Post-COVID L&D priorities

The ‘new normal’ this, the ‘new normal’ that…everybody’s talking about the new normal. But apart from a general agreement that it will include more working from home – how could it not after so many businesses are only surviving by making WFH work for them?! – the details are still rather fuzzy.

To dig beneath the surface of the mysterious new normal, Maximum conducted a survey of learning & development and HR professionals, seeking a deeper insight into how the ongoing pandemic may affect the future of learning in the workplace. One aspect the survey focused on was the issue of future L&D needs.


L&D needs in the new normal

To get a snapshot of the impact on the immediate future of learning, one question the survey asked was,

“In terms of developments needs and themes within your organisation, what changes in demand do you foresee over the next few months?”

Respondents were invited to choose from a 5-point scale of answers: A lot more – A bit more – No change – A bit less – A lot less.

Looking at the results for “A lot more”, the top three answers were:

  1. Wellbeing (65%)
  2. Management and leadership development (45%)
  3. Coaching skills (43%)

This is headline data but it’s not hard to identify some of the drivers here…

Wellbeing – The HR-related press is full of articles about mental health, the impact of COVID and the need for employers to support their workforce. The ONS figures state that employment levels are down by 220,000; and 730,000 jobs have been dropped from company payrolls thanks to the furlough scheme. Add to this the stresses of lockdown, strained family relationships, financial worries and even bereavements (oh, and the ongoing concern that you might catch a potentially fatal disease that is sweeping – and re-sweeping – the planet) and it’s clear that employees returning to work will need that support.

Management and leadership development – Arguably, this is a constant priority for any organisation, but the pandemic and the radical rearrangement of workforces and working patterns has highlighted the critical role of the team manager and other leaders. The need for more rigorous and at the same time, more sensitive communication skills is a key issue. When the team is dispersed, the manager can no longer rely on those brief, casual, checking-in, personal interactions that an office-based team takes for granted. A greater awareness of nuance and need is required. How to motivate people you can’t see except on a screen? How to maintain productivity without Big Brother-ing your reports into an over-supervised breakdown? How to help the team with work-life balance when they might be working in the home, surrounded by family? It’s not surprise that the 3 Cs of Collaboration, Communication and Coordination are priorities for virtual management and when those skills need boosting, it’s L&D who’ll be getting the call.

Coaching skills – Given the need for more individual as well as team focus from managers, it’s little surprise that coaching is perceived as a way forward (40% of survey respondents have been pushing coaching as an alternative to classroom-based learning activities during the pandemic). Not only does this imply that managers will need more coaching skills to support their teams, this is also a useful signpost for L&D teams: perhaps indicating a lean towards more personal and personalised learning solutions; but also an acknowledgement that it’s much easier to adapt a coaching conversation to Zoom than it is an interactive course!


And now, an old, old story

All of the above is hardly surprising. Nothing too unpredictable there. However, returning to the question of what respondents see as future demands on L&D, if we look at the results for “A lot less”, we see… very little, actually.

Apart from classroom training and other face-to-face events, it seems that L&D professionals are expecting increased demand across the board, for all other forms of learning delivery. Logically, this suggest an increase in capacity and/or resources. Yet in the same survey, 35% say that L&D budgets have been cut as a result of the pandemic (with on 7% reporting an increase).

Despite the wide-ranging impact of COVID-19, we still seem to be living in a ‘do more with less’ world. At least it’s a situation that most L&D teams are familiar with…

If you want to know more about our survey and how we can help you with your organisations L&D, give us a call on 01582 463460 – we’re here to help.

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