As companies around the world grapple with the impact of coronavirus on their organizations today and for the next several months, we can clearly see a “new normal” emerging.
Looking past social distancing and stay-in-place orders, we anticipate a major shift in the way we work — an increase in remote work, dispersed teams, and the need for a more lean and adaptive workforce. The downturn in the economy and resulting layoffs, furloughs, and reorganizations will thrust people into new and unfamiliar roles. That means there will be a lot of learning and training necessary to just get a business going and thriving again. Businesses will have to quickly evaluate training and development needs, find or develop the right content, and deploy at speed.
Before coronavirus (the new “B.C.”), working from home was something a lot of people dreamed about but only a possibility for less than a third of U.S. workers as of 2017-2018, the latest available data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Higher earners and those in manager, business, or finance roles were also much more likely to have access to work-from-home options.
But the rapid transition of millions of employees to remote work over the past several months illustrates that the virtual workplace is an option for many more people. While it may not make sense for every employee to continue working from home full-time permanently, we anticipate that many workers will push to keep some level of workplace flexibility now that they have proof that they are productive outside the office.
This seismic shift is going to force leaders in talent management, engagement, and development to change processes, their thinking about people, and how we train and develop for the skills they need. Collaboration with co-workers will need to look different as well.
Here are three tips to prepare your workforce for the new normal:
- Evaluate (or reevaluate) training needs
Even companies that had strong learning and development programs before this crisis will likely find their organizational objectives have changed, at least in the short term. Start by identifying your immediate training priorities: bringing back furloughed workers, supporting employees working from home, reskilling people for new roles, upskilling people to adjust to leaner teams, getting new hires up to speed, etc.Companies should also think beyond employees’ direct job functions when evaluating training needs. Skills like resilience, creativity, and adaptability are essential as employees face new situations and adjust to modified work environments. Similarly, training content about managing stress and anxiety can help employees cope with challenges in their personal and professional lives.
- Find and deploy training content
There is no shortage of training options available to companies these days. Rather, the challenge lies in finding the right learning content for your organization and employees. Offering a broad array of course options will allow you to meet a variety of learner preferences and needs.Consider how to best deliver training to employees at scale without interrupting your operations. This will likely mean transitioning on-the-job training to digital learning to accommodate an increased number of remote workers as well as continuing to observe social distancing guidelines.
- Ensure training is effective
Closing the loop with learning content — i.e., making sure your workers develop, retain, and apply the required skills — is essential. Online training enables employees to learn at their own pace and refer back to the content as needed. Add e-learning as a precursor to in-person training and as post-training reinforcement to ensure retention of knowledge and formation of habits. Use the analytics and reporting features of your learning management system (LMS) to monitor employees’ training progress in real-time, so you know who needs encouragement and when.
For many, e-learning offers the best way to quickly and scalably educate their workforces regardless of physical location. Companies that have e-learning programs and learning management systems (LMSs) in place are able to pivot to fully digital learning relatively easily, provided they have access to a robust and diverse catalog of courses. Company-specific training can also be taken online using live or recorded webinars or other video conferencing tools.
We are sure to feel the impacts of coronavirus on the world of work for years to come, and possibly in ways we haven’t even considered yet. Taking steps now to ensure they have the right support and training in place before employees return to work or the office will help ensure they can do so safely and successfully.