COVID-19 has turned training virtual. How can you adequately adjust?
We live in a world that is constantly changing and evolving. Technology is revolutionized daily. We are used to change. We adapt to it. It is something we expect and need for growth. Recently, though, a change occurred that seems so lasting, so enduring, the impacts of it are beyond comprehension. How do you prepare for something you cannot fully understand?
To start this conversation, let’s put some assumptions in place.
1. Technology has made it possible for most of the population to work remotely.
2. Due to COVID-19 many state government, community, and healthcare leaders are saying that if you can work from home, you should.
3. The temporary push to work remotely will likely result in a more permanent change.
Now, with these assumptions in place, we can shift our focus to what this means for the field of training and professional development.
Before COVID-19 began its wildfire spread across the world a quiet, subtle shift was beginning. Some companies were looking to move their face-to-face training to an online setting. Once it was available online, they were looking to shorten the length of the training. The question of “how can we do more for less?” and “what’s in it for me?” were asked repeatedly. Research into adult learning showed education was too lengthy, not relevant, and most importantly, not being delivered in a way that engaged learners.
As these questions and concepts arose, ripples spread, making waves. Companies began to internalize training to make it more relevant for their employees. Microlearning, a form of training broken down into small, digestible chunks, lasting no more than 7 minutes, was discussed as a solution to the “better, faster, cheaper” dilemma. Visual design of courses, learner engagement and interactivity were rethought and retooled for the new landscape.
When COVID-19 struck the US, most companies were not prepared to shift their entire workforce to an online setting. Schools and universities faced the challenge of continuing to educate students without being able to interact with them. In a matter of weeks, most of the US was forced online. Forced because they were not ready for it.
Many struggled, and that struggle has made us rethink how we educate our workforce.
The Current State of Training
Because of COVID-19, we have been launched into the unknown that is telework. Remote employees, although increasingly popular, were not the norm until two months ago. Now, they are the majority.
To understand the effect on training let’s revisit the assumptions from the beginning. This is where we start addressing some of the issues encountered as a result of COVID-19.
1. Technology has made it possible for most of the population to work remotely.
People might have the ability to work remotely, but that doesn’t mean they are setup to successfully. Things taken for granted when working in an office become huge hurtles. Humans are inherently social leaners, surrounded by others, we absorb an incalculable amount about how to function.
If a new employee has a question about how to use a software program, they can’t just poke their head into the next cube and ask. In fact, they can’t even have IT walk them through the standard systems training. On that note, how do they get their computer? Who sets up their passwords? Unless you work for a company that had an extensive remote employee base BEFORE this, you probably don’t have the infrastructure to do something as simple as set up a new remote employee.
What’s the solution? Conceptually, it’s quite simple. Online training, software simulations, eLearning courses, team communication tools, online meeting boards that offer ongoing, and moderated Q&A sessions. You can make existing employees responsible for the education of new ones, or setup a mentorship program. Online scavenger hunts are a great tool to encourage new hires to explore things like your employee benefits page. There are a million ways you can educate new employees remotely without breaking the bank or converting all your onboarding PowerPoints to eLearning.
It is crucial to empower employees, specifically the IT department. Part of having a successful and productive remote workforce involves trust. Allow limited admin rights to their computers so they aren’t constantly asking for help updating. Let IT make executive decisions regarding software and hardware. This is their area of expertise. Trust them to do their job.
2. Due to COVID-19 many state government, community, and healthcare leaders are saying that if you can work from home you should and the temporary push to work remotely will likely result in a more permanent change.
If you think the remote work will end when COVID-19 is under control, the odds are decent you’ll have to rethink that. Twitter announced recently that all its employees who want to work from home can, indefinitely. They are not requiring anyone to return to a physical office. This is a trend that will continue.
What does that mean for training? For those of us in the field, it doesn’t change a lot. We’ve been converting face-to-face training to eLearning or Virtual Instructor Lead Training (VILT) for a while. We basically have a formula for how to do it. (It’s called ADDIE)
For anyone outside the field of training, it means a lot of planning but a whole lot of possibilities. To start, you’ll need to;
·Decide how you want to train new employees; eLearning, VILT, a mentorship program, etc.
·Figure out how to develop the training once you decide on the method.
·Identify a way to track the training you’re delivering, and if its compliance based, you’ll want to track it closely.
·Choose metrics by which you measure employee learning. (Is it performance based? Is it employee self-report? Is there a sales quota they should meet?)
·Develop the assessment tool for measuring learning.
Realistically, you should have a staged, strategic plan for getting your workforce online and training new employees. Except, the problem is, they’re already online and you need to train 10 new employees tomorrow… In the short term, what do you do?
Start with webinars or video conference calls. This is an easy way to disseminate a lot of information quickly. Once you’ve put out your immediate fires, you can begin working with HR to develop a remote onboarding program. At this point, I highly recommend you retain the services of a professional training group. Although you can create training yourself, the odds are they can do it better AND faster. You’ll go to them, tell them what you want, when you need it, and provide them the content. They will come to you with a finished, implementable product.
One example of a company that moved its workforce online seamlessly is Windwalker Group. Thanks to a culture that fosters independence, creativity and integrated autonomy, Windwalker Group was able to shift both their Boston, Massachusetts and Tysons Corner, Virginia offices to a fully remote setting. There wasn’t a break in work, a missed deadline, or a client phone call that went unanswered. In fact, teleworking went so smoothly, one large client said they didn’t plan on bringing the team back in, but instead have a staggered teleworking return. In addition to making this transition seamlessly themselves, they also took their experience, and converted it to a best practice model for other companies to implement.“Managing the Virtual Workplace” was developed using existing materials and leveraging Windwalker’s personal experience.
Their highly skilled and exceptionally talented creative team can take existing face-to-face training and convert it into an engaging and attractive online learning solution. These conversions come with great attention to detail and are tailored to the audience, corporate culture and organizational strategic goals.
The Future State of Training
Although, it’s hard to imagine, things will ultimately calm down and you’ll have a well-trained workforce, with the ability to flow seamlessly from office to telework. At this point, you’ll start to evaluate where you are and how you got there. Likely asking how you can improve upon the educational foundation you built. This is where things get fun.
The field of training is at a tipping point most people are unaware of. We have been creating the same type of eLearning for 20 years and delivering the same, tired, face-to-face, train-the-trainer sessions for 35 years. Not only are our clients ready for a revolution, we are too. We want to engage learners and better their existence, whether it be at work or at school. We want to spark change and start conversations about adult learning. We are passionate educators who have been waiting for the world to catch up to us, and due to COVID-19, it’s about to. So, besides the fact we’re very excited, what does this mean?
Currently, research is being conducted on Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) and its application to the field of training. Microlearning and the creation of self-selected Learning Paths for employees are being implemented at cutting edge business. Computer based learning and gamification is facing its first true revolution since it’s advent in the 1980’s, as the possibility of “playing” training in a VR setting becomes more plausible. The field of training is about to turn itself inside out with innovation and make strides that haven’t been seen since Gagne.
Now that the rest of the world is finally online, you guys get to be part of the fun.
About Windwalker Group:
Windwalker Group is an award-winning, 8(a) small business with more than 25 years of experience in getting our customers ready – ready to grow, ready to thrive, and ready for what’s next. Windwalker’s training development services are based on the application of the Instructional Systems Design (ISD) framework to develop training programs, courses and job performance tools. Windwalker designs and produces instructional programs and materials via the full range of online instructional delivery modes.