Sharon_Taylor

Sharon Taylor
Director, Quality,
Learning & Development
Emergenetics International

Learning & Development (L&D) programs have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. McKinsey recently reported that nearly 50% of in-person programming had been postponed or canceled through June in the United States, while parts of Asia and Europe are seeing figures closer to 100%.

While delaying or canceling in-person learning experiences certainly makes sense to protect the safety of employees, companies that want to see their business recover successfully from the pandemic would be wise to invest in their Learning & Development teams and solutions.

Why Learning & Development Remains an Essential Business Priority

Understandably, budgets have needed to shift to weather the storm that has been brought on by COVID-19, and as companies plan for recovery, engaging and retaining talented employees should be a top priority.

The pandemic has changed – and will continue to change – just about every aspect of life. When we consider our employees, it’s important that organizations help their staff develop soft skills that will empower future success for both the individual employee and your organization.

According to one inter-generational survey, 70% of respondents reported that job-related training and development opportunities influenced their decision to stay at an organization. And, companies that show a commitment to investing in their staff during this challenging time will stand out as exceptional employers.

As you seek to retain your top employees and position your company to succeed beyond the pandemic, consider how your L&D programs could help build these essential talents:

  • Adaptability and resiliency
    In responding to COVID-19, employees have been tested in their ability to adapt to change and setbacks, which will continue to be an important skill long after the pandemic. For tips on building resiliency, I encourage you to read my colleague Shana Bosler’s blog post.
  • Collaboration
    Teamwork looks different in a virtual environment or in a distributed environment where some colleagues may be in person while others are remote. As teams strive to work together and be their most productive, honing their ability to collaborate can help them operate effectively.
  • Leadership and managerial skills
    Many of the core talents that make a great leader are the same whether in-person or virtual; however, the shift to remote work has made it even more important for managers and leaders to learn to act with compassion, motivate their employees and give actionable feedback.
  • Emotional intelligence
    McKinsey projected that demand for emotional intelligence will grow by 26% between 2016 and 2030, and I would venture to guess that, given the call for empathy that we are seeing in the news these days, that number will only grow.
  • Effective communication
    Communication is already a challenge that can be made even more difficult with distributed workforces, collaborating across many locations and potentially different time zones. Building skill in this area requires continued practice.
  • Innovation and problem solving
    SHRM identified that 37% of employers cited problem solving among the top soft skills that candidates were lacking. As we adjust to life with and after COVID-19, critical thinking and innovation will continue to be in high demand.

All of these skills, which are essential to helping your company survive and thrive beyond the pandemic, can be taught with effective Learning & Development solutions.

Your current and future employees will be analyzing organizational responses during this challenging time to determine what sorts of companies they want to work for. Your approach to L&D could be a powerful differentiator.

Prioritizing Your Learning & Development Investments

To earn buy-in with stakeholders and identify timely L&D investments to support your work today and tomorrow, I invite you to consider these five steps.

1. Assemble a cross-functional team.

You will be better positioned to get buy in and achieve alignment for your training programs when you assemble a team that extends beyond your L&D or HR group.

Identify stakeholders in different departments and varying levels of your organization to round out your group. I also recommend that you identify a cognitively diverse team, if possible, so that you can ensure the interests of all Thinking and Behavioral preferences are represented.

2. Determine current must-haves as well as long-term needs.

New working arrangements may help some short-term priorities bubble up to the top – like providing trainings that enhance virtual communication, productivity or teamwork – or tutorials on how to use video technologies and collaboration tools.

Other talents like managerial skills or resiliency training may need to be introduced over the medium or long term. Connect with your cross-functional teams to identify and prioritize training initiatives and set timelines. I also recommend looking at your business continuity plan, with a focus on your recovery stages, to help identify some of the more pressing training needs.

3. Assess current L&D solutions to identify overlap and gaps.

Compare your current training programs and content against the list of short, mid and long term needs. Assess the format of your programs as well. While you may have the right material, you may need to adjust the material to be delivered online or through virtual sessions.

Also, identify where you have gaps between your needs and your existing offerings. A thorough analysis will give you a good starting place to begin identifying what you can do in the short term as well as what research or additional solutions need to be introduced to achieve your organization’s learning priorities.

4. Create a rolling plan that aligns to a long-term vision.

Given the importance of the soft skills of “adaptability and resiliency,” it’s no surprise that these qualities are also elements of a successful plan to meet the needs of your staff and business.

Create a rolling calendar with programs and milestones with an outlook somewhere between one to two months. Map out existing programs that you will offer as well as milestones to identify, develop or hire a consultancy firm to support needs that currently cannot be supported internally. Consider also how your plan aligns with your organization’s long-term goals – even if the immediate priorities are focused on the short term.

5. Measure and reassess your plan regularly.

Your plan will certainly change over time. Include regular check-ins with your cross-functional team where you can report out on progress, metrics, areas of success and opportunities for improvement. Work with the team you’ve assembled to stay up to date on changing needs and training priorities throughout the organization.

Then, update and adjust your plan. As work stabilizes, you can begin to establish longer-term plans. And, I’d still recommend that you re-evaluate your outlook every couple of months to maintain an agile approach and continue delivering value today while building toward the future.

While the way we work has changed considerably in a short time, what hasn’t changed is the value that training can deliver to your organization and employees. By developing a learning plan that aligns to the needs of your stakeholders, your Learning & Development team can play an integral role in your business’s recovery.

Want to learn more about how Emergenetics’ solutions can support your training initiatives to support short-term goals like virtual teamwork and communication as well as needs like emotional intelligence and leadership training? Fill out the form below to connect with our team today!