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Productivity

4 Takeaways from Weekly Learning & Development Action Calls: COVID-19 Business Response

4/9/2020

This week’s Learning and Development action call hosted two
special guests, both members of i4cp’s Chief Learning and Talent Officer Board:
Joe Garbus, Chief Talent and Inclusion Officer at Marsh, and Brenda Sugrue,
Chief Learning Officer at EY. They were interviewed by i4cp’s CEO Kevin Oakes,
and new survey data on virtual classroom training during the COVID-19 pandemic
period was also presented—here are four key themes that emerged.

1.    
Virtual classroom training is a major focus
right now.
Our latest pulse survey data included 60% of participants
indicating a significant increase in the use of virtual classroom training due
to the COVID-19 pandemic, with another 31% indicating a modest increase. Garbus
noted that at Marsh the L&D team has been very focused on quickly training
their trainers to be proficient with the virtual classroom modality, at the
same time they work to migrate core content as well. He said they are learning
a lot as they pivot quickly in this direction, and expect some of those
learnings to carry through into a future where virtual training and remote work
in general are more common.

Sugrue at EY noted they too are using virtual classroom a lot: running
train-the-trainer programs, leveraging producers, and relying on their strong
WebEx integration with Success Factors to manage it all. On the content side
they have two levels: a light conversion approach that minimizes redesign work
by giving the facilitation team new options, and a full conversion approach
that deconstructs the entire program and creates a blended approach that uses a
combination of virtual classroom sessions and asynchronous content where
objectives don’t require live instruction or peer to peer interaction.

2.    
Virtual classroom training has new challenges
during this pandemic period.
Beyond standard challenges with virtual
classroom training (e.g., cultural resistance, making the programs interactive
and engaging, and technology issues such as bandwidth lacking for consistent
video), we asked call participants what was the biggest new challenge
the modality is facing because of our shared situation with COVID-19. The
results indicated a wide variability across organizations. 15% were overwhelmed
by the need to upskill trainers and convert content, and 10% said the top issue
was security concerns from the sudden surge in interest in the platforms
involved—both indications of strong interest in virtual classroom training.
However, 19% indicated a top challenge was people having too much fear,
anxiety, or stress to learn effectively now. And the most common response, at 37%,
was employees simply being too busy to focus on learning.  

3.    
Some employees are a captive audience, eager
for learning opportunities.
While many employees are as busy as ever
(including many L&D roles working on the training and conversion work
mentioned above), others can’t work at full capacity during this time period—including
in some cases employees working staggered shifts, as one session participant
noted. At Marsh, the CEO pledged no layoffs, so this means some have time to
devote to professional development. Garbus noted that many are hungry for
content, especially in areas like growth mindset, mental health, remote work,
etc. Some programs are so popular they have waiting lists. Sugrue also noted
significant increases in learning content usage at EY during this pandemic
period, including 40-100% increases in off-the-shelf content usage, a 20%
increase in course completions, and a 40% increase in badges awarded. One of
the session’s participants noted that they are also seeing an increase in the
measured engagement with learning content—a further sign of a captive audience,
eager for learning opportunities.

4.    
Badges are a big hit at EY. Like many
organizations, EY has rolled out a badging system for their employees that
helps indicate proficiency in various skills and competencies—many of which are
otherwise hard to measure or certify due to their granularity or lack of
traditional systems such as degrees or certifications. Unlike most other organizations,
EY has done more than experiment in this area, as Sugrue described the breadth
and depth of their badging system. They have a strong governance model in
place, which helps build confidence and value in the entire system. Popular
badges include areas such as data analytics, blockchain, security, AI, as well
as specialty domains such as manufacturing. They have a four-level system
comprised of Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze badges, with various amounts of
learning time, experience, and content contribution components required for
each.

The results are impressive, with Sugrue noting a measured 2X higher retention rate
for those participating in the program. The badges have been very empowering,
helping many employees to get noticed for their skills and competencies, and
now play a role in the promotion process. The organization has big goals for
their badging system, such as awarding one million badges by 2025.

4/2/2020

This week’s Learning and Development action call hosted two
special guests, both member’s of i4cp’s Chief Learning and Talent Officer
Board: Rob Lauber, CLO of McDonald’s and Karie Wilyerd, CLO of Visa. They were
interviewed by i4cp’s CEO Kevin Oakes, and new survey data on user-generated
learning content was also presented—here are four key themes that emerged.

