At the beginning of 2020 we spoke of a world which was all about change and changing technologies. We would chat about how the Internet had changed our lives and how we could not imagine a world without our smart phone, Netflix and Facebook. Well if the world was changing fast to that point what happened next, well……….Covid 19 turned the world upside down. Whilst the technologies changed very little in the months of lockdown, what changed was the social acceptance of technology and its usage. Needs must, as they.
For the training industry the sudden cancellation of face to face training sessions meant an immediate change of behaviour. As one company director said at the time, we need to do whatever is required ‘just to keep the lights on’. And that was the issue, this was not about long term strategy development this was about changing, now!
According to HR consultants and researchers Fosway Group ‘94% of L & D professionals have reported having to change their L & D strategy in response to Covid 19’. PDI would argue that this was not a change in strategy, so much as a tactical reaction to overwhelming forced structural changes.
Companies had one of two tactics. One was to moth ball the business, take government furlough money, put on a tin hat and wait for it all to be over. The second tactic was to leap into on-line training and learn as quickly as possible how to handle Zoom and Adobe Connect.
But now (August 2020) it feels that the time is right to look again at the strategy and ask what does this mean long term. Will things return to normal and what will the new normal look like? There are many opinions about this, some well informed and some not so much. The fact is that without precedent we do not know what the future will look like exactly. So we must rethink training and the product offering our business presents to the market. The answer will be different for each training company but the thought process will be similar.
1, DIGITAL – the new default position.
The digital training course was always the realm of ‘lower value’ learning activities particularly of compliance learning. Need has shaken this up and now digital is the default position for all training and the question is whether this will ever change in the future. The counter argument is that it’s easy to provide information on-line – like how to create a pivot table in Excel. It’s more difficult to help learn practical skills and harder yet to shift behaviours.
This advantages and disadvantages of face to face and digital have not changed, what has changed is the default position. Now it is virtual first unless a value added well-argued proposition is given which shows benefits large enough to overcome arguments of safety and cost.
Training companies who see face to face training as their future, need to look again at the value added of their proposition –this requires data, client references and case studies. The danger is that without demonstrable value added from learning outcomes this will become a race to the bottom based on price.
2. DESIGN for Virtual
If it is appropriate to covert face to face training into a virtual classroom then the course needs to be redesigned. Not just tinkered with but completely redesigned. In case you had not noticed on-line webinars can be dull, really dull. The trainer cannot know whether I am doing my emails and checking my Facebook page instead of paying attention.
The key to success is engagement and the new on-line platforms have numerous tools for engagement including chat, polls, breakout rooms etc. But this means the whole training course needs to be re-thought and re-designed for on-line. Simply presenting the same PowerPoint slide deck via zoom simply will not cut it. This is a new skill set for the trainers which they will need to embrace.
3. Support materials –
So what of support materials, manuals and workbooks? In this new age this needs rethinking. Sending someone a PDF to accompany their digital course is all very well provided you do not mind having your intellectual property spread around the Internet.
Two alternatives. One is to carry on with a printed manual and send to the individuals address. ‘But that is so expensive’ is the usual objection, but given the savings on training venue and travel not such a great expense. The advantage is that the delegate still receives something tangible at the end of the course.
The alternative is to send a DRM protected manual as an eBook. Again this can be a straight transfer of your existing PDF but this may be a lost opportunity. The world of eBooks allows access to all kinds on interactivity and so complete re-think of the materials could provide delegates with so much more added value. The Ebook can also provide the analytical data which would help feedback into the design of the training course.
The point is - the world has changed – and so the strategy of each business needs to be given a root and branch examination, it is time to re-think your training!