Donald H Taylor says there’s no going back – but this could be a good thing for L&D.
As much of the world begins to return to work following lock down, we will find it changed. And not just physically. The greatest change to our work will be mental.
The world has been engaged in a vast, drawn out, communal experience, with over 3bn people (at its peak) locked down and, in many cases, working from home. The result: in many cases what would have seemed impossible in January, had by April become routine.
This is true of work generally, as well as for learning. For years, we were told meetings need to take place face-to-face. We have learned that this is not so. For as long as we have been able to deliver content online, we were told this was only useful for a limited range of learning. We now know this is not true.
This is the moment for us to shift the conversation from how we do things to why we do them.
In a few months, we have shifted from having to persuade people that doing something online was possible to now having to make the case for doing it in the physical world. The post Covid-19 landscape is different. Our new world is digital by default.
Some implications of this are good – not least, that people are now open to the idea of online learning. But they may have preconceived ideas about what exactly this means. Often they will believe that ‘online learning’ is a lecture over Zoom or a hurried, half-baked solution rushed out in response to Covid-19.
And, of course, it will not be long before the financial argument is brought up: ‘You used to need a classroom, and trainers, and now you can do it all online. Great! Here’s your new, greatly reduced, budget.’
In the past months, online learning has made huge strides towards credibility. But now, to use it well, we need to establish the role of the L&D function itself at work. If it is still seen as no more than a fulfillment service that delivers courses online, L&D after Covid-19 will inevitably see budget cuts.
If, however, we can establish the value of learning to the organisation, then L&D will be seen as a strategic partner with tactical capability, one that helps the organisation reach its goal.
To achieve this, L&D professionals must change what they do.
L&D professionals have worked hard during lockdown to keep things running. Now, on returning to work, they must seek out their managers and executives and engage them in a significant conversation. They must point out that we have learned a lot, but are still learning.
L&D and managers need to work together closely to establish which performance issues that L&D can fix, and the business goals these align to. This last point is essential. This is the moment for us to shift the conversation from how we do things to why we do them.
In a digital-by-default world, we no longer need to persuade people to move online. By concentrating instead on why we add value to the business, we will establish a greater, strategic role for L&D.
About the author
Donald H Taylor is a veteran of the learning and skills industries and is chairman of the LPI.