During 2020 the Fosway Group conducted rapid research on the perceived impact of Covid-19 on learning and development. Responses from 108 companies opened up several critical areas for discussion.
The key findings were:
- 94% felt it necessary to change strategy around what they did and how they did it;
- Only 12% felt that learning and development would go back to what it was before the pandemic or were unsure of what the future would hold;
- The most successful support platform for learning and development during the pandemic was the virtual classroom;
- Delivery modes moved, with the most important being video, curated content, mobile and micro-learning;
- 4 out of 5 organisations saw increased demand for digital learning from senior management;
- A higher demand for digital learning was felt by 71% of organisations;
- 84% thought it was important to integrate corporate communication platforms such as MS Teams with digital learning provision.
Let’s look at the potential implications of these findings on the future landscape of learning and development.
1. Need to amend the strategy
Limits placed on socialising meant that both internal and external live classroom training ceased almost immediately once Covid was designated a worldwide pandemic. Mirroring the move from face to face meetings to online meetings, training also moved from the class to virtual collaboration platforms.
The move online explains the “what they did” part of the findings; the “how they did it” part required a significant re-think in the design and content of learning solutions. Virtual classes need a great deal of thought on ensuring participant engagement, equality of access and contribution, and ways of assessing the learning taking place.
Not every organisation had a robust digital strategy; those with a mature digital strategy could cope more effectively as base skills and policies were already in place.
A key message to take away is the importance of learning and development teams having a core strategy that is flexible enough to be amended as and when business dynamics change.
2. Future direction
Some organisations have certainty around how they see the future of learning and development. Confidence exists in those who have a base strategy in place, the skills needed to pivot their approach, and a business model already encompassing longer-term hybrid or remote working.
However, there are other organisations for whom the future was less clear. The research was completed in May 2020, and it would be interesting to see how this finding has changed over time. With the availability of vaccines and control policies, organisations are starting to reconsider readiness to move some learning and development interventions back into the classroom.
This finding is one area where the jury is still out on a final judgement of the directions organisations will choose. At a practical level, it’s clear that training is best done face to face in some cases, even if on the job.
3. The rise of the virtual classroom platform
Virtual classroom platforms such as Blackboard and Webex have been around for many years. The pandemic ushered in a new era of remote working, and the use of virtual platforms has expanded exponentially. Technologies such as Zoom and MS Teams took the lead for both meetings and education. Many organisations used these platforms to deliver virtual class sessions in place of live classes, and it was seen as the most supportive platform during the pandemic.
As trainers have become more comfortable with the technology, it’s fair to suggest that this form of delivery is likely to remain at a high level in future. One serious issue remains that could cloud the use of virtual classes, which is the question of design. Few organisations have had time to properly design effective learning solutions to suit the new delivery model, but solutions must be designed specifically for the virtual environment to be truly effective.
4. Changes in delivery modes
The assessment that video, curated content, mobile and micro-learning are the leading modes of delivery has supported a trend that has been in place for some time. Preference is towards learning in the flow of work, accessibility at any time, short and focused content, personalisation and engagement. These modes of delivery are likely to continue to be firm favourites in future.
5. Senior management support for digital learning
On the one hand, most learning and development leaders will be relieved that they no longer have to convince management of digital learning benefits; on the other hand, management had no choice when the pandemic hit.
Looking at this positively, we can hope that this experience has signaled a permanent change in perception and support for digital learning from the top. If so, senior-level support will secure budgets and help create an authentic learning culture.
6. Employee comfort with digital learning
Employees previously reticent to embrace digital learning had no other choice during the pandemic. Although some may still prefer the face to face option, many will likely continue to see digital learning as a support for their development and lifelong learning goals.
Critical to future success is adopting a strategy that focuses on learning in the flow of work. Learning professionals must broaden their role to support employee knowledge and development and introduce new areas of content. Examples of content shift during the pandemic have included the need for subjects such as working remotely, handling work/life balance, engaging in a remote environment, and managing a remote workforce.
7. Integration of learning and development solutions with the flow of work
As employees have become more familiar with regularly using technology for communication and learning, learning and development professionals have sometimes struggled to create a seamless experience.
Software companies have seen the rise in digital learning and capitalised by adding learning-specific features into their systems. The coming together of circumstances supports the drive towards improving employee experience via seamless access to information and technology. Finding ways to integrate learning and development with existing collaboration platforms is a natural step.
Further work is needed to support diversity and inclusion by looking at where learning and development can link to all employee life elements from recruitment to performance and retirement.
In summary, the learning and development profession has pivoted into a new reality. The pandemic has created challenges but also great opportunities. Many of the changes made will ensure that learning and development have a voice and can influence and guide decisions that create an impactful learning culture and drive their organisation to success.
Contact us at HRBluSky today to explore how we can support you in managing your learning and development needs.