Basement Dwellers To Center Stagers: Time For eLearning To Step Up!

Will The Pandemic Drive eLearning's Renaissance?
Summary: eLearning is on top of your stakeholders' minds. Time for you to capitalize on this unique pandemic moment to address their preoccupations and the pressures they are facing.

Will The Pandemic Drive eLearning's Renaissance?

There's a saying, "When opportunity knocks, open the door (paraphrased)." For eLearning practitioners, opportunity is pounding on their door right now and it shouldn't be ignored. It may be a long time before another opportunity like this comes around again. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, then, and with all due respect, you have your head in the sand. This pandemic is the opportunity every learning practitioner dreams about: to step up and be the valued member every stakeholder expects them to be. This is your opportunity to deliver on the eLearning promise you've been making.

What makes this moment different? First, the pandemic has physically separated us. We no longer commune in a workspace, nor are we even allowed to, at least for the foreseeable future. And second, when we eventually put this tragic event behind us, it's most likely our collective new work environment and reality will be very different from the one we once knew. But work will still have to get done and learning will still have to take place, whether for compliance or to improve performance. But, know for sure that much of it will be at a distance if not blended.

Regretfully, learning practitioners are often the forgotten ones. For most stakeholders, training is an afterthought. As a result, this has many practitioners questioning the relevance and value of their organizational existence. Here's how I analogize it: One of my favorite movies is Office Space. In the movie, an employee named Milton is repeatedly asked by the boss to make one compromise after another. Eventually, Milton finds himself in a basement corner forgotten and spirit-broken trying to accomplish his task. Certainly, many of you can relate and empathize with him. Like Milton, you're the figurative company "basement dweller" and only called up when training crosses your stakeholders' minds. And, then you know what happens? They ask you for one compromise after another.

Now the pandemic is certainly tragic. But, with tragedy comes significant change; and with change comes new opportunities and your time to shine. More than just the expected training you need to deliver, learning must step up to address the many new and very different workplace requirements moving forward. It may sound overwhelming, but it's all really good news. You're moving on up, from basement dweller to "center stager" in a matter of months. Here's how to capitalize on this unique opportunity:

The Light Shines Bright...And Hot!

We probably all agree, everything about how we work and where we work is changing. If you don't agree, well, let's just say you're out of touch but I digress. With this or any change, everything is new and unknown. The pandemic has accomplished this well leaving many, if not all stakeholders scratching their heads wondering what's the next step. The pandemic has them in unfamiliar territory, and guess what? With every decision they have to make for better or worse, they're learning something new.

This is not the time to wait for stakeholders to come to you. They need you! Even if they're not consciously aware. Learning is your bread and butter; it's your superpower and the reason for your existence. The spotlight is shining directly on your knowledge and expertise that will help your stakeholders make more informed decisions and manage change more effectively.

This light is shining bright but it's also shining hot! It's unacceptable to address their needs and challenges with the same (pre-pandemic) mindset. That out-of-date reactionary approach didn't build any credibility for you before the pandemic and it surely won't help you gain their trust moving forward. While you're not expected to guide them to their final decisions, they (subconsciously) expect you to help facilitate how they acquire the learning required to make informed change decisions.

Look For New Ways To Deploy Learning

Again (and I don't mean to be a nag), while stakeholders may seem desperate to return to some semblance of normalcy, this isn't your cue to take advantage of their desperation. The pandemic isn't a blank cheque to take the eLearning (or learning) initiative you want. It does, however, present you with the opportunity to design and develop innovative learning and, more importantly, performance-focused approaches within our rapidly evolving work environment. As a result, you may find your stakeholders more conducive to proactive learning endeavors and acquiring the eLearning technology you've been yearning for. But note, you'll still need to make a proper business case.

Being innovative is never a bad thing, but it's more welcomed now. You probably have more latitude to innovate leveraging the leading eLearning tools and technology in your possession. And I'm pretty sure you've probably sold your stakeholders on the wonders and promise eLearning can offer the organization. But pandemic or not, whatever you propose is a business decision with an operational impact. When building your case make sure to:

  • Stop developing eLearning that focuses on employee learning (they don't care). Focus the eLearning on the actual doing. This means getting people to apply what they learned.
  • Leverage the eLearning effort and technology to minimize production downtime or find ways to use it to take advantage of existing periods of production downtime.
  • Develop learning objectives that adapt in real time and connect directly to reporting performance outcomes and metrics. Remember, for a little while longer, even post-pandemic, things are going to be in a state of flux so being adaptive is essential.
  • Be creative with your eLearning but don't be extreme with your creativity. Your eLearning innovativeness should deliver results and not be innovative for the sake of innovation.
  • And always use and leverage the technology you have before asking to purchase more. Simply, be resourceful.

CREATE is a quick acronym cheat you can use to show your eLearning efforts have innovative value. Create eLearning that is:

  • Creative: Show your out-of-the-box approach.
  • Resourceful: Use what you have and what people are familiar with.
  • Engaging: Make the learning event something they want. Get them to pull it, don't push it on to them (read: Training That Employees Want? What A Novel Idea!).
  • Adaptive: Change with the needs and with the times and try to repurpose.
  • Targeted: Get to know what users need to improve and develop (don't assume).
  • Empowering: Employees don't take training to learn; they expect training to make them better at what they do. It's never about learning; it's always about doing.

Get Into Their Heads!

While the pandemic is your chance to fulfill your stakeholders' needs, you can avoid one major obstacle: It's no longer about when to do it but more about how to do it.

You have a chance to showcase real eLearning! You know, the stuff you've been preaching about like how can it be used to target specific learning needs or work issues? How can it limit workflow disruptions? How can employees access what they need, when they need it, where they need it? How will it lower overall development costs? How will it eliminate employee displacement costs? How will it reduce infrastructure costs? How can it seamlessly tie into existing performance KPIs (read: 5 Questions Learning Practitioners Must Answer)?

Shall I go on?

Stop Living In Your Silo

Learning practitioners are often accused of being disconnected from the business issues they're expected to address. This is because more often than not the conventional learning approach they apply doesn't work. It isn't responsive to the immediate needs at hand and/or there is a lack of correlation between the business needs and the learning design.

It's time for you to change and change stakeholder perceptions. eLearning is now front and center in your stakeholders' minds, alleviating the need to convince them otherwise. There are numerous reasons why they now seem to be sold on eLearning but primarily it's because they need to:

  • Deploy learning within remote and flexible work environments;
  • Deploy new knowledge rapidly and precisely;
  • Reduce costs due to reduced revenue and profitability; and,
  • Make knowledge readily accessible to make informed decisions resulting from continuous change.

This is your moment and opportunity to become the proactive operational partners they expect you to be (read: Stop Taking Orders; Start Being An Operational Partner!). Find ways to help make your eLearning efforts address their (pandemic) preoccupations, helping them to address the pressures they are currently facing. Target your efforts to helping your operational clients meet their performance expectations. Your eLearning effort is only a vehicle to get them and employees to where they need to go.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We would enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts and remember #alwaysbelearning!