“COVID-19 has caused a lot of less-than-optimal virtual trainings to be developed,” says Ann Rollins, a solutions architect with The Ken Blanchard Companies. “Too often we're hearing about a learning experience that was once a six-and-a-half-hour face-to-face training course being ‘virtualised’ into a six-and-a-half-hour virtual instructor-led training course."
“That’s certainly not the best way to design virtual training, nor is it the best use of our learners’ time,” says Rollins.
“When the goal is just to get a check for completion, the tendency is to build something in a familiar form. To create truly memorable learning experiences, we need to be thinking about more complex architectures that look at ways to maximise existing resources and technologies.”
Britney Cole, Blanchard’s associate vice president, solutions architecture and innovation strategy, agrees, “If I were asked to sit in a six-and-a-half-hour virtual session, my eyes would roll back in my head and I'd be completely disillusioned. Today we need to reconsider how we use that time. The live, virtual portion of the design should be where the learners are coming together and debriefing on what they already consumed. That’s the best reason to come together—to practice, to apply, and to scenario-plan.
“With this type of design, you might be able to skim off some of your classroom time and create a virtual or a blended experience that is more accessible and more consumable.”
Both Cole and Rollins encourage senior L&D executives to lean into this new way of thinking and serving up learning as opposed to waiting for things to normalise. COVID has necessitated a lot of creativity. It is forcing leadership, learning, and talent development professionals, for the first time ever, to look at the tools they currently have and find ways to maximise the use of those tools.
“As L&D professionals think ahead to 2021, the simplest advice we have is: don't put off development of your people,” says Rollins. “Don't wait until the classroom reopens. Don't be tempted to hold off, because while you wait, your competition is reinventing how their development happens. They are failing fast and leaping forward—and their people recognise the value of upskilling, especially right now.”
“When employees reflect back on this experience, they will remember how their employers treated them—including opportunities for career development and tools to help them coach virtually, lead remote teams, and build trust across borders,” adds Cole.
Cole and Rollins also encourage L&D professionals to look for the silver lining.
“Before COVID, you may have reached a small percentage of your employee population because your programs were nomination-based, classroom, or expensive on-sites,” says Cole. “Now you have the opportunity to reach far more people while still creating meaning, results, and personal and business impact.”
But starting out can be daunting. “Start with an internal analysis,” says Rollins. “Look at the technology and skills of your internal team and your partners and ask, ‘What can we do? Can we rethink this?’ Don't just think about converting existing programs—think of 2021 as a reinvention of how you might develop and really accelerate performance in people's careers.”
“This is an incredible opportunity for us to not just iterate and build on what was,” says Rollins. “But to do something totally different. Practitioners need to get really smart about their own development and learn new ways of reaching their learners. Going back to the old way of doing things and trying to iterate certain things we did before is not going to move the needle.
“It's a shift away from ‘I've got to force people to complete all the pieces and parts’ to ‘What do I want them to say/think/do/feel, how can I do that differently, and how can I measure effectiveness?’ If we have a really good plan up front for measurement and communication, the shift from a singular event to an experience that blends a variety of things and brings people together for the purpose of practice really pays off.”
“Rethink your technology and how you use it,” says Cole. “You might not be able to change the technology infrastructure, but you can certainly get closer to it and understand how to use it more efficiently. It’s about getting more out of what you've already invested in by thinking differently about how to use your tools.”
“We are being given a lot of grace in this opportunity because there's not a model for success,” adds Rollins. “There's no known, proven way forward for many learning organisations. It's about the intrepid pioneers who are creating the new ways forward.”
About the author:
David Witt is a Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.