Despite all the upheaval to our personal and business lives amid the COVID-19 outbreak, figuring out a plan forward is both critical and daunting. With adversity comes opportunity — an opportunity to be a difference maker, if we are willing to embrace it. Learning leaders play a pivotal role in helping their organizations not only cope but succeed in these difficult times.
Though it seems overwhelming, it is paramount to get out of the gate quickly and pull together a workable strategy. While there is no silver bullet or one right approach to every situation, the following “ADAPT” strategy provides a framework for moving forward.
Analyze the impacts to your organization. Evaluate through a business lens how this pandemic will affect your customers, your employees, and how work gets done. Key questions to consider:
- Are we prepared to do more with less? If so, are those impacted fully aware of the new requirements, and do they need additional cross-training?
- Is our workforce ready for the telework shift — both in terms of the work process and technologies as well as the change in mindset from in-person to virtual?
- Has our supply chain been disrupted? What are the provisions to address this? For example, do we need to secure, onboard and train new suppliers?
- Do we need to ramp production at our facilities and, if so, does that require onboarding newly hired personnel or cross-training current employees? What can we do to reduce ramp up time?
- What are the impacts to our sales team? What will they need to do differently if they lose valuable face-to-face time with customers?
Devise a plan to engage business leaders. The impact analysis should drive both the audience and the topics. When business leaders see that you’ve done your research, you are there to discuss business issues and, most important, you are solutions focused — the deck will be stacked in your favor for a productive dialogue. This where every bit of your performance-consulting acumen will be leveraged to quickly and effectively tease out the specific business challenges and discuss the impact to human capital. Starting with the end in mind (an actionable plan with roles/responsibilities) will help ensure the meeting keeps its focus, achieves buy-in and establishes a clear path forward in terms of next steps.
Assess your learning options. Tough times call for new approaches and new ways of thinking. If you still leverage instructor-led training, what is your business continuity plan? Key considerations include unwinding all the various ILT planning and logistics; evaluating other modalities, namely virtual instructor-led training; and migrating existing ILT into new modalities.
Don’t overcomplicate. You may have been planning your first foray into gamification or a level-3+ e-learning course, but in light of limited resources and competing priorities, simplification rules the day. A level-2 course that can be built in nearly half the time and still meet the instructional need may be a better option.
Finally, if there ever was a spot-on situation for microlearning, this is it. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to micro e-learning, either. All options should be on the table: podcasts, videos, infographics, quick reference guides, and so on. Less is more — more on-point learning and more opportunities to create additional content.
Prioritize your plans. In times of turmoil, everything seems important and things can quickly turn chaotic. Some training will need to take precedence over others and hard decisions will have to be made. Just like some international hospitals are having to triage patients, so might we need to triage learning. Some learning will be strategic and therefore high priority while other training will be addressed in a more tactical manner and with less priority. The key to prioritizing your plans involves consulting your manager, a trusted mentor, or other leader to get another point of view and a second set of eyes. This person can check if your plan is on-target, is close but could be tweaked, or has some gaps or blind spots that need addressed. Having a second opinion to glean objective insights will not only validate your plan but help you achieve needed buy-in and set your plan up for a successful implementation.
Track both projects and intelligence. “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts” applies here. Efforts should not be managed as a series of disparate, disconnected projects. There needs to be a master plan that oversees all individual projects in a coordinated way (program management). Things are very fluid, and priorities may need to shift. Keeping a dashboard view of all the moving parts allows the learning leader to manage to the strategic outcomes and adjust individual components as needed to ensure the overall needs of the business are being met. This is also a great time to turn data into information. Are we tracking for completion or for competence? Any data generated should be leveraged to inform future learning solutions to benefit both the learner and the learning organization.
This unprecedented time offers both challenges and choices: Being proactive versus reactive. Leading versus managing. Being a catalyst for creative solutions that help drive organizations through this period of difficulty and uncertainty. Now is the time for learning leaders to take charge and ADAPT.