How to Use Your Existing Toolbox to Take Control of Learning and Development During and After COVID-19

man at desk and monitor

This is Part 1 of a 2-part series

We keep hearing about the “new normal.” But the truth is that the new normal is just normal now. As we’ve settled into our work-from-home routines and our socially distanced workplace relationships, learning and development (L&D) is catching up. Fortunately, while much of life in 2020 has been, as they say, “unprecedented,” there is much that still holds true, at least when it comes to workplace training. In fact, you already have some tools in your L&D toolbox that can help you adapt and strengthen your training offerings during the pandemic and whatever comes next.

No Going Back

For the L&D industry, the COVID-19 pandemic is a seminal event that represents a surge in the learning trends we have identified as necessary for several years — which is good news, because it’s easier to accelerate down a path we’ve already begun than to branch off on an entirely new one. Many of the areas that business leaders are citing as challenges during the pandemic — onboarding, upskilling, reskilling, leadership development, technology and infrastructure modernization — are challenges L&D leaders have been dealing with for a while. Plus, while some things will undoubtedly return to some semblance of what they were before the pandemic, there are some things — improved virtual training, for instance — that need to stay.

As learning leaders, we just need to take our mental models of how we work, train and learn, and adapt them for a post-pandemic business environment. It’s easier said than done, of course; recognizing and addressing often the unconscious assumptions underlying those models is a difficult process. But the foreseeable future of organizational learning isn’t a path — it’s a navigable set of potential solutions.

For example, many information technology (IT) departments have functioned with the assumption that certifications must be earned through in-person learning — and while in-person learning has been suspended, the need for IT professionals to be up to speed on new technologies and methodologies has not. Organizations must adapt, recognizing that much IT training can occur as effectively — or even more so — in a virtual format.

The first step in taking back control of your L&D programs now and after COVID is to take another look at your organizational assessment and job analysis processes.

The Organizational Assessment

You, your team and your stakeholders have likely had many conversations about adapting and responding to the current crisis — but bringing people on board with “uncertainty as the new norm” is a challenge. To help overcome this challenge, take a structured approach to reexamining the key criteria and organizational components that drive learning success at your company.

The learning levers model can help you determine priorities and create alignment across a number of organizational attributes:

  • Strategy and alignment with the business
  • Governance and the learning organization
  • Learning culture
  • Talent development
  • Delivery methods and modalities
  • Learning content
  • Technology and infrastructure
  • Learning administration
  • Financial management
  • Learning and performance analytics

Consider where you are in each of these areas and where you need to be in order to adapt to current business needs. Then, work to close those gaps. For example, if the shift to remote work has made you realize that technology adoption has been sparse, disjointed and/or ineffective, you may have some work to do in integrating your technologies to support virtual work and online learning.

The Job Analysis

The most significant change we’re seeing in L&D right now is in the work breakdown and initial learning design stages. Traditionally, when conducting a job task analysis in preparation for developing a training program, there’s been a straightforward, linear path to doing so: Identify job tasks, then learning objectives, then topics; create lessons, then modules, then courses; evaluate based on predetermined performance criteria.

Learning environment changing

The level of impact the pandemic has had on the workplace forces us to change this process. A new model for job analysis might look a figure with three sides: the changing workforce, the changing learning environment and the changing nature of work. While considering these three categories of factors is nothing new, the rate of change and expansion of possibilities the pandemic has given us requires us to reexamine them.

For example, while we’ve always had to tend to generational shifts, the changing workforce now also means reconsidering who can even be employed by your company. Instead of being limited to job candidates within a commuting distance of your office, your pool can be global — and so can your learner base.

And, while the learning environment has been changing quite a bit over the last decade due to technological innovations, the number of people working from home, under very stressful circumstances, demands a learning environment that gives them the support they need, when they need it, in a way that is easy to follow and fast to implement.

Take a look at your existing tools and processes for job analysis, and evaluate their flexibility, adaptability and robustness, in light of the information you gathered during the organizational assessment. Then, adapt those tools and processes to better meet your current needs. Don’t forget to share and look for best practices throughout the industry. It’s up to us to help each other out, and your peers’ successes and failures, together with your own, will give you a volume of experience you’d never amass on your own.

Reach Out to RPS

Organizational assessments, job analysis: how do you use these approaches to shift your learning to the “New Normal?”

Contact us RPS’ learning and performance experts today. You can also visit us at RPS.com to learn more.

Have you used organizational assessments and job analysis tools and processes? What was your experience? Start a conversation in the comments below or connect with us on LinkedIn, or at @RaytheonRPS using hashtags, #learning, #training.