Coronavirus. COVID-19. 2020.
We’re all tired of talking about it.
We’re all looking forward to better days.
And, we all still need to stay vigilant.
While neither fun nor favorable for most businesses, dealing with the impact of coronavirus continues to be inescapable. It sometimes feels like the world’s longest reality check or an epic case of deja vu, but alas, we must face the unvarnished truth (and post yet another blog on how to keep going with as much clear-eyed optimism as possible).
This pandemic has has forced companies to look ahead in ways that weren’t required in past years. Quarterly and yearly planning used to be as much a budget discussion as anything; it didn’t typically involve seismic strategic shifts and formerly unimaginable exercises in agility and adaptivity. But as 2021 approaches (however seemingly slowly), we must plan accordingly with the information we now possess.
Flip the Script to All-digital, All the Time
While instructor-led classroom training held the title as the primary method for corporate learning even as recently as the end of 2019, that model was obliterated this year as companies switched to all-remote work (and by extension, training) and travel all but ceased. Organizations discovered through this accidental experiment that online learning doesn’t decrease employee satisfaction or performance, and in many cases, increases both, contrary to long-held but unfounded fears about reducing in-person interactions. Add to that the time and monetary savings of eLearning versus traditional. Executive leadership is good at doing math, but these calculations are elementary. Just as people finally realized in 2020 that online meetings are just as effective as in-person, companies are experiencing revelations in regard to digital learning.
Plus, the experts agree that the planet we inhabit is more prone to global pandemics than ever because of shrinking animal habitats (due to climate change) and increasingly crowded cities, as well as our interconnectedness through international travel. Almost no corner of the world is unexposed, so we have to accept the possibility, if not the inevitability, of another one.
These realities now drive all planning efforts and the strategy documents, presentations, and meetings behind them. Abrupt changes year-over-year will not stop the most successful companies from looking for long-term solutions, not just quick fixes, to continue to overcome and prepare for unprecedented global challenges. These are big adjustments, yes. But the best companies will flex to meet them, adding adaptivity to their list of collective attributes.
Opportunities in 2021 with Training as a Competitive Advantage
It should be noted that some companies understandably are still in survival mode and are not able to rally the resources to pitch a plan too far into the future. No judgement there, especially given the hardships of particularly hard-hit industries such as hospitality / restaurants, airlines, traditional retail, and others. But, even in those industries, training should remain at the center of the company-wide strategy to get back on both feet. It’s inviting even more insecurity to reduce training for employees who need increased upskilling, reskilling, and connection to the company.
For any business setting its sights on long-term success, 2021 is an opportunity to push forward on ambitious digital learning initiatives. According to a recent Forbes article, adaptivity is the new, leading competitive advantage and training is at its core:
…while organizations may want to cut costs and exercise extreme caution in investments not directly related to revenue creation, this is not the time to disinvest in training due to budget restrictions. Investments into training programs with flexible and ready-to-run technologies are crucial to creating adaptive organizations. And if we’ve learned anything this year it’s that adaptable, well-trained people are a driving force behind the businesses that will win in the long run.”
We’re talking about a learning transformation here, and you as an L&D professional have been handed the keys to help drive your company out of this mess. The mission now isn’t to slog your way through the next few quarters, comply with regulations, check the basic HR boxes, and make sure a few essential roles are trained for survival. No, the goal now must be much more forward-looking, and simultaneously aggressive and sustainable. The companies that successfully leverage eLearning now as their central connection between people and performance will come out on top. Learning is the ladder from mediocrity to adaptivity, and the best companies have already started climbing.
Free Resources to Inform Your Planning Process
As you plan for your breakout learning transformation in 2021, consider these resources that we created in partnership with Brandon Hall Group. They contain valuable, research-rich insights to inform your decision-making at this critical juncture for businesses everywhere.
What’s On the Other Side: L&D & the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic