As we noted in an earlier post, when the pandemic first hit, many companies went into “survival mode”—cutting learning budgets, canceling training and coaching sessions, and putting major learning initiatives on hold.
In the few months since, some organizations have begun to understand that, in this case, a company’s survival depends on agility, not austerity.
A company's post-pandemic survival depends on agility, not austerity.
In other words, they must perfect the art of the pivot. To do so, they must prioritize learning and development. In a recent article, McKinsey outlines five approaches business leaders can use to shape the new learning environment:
- Don’t overwhelm. People cannot absorb an infinite amount of new information, so be sure to prioritize the skills employees need immediately. McKinsey suggests applying the 80/20 rule: Provide training that will enable employees to master the 20 percent of skills that are required to address 80 percent of the situations they will encounter.
- Deliver hands-on learning. Learning-by-doing is an educational approach that’s been in use for thousands of years—proponents of the theory in its many forms have included Plato, Thomas Hobbes, Karl Marx, B.F. Skinner, and others. To apply new skills, people need to try, make mistakes, reflect, and try again, McKinsey notes. Providing employees with focused, hands-on training will enable them to apply those skills quickly and effectively.
- Offer just-in-time support. The days when employees could take a week-long offsite training course are long gone—today’s reality demands that people dive into tasks before they feel fully ready. According to the McKinsey report, this approach can work if business leaders provide people with the resources they need—including guides, checklists and FAQs. We’d add the following to that list: online self-help resources, microlearning assets, and access to live support.
- Provide a safety net. Aim to give every employee a person to reach out to when unusual cases arise. According to the report, this goes a long way—it lets employees know they have someone to lean on for help with new tasks, it enables frontline workers to handle a majority of the work, and minimizes the risk of error.
- Let employees know why they matter. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a sense of purpose influences overall job satisfaction and productivity. Explaining why it’s important to learn new skills and providing a range of learning opportunities and resources serve as powerful motivators.
Without a doubt, post-pandemic learning will be remarkably different from the training of the past. It will be quick and focused, and companies will expect employees to put it immediately into practice. It will also be constrained by dwindling budgets and smaller, more dispersed workforces. But if done right, it will enable companies to succeed well into the future.