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Is the future of corporate learning socially distanced classrooms?

As the world starts to head back from the pandemic of Corona in the knowledge that accelerated change is far more possible than we thought, it will be interesting to see who rushes back to the comfort of the pre Corona road and those who now want to accelerate change, seeing and knowing the potential of the human spirit.  So, are we going back to socially distanced classrooms? Or has Corona been the catalyst for a New L&D, one that so many of us believe in? 

Across industries we have seen change both in mindset and action in ways most of us would have thought impossible, including:

  • Manufacturers across the world produced designs, prototypes and mass production of ventilators within weeks. 
  • CEOs and leaders challenged the workplace and within weeks of lockdown, they cite a persons office can now work anywhere rather than a specific office you must come to everyday.  
  • Virtual urgent health-care grew by more than 600% in the early weeks of Corona as the world accepted that getting advice remote is valuable and acceptable.

All of these things and a myriad of others were considered impossible months ago and the mere suggestion from someone of achieving these would have labeled them as insane. 

Some L&D departments have also delivered the unheard of, and taboos held for decades were smashed everywhere, including ... 

  • Avon globally re-skilling over 100,000 beauty entrepreneurs every month over the last few months, from knowing how to successfully sell face to face, transforming their capability as they learned how to use Instagram, Facebook Live and Zoom to grow their online audiences and sell digitally and all done whilst in lockdown in more than 50 countries.
  • Vodafone UK re-skilled their UK 4,000 retail staff in 2 weeks from servicing clients in store to learning how to service them in live chat in what we have traditionally taken almost 2 years to plan and deliver.
  • A major Construction firm in the US implemented our learning platform in 17  days, including creating 70 videos that help their workforce get back safer and faster. 17 days !! Many companies take 60 days to build one old-style e-learning course.
  • Even for us a tech startup where agility is our advantage, we have been challenged to see if we can be even more agile. Pre Corona if a client had asked us to help create 70 pieces of content and go live with Fuse in 17 days across thousands of people in the US, it would have been seen by myself and my leadership as hopeful at best. Just like all the other examples though, many of us have been challenged and re-framed all of our "new normal". Our question like many others is: Why weren't we acting and doing this before?

And there are so many other stories like those from above ... 

So what happens next?

Do we learn from the Corona trailblazers and accept that accelerated change is possible? Or, do we innovate on the old model with ideas like "the socially spaced classrooms"?  Perhaps the move will be from 5 day face to face course to 5 days on zoom calls? There is no doubt that some will do exactly this whilst others have already decided that socially distanced classrooms & 5 day MS Teams and Zoom calls may not be the breakthrough they need and are now actively asking "What is the new learning normal we must create?". 

The good news is that many companies were already in the "new norm" including some of those mentioned above, and they were able to use the mental muscles they built up with experience over the last few years to really create value in their companies before, during and coming out of Corona. Therefore not every company needs to invent a "new norm" to create value in the new post Corona world, and others who see this moment as a moment to change can look to the trailblazers and see what lessons can be learned and applied fast.

I have no doubt that Corona is likely the biggest catalyst for change for learning in our generation and perhaps as much a catalyst as the printing press, the internet and Smartphones. For those who love to evolve and learn, they will love the acceleration to the "new norm" of L&D where practitioners are happier because they know the change will lead to the creation of greater value into the organisations they serve. 

What is this new L&D norm and what is your role now as an L&D practitioner? Is it the same or do you see it evolving rapidly too? And to what?

Steve Dineen
Jun 18 2020

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