We don’t need to tell you that what it means to “go to work” has changed dramatically for many people during a global health crisis. Chances are good that you’ve personally experienced a “new normal” as it pertains to your career, even if temporarily.
One of the side effects of this disruption is that many companies have discovered certain shortcomings of their business models, often related to reliance on in-person events, customer visits, or training. Many of these businesses continue operating under the hope that things will be back to normal soon enough and these cracks in their business models can simply be chalked up as short-term challenges.
It is important to realize that reaching a post-COVID-19 reality doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be back to “normal”. There will be long-term implications of what work looked like under quarantine that could affect how we all conduct business for the foreseeable future. What will define the winners and losers is how well organizations adjust.
Getting Back to “Normal”, But Not to “Same”
Some companies will realize they can work effectively with less staff, whether they want to or not, and that will affect careers and organizational structures in some places. Others may choose to keep staffing at pre-pandemic levels but adjust what the reality of work looks like for employees, embracing more virtual engagements and additional remote work. This could be for health-related reasons or simply because it makes financial sense, allowing for a reduction in real-estate costs if employees work from home or off-site coworking spaces.
Among other changes, companies have seen a significant impact to the way they are able to approach training, and those changes are expected to have a long-term impact. Have you thought about what training will look like for your organization moving forward? If you’ve simply been putting off training in the hopes you can pick up where you left off before people stopped traveling and started working from home, it’s time to accept that your days of in-person-only engagements may be behind you.
- Do you have a strategy in place to keep staff trained, empowering them to perform at a high level, no matter where they are located?
- If training is a revenue source for your company, have you determined how you will deliver this service from a distance moving forward?
- How else will you need to shift your training approach to thrive in a new normal?
It’s Time to Turn Makeshift Distance Learning Solutions into Foundations for Success
At Radcom, we are hearing clients who had previously stated they could never do anything but in-person training now reporting that they have attempted distance learning and their offerings have been well received. While measurement will be necessary to determine how these clients’ new training formats are translating to business results, accepting that change was necessary proved to be a good first step. Even if you are uncertain about how successful your virtual training endeavors will be, it is worth investigating the format. You may also be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Don’t get comfortable merely dipping a toe in to test the water around virtual training and deciding that’s good enough, however. Now is the time to plan long term, thinking through what it would take for your organization to create sustainable distance learning programs, to figure out what is actually working (and what is not), and to adjust accordingly to continuously enhance your training efforts for maximum impact.
That may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you approach it one step at a time. To get started, walk through the following questions to make sure you are setting yourself up for success.
- Do we have the technological framework in place to effectively deliver training digitally? You have likely already put thought into the technology requirements of delivering compelling training moving forward, and you might have already made the investment to implement it. Start by ensuring you have access to software with appropriate capabilities and accessibility, that you know how to use it, and that you have support structures in place to help you navigate your platforms. Read our tips for virtual training for more insight into what this process looks like.
- What kind of training do we most critically need to provide? Once the technology foundation for distance learning is in place, it’s time to turn your focus to the training itself, identifying where you will get the most ROI for your training investment. Determine what training topics are most important for your organization to provide in a timely manner, then determine the best way to transfer the knowledge or skill to the learner. Regulatory or HR training may be easier to transition to digital delivery than hands-on product training, product training you provide to customers, or other high-touch training types.
- Is now the time to make this move to virtual training? This may be a great time to migrate certain training to virtual delivery because your audience has more time to take the training right now with travel canceled, projects on hold, and demand reduced. The sooner you can optimize your training, the sooner you can take advantage of a generally available audience.
- Have you designed this training to be as effective in its new format versus in a classroom? Once you pinpoint the training you want to migrate, look at the content and consider how it needs to be adjusted for the new delivery format. Distance learning could include virtual instructor-led (think: webinars), eLearning, remote coaching, self-study material (such as job aids, manuals, or flow charts), or some combination of these. Keep in mind that content and activities that worked in the classroom may not all transfer seamlessly to webinars and eLearning courses. You may need to trim content and come up with new activities. You may also need to develop supplemental material such as tutorial videos and job aids.
- What does “effective” actually look like for this training? Are the business outcomes we are measuring aligned with our actual training goals?Many organizations get to this step and stumble, falling into the common training pitfall of thinking that conveying information is enough and not properly assessing whether learners understand how to apply it. For example, the “success” of training is often measured by how many people take a mandated course, memorize information, then pass a quiz. The box is checked saying that the employee is trained, yet the company has no idea whether the learner actually knows how to apply the knowledge gained to their daily activities. There is also no indication how likely the learner is to display desired behaviors after completing training. To determine whether trainees can actually do what they need to do with the information provided, consider how you might integrate scenario-based activities and assessments, as well as feedback loops between trainers and trainees. For the best results, make sure you are measuring the business outcome. Is the company seeing the impact that the training was intended to deliver? Have you reduced the number of errors, improved the specified ratio, hit the new production number, or otherwise achieved whatever the specified metric was that the training was intended to meet?
- Is distance learning actually working for us? If you have established the technology, topic areas, strong content, appropriate timing, and smart metrics for measuring success, evaluate how things are going for you so far. If the answer is “not that well”, don’t give up on virtual knowledge transfer. Technology and content quality may not be to blame for you not getting the results you wanted from your training efforts—it could be the case that training is not actually what you need to achieve your business goals. If distance learning is seemingly working well, consider how you could improve it further. For example, find ways to give learners more opportunity to practice new skills. Even “hands-on” remote training (oxymoronic or not) can be successful if you can find ways to harness virtual reality or detailed, application-specific videos to help trainees feel like they’re getting on-site experience or demonstrating new abilities.
Embrace the Future of Knowledge and Skill Transfer Today
The new reality of work may seem intimidating; change often does. But with proper thought given to how you can make your processes and offerings more flexible now, you can set yourself up for long-term success. This is especially true in the realm of training.
Now is the time to double down on your knowledge and people-focused investment: Don’t abandon it! This is your chance to empower your remote workforce or provide support to customers that they aren’t finding elsewhere, differentiating you from competitors.
We can help. As you work through what the future of knowledge and skill transfer looks like for your business, give us a call to set up a consultation, and we’ll help you find a strategy that’s right for you. In the meantime, learn more about our instructional design expertise and how we’ve helped clientsin the past.
This article was reprinted with permission from Ohio-based Radcom.
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