How To Ensure Learning And Development In The "New Normal"

Learning And Development In The New Normal
Summary: This article presents 10 steps to help you adjust your L&D strategy to the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

10  Steps To Execute Your L&D In The "New Normal"

For many years now, companies have been looking to become a learning organization…but what does that really mean? There are many different definitions for learning organization, but the one I truly believe in is presented by Garvin, D. in his article, "Building a Learning Organization," published by Harvard Business Review:

A learning organization is an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights.

Now that we share a common definition, let’s move to the hardest part: How to implement it? Let me correct, how to implement it during a crisis such as the one we are living in? Well, if there ever was a time where it was critical to become a learning organization, I would say it is now.

1. Define Or Refine Your Purpose

According to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, "The Business Case for Purpose," organizational purpose means “an aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a Call-To-Action for an organization and its partners and stakeholders and provides benefit to local and global society.” According to the same report, 89% of the respondents said that companies with a shared sense of purpose have higher employee satisfaction. Last, but not least, there is also a correlation between a strong sense of purpose and innovation and transformation within the organization.

2. Communicate Your Purpose To Your Employees, Clients, And Partners

Make use of strong internal and external communication channels to spread your purpose. If you do not have an internal communication strategy that involves technology, maybe this is the time to start considering it.

3. Engage Your Employees In Your Purpose

Communication is not enough! Develop internal initiatives, such as innovation challenges, to allow your employees to propose new ideas, products, services, improvements, etc., that can help you better achieve your purpose.

4. Implement A Mentoring Program

As mentioned previously, becoming a learning organization implies creating, sharing, and transferring skills. I am sure you have already thought about having a mentoring program where more senior employees could transfer their knowledge to less experienced ones.

If you have your employees working remotely, probably they have some spare time. Why not use that time for learning and developing? Quick steps:

  1. Define the purpose of the mentoring program (leadership development, business knowledge, etc.)
  2. Define the mentoring program (duration, recurrent meetings, evaluation criteria, etc.)
  3. Identify the mentors (based on skills and knowledge but also on behavioral characteristics)
  4. Train mentors—they need to master mentoring skills
  5. Communicate to your audience
  6. Identify the mentees (based on talent management, new hires, new leaders, etc.)
  7. Define the matching criteria for mentors and mentees
  8. Roll it out, monitor, evaluate, improve, and keep it alive

5. Implement A Reverse Mentoring Program

Yes, more senior employees can learn from more junior ones! Just think about the challenges that working remotely has imposed on so many people. Younger generations can be a fantastic way to help with using collaborative tools, social media, presence online, etc.

6. Adopt Social Learning

Let’s start by clarifying what social learning means. The concept of social learning was developed by Albert Bandura (psychologist focused on social, cognitive psychology, as well as pedagogy). Bandura (1977) proposed that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and occurs purely through observation or direct instruction. Nowadays, we are exposed to several social aspects, making it imperative to adopt a more real-life approach to learning.

Social learning focuses on how we interact with others, reinforcing Just-In-Time learning and skill acquisition. Think about implementing it, making use of the 70:20:10 model.

7. Choose The Right Learning Platform To Enable It

If you do not have one yet, this is the right time to think about implementing one. Technology is here to stay and the sooner you start using it in your Learning and Development strategy, the faster you can prepare your workforce for the “new normal.”

Technology is too expensive to be used only as a system to manage learning (reports, attendance sheets, evaluation, etc.). I would suggest you think about it as a strategic partner for your learning organization. So, when defining your requirements, I would recommend that you consider the following:

  • Allow managing all sorts of learning activities, such as eLearning, articles, videos, classroom, games, etc.
  • Allow users to share learning activities with peers
  • Allow for Q&As addressed to several SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) according to the topic/competency/skill
  • Allow gamification (competitions, awards, etc.)
  • Allow for self-learning activities
  • Availablity through different channels (web, mobile app, etc.)
  • Offer a great User Experience
  • Strong reporting functionalities (I know you need it)

8. Revamp Your Learning Programs

For, I would say, too many years, L&D professionals have been focused on creating or just delivering training programs to address some training needs that have been (or not) identified. Instead, L&D professionals should focus on enabling knowledge, competencies, and skills to be built within the organization that can directly impact business performance. Moreover, L&D should consider that different people learn in different ways, so a variety of training materials and types is a must.

If your training plan is 50% classroom training, you probably are on the right track, but the “new normal” will require more than that.

Take a look at your training programs and ask yourself:

  • Are the training objectives still valid?
  • Can the training format be changed to accommodate the “new normal”? For instance, can it be delivered online (webinar) through eLearning? Are there books, videos, articles that can help achieve the same outcome?
  • Can you implement a mentor program to better address these objectives?
  • Do you have internal experts on this topic? Can they create content, lead webinars, respond to Q&As?

9. Have A Training Plan…But Don’t Stick Too Much To It

Annual training plans are outdated, look at what just happened to your 2020 training plan. It is not just because of the pandemic, it is much more because of the pace of change that is so high that an annual training plan becomes obsolete by the time it is approved.

So, what am I suggesting?

  • Budget for mandatory training, such as health and safety, compliance, onboarding, etc.
  • Make mandatory training, as much as possible, blended (80% eLearning and 20% F2F or on-the-job). This will enable you to invest once and have training available for all your workforce for a significant amount of time, saving money and keeping (or even improving) its effectiveness.
  • Invest in training resources that are readily available in your learning portal to everyone—democratize learning as much as possible.
  • Ensure your offer covers 70:20:10 options. Employees should be the owners of their own development, and they know how they prefer to learn.
  • Reserve the majority of your training budget to address business-critical needs on the go, this will allow you to have the flexibility and be able to respond to the business on time, having a real impact on business results.
  • To execute the point above, you need to define in advance the criteria of business-critical learning needs. I visited Learning Technologies UK 2020 and was amazed by the model suggested by Lori Niles-Hofmann! Check out her article "Annual Planning: The L&D Frenemy" on LinkedIn.

10. When You Think You Are About To Finish Something, Start Thinking About The New Beginning

Yes, your job is never done! When you are just finishing implementing something, maybe it is time to start questioning if it is still relevant to the organization.

Now, more than ever, L&D professionals need to be agile, well-informed about global trends (economy, markets, technology, new ways of learning, etc.), and adaptable to the VUCA world. If you stop learning, you won’t be able to make your organization learn.

If you are already applying some of these steps, congratulations!