How coronavirus will change talent development forever
We all know how important learning is—it’s the key to keeping your talent skilled and engaged. Today, the rapid changes to the business landscape require deliberate, regular, ongoing learning. I call it treadmill learning because like on a treadmill, if you aren’t learning something new every day (taking a step forward), you’re not standing still, you’re actually falling behind.
Although most companies have a vast library of learning assets, ranging from workshops to videos to whitepapers, learning programs on the most important topics have been delivered face to face. They’re the ones that warrant the expense of getting everyone together in the same place to learn from the facilitator and from each other.
Until now, in many organizations, video was used primarily to fill in the gaps or augment the more important in-person programs. But with COVID-19 accelerating the WFH movement, in-person programs have been reduced or canceled. I know this firsthand: every one of the on-site corporate learning programs I was to deliver from March through the end of the year has been canceled or turned virtual. The inability to execute in-person programs in the era of physical distancing leaves companies to rely on their library of e-learning materials to keep their staff growing professionally.
Video learning is a reliable arrow in the L&D quiver and has really helped cover the bases during the coronavirus pandemic. Products like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and Learn It Live provide vast libraries of video learning on everything from How to Use Adobe Illustrator to The Foundations of Project Management. Having these libraries ensures that your people have access to a wide variety of topics so they can build an array of new skills.
But relying on just these tools is not ideal. One of my L&D clients told me that she was talking with a new hire about the learning resources that were available to him. She said, “We have the complete LinkedIn Learning library to help you grow your skills.” To which the new hire replied, “Oh, yeah, it was the same at my last company.” That one statement made my client rethink her video learning strategy. “If every company has the same learning resources,” she thought, “what’s the role of L&D and what unique value do I bring to the organization?” L&D leaders need to think about how they build their personal brand attribute of innovation and demonstrate the value they contribute to the organization.
Talent development trends and the current coronavirus impact on learning suggest a few important insights:
1. Video learning takes center stage. It will take over as the primary form of learning in most organizations. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated WFH, making it essential that learning be accessed anywhere at any time on any device. This means that many learning programs that were offered in person will be delivered in part or in their entirety through video—on-demand or synchronously.
2. Not all video learning is equal. Relying exclusively on off-the-shelf libraries of video learning modules is limiting. On the plus side, it provides access to learning on countless topics. But it does little to convey the learning priorities of an organization or provide a unique, branded experience for the learner. If all companies rely on the same library of learning videos, learning becomes a commodity and L&D execs become procurement specialists—just ordering pre-packaged content from providers.
3. The medium is the message. Using video in innovative ways says something about your company and the talent development organization. The learning medium preference of millennials and GenZs is video. But what they see on YouTube has extremely high production value, so the bar has been raised about the quality of video learning you produce. This free learning from VSauce on YouTube is an example of the caliber and stickiness of the video your talent is experiencing . . . and expecting. Just putting your company’s SMEs in front of a camera may not be compelling or engaging enough to promote effective learning.
4. Video is only part of the solution. Video alone is not as powerful or transformative as in-person programs. Live workshops provide for opportunities to spontaneously engage with instructors and with each other to deepen learning. Therefore, to make video learning programs worthwhile and capable of delivering true behavior change, it’s necessary to incorporate other elements—like live learning sessions, assessments, accountability, social aspects, and acknowledgement. If you want to do more than just give your people knowledge, and if you seek to turn learning into action and action into results, you’ll need to build more integrated, interactive and customizable programs that feature video without using video in isolation. In The Expertise Economy, Kelly Palmer, a prominent thought-leader on the future of learning says “Learning needs to be customized for each individual based on their skill and knowledge gaps, personal and professional goals, and specific interests.”
The coronavirus and other workplace trends have forever changed the landscape of learning. Forward-thinking companies are transforming their video learning strategies so they can keep their people not just skilled but also engaged with the company’s unique brand traits.
Whether the coronavirus keeps people in physical distancing mode for several more months or even longer, distinctive learning from a distance is here to stay.