The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we live, work and learn. Unprecedented rapid change has been thrust upon us. As we begin to think about a post-COVID world, chief learning officers have an important role to play. CLOs can help their organizations embrace and adapt to this new normal. Here are five actions CLOs can take to re-engage and prepare their L&D teams and broader organizations. These actions have been prioritized and scaffolded, so we recommend considering implementing them in sequence as listed.
1. Prepare to respond to the question, “How did you help during the pandemic?”
Collect and depict data and stories to quantify and to show how you and your team helped your employees, your C-suite team, your customers and your communities during the pandemic. This is immensely important as it will help with the healing process after the horror of COVID-19 begins to subside. For example, show the number of online town halls you held, the number of online courses provided and the number of employees supported during the crisis. What did you do to support employees who were furloughed during the pandemic?
2. Prepare to dig into the lessons learned from failures exposed.
The crisis hit so rapidly that numerous organizations were unprepared. As a result, mistakes were made, and failures were exposed. You will need to come together with your L&D team to do a hotwash of the actions taken during the pandemic. What worked well and what didn’t? Be objective and absolutely avoid finger-pointing and assigning blame (which should never be done, regardless of the context). You will need to glean lessons learned from the failures. Then you will need to identify risk mitigants. List what you will do differently next time, defining new processes and procedures and roles involved.
3. Plan to engage your innovators to drive change.
Change can no longer be avoided or postponed — it has been thrust on us by the pandemic. At this time, you must engage your innovators to help your organization embrace change. Your innovators will need to be dispersed across the organization to assist with business unit change initiatives. They will need to prioritize the lessons learned and engage with other organizations to share learnings. They can apply design thinking and agile methodologies to engage business unit stakeholders and learners. They can plan and rapidly pilot and deploy new ways to develop, curate and deliver learning to your employees and customers.
4. Plan to accelerate digital transformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning for more than 1 billion learners across K-12, higher education and professional learning, forcing them to stay at home. Overnight, online learning became the norm, and organizations scrambled to adapt. If your organization was contemplating a digital transformation, now you have no choice but to accelerate in that direction. Assign teams to research, downselect and pilot new technologies to augment your learning management system capabilities, such as learning experience platforms, learning record stores and xAPI capabilities. Review your current processes and how the new technologies will accelerate and improve learning. Engage learners early to be part of the digital transformation efforts to ensure you are developing learner-centered solutions.
5. Plan to create credible solutions to tackle crises in the future.
Looking ahead, building upon the previous five actions, you will need to put in place solutions that help your L&D team and your organization at large rapidly address crises. You must create mechanisms to anticipate future change and its impact on your learners. Consider establishing a center for change to enable your organization to continuously prepare for and anticipate change in the L&D arena.
This is a critical time requiring us to remain calm and focus on the present and the path ahead. We can do this by joining forces and asking new questions, engaging diverse teams, digging into the lessons learned, leveraging technologies and harnessing data. You can do this together with your teams. We can do this together.