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How to facilitate learning and development during a pandemic

By Nelson Sivalingam, CEO of HowNow.

In little over one month, COVID-19 has in many ways turned the business ecosystem upside down. In a very short space of time, thousands of companies of all sizes, and hundreds of thousands of workers have had to adapt to a new way of working. From sales and marketing, to human resources and technical support, there isn’t one single business function that hasn’t been impacted.

During times of incredible change such as these, it’s natural for business leaders to focus on short-term objectives, plugging gaps and stemming losses, but one thing that shouldn’t be pushed aside during this time is the learning, development and training of your team.

Remote working poses the risk of disrupting productivity, stifling communication and reducing employee engagement even when there isn’t a global crisis at play. Knowledge is suddenly scattered with information silos cropping up in every department. This, needless to say, can have a damning impact on a business, but it doesn’t have to be this way, and the more you can invest in your remote working and training capabilities now, the better off you will be in the both the short and the long term.

So how can business leaders ensure their teams continue learning, developing and sharing knowledge through this pandemic?

Create a digital knowledge hub

Nelson Sivalingam
Nelson Sivalingam

Picture this – a colleague from your product team needs information from your marketing team, who in turn needs to know something stored in your CMS system. This wouldn’t have been a problem when all business functions were operating as normal, and often in close vicinity to one another, but now there are roadblocks making the distribution of knowledge time-consuming and difficult.

What’s more is that you may face the challenge of employees feeling uncomfortable that they either lack knowledge in a certain area or need to communicate with someone they’ve never dealt with before, and therefore are reluctant to directly ask for help.

This can be easily rectified by centralising all of the useful information your teams need to do their jobs well into one single transparent place, where they can search its memory efficiently, with little disruption to others.

Intelligent Learning Management Systems exist to offer a solution to this very problem. If remote working highlights anything, it’s that collectively we learn so much from one another through knowledge sharing.

Adapt your L&D strategy to suit a remote environment 

It may be that most of your Learning & Development (L&D) budget went on external courses, but now that these are no longer available, should you just wait until social distancing measures are relaxed? Or should you simply dish out a reading list of textbooks for your teams to work through? The short answer to both questions is no. Now is a valuable time for you and your team, including any furloughed staff, to invest in their training, but it’s got to be engaging.

Team members now find themselves in a traditionally unproductive setting, working from their kitchen table or bedroom desk with a host of distractions around them. Adapt the strategy you had in place pre-pandemic, rather than scrap it all together and try to make-do with basic, and let’s be honest, boring learning practices. Work with your L&D or HR teams and course partners to redesign the content that was planned to be delivered in person, so that it can be delivered remotely and digitally.

There are currently numerous resource tools available, where you can host interactive webinars and gamify courses, to name just a few. Commit to your training budget and objectives, to show your team that you’re supporting their development and invested in their education, regardless of the pandemic.

Assess your digital capabilities

It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that when remote working was announced as a mandatory measurement, business leaders rushed to try and implement an intranet or digital system in a bid to streamline processes. Of course having the infrastructure in place to facilitate effective remote working is preferable, but what can be even more damaging is rushing to onboard a system that doesn’t fit with the business’ needs or capabilities.

So, with learning and development in mind, you should always assess two things before adopting a new Learning Management System (LMS). Do you have the technology in place to facilitate it and do you understand how the users, your staff, will use it? Once you have these two questions answered, it’s important to run a pilot test of the system before rolling it out across your whole organisation, so you can identify if there are any gaps in the software, or if any groups of people will struggle to use it. With a good amount of due diligence and planning, a new LMS can help transform your business’ training capabilities, and you’ll reap the rewards of an upskilled workforce long after this pandemic is over.

Needless to say these are challenging times, and with no rulebook to follow business leaders are understandably making it up as they go long. Learning and development is a key business function, which is often neglected when sales and revenue are threatened. However, leaders must prioritise long-term solutions to their short-term problems, and ongoing training and development will help businesses weather this storm long after it has passed.