1.      
Job role shifts and employee sharing provide immediate
benefits and learning opportunities
. While many employees are continuing to
do their jobs just from a different location (at home), at some organizations
tasks have shifted to accommodate surge activities. Rob Lauber noted that many
in his L&D organization at McDonald’s have temporarily been switched from
regular duties to helping support the general HR hotline. More broadly, in some
regions (notably in Germany) McDonald’s has entered into a employee
sharing partnership
with Aldi grocery stores. McDonald’s has nearly 1,500
outlets in Germany, but during this COVID-19 pandemic, they do not have enough
work hours to give their employees—whereas a grocer like Aldi has seen a surge
in business given the massive demand for at-home food. Under the agreement,
McDonald’s employees are specifically referred to Aldi on a temporary basis and
can return to McDonald’s after the assignment.

While learning and development goals were not the main goal of either of these
job-switching arrangements, it will no doubt be a side benefit arising from
both. It could also lead to more permanent job rotation partnerships between
McDonald’s and other companies in the future, given the same, similar, and
adjacent skills between their restaurant positions and many others in retail,
or amongst their supply chain, Lauber noted. This sort of approach aligns with McDonald’s
proud history of being an early career platform for workers, that includes
ongoing investment in their Archways to Opportunity program that includes
second language programs, pay for online accredited high-school degrees, and
higher-ed tuition assistance for many employees (over 50,000 thus far).

2.      
Increased interest in virtual classroom and mobile
learning options.
As noted on prior weeks’ calls, there is clearly an
increased interest in virtual classroom training. Lauber from McDonald’s noted
that some in-person instructor-led training has simply been canceled for now,
but that some programs are being shifted to virtual. Mobile device content is
also important with such a dispersed workforce around the globe.

At Visa, Wilyerd noted that any remaining resistance to virtual classroom delivery
is being chipped away by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were already looking for
virtual solutions for some key training programs, and such approaches will only
expand.

3.      
Interest in user-generated learning content
is increasing.
i4cp conducted a pulse survey recently on user-generated
learning content. Nearly three in ten respondents indicated their
organization’s were big proponents, with another 15% indicated they are
interested but struggle to get employees interested. The COVID-19 pandemic it
seems will increase those numbers, as nearly one in five respondents indicated
their organization is already leveraging user-generated learning content more
during this time period, and another 25% said they plan to do so soon. Lauber
from McDonald’s noted some of the same challenges to such content that came out
in the survey, from lack of consistency, concern over incorrect information,
etc., but also noted that in time such issues can be lessened through the right
governance structures and partnering L&D professionals with the employee
community to maximize content quality, timeliness, and volume.  

4.      
Curation is key. Wilyerd is currently the
CLO at Visa, but she has a long history with user-generated learning content,
having been the leader of the Jambok product that eventually became SAP Jam. She
noted that one issue with both standard self-paced learning content (courses,
videos, etc.) and user-generated content is the sheer volume that is available.
At Visa they are upgrading their Learning Experience Platform (LXP) to Degreed
and focusing on reducing the number of learning pathways that organize their
90,000+ learning objects. To Lauber’s points earlier, they also have strong
governance structures before content is posted to the company-wide catalog.

3/26/2020

This week we opened up the call beyond Learning and
Development professionals, as our topics of remote work, virtual teams, and
virtual leadership are on just about everyone’s mind during this time of
COVID-19. 

Co-hosted by Kevin Oakes, i4cp’s CEO, and Tom Stone, i4cp Senior
Research Analyst, we shared i4cp’s latest survey data on the extent to which
organizations have shifted to remote work in the past few weeks. Learning
leaders from i4cp’s CLTO Board and others on the call shared what their
organizations are doing to support this rapid change, including how they are
supporting their new virtual leaders and managers. The conversation, including
in the chat, was very robust—here are four key themes that emerged. 

1.       Remote
work has exploded.
Everyone knew this on some level, but our latest survey
data is striking: 

  • The percentage of organizations with a
    relatively low number of people working remotely (1-24% of workforce) has
    shrunk from 74% pre-COVID-19 to only 11% now.
  • The percentage of organizations with over half
    of their employees currently working remotely has swelled from a meager 8% to a
    significant 73%.
  • The percentage of organizations that are 100%
    work-from-home has quadrupled from 4% to 16%.

