Thoughts on the Coronavirus and What It Means for L&D

The situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving on a daily basis. Uncertainty is high and it may be weeks or even several months before we know how all this plays out. Several things are clear, though.

First, the US and world are likely headed into an economic “timeout” and quite possibly a recession. Hopefully, this will be brief but even a brief downturn will cause significant harm. Many in the service industries are going to lose their job or have their hours severely reduced. Other companies will experience falling sales as people cut back or delay their spending. Most organizations have already restricted travel. Even if the worst of the virus is over by summer and travel restrictions are lifted, companies may implement cost reduction measures for the remainder of the year to partially offset a decline in revenue for the first half of the year.

So, if your organization is one which is negatively impacted, now is the time to implement the recession planning that we have talked about for years. Be prepared to start reducing variable expenses, including the use of vendors and consultants. Where appropriate, shift from instructor-led learning to virtual ILT, e-learning, and performance support. Prioritize your work and be prepared to focus on only the most important. Get advice from your governing body or senior leaders on where they would like you to focus your efforts. If you have not already done so, clearly align your programs to the top goals and needs of your CEO.

Second, COVID-19 presents an excellent opportunity to make significant progress in moving away from instructor-led learning and towards virtual ILT and e-learning. Most organizations have been moving in this direction for years but say they are not yet at their desired mix of ILT to vILT and e-learning. Well, now is the perfect opportunity to make this transition. Travel restrictions will prevent employees from traveling to a class and will also prevent instructors from flying to class locations. And social distancing discourages bringing employees together for training which is why so many universities have announced that they are shifting entirely to remote learning for at least the next month or so. The private sector should be equally responsive. Use the existing platforms to conduct classes virtually and ramp up the marketing of your e-learning and portal content.

Third, the virus also presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to highlight performance support. What can we in L&D do to help our colleagues adapt to this new world and still do their jobs? People will be working remotely from home, perhaps for the first time. What performance support do they need? Most will not need a 30-minute e-learning course on working remotely but they will need steps to take to get connected. They will need help setting up virtual meetings. What can you provide them to make their life easier and to prevent a flood of calls to IT or HR for support? And, building on this, moving forward what opportunities do you have to replace some of your existing ILT or e-learning with performance support? Take this opportunity to truly integrate performance support into all that you do.

On a personal note, I wish each of you the best and hope you stay healthy. The situation will stabilize and eventually return to normal, but in the meantime let’s see what we can do to help each other through these challenging times.

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