The Need for Continuous Learning During COVID-19

As organizations shift from face-to-face interactions to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of learning and development continuity is (or should be) top of mind. During a crisis, it is common for companies to decrease their development efforts as a way to cut costs – that could be a mistake. We know that the impact the right employee development process can have is massive. In fact, Gallup finds that organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees. 

Even beyond those benefits, in this unprecedented time, employees are not only needing a sense of purpose outside of the reports on the pandemic, but they are anxious about their future. Fewer than four in 10 employees feel very confident that they will be able to continue to meet the requirements of their job successfully should the outbreak continue, according to Gallup

For HR and L&D leaders, it will be imperative to address how to deploy relevant training programs, even while in the midst of the pandemic. Here are 3 strategies to consider:

1. View this time as an opportunity for L&D

For many organizations, the pandemic has halted or stalled many operations or strategic projects, giving many employees and managers more time on their hands.  This is an excellent time to invest in your human capital. Take this unique opportunity to curate a balanced L&D program. Reflect on how you can bring the best of online, instructor-led and experiential learning together in a way that best supports employees during this crisis and even post-pandemic. 

Now may be an ideal time to focus on building a future workforce with tomorrow’s skills or perhaps reskilling current teams. Talk to your employees about areas where they currently want to grow or learn on the job. You may also consider alternative options, such as moving up annual compliance training, aggressively promoting existing professional development opportunities to employees, or even implementing new L&D programs that will give your organization a competitive advantage in the future. 

The key is to find ways to promote a continuous learning mindset among your workers during this time – it matter for employee support and it matters for the future of your company. When done effectively, you will continue to motivate and inspire employees during and beyond the crisis. 

2.  Move what you can online.

The Need for Continuous Learning During COVID-19Consider what in-person or blended training initiatives you have scheduled can or should be moved fully online. Are there L&D programs that can be quickly converted to live and/or recorded webcasts using video technologies, such as Zoom or Skype? Collaborate with your employee development team to identify and prioritize which instructor-led programs could be converted to e-learning. 

Team development will continue to be critical, so don’t overlook ways to replace or replicate face-to-face group work and training. Team assessments and development tools can often be facilitated virtually, using online discussion groups, facilitated online simulations or using live breakout rooms. 

HR leaders should also consider how to get L&D instructors to up-to-speed on virtual delivery and what types of training they may need to grow their virtual instruction capabilities. Joining video technologies and software as a participant is very different than hosting one. As you build your remote learning plan, encourage employees to engage in professional development topics through free resources, such as LinkedIn Learning, webinars, digitally available books and articles, TED talks or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), etc. 

3.  Focus on behavioral skill development

 A 2019 IBM survey showed that, in the future, behavioral skills will be the area with more significant gaps than digital skills. Further, research has shown that emotional intelligence (EQ) is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. In fact, low EQ competencies are to blame for 75% of failed or derailed careers. 

The COVID-19 pandemic can be a significant development opportunity to focus on key behavioral skills that are linked to high performance and will be required for the future, including relationship building, leading through change, critical thinking, inspiring others and effective communication. 

It will be vital to remember that during this pandemic, there is a risk for employees and leaders to learn the wrong thing – fear, risk avoidance and a survival mindset. This is why HR and L&D leaders should use this experience to develop people to adopt more beneficial skills and mindsets, such as problem-solving or an opportunity-focused mindset.

Continue to lead through learning.

As companies are scrambling to protect their people and their operations, your knee-jerk reaction may be to cancel or decrease your L&D efforts. However, now is the time to invest in your employees, help them to recover and adjust more effectively to the new future of work, and secure a competitive advantage for when business returns to a new normal with a newly-skilled workforce.