2.       Support
for remote work is evolving just as fast.
Recognizing that for many workers
this is their first experience with working from home, leaders at most
organizations have by now curated ample resources, guides, tips, etc.—with some
stating that people are complaining of too much information. Some organizations
have to be more creative than others, such as healthcare organizations that
need to work around telemedicine regulations, and some that already had a lot
of remote workers are clearly ahead. A good starting place for any
organizations that do not yet have a simple guide for remote work is Microsoft’s
Remote Work checklist.

One tip that resonated strongly on the call was to make sure to hold
non-business virtual meetings that are more social and fun in nature. Business
needs to continue as much as possible during this time, but recognizing the
stress people are experiencing is critical to maximize productivity,
engagement, and morale. i4cp held a virtual St. Patrick’s Day holiday gathering
on Zoom, and our teams are regularly holding morning coffee chats and
happy-hours. Participants on the call shared many other virtual meeting types
to consider, including birthday celebrations, retirement parties, exercise
sessions, riddle/game gatherings, and more.

Many organizations by now also have a chat and collaboration tool available, such
as Slack or Microsoft Teams. These tools are useful for traditional teams in an
office, but are vital for virtual teams to work productively. They not only
allow for one-on-one text chatting, but also support persistent chat groups
that can be formed around a department, a project, or a common interest area.
With modern features like video-meeting integration, file sharing, and more,
such platforms are seeing a major increase in use during this time of COVID-19.

3.       Remote
work will likely grow, but never be this hard again.
There has always been
a learning curve when someone starts to work remotely for the first time,
whether a couple days a week or full-time. What is making this period so
challenging is that it is being forced up so many employees, around the globe,
all at once. And on top of that, we have issues that remote workers typically
don’t have to deal with: kids at home from school all day, every day; grocery
availability and other conveniences curtailed; and in some cases, the stress of
knowing that a friend, family, or colleague is sick with the virus. The mantra
from the chat on the call was that everyone needs to be patient and kind, and
assume the best of intentions during this time (good advice for all times really!).

Given this current reality, it is impossible to know for sure what will happen
in the future regarding remote work. Will the current experiences be so
challenging that people will not want to continue to work from home if they can
help it? Or is the genie now out of the bottle, and even with the difficulties
today, many employees will expect some flexibility to work from home in the
future? Participants on the call were polled and there was a mix of views. Many
said future remote work will only be slightly increased from the time before
COVID-19, but about the same number indicated that their will be a significant
increase in the future due to shifted expectations, positive productivity
results (after an initial adjustment period), and reduced barriers
(technological and cultural) regarding remote work.

4.       Virtual
leaders need to step up, but they also need support.
Those who lead and
manage remote workers and virtual teams have long known there are different
skills they need to use than their traditional counterparts. i4cp research
found that the top skills of this kind are digital fluency, facilitating
collaboration, cultural agility, helping others build a strong network. Those
who suddenly find themselves with remote workers and a virtual team to lead for
the first time need support, including access to training on best
practices—something i4cp
research
found few organizations provide, but that high-performance
organizations provide 4.5x more than low performers.

On the issue of facilitating collaboration, call participants agreed that this
is as important as ever during this time of increased remote work. Employees
can easily suffer from collaborative
overload
, especially given the new reality of work and in light of all of
the distractions and stressors mentioned above. Call participants agreed that
now more than ever employees need to be careful to not cause collaborative
overload by placing too many demands on their colleagues, and leaders need to
create a safe environment where employees feel safe to raise collaboration
problems and concerns (a next practice that few organizations do according to
i4cp’s collaboration research).

 

 

 

3/19/2020

The second of our series
of weekly COVID-19 coronavirus business response video calls for learning and
development leaders was well attended, and not surprisingly as we were joined
by a special guest, Elliott Masie, the founder of the MASIE Center and a
long-time industry analyst and thought leader. i4cp CEO Kevin Oakes and Elliott
led a dialogue on a range of issues and concerns for L&D leaders in these
unprecedented and challenging times—here are four key themes that emerged. 

