Workplace Training And The COVID-19 Pandemic
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Workplace Training And The COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, companies are scrambling to protect their people and their operations. Whether your company already has a business continuity plan in place or is frantically working around the clock to create one, your L&D team is bound to be affected in the coming days, weeks, and months. Your knee-jerk reaction might be to cancel everything, throw your hands up in the air, and declare the L&D team closed for business. Or, you might be determined to soldier on and insist that your team continue operating business as usual. Neither of those strategies is what your company needs right now. What they need is for you to think through the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic might affect your L&D operations, so you can make strategic, thoughtful decisions that will benefit your company and its employees. This article will do just that. Today, I’m going to walk you through some of the things you need to think about from a workplace L&D perspective, particularly how to handle training initiatives that were scheduled for rollout or delivery before the COVID-19 spread was declared a pandemic.

My goal is to help you make an informed and educated decision about whether your workplace training initiatives should be implemented as planned, whether they should be rescheduled or canceled, or whether in-person and blending training should be moved fully online. Whether your company’s workforce training is delivered in-person, online, or through a blend of both, you might be wondering whether now is the time for training to be happening at your company, regardless of delivery. You’ll need to look at your company’s operations to make that call.

When To Cancel Or Reschedule Training

For companies who need to ramp up their services and products to keep up with increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, telecommunications, food delivery, hygiene supplies, grocery stores), workers should be 100% focused on delivering peak performance on the job. This means you’ll probably want to cancel or reschedule all non-essential training until the crisis has passed. Non-essential training is training unrelated to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Any training that doesn’t help your company handle this crisis should be considered non-essential.

When To Implement Training Or Modify Delivery

On the other hand, if your company is seeing a decline in demand for products or services from its customers and clients (for example, bricks and mortar locations, sales companies, educational institutions), operational teams may be struggling to keep their employees busy. This is an excellent time for your company to invest in its human capital. Your L&D team can help keep employees busy and feeling productive during slow times. Any in-person (face-to-face) or blended training initiatives you have on the books should be moved fully online (more on that in a bit), but they could still potentially be rolled out as scheduled.

You may also want to consider other options, like moving up annual compliance training, promoting existing professional development opportunities available through your company, or even launching new learning opportunities that can lead to a competitive advantage for your workforce.

How To Evaluate New Requests For Training

Staying busy and productive will not only help your company long term, but it will also give everyone a sense of purpose. Having something to do (besides watch media reports of COVID-19 wreaking havoc around the world) is sure to help everyone’s mental health and wellbeing. In addition to training initiatives you already have scheduled for implementation, you probably have other projects that are still at the analysis, design, or development stages. If your company is still operating, there’s no reason you and your team can’t continue working on other projects.

At the same time, if you receive any business requests for non-essential training during the COVID-19 pandemic, give yourself and others in your L&D department permission to say no. People are already under an incredible amount of stress—there’s no need to add to it.

You may be called on to initiate and launch training initiatives specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These requests will likely require a fast turnaround. Pandemic training requests should take precedence over all other L&D initiatives. Here are a few examples of the types of training requests you might receive:

  • Potential training requests might be policy-based, such as educating employees about your company’s sick leave or remote work policies.
  • Requests might be technology-based, such as showing people how to use company hardware and software to work from home, including how to log on and access applications securely.
  • Training requests might be related to health and safety, such as reminding people of how to practice good hygiene and social distancing measures.
  • Or requests might be customer-focused, such as training staff to answer customer questions about your company’s response to the pandemic.

Conclusion

Let’s assume some form of employee training needs to be implemented by your company during the COVID-19 pandemic. How should you handle implementation? Obviously one blog post or article can’t address every situation or every question you might have. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a lot of other resources to support Instructional Designers and L&D professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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