Managing Business During a Pandemic
Companies in the United States are still dealing with the changes that have come from the COVID-19 crisis that started in early March. They are trying to figure out how to manage business in the middle of a pandemic. The challenges have been many. Despite this, it is inspiring to see how people have pulled together during this time.
Impacts Seen From Learning Professionals
Recently I was having one of my many Zoom calls with a group of Learning Leaders. The conversation focused on the impacts of learning departments from the crisis. We also discussed how they have worked to meet the challenges of a mostly remote workforce. After the discussion, I thought it may be good to share some of the major conclusions reached by the leaders on the call.
Most often when the economy goes through any financial crisis, we see a prevalence of learning professionals losing their job. Unfortunately, training can often not be seen as a critical part of the business. So, there are cuts in training budgets during these times. Luckily, the pandemic downturns did not create the traditional big loss in training positions for most industries. We see cuts in training positions in industries such as retail, hospitality, and travel. But those cuts were a part of the downturn for the entire organization. I hope, as those industries return, those jobs will return as well.
The biggest change reported by the leaders was the need to move most (if not all) their training to a virtual format. Leaders reported that their organizations were at various stages in the use of remote learning before the pandemic. Some companies had 90% of their training in an ILT format, and others had a more balanced split between ILT and virtual/self-paced learning. When the pandemic hit, most of the companies frantically searched for the best technology partner (Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom). Then they started to convert their programs to either a Virtual Instructor Led (VILT) program or an elearning format.
Leaders in the meeting commented on how well their teams responded to creating the newly formatted training. They also commented on how much the employees seemed to embrace the new mediums. Many found that employees who were stuck in their homes were more than ready to sign up for learning. In fact, there was a big increase in attendance for most of the programs.
Employees increasing their requests for learning is a nice feeling for trainers. After years of having people complain about taking time to go to class, the interest in taking classes is a welcomed change!
Overall, the leaders in the meeting felt positive about their ability to respond to the challenges. They even felt that the growth in virtual learning could be a benefit for providing options after the pandemic is over. This was good news to me, but there was one major concern.
What About Measurement?
Most of the people on the call did not measure the results of their learning programs. They, rightly so, were proud of their ability to respond to the crisis. They quickly skilled up so they could shift their offerings to meet the business need. But, the only challenge to patting ourselves on the back came from not knowing if our newly formatted programs were effective.
The leaders did not measure the success of their programs before the pandemic. So, they had no idea if changing the programs to a new format decreased their effectiveness.
Many of the leaders commented on this lack of knowledge. Some had to move from the recently made VILT programs to all elearning programs. This is because the “powers that be” felt it to be more convenient and cost-effective.
So, once again learning professionals have responded with passion on delivering content to their stakeholders. Unfortunately, without real measurement (I am not talking survey) to inform them on how effective their programs actually are, they are in the dark on how their newly formatted programs performed.
I have argued for quite some time on learning professionals need to arm themselves (through measurement) with information that adds to the business intelligence. Without real business intelligence, they cannot contribute to important company decisions.
It is my hope that the changes created from the COVID-19 crisis will be a reminder of the importance of measuring our own effectiveness.