1.    
Learning and
development can really step up and be heroes to their organizations.
The L&D community has great
skillsets for what is needed now—people really need to learn new things
quickly, from how to work from home, to new practices like social
distancing/etc., and in some cases rich skillsets such as trainers who need to
switch from the in-person classroom to the virtual classroom.

Elliott gave the analogy to one of his favorite movies, Apollo 13, and
specifically to the scene where the NASA engineers dumped all of the same equipment available
to the astronauts in the damaged spacecraft on a table to creatively problem
solve for a situation they never planned for. Similarly, L&D professionals need
to “work the problem” and think creatively with the tools at hand. 

Elliott
recommends they think very broadly and beyond traditional training, and instead
become a performance and learning support function. Fortunately for many
this will be an acceleration of change already underway, and not a sudden nor
temporary shift, as this focus aligns with many existing trends in the industry
already, such as the increasing focus on learning in the flow of work,
performance support, micro-learning, etc. Elliott recommended thinking
differently by coaching leaders to have virtual coffee meetings in the mornings
or similar calls at the end of the day. In general, L&D needs to stay
focused on helping people feel and be productive, noting that many are afraid
for their jobs now, while also warning against the trap of becoming the group
therapist.

2.    
For some there
will be great opportunity for upskilling in the weeks ahead.
Kevin noted that one CLO recently suggested
that this feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity, with so many captive
learners to upskill / reskill. Elliott agreed, but stressed that the timing
needs to be right: if people are stressed about just making it through each
day, and have plenty of work to still do, then now isn’t the time to focus on
upskilling (or any optional training). One call participant in the chat put
that point well: “My reality. . . trying to figure out what our (internal) customers
want, have an appetite for, and can handle.”

We asked a poll question on this topic, and 23% said they were using this time
to focus on upskilling or reskilling the workforce, and another 32% were
thinking about doing so. One call participant noted that they have some
employees who can’t work from home, can’t work at the office (due to safety
concerns), and who they plan to retain—so providing upskilling opportunities is
perfect for them during this time. And one call participant even noted the
connection to other trends leading to the need to upskill anyway, such as the
growth of automation and AI leading to job role changes. 

3.    
L&D
professionals need to support virtual leaders, remote workers, and virtual
training.
For proponents of remote
work and virtual classroom training, this current period offers both a great
opportunity and some risk. In many cases, leaders will discover that employees
can be very productive (or even more productive) when working remotely. The
same holds true for virtual training when it is delivered by trainers who are
skilled at delivering in an online environment. It is important for L&D to
provide support to these endeavors, because the risk also exists that if remote
work or virtual training do not go well in the coming weeks, that skeptics will
be emboldened to dig in and say “I told you so… virtual doesn’t work at our
organization!” 

4.    
L&D can
enable connections and content.
Some L&D professionals have noted a resurgence in the use of their
LMS or LXP platform, as employees with newfound downtime quickly wanted
learning content on working remotely, time management, handling stress, or a
range of other topics. Additionally, the opportunity to leverage the employee
base to create content is understood by several organizations. This week we
polled call participants on whether they are enabling greater user-generated
content than before: 28% said yes, and another 28% said they were thinking
about doing so. Elliott noted an uptick in this area but stressed that perhaps
more important than connecting people to new content was helping to connect
people to each other. In other words, don’t expect employees will necessarily
want to learn or upskill by taking asynchronous e-Learning modules on their
own, but rather might want virtual classroom or other team-oriented learning
activities and coaching to ward off any creeping loneliness or isolation.

LinkedIn Learning has made available a free set of 16
video e-Learning programs
focused on remote work, leading virtual teams, the common tools
used (Zoom, Teams, etc.), and more.

3/12/2020

The first of what will be
a series of weekly COVID-19 coronavirus business response video calls focused
on learning and development professionals and their concerns, questions, and
challenges. There are unique immediate and future impacts to organizations’
learning and development strategies, e.g., the need to quickly develop virtual
team leaders, increasing the use of virtual classroom and other alternative
training options, and much more. The call was attended by over 30 learning and
development leaders, including some members of i4cp’s Chief Learning and Talent
Officer Board.

The following are four key takeaways, followed by
a collection of the resources shared during the call in the text chat. 

