The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on virtually every facet of our lives. Businesses large and small have been forced to adapt to new, remote work situations in many instances, and employees have faced unique challenges in working from home, reducing their social interaction, and limiting their movements. Even learning and development (L&D) has not escaped unscathed. For HR departments, employees, and entire organizations, it’s important to understand what the post-pandemic learning landscape will look like and how L&D must evolve.
L&D Based on the Future of Work
The pandemic has unarguably changed the future of work. The virtual office that has become the norm for most of us will continue to be that for a long while to come. Many organizations may never go back to pre-pandemic modes of operations. They’ve simply seen too many benefits, including:
- Improved productivity
- Better employee engagement
- Reduced operating costs
- Increased profitability
Many employees have likewise benefitted. Virtual work offers greater flexibility, cuts out wasted time in the form of morning commutes, and lengthy personal grooming routines. Many are saving money on not having to purchase expensive professional clothing – after all, it doesn’t really matter what they wear while working from home.
However, the shift to remote work has not been without its challenges, and those will be present within the learning landscape as we move forward. In addition, L&D will face unique challenges stemming from the pandemic itself, including its impact on human health within the organization.
A Shift Toward Virtual Learning
Like work, L&D is going virtual. For organizations, that means finding the right learning management system (LMS). Older systems were tied to the organization’s in-house network, but today’s learners require something more. A cloud-based LMS delivers accessibility from any location, including an employee’s home office. That allows any time, anywhere learning that fits the needs for flexibility in today’s socially distanced world. Of course, not all LMS options are created equal, so organizations must make informed decisions that will, ultimately, support optimum learning outcomes and drive improved results for the business.
It is also important that organizations go into the virtual learning process with a solid understanding of the fact that this is a permanent change, not a temporary fix. If it is viewed as a Band-Aid that will be removed the instant that the pandemic is over, it will prevent leaders and learners from truly buying into the virtual learning model.
New Technologies Make a Difference
Just as we have been forced to embrace video conferencing technology and learn new platforms for teamwork and collaboration, so, too, must we begin to embrace new technologies in learning and development. While there is no single technology applicable to all organizations in need of L&D solutions, there are some common considerations that must be made across the board, including:
- Does the technology integrate with the LMS?
- How can the technology help improve learner outcomes?
- How does the technology help you (and learners) use the LMS or LCMS more effectively?
- Does the technology offer collaborative capabilities that support remote workers in learning together?
- How can HR use technology to empower employees to provide feedback on the learning and development process?
With that being said, not all technology is worth the investment. Organizations must carefully evaluate each offering and what it brings to the table. The cost of the technology, as well as the challenge of integrating it with your current technology stack, must be balanced against the benefits it offers learners and administrators.
Social Is the Way
We’ve seen learning and development change and evolve a great deal in recent years. It has gone from what was largely a tool designed primarily for mandatory corporate training into something capable of supporting employees throughout their career, and even help them move forward to new positions. That evolution has not changed. In fact, it is accelerating, thanks in part to the pandemic and our increasing reliance on technology for communication purposes.
One of the most important factors to consider with post-pandemic L&D efforts is the ability to include social learning. We have all been spending more time with social media over the last year or so. We’ve also come to rely on technological tools for our everyday social interaction with friends, family members, and coworkers. That shift also applies to learning and development.
Social learning methods help ensure that you can deliver an effective, engaging learning experience. It’s all about creating a real-life approach to learning that brings others into the mix. Employees are not relegated to learning from text-based modules but can do so from human mentors, via knowledge-bases and user forums, through interacting with peers, and more.
While social learning will not replace traditional L&D methods, it is a necessity and must be implemented correctly to realize its full benefits. It also requires careful monitoring to ensure they are effective and to adjust your L&D approach as necessary.
Budget, Budget, Budget
Finally, more organizations are realizing just how crucial L&D is to achieving their goals. Not only is it important for things like diversity training, or even for professional CE, but it plays a central role in career development for all employees, and it can be one of the keys that help set an organization apart as an employer of choice.
That realization should be coupled with the understanding that L&D budgets must be increased. This contrasts sharply with the urge to cut spending across all departments, but if organizations are going to survive and thrive, then employees must be trained to keep pace with the incredible speed of developments across all industries. Only L&D can achieve that. Spending should focus on key areas, including mobile learning, video learning, curated content, microlearning, and customized eLearning.
The Path Forward
While we live in an uncertain world, the pandemic has shown us the path forward – virtual learning with strong L&D initiatives tied to the right technology. With the right strategy, it becomes possible to prepare employees for changes, attract top talent, and even future-proof your organization.