Mobilising for change: how L&D became rapid responders during the crisis
L&D professionals are traditionally good at being responsive to the needs of the business but what we’ve added to our toolkit in the past year is the ability to adapt quickly to change. Moving forward, we can make use of these skills to find new ways of supporting learning in our organisations.
More than ever there is a focus on organisations, large and small, being able to respond rapidly and effectively to changing circumstances. As L&D professionals, we have traditionally spent solid chunks of time carrying out learning needs analyses, designing interventions, piloting programmes, refining the programmes and then delivering to the wider business. While this model is tried, tested and effective in many circumstances, we now need to have something else in our toolkits.
Learning is at the heart of creating a responsive, resilient and productive workforce.
In this article I’d love to share with you some of my own experiences as I have evolved (and continue to do so) from classroom trainer, to facilitator, to coach, to someone who still does all those things but is embracing new ways of supporting learning in organisations.
A year of change
In January 2020, if you’d asked me if I could ever see myself moving away from face-to-face training and into the virtual world, I would have responded with a resounding ‘no’! I have to admit that my mind was somewhat closed to the possibilities offered in what I saw as the ‘e-learning space’.
Fast-forward 15 months, and here I am delivering workshops and coaching to learners across continents from the comfort of my home office – what a change.
Admittedly, I had been conducting coaching sessions via Zoom for some years and found this to be a very good experience for both myself and my coachees. Beyond that, however, I’d seen online learning as a very dry, non-interactive experience and my mindset was still stuck in the olden days of computer-based training. Oh my goodness, the learning that I’ve done this year!
I’ve learned to juggle multiple screens (not literally, I’m happy to say although there were some wobbly moments when things were propped up on boxes and folders), toggle between presentation view and gallery view, and record pieces to camera with no technical support.
I have learned that it is possible to be flexible and responsive to learner needs, even when you have a PowerPoint slide deck to provide structure and direction for your session.
I have learned that participants can productively join a workshop from a PC, a laptop or a phone.
I have learned that there are multiple platforms and tools that can be used to support virtual learning and, to some extent, replicate what can be done in a face-to-face environment.
Fundamentally, I have re-discovered myself as a lifelong learner, which has also benefited my participants and their organisations.
Key lessons to take forward
So, what might this learning mean for my future and for the future of other L&D professionals? Here are a few of the things that I will be taking forward into the next phase:
- Learning is at the heart of creating a responsive, resilient and productive workforce.
- L&D professionals have the knowledge, experience and skills to support organisational and individual learning. We can be role models who practise what we preach.
- Individuals and teams value the opportunity to step away from their day-to-day job role and take time to absorb new ideas, reflect on new knowledge and consider how it might be applied to their work.
- People today are interested in ‘just-in-time’ offerings. We all know that Dr Google can be a first port-of-call for most of our questions and therefore our L&D offerings need to replicate this in some way.
- As L&D professionals, we need to be flexible and adaptable enough to create offerings that provide both space and time for reflection sitting alongside the just-in-time content required by our participants.
- We still need to have some kind of process behind what we do and the needs analysis – design – delivery – evaluation methodology can be deployed quickly and effectively using the right questions and via the collaborative tools available.
Below is a list of things I’ve found useful. Please note – I am aware that a range of platforms and software providers exist. I’m using examples that I’m familiar with and it would be great to hear of other examples in your comments on this article. I’m also aware that, for some readers, I am going back to basics. If that’s the case, please forgive me – I am mindful that not all of us are as much up to speed with what’s available as others.
- We can rapidly create and circulate learning needs analyses via platforms such as MS Forms and Google Forms. We can collate responses and analyse themes in a matter of hours.
- We can set up quick focus groups via video calls or conference calls and we can use collaborative spaces such as Google Jamboards to work with the group to get responses to a range of LNA questions.
- We can work together with our clients and stakeholders to design a learning intervention and record our output in a shared MS Word document or GoogleDoc.
- We can store our session plans and materials on shared drives to be reviewed and accessed by our team members and stakeholders as and when they need them.
- We can design interactive exercises and support them using tools such as Mentimeter (https://www.mentimeter.com/) and Padlet (https://en-gb.padlet.com/) that can be used by individuals, whole groups and sub-groups in virtual breakout rooms.
- We can use the same tools that we used for LNA to support our evaluation processes and we can quickly assimilate feedback into our workshops as we refine them for future delivery.
- We don’t have to be restricted to delivering our content via workshops. We can use collaborative tools such as Slack or SharePoint to offer access to knowledge and skill development opportunities that we have curated in line with the identified needs.
- We can use action learning sets, group and one-to-one coaching sessions – which can be coordinated quickly and easily using shared calendars and online booking systems – to support the embedding of knowledge and skill and to ensure workplace application.
- We can check in with line managers as a group or individually using live chat and instant messaging to monitor learner progress and deal with any queries.
These ideas are just a fraction of what is available to us. Of course, as you look at this list, you will notice that we could (and probably were) already doing many of them. I guess part of this is a reminder that we can still offer what we always did and use the technology to support us to mobilise quickly and effectively.
Interested in this topic? Read Disruption… leadership through change we didn’t create.
Jackie has been working in learning and development since 1990. She has worked in the following sectors and industries: Sales Recruitment Retail Voluntary sector Further education Port industry Training consultancy Prison Service Non-departmental public body Since 2000 Jackie has co-authored three books, all published by Kogan Page. She works...