Arrested Learning and Development: How Covid-19 is Changing the Corporate Learning Landscape

Historically, corporate learning and development (L&D) has been among the first programs to be cut during an economic downturn. According to some reports, during the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009), the US corporate training market shrank from $58.5 billion in 2007 to $56.2 billion in 2008, the greatest decline in more than 10 years.

But with a majority of corporate employees now working from home—without help from colleagues or IT staff when tech issues arise—this crisis seems different. It screams for more learning, not less.

However, less seems to be what workers are getting. In-person training—not surprisingly—has decreased in recent months. According to observations from McKinsey as of early March, about 50 percent of in-person programs through June 30, 2020, had been postponed or canceled in North America. That number is closer to 100 percent in parts of Asia and Europe, McKinsey reports.

With a majority of corporate employees now working from home, this crisis seems different. It screams for more learning, not less.

Despite the fact that some organizations have begun offering virtual training, many workers are not satisfied with their employers’ investments in professional development.

A recent MIT/Deloitte survey shows that, although organizations have improved in developing digital strategies—especially since Covid-19 emerged—there is no consensus on how to best equip workers with what they need to handle business disruptions and create value.

Among the survey highlights:

  • Nearly three quarters of respondents (74 percent) believe that the development of new skills and capabilities is strategically important in their organization, but only 32 percent say they are rewarded for developing new skills.
  • Less than half of respondents (47 percent) believe that their organization is making a significant investment in their professional development, and only 34 percent are happy with their organization’s investment in improving their skills and performance.
  • Less than 40 percent of executives are happy with their organization’s investment in their development.

The good news is that there’s hope around every corner. Organizations across the world are adjusting to this new normal and are beginning to create workplace learning strategies that address the needs of a remote workforce.

Guidance abounds on how to get started: Chief Learning Officer magazine provides tips for how to reimagine workplace learning, LinkedIn Learning explores ways organizations can successfully transition from in-person training to virtual in-person training, and MIT/Deloitte proposes creating “opportunity marketplaces” to align workforce investment and value creation.

The key is to get started. Stay tuned for part two of this series to find out how.

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