COVID-19’s Impact on Corporate Learning

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COVID-19s Impact on Corporate Learning_Business man or freelancer working on laptop computer on desk with smart phone and books at home office

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor and Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama, said those words during the 2008 financial crisis. During an interview with ABC News recently, Emanuel reiterated the quote adding:

“Start planning for the future. This has to be the last pandemic that creates an economic depression. We’re going to have more pandemics, but this has to be the last economic depression.”

That is exactly what learning leaders are doing now–they’re abandoning what hasn’t worked, creating room for new innovations. If they aren’t, it’s conceivable the organization will be well behind competitors, especially if those competitors are adapting to the current environment. It should be mentioned–indeed emphasized–businesses can’t afford to put learning on hold during this time.

Related Reading:  Abandoning the Outgrown, Outworn and the Obsolete: The First Step in Improving Productivity & Managing for Tomorrow

COVID-19 and Learning

Delivering Valuable Learning

In order for organizations to continue to deliver the learning employees need, and quite frankly demand, learning leaders have to make a series of tactical decisions. Some of those decisions must be made immediately while others can be made over a series of weeks and months.

Keep in mind, no one can or will accurately predict how long the coronavirus pandemic will continue, a sentiment that can be said for the economy. For now, it’s important to make decisions in context of the current environment with an eye to future challenges.

What does that look like? Take a look at the corporate learning management system market.

According to a report from Technavio, the market is expected to grow by USD 12.48 billion between 2020 and 2024. COVID-19 is also expected to have an impact on the industry, significant in the first quarter and lessen as the year moves on.

The eLearning market is also expected to increase. Before the coronavirus outbreak, Research and Markets estimated the eLearning market would triple in size by 2025 reaching $325 billion.

A Team Response

The most immediate action for organizations, at least from a learning perspective, must include the creation of a response team. This team will be charged with directing learning for the organization as it manages its response to the coronavirus crisis. That means everything from assessing current programs, deciding what is critical to learning success and changing the program(s) to one that functions well with smaller, in-person groups or in a remote environment.

The make-up of the team, according to McKinsey, is vital. It should be cross-functional in nature. Important members include learning officials, HR business partners, IT and current vendors. This group should also work alongside the larger response group within the organization to ensure alignment.

Additionally, the team should take a look at the organization’s learning program in detail. Members should determine what offerings are essential and easily adaptable to a virtual or digital-only format.

In-Person Programs

McKinsey also draws attention to those organizations which still have employees coming into the office each day. Where learning is concerned, make sure to follow local and global health guidelines to help protect employees.

Also determine which programs will still be used and if they will be modified. In some instance, organizations may choose to cancel programs. Any and all changes should be communicated effectively.

Digital Learning Strategies

As previously mentioned, organizations must look for opportunities to create, grow or enhance digital learning opportunities.

As the coronavirus continues its spread across the globe, so too has the increase of digital delivery of learning. The virus has forced learning leaders to rethink the learning experience of the individuals employed by the company. It’s also forced vendors to look at new innovations and opportunities for existing clients and new ones.

The former CLO of Microsoft, Chris Pirie, told Forbes the following… “business leaders must find new ways to create engaging experiences which are experiential and fun. That means incorporating more gamification, virtual reality and augmented reality for corporate learning.”

Re-skilling Workers

Jeanne Meister, a founding partner of Future Workplace and faculty in Future Workplace Academy says while companies, before the outbreak of the coronavirus, were already in the re-skilling lane of the corporate learning highway, they’ve had to speed up their plans exponentially.

“This challenge will be much bigger than any one program. Instead, companies will create an ecosystem devoted to creating an AI powered skills inventory, reskilling and  exploring new private partnerships with traditional and non-traditional institutions of learning, as well as ed-tech startups.”

After the Disease, Comes the Debt

Many believe the lockdowns intended to contain Covid-19 are worse than the disease itself. Our already swelled yearly federal deficits & our accumulated public debt (i.e., the sum total of all past deficits) will be financed in one of two ways & quite likely a combination of the two.

The first way ever-increasing deficits (including an additional $2.2 trillion stimulus package) will be financed is to print more money (i.e., quantitative easing). Printing more money is being touted on TV shows as "creating more liquidity in the economy." In essence, many authoritative economists predict printing more money will lead to high inflation rates, especially at the very low interest rates currently in place.

The alternative will be to raise taxes that will dampen business investment & consumer spending. Simply put, raising taxes decreases disposable income which, in turn, leads to decreased demand for goods and services.

As Americans will soon learn, no country has infinite resources. The job of corporate America will be to create new wealth to weather this economic storm, and that requires continuous productivity improvement & systematic, purposeful innovation–the two key drivers of wealth creation.

In addition to managing for liquidity and financial strength, making resources (e.g., monies, physical assets & people) more productive will become a mission-critical task. It also means every organization must build into its DNA systematic methodologies for of continuous innovation, that is, policies for creating customer getting & customer keeping change.

L&D organizations will play a major role in equipping their knowledge-based workforces with the thinking, the knowledge, the best practices, & the skills to achieve quantum leaps in individual & organizational productivity–which includes knowing how to produce outcome-driven innovation.

In Summation

Learning leaders already know this: life as we know it no longer exists and a new one has taken its place. The impact of the coronavirus, at least at this stage, can only be guessed. We have no way of determining the overall effect on corporate learning except to say that it has and will continue to change it in the future.

As a result, remember to protect your teams as best you can with respect to what is happening with the coronavirus and the future of work. Learning must continue and your teams need to be transparent and agile as the days and months move forward. Continue looking at new options and technologies to ensure your employees are able develop and reskill in this new environment.


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