The pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of our lives in ways we never could have imagined. From mandated closures to lay-offs, furloughs, and remote working, all our strategic plans were turned upside down throughout 2020. Among the many casualties are the time and resources designated for training and development. With budget cuts, office closures, and restricted travel, few organizations have delivered instructor-led coaching or supported their employee’s learning and development needs effectively.
Given that we are living in a digital world and embracing new technology-enabled ways of working together, many learning programs are naturally going online. But online learning comes in many forms. Short self-directed courses are ideal for delivery through a corporate Learning Management System (LMS). LMS technology is ideal for mandatory/compliance training. Longer courses are often broken down into more manageable modules followed by a quiz to confirm completion. While LMS technology certainly plays a vital role in the delivery of basic training, it comes with limitations and those limitations are being tested by organizations trying to stretch the value of their LMS investment.
When deciding how to deliver training, it’s important to keep the end-goal in mind.
LMS modules often have a “check for understanding” quiz at the end for a reason. First, the courses are self-paced and there’s a decent chance that the employee may be distracted or multi-tasking throughout the training. Second, the instructional design of LMS modules often focuses on delivering information or knowledge, rather than building skills. Therefore, the definition of success within an LMS is a high score on the post-test rather than any change (or improvement) in behavior.
While online self-directed learning certainly plays an important role in training, there is no substitution for expert instructor-led coaching and development for complex learning objectives. This is especially true of the leadership skills gap created by the unique nature of 2020. Many leaders are struggling with new concepts like leading through a crisis, leading remotely, and leading through uncertain/ambiguous times. Concepts like Developing Emotional Intelligence, Creating and Communicating a Vision, and Strategic Thinking were already difficult concepts to develop during “normal” business circumstances, but are more cumbersome in the context of the global pandemic’s impact on business operations.
It may be tempting to delay leadership development initiatives due to budget, travel restrictions, or social distancing policies, however, the stakes have never been higher for leaders. It’s undeniable that leaders are carrying a heavier workload than ever before, but that cannot be an excuse for delaying leadership development. Ignoring the problem will not make it better. The individuals who have adapted to changes, identified a new strategy, and inspired their teams to persevere beyond all of the challenges will lead their organizations into post-pandemic success. But few leaders have experience with anything remotely as challenging as what they’re facing today. They lack the fundamental skills and expertise to lead their teams through the fog. These are unprecedented times, and leaders are looking for any coaching, advice, or resources that will create an impact.
The combination of expert-led virtual workshops plus leadership communities where individuals are encouraged to share their experiences and challenges with one another can be a powerful combination against today’s VUCA environment. Take some time to think through which development initiatives have been delayed this year, and rank order which ones will create the most risk if not addressed immediately (i.e. strategic thinking, knowledge transfer, leading remotely, handling difficult conversations, etc). These are all fires that will need to be extinguished eventually. Where will you direct your development attention first?