  1. Empowering
    virtual managers and leaders.
    Many organizations are updating their existing e-Learning programs on
    leading virtual teams, tweaking them slightly for the current context, and
    encouraging all effected managers and leaders to take or retake the programs.
    Others are quickly pulling together virtual classroom sessions on this topic, leveraging
    experienced virtual team leaders who can share known best practices—after all,
    many organizations have had at least some virtual teams, and therefore virtual
    leaders, for a long time. Some key points include:

    • Communicating
      regularly, including announcements, expectations, progress on goals, etc.
    • Modelling
      desired behavior and expectations, both regarding technology use (Slack, Teams,
      Yammer, Zoom, Email, etc.) and more general work from home skills (e.g., taking
      breaks as needed, staying goal focused, etc.)
    • Creating or
      updating team operating agreements (e.g., norms, expectations, etc.) in the
      context of working remotely. Doing this helps to increase
      transparency-at-a-distance so that trust can grow.
    • Setting up virtual
      check-in meetings, both for business needs of department and project teams, and
      for virtual meetings that are more social in nature to give a relief valve for
      stress and help humanize the virtual work environment for those not accustomed
      to it.
    • Curating
      and sending proactive tips, on both psychological/behavior as well as
      technological aspects of working from home.
  2. Focusing on
    the logistical aspects of working from home.
    Some organizations are conducting an inventory of all available
    equipment, most notably spare laptops that can be deployed to make working from
    home easier. Beyond this, some are expanding work from home roles beyond those
    with laptops by allowing employees to take desktop computers, monitors, and
    other hardware home for an extended period of time. Others are rotating which
    individuals will work at home on each day.

  3. Transitioning
    from in-person ILT training to the virtual classroom.
    While some organizations indicated they
    are simply cancelling in-person ILT training for now, others indicated they are
    quickly evaluating which programs they might transition to the virtual
    classroom (Zoom, WebEx, Adobe Connect, etc.). Here are some key actions related
    to this:

    1. Some organizations
      are quickly creating job aids of known best practices for the re-design and
      delivery of high-priority programs, in some cases including time-sensitive onboarding
      sessions.

    2. Trainers
      themselves also need to be evaluated as not all have the skill or even the
      aptitude to quickly transition effectively from the in-person classroom to the
      virtual classroom. A tip shared was pairing a more experienced instructor to
      help and provide coaching/feedback, or pairing two trainers together and having
      one serve as the online producer while the other facilitates—and then flipping
      the duties during the next training session.

    3. Some are
      using this moment to re-evaluate what parts of an in-person ILT program truly
      need to be provided synchronously and socially, with a live instructor. Some
      content can likely be shifted to documents, videos, e-Learning, etc. and other
      segments can be provided later as performance support, micro-learning, etc.
      Only those objectives that are best learned socially with each other from an
      instructor need be delivered in a virtual classroom session.

    4. Some
      additional virtual classroom tips shared included using virtual ice breakers,
      ensuring inclusivity, the warning not to lower expectations, and making sure to
      explore and use your virtual platform features, e.g., break out rooms, chat
      forums, whiteboards, polls, etc. 

  4. Re-Discovering
    the LXP or LMS.
    Some
    organizations noted that for many employees, they understandably do not have
    time right now to focus on professional development. But others noted that some
    job roles will have down time in the coming days and weeks, whether working
    from home or still in the office, and so they are using this opportunity to
    re-introduce their Learning Experience Platform (LXP) or Learning Management
    System (LMS) and the wealth of content and other learning and development
    opportunities that these provide. Some also noted the use of these or other
    platforms to encourage greater user-generated content or expert knowledge sharing,
    e.g., especially on timely topics such as virtual leadership, tips on working
    from home, etc.

  5. Curated Best Practice Example Articles 

    Other Resources

    Virtual Classroom Training

    World health Organization: Online
    training as a weapon to fight the new coronavirus

    This is a free learning resource available to anyone interested in novel coronavirus on WHO’s open learning platform for emergencies. 

    ATD’s new Virtual Training Resources center, which includes articles by several virtual classroom thought
    leaders.

    Additional free resources from one
    of the ATD thought leaders above, including platform checklists for Zoom,
    WebEx, Adobe Connect, etc., written from an L&D perspective, as well as
    conference presentations, articles, etc.

    Virtual Meetings (and Training)

    If you use
    Zoom, here is the link to their many resources to learn
    the platform. Similarly,
    if you use WebEx, here is the official knowledge base from Cisco.

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