2020: The Year of Disruption

I think we’ll all be happy to put 2020 behind us. As of December 18, 2020, Covid has claimed more than 300,000 lives in the U.S. and disrupted the economy, our personal lives, and learning along the way. Despite the pandemic’s destruction, some good has come from the disruption—like the SEC rule mandating human capital disclosure.

The impact of the pandemic on learning has been massive. Organizations have been forced to shift from instructor-led learning (ILT) to virtual ILT (vILT) supplemented by more eLearning and portal content. Some learning couldn’t be converted immediately, so learning opportunities and productivity gains were consequently lost. Since companies had to convert learning so quickly, much of vILT didn’t meet quality standards. But despite this, learners were appreciative of the effort and happy to have more learning than none at all.

During this time, the good news is that learning departments have demonstrated their value by offering up valuable strategic advice on how to manage remotely. This has been a huge win for many L&D departments and has dramatically increased their credibility and stature within the organization.

Just as the pandemic has caused us all to reconsider our work-life balance and the possibility of an ongoing work-from-home arrangement, it has also forced us to reconsider the mix of ILT versus vILT, eLearning, and content available in the LMS portal. Actually, this reconsideration is long overdue. Many organizations had little to no vILT before March 2020. Now, they have a lot of vILT, and the quality of the content is slowly improving as it is redesigned for virtual delivery. Live virtual training offers significant benefits, such as travel and facility cost savings. And, if properly designed, it may be able to accomplish the same objectives in less time. I don’t see any chance of organizations reverting to a pre-pandemic model that realized so heavily on ILT.

There is also an opportunity here to think even more broadly about restructuring your learning programs. Many organizations going into the pandemic had long onboarding and basic skills ILT programs. Some went on for a month or more, with a few lasting three, six, or even 12 months. Is this really the best way to learn? And how much of the content will be remembered and applied? Instead, why not use this opportunity to restructure the learning entirely? Reduce ILT or vILT at the beginning to just the basics that learners will need to get started. Supplement this with additional vILT or eLearning combined with performance support in the workstream at the time of need. For example, following the initial (now shortened) course, participants might take a short vILT course or eLearning module every month over the rest of the year. And this is combined with performance support, which is easy to access and provides them just the tools they require at the time of need.

Last, let’s not forget the SEC’s new rule mandating human capital disclosure. Over the coming years, this transparency will spread to all types of organizations and radically alter the expectation of both investors and employees for information on important human capital metrics like diversity, pay equity, leadership trust, and employee engagement. By 2030 people will wonder why this type of information was not always available. Disruption is coming, and there will be no going back.

So, take this opportunity as you plan for 2021 to continue to think outside the box, just as you have been forced to do this year. Don’t go back to the old ways even when offices reopen.  Double down on new ways of learning and embrace the opportunity to disclose your important L&D and HR metrics publicly.

Best wishes for the holidays and may everyone be healthy and safe.

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