Learning in the Time of COVID 19

Sarah Flesher

As governments around the world are asking their citizens to social distance, organizations have had to adapt, and many employees are now working from home. In response, in-person meetings are being postponed or cancelled and workplace learning has been sidelined for now.  However, even as employers are moving rapidly to put employee safety first, companies can't simply push the pause button on critical workplace learning because reskilling may increasingly become important. It's too early to say how COVID-19 will ultimately impact companies, but we can turn to digital and virtual technologies to promote and deliver learning.

So, what should you be doing to continue to skill your employees and deliver valuable and effective learning during COVID-19?

First, recognize that training doesn't have to go by the wayside and adapt in-person learning delivery to reduce participant risk. Prior to COVID-19, organizations across all industries have been turning to digital delivery methods and technologies. This isn't something new. With diversified employee bases, organizations use digital learning to increase collaboration among teams that are working either remotely or across different time zones.

Second, use this time to invest in your leaders. Focus your online effort on soft skills and curate digital experiences that teach these skills. Emotions run high during times of crisis, making soft skills more important than ever. Use a mix of microlearning, simulations, web-based training, or virtual sessions to help management and supervisors brush up on these skills. This is also the time to take advantage of development opportunities that you didn't have time for in the past. While the future may be unclear, continuing to develop leaders can be one of the best ways to tackle the challenges that will come before us over the next few months.

Third, focus on digital social learning experiences. During a time when we all feel isolated, social learning promotes team cooperation, cohesion and a sense of community, all feelings that we as human beings crave right now. Use forums and digital discussion spaces, gamification (i.e., leaderboards, points systems, etc.), surveys and virtual group projects, all of which drive engagement and build learning communities that enable employees to interact.

Once you're convinced of the necessity for adopting digital learning practices, here are some simple tips to help you implement in-person digital and online asynchronous learning opportunities:

  1. Start by reframing the "learning problem" as a design opportunity and rethink the learner's end-to-end experience as a designer would.
  2. Focus on delivering shorter micro-content and on human connections, creating intentional and meaningful interactions.
  3. Don't build a solution from scratch. Repurpose your current material or look for curated content that meets your needs.
  4. Identify champions from within your organization who can mobilize and show leadership with regards to digital learning strategies.
  5. Encourage employees to contribute and enhance their own knowledge base on an individual level and then provide resources and avenues for them to share this knowledge with their colleagues.
  6. Motivate and engage employees. The most important way to engage employees is to provide them with opportunities to learn and develop new competencies. In the midst of what we are currently going through, this is increasingly important.
  7. Rely on digital technologies that you already use, such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Teams, Slack, etc. Also consider leveraging social media sties like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Hangouts and YouTube to inform, update and connect people.
  8. Support a seamless learning experience from first contact to last and ensure the same learning experience for all participants.

Learning and development organizations have been helping organizations adopt digital learning strategies for years and are poised to step in and support this transition to ensure employees continue to learn, grow, and skill up. Over the last couple of weeks, we've already seen people adapt to having their usual in-person meetings virtually, so why not continue to deliver your onboarding programs and learning events using the same principles?

This article only touched on the surface of how important it is to continue to skill your employees, but, most importantly, by not letting these programs and opportunities drop to the wayside, you'll help people feel that there is still structure and that you still value their growth and success during a time when there are a lot of unknowns and feelings of uncertainty.

Not sure where to start? Contact one of our Learning Experts today, we're standing by ready to be of assistance to you and your organization. Most importantly, stay healthy.

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Sarah Flesher

Sarah is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems and is currently completing a PhD in Educational Technology. Her research focuses on implementing competency-based learning systems in all types of organizations. When she doesn't have her nose in a book you can find her at the gym, on the ice, on the ski hill, drinking wine or in a coffee shop … with her nose in a book.