If all things continue to move in the right direction, we may soon be nearing the end of this unbearably long, difficult and nerve-wracking pandemic. As we start to hear and see references to “the light at the end of the tunnel” and “the finish line”, let’s not forget that employees at all levels are nearing that finish line exhausted and depleted.
How can learning and development (L&D) managers and teams support employees at this critical juncture? By keeping things short, sweet, and human.
Here are four ways to help threadbare employees recuperate as they near, or cross, the pandemic finish line.
Don’t test them. Not now, not in the near future.
As I often remind my clients and colleagues, eLearning courses shouldn’t test people on knowledge, skills, and attitudes they’ve just learned about for the first time. Life tests us enough, and the pandemic has tested every thread in our individual and collective fabric.
You would never require a person who’s just run a marathon to complete another 100-yard sprint immediately after they run across the finish line, nor would you quiz them on detailed aspects of their race, surroundings, time, or personal best. All of that can wait until employees start to find their way back to physical, mental, and emotional health.
In other words, if you are offering training to employees at this time, skip the requirement for scored tests (aka quizzes, assessments, and evaluations) in non-compliance courses. Do give them the opportunity to practice their decision-making in a safe environment, but don’t grade them. In the final stretch of a pandemic, the only test we need at work is to confirm the absence of Covid-19 symptoms.
Respect their time: If the course is not necessary, don’t offer it.
On that note, let’s take a counter-intuitive approach to training. While our job in L&D is to provide training for employees to support them in their work, timing is everything and now is not the time to introduce new, non-essential courses.
Asking someone who’s just finished a marathon to “upskill” at the finish line is not only inconsiderate, it’s ineffective. New courses can wait, unless they are designed to support their recovery from an ongoing, life-changing challenge during which countless people have lost loved ones, friends and neighbors to an invisible coronavirus.
If you can, replace an online course with a series of emails (spaced practice works), a well-designed job aid or checklist, or a quick video. The time will come to ask people to complete new courses on new topics: that time is just not now.
Start and end by saying thank you: Small acts of appreciation go a long way.
If you are offering courses, start and end each one with a genuine: “Thank you. We cannot do what we do without you, and we appreciate all that you are doing to contribute to this organization.” So many organizations are hanging on by a thread, and that thread is usually the dedication of their employees.
Like any person crossing the finish line of a marathon, employees everywhere have shown grit, perseverance, resilience, and focus, despite all the pain, anxiety, and hardship that the pandemic has rained down on them. Now is definitely the time to give heartfelt thanks to employees, as often and in as many ways (including in eLearning courses) as possible.
Add some sparkle to their day: Build in kindness and delight wherever you can.
If you must offer a new eLearning course to threadbare employees, make it human. Add the sparkle that we appreciate in each other offline, in real life. The introduction to the course need not be written in a robotic tone—instead, the course can mimic the language that senior executives use in their motivational messages or include a line or two that reminds employees of the best aspects of your workplace culture.
As we stand on the sidelines, supporting employees’ performance as they drag themselves toward the looming finish line of this enormous test of endurance, let’s talk to them in our courses as we would on the sidelines. “Great job! You’re doing awesome! We’ll see you at the finish line!”
Let’s make kindness toward threadbare employees our top priority. Everything else can wait until they, and we, have all recovered.
On that note, dear readers, thank you for your interest in improving your eLearning and for reading this column. I appreciate your time and hope that you, your families, friends and colleagues stay healthy as we near the finish line together.