What have you learned over the past three months?


I’ve learned that if you go for a run in my neighborhood at 5:30 pm, you have the best chance to see the most dogs walking about (especially the golden retrievers). I’ve learned that there’s a reason why I eat out most of the time (two kitchen fires so far). And I’ve learned (most important of all) that learning is the key to resilience.

Always welcome dog photo from Pixabay

Always welcome dog photo from Pixabay

The COVID-19 pandemic is a tragedy. It will continue to be a tragedy. We also must consider it a learning opportunity, even if that may feel insensitive. If we don’t learn from what we are experiencing right now, we may not be able to do what’s necessary to keep our communities, organizations and employees safe and productive moving forward in real life.

Learning doesn’t stop for disruption (no matter how unprecedented). Every day, when we go to work, turn on the TV, or scroll through social media, we learn as a result of our current shared experience. We’re learning what companies value as they make decisions that improve (or do not improve) how they support their people. We’re learning how broken systems and convoluted processes fail to protect the most vulnerable. We’re learning how simple gestures can make a huge difference. And, if you’re reading this article, you’re learning about the role L&D can play when the chips are down and it’s all hands on deck.

Organizations are rapidly developing their own resilience blueprints. To recover quickly and maintain forward momentum, they must be agile and adapt as the situation continues to change around them. Employee performance is the most important part of any resilience plan. Even the best strategies will fail if people do not execute. To do their best work right now, employees must have right-fit support so they can learn and adapt at the speed of the disruption.

What role can L&D play in enabling performance as part of business resilience? Our role will be based on two considerations:

? How prepared were we before the disruption began?

? What have we learned as a result of the disruption?

L&D should always be ready for general disruption, such as that brought on suddenly by competition, regulation, seasonality, weather, etc. But no one had a plan for this type of disruption. We just don’t think about what it will take to shut down and then restart our entire business over a period of months. Still, some L&D teams have found themselves better equipped to jump in and enable their employees during this unexpected challenge. Rather than rely on programmatic, event-based training, they had already installed channels and tactics that could be pivoted and applied quickly to respond to employees’ changing needs without causing more operational disruption. L&D teams without these mechanisms are still doing their best to adapt their tools and strategies in order to provide whatever help they can.

You may feel like your team was as prepared as possible for this challenge. But you still have to make a concerted effort to learn the right things through this experience. L&D teams work in every industry supporting a variety of audiences around the world. Our lessons learned will be extensive and varied. However, we can kickstart our individual learning processes by asking the same important questions.

How quickly are we providing solutions, and is it fast enough?

Let’s be honest. Speed and agility have not exactly been L&D calling cards over the years. Right now, the idea of taking several months (or even weeks) to develop a solution feels extremely sluggish. Organizational change is not going to wait for training processes. L&D must assess it’s responsiveness and determine what types of solutions best fit the evolving needs of their employees.

How are people accessing information?

The rules of engagement are changing on an almost daily basis. Moving information quickly and consistently throughout the organization is a critical part of resilience. L&D should observe information flow and identify what’s working and where potential gaps exist. This includes sharing processes, channels, applications, and devices.

Which tactics are being embraced, and which are being rejected?

There’s a lot of experimentation happening right now to overcome the loss of traditional learning tactics, such as classroom training. Online classrooms. Digital communication. Microlearning. We shouldn't just assume these tactics are the way to go because they’re what we understand best or can most easily access. We must listen to our audience and identify which tactics—new and old—fit best alongside the way work is now being done.

What content is being prioritized, and what is being deemed unnecessary?

Some companies have gone from week-long training processes to getting people into the operation within hours out of necessity. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting the job done. People are still being trained, but only essential content is being delivered. Moving forward, L&D should assess the value of content that was deemed unessential and determine if it should be provided in a different way (or at all) moving forward.

How are we keeping up with new compliance and regulatory requirements?

Compliance training has always been a challenge. Now, L&D must prepare to support new and enhanced regulations within a changing workplace. If we hope to maintain compliance and mitigate risk, we can’t continue to chase people down to complete courses.

How can we determine if our solutions are working?

This may be the most important question L&D has to answer moving forward. Return on investment will be an important consideration, but this question is bigger than ROI. To become more proactive and maximize our impact, we must understand what is (and is not) working.

Over the past three months I’ve learned a lot—about dog watching, kitchen safety, and strategic resilience. But I’ve also learned how proud I am of my team for the way they support their partners on the frontlines every day. I’ve learned how important L&D is during times of crisis, even when people “don’t have time for learning.” And I’ve learned that going back to the way we used to do things just for the sake of comfort or expediency would be a tremendous mistake.

What have you learned over the past three months?

Thank you for everything you are doing to help your people and your communities in these challenging times. If there is anything I can do, please reach out via jdillon@axonify.com.

Be well.