skills workshops and soft skills workshops including subjects such as “Leading in a Crisis” seem to be in demand.
This response team should periodically review learning and development needs and be ready to make adjustments swiftly. Considering the nature of the business world today, periodic reviews should be done much more frequently than before. The team needs to be able to improvise in between scheduled reviews as well.
PUT MORE EFFORT INTO DESIGNING THE PARTICIPANTS’ EXPERIENCE
The success of learning programmes, whether in-person or virtual, is heavily predicated on participants’ experience.
Disseminate pre-course material in advance. Ensure that you’re using a reliable video conferencing platform. Entering the session should be seamless. Having a moderator to welcome participants and manage speakers would certainly be helpful.
The session should be designed to engage. Merely sharing slides and talking over them is not going to help. Instructors must be encouraged to use digital tools built into video conferencing platforms – chat, polling, whiteboarding, and virtual breakout rooms.
The programme should also constitute a mixture of media – static slides, short instructional videos, YouTube videos, infographics, etc.
In addition, consider making virtual projects part of the course to encourage collaboration among participants.
Of course, your learning and development portfolio should also include courses that individuals can download and complete at their own pace. Consider recording portions of your “live” virtual training sessions and repackaging them for those who weren’t able to attend.
SENIOR LEADERS SHOULD SET AN EXAMPLE
When senior leaders are enthusiastic about participating in virtual courses (created in-house or found on external online learning platforms), it encourages others within the organisation to participate more actively and even get involved in programme creation.
Why not regularly e-mail suitable online course recommendations to your team members? This would be a simple way to set the tone.
CONSIDER NEW TECHNOLOGY OPTIONS
Look into new technology solutions such as virtual reality (VR) to deliver courses effectively.
A recent study by global consulting firm PwC, showed that while VR is already being effectively deployed for teaching hard skills and for job skills simulations, it can also be used to deliver experiential soft skills training programmes related to leadership; diversity, equity and inclusion; and harassment prevention.
Between February and October 2019, PwC looked into the impact of using VR to train 1,600 new managers in the area of inclusive leadership. VR was shown to be 52 per cent more cost-effective. Indeed, a VR headset costs less $1,000 today and can be used over and over again to deliver training.
The study also found employees in VR courses can be trained up to four times faster.
According to the report, “What took two hours to learn in the classroom could possibly be learned in only 30 minutes using VR. When you account for extra time needed for first-time learners to review, be fitted for and be taught to use the VR headset, V-learners still complete training three times faster than classroom learners. And that figure only accounts for the time actually spent in the classroom, not the additional time required to travel to the classroom itself.”
Managers also reported feeling more connected to the course material and more confident about using the skills they learnt in VR training as compared to classroom and online learning programmes.
A clear advantage of VR training is that the experience is immersive. You can’t multitask once you put on the headset. Uninterrupted focus makes it easier to learn and retain what is taught.