Learning is inevitably indispensable on the road to growth, whether achieving one’s academic or professional goals.Needless to say, in times like now when nothing is constant but change, it is very important to stay relevant.

Learning over the years has transitioned from traditional methods and practices to newer ways of teaching and learning influenced by advancements in technology, changing forms of work at a global level and the recognition that different people learn and grow differently.

In today’s time of corona, where every organisation is trying to come out and recover from this difficult situation,learning and development of its employeeshas taken an all new dimension.

The lockdown may have bought economic activity to a standstill but learning and development has not paused.Virtual learning platforms have become the most appropriate mode of ensuring that employees remain engaged, motivated and continue to upskill themselves- on products, functional skills and behavioral competencies. This is evident from the marked increase in consumption of Digital and virtual learning programs during the lockdown.

Not just in the corporate world, the pandemic has compelled schools and colleges to adopt different style of teaching. Schools and colleges all around the world at all levels have been shut. Exams have been postponed. The latest UNESCO report on the impact of COVID-19 on education indicates that around 32 crore students in India are affected by this. The government recognizes this and encouraged more and more educational places to opt for online education and e-learning during this time.

Massive open online course (MOOC) appeared a decade ago, offering distant learning courses. These have gainedgreater relevance in the new normal. Many learning platforms such as khan academy, Udemy and many more are trying to cement their place given the perfect time. Big institutes like IVY league schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, etc have joined in the race of online courses and have aggrandized the spectrum of MOOC by offering courses.

Let’s look at how some organisations are making learning process seamless, relevant and effective for its employees during the pandemic.

·       McKinsey is providing online learning sessions which makes a learner feel as comfortable as he/she would feel in any class room training. They have started taking necessary technology tests, and have started sending materials in advance before the session, which familiarise the participants with the topic of discussion before the session. During the session, employees engage through polls and chats, as well as virtual breakout rooms which make sure that the session is engaging and no doubt or question remains unanswered. At the end, follow-ups and participant feedback are also taken.

·       ATD strategizes and curate a learning experiences that focus on soft skills, as emotions are running high during this time. Leaders can help build these skills, or simply focus on the need “to listen actively, show empathy, and meet the personal and practical needs of each person.”

·       HP has come up with a great initiative for employees who are parents, closing of school due to pandemic and reduced after-school activities mean their kids will be spending more time at home and having to leverage technology to ensure their education is not disrupted, the company is encouraging them more and more to take this opportunity to play an active role in steering their children’s learning, which includes creating online resources such as Print & Play that has fun learning activities for kids.

·       Lenovo has offered refresher courses to employees to ensure that they use the supporting tools and applications efficiently. Clear and open communication is vital when many employees need to work from home to make sure they feel happy and connected.

Our Take

Learning and development is an indispensable activityforany organization, which ensuresrelevance and sustainability. Today, for every organization, the focus is  on stabilising business and curtailing costs. It is critical to remember that it will be a relevant, motivated and engaged workforce that will march on the path of recovery.To ensure delivery of value-creating processes to excel in these difficult times, leaders need to offer the right opportunitiesto expand the skill set of its employees. While doing so they need to be mindful of certain things.

1.    Currently, there is a problem of plenty, with a plethora of online learning options available to employees. Learning needs to be purposeful and linked with the current needs, organisational strategy for recovery and employee needs.

2.    Employees in the present situation may feel overwhelmed with personal and professional boundaries getting blurred and fatigue setting in. Hence, building emotional resilience and psychological safety is of prime importance.

3.    Apart from functional and technical skills which are critical, also focus on building and inculcating positive behaviors and competencies which will make employees equipped to face today’s and future changes and challenges.

In this new normal, businesses cannot afford to put learning and development or capability building of its people on hold. Now is the time to embrace a continuous learning mindset. It will not only build a future ready workforce to help organizations bounce back but also help in the professional growth of its employees, winning their trust and appreciation during such testing times. There are good costs and bad costs, Learning and Development is an investment!