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The genie is out of the bottle - Covid-19 has changed corporate learning forever

Steve Dineen
Apr 21 2020

Undoubtedly this is one of the most challenging times individuals, companies and society have faced in our lifetime. As people, we are having to rapidly adjust our personal and professional lives, with almost no precedent or experience we can leverage. We have to learn faster than ever before and create a new way of working, but at the same time, our "learning" industry has an opportunity to add greater impact to our people and our organisations than ever before.

Over the last few weeks, it has been amazing to see how many people & companies who have reacted so positively and evolved and I'm keen to share some of the trends and new ways of working we have seen within the fuse community of customers. What is clear from these examples below is that now is a time where we can all make a huge positive difference, especially if we learn at an accelerated pace from each other. 

To give context, to this article, we saw a huge increase in engagement across our customer base. With traffic doubling from a million views a week to 2 million from the 2nd week of March onwards, we wanted to dig into the data to understand what customers and learners were doing differently. We wanted to see if there were valuable lessons to learn, capture and share for us all to benefit.

1. Digital leadership engagement means people engagement

We have seen a huge upsurge in leaders connecting with their people in more frequent and digital ways, for example, Seasalt, a lifestyle retailer who has very high levels of people engagement (over 90% monthly active usage)is seeing its leadership team connect and engaging with its people in a variety of ways. During our days of social distancing, people engagement is even more key to our mental health, our sense of connection and the maintenance of our company cultures.

Seasalt weekly engagement

Seasalt's CEO Paul Hayes, published an article recently in the online fashion site "Drapers" and eloquently saying:

During this time, I think it's more important than ever for leaders of retail businesses to remain connected to their employees and to be visible.

Communications are transparent and regular at Seasalt. We post a daily update on our recently introduced app, The Anchor (Fuse), which has proven invaluable at this time and can be accessed by all of our employees. I also send a weekly message to the entire business.

We're running a whole range of internal initiatives, including posting video content, mindfulness and opportunities to participate in activities from home.

What I love about CEO's like Paul and his team is that they don't see themselves as simply stakeholders in connecting with their people, they understand that they need to be the biggest active advocates of people connectivity. Right now, people are scared, and social distancing magnifies that fear. Our people need our leaders to be heard regularly and in a human way.

My Advice - Work with your leaders to create, short regular videos, where people can see and emotionally feel them and take strength from them, it's far more powerful than emails or newsletters written for them. They create a sense of security and oneness. People need to feel they have been informed honestly in uncertain times.

2. Crowdsource change

As a tech startup/scale-up, we are used to constant change, and having to "pivot" business direction is a part of our normal world, but even for us that are set up for rapid change, we are also shocked by the severity. For many larger companies though they are now thrust into a world where they need to pivot like a startup and learn to work and collaborate purely through digital technology for the first time. What is evident is that to survive and thrive, we can't just wait for the normal command and control instructions and ideas generated from yesteryear to come from the top, as experience is less relevant in an unprecedented pandemic and new ideas are of higher value than ever before. 

One company that has broken the notion of ideas only coming through the top is Rockwool, and a great example was how they crowdsourced ideas from the whole collective intelligence of their organisation, in the area of sustainability. They created a campaign where new ideas were encouraged & captured in videos across the organisation, discussed in an open fashion and the top 7 being celebrated company-wide, which the short 1-minute video beneath by Rockwool illustrates.

Right now, it feels like we need lots more of this, more harnessing of ideas from across our organisations, leveraging the best thing we have -"Our People". Undoubtedly there are so many latent great ideas within our organisations which if aired, given visibility, openly discussed and celebrated will help us come out of the current crisis stronger than when we entered it, and Rockwool's examples is a perfect role model of this.

3. Accelerating policy change 

In this new world, companies have had to change policies fast, like Ocado, who are helping keep us fed with our groceries in the UK. They have been brilliant in rapidly digitising new knowledge and getting into the hands and minds of their delivery teams. As soon as the outbreak started, Ocado's people were fully informed on new ways to interact with their customers and make them feel safe, as well as making sure their staff are safe and as new policies are created, they are then brought to life, shared, consumed and tracked for impact the same day out to everyone's mobile device.


Undoubtedly, the old ways of spending 12 weeks building a course and rolling it electronically or face to face seem antiquated with the practical need that we must respond to now. It will be interesting to see whether the organisations who are moving to the ways that Ocado have been using for a while will ever fully go back to the old ways. 

Interesting, chatting with my local Ocado driver, I asked them how else they use our app, and interestingly she found the social engagement piece key or as she said "I used it to keep up with the gossip as well", which would have been a side benefit a month ago but is likely more important during the weeks and months ahead to be able to facilitate that emotional peer to peer connection digitally.

4. Surviving and thriving through rapid re-skilling

It's also been interesting to see other smart companies like Vodafone who have been able to pivot so quickly because of their experience of their teams in digital learning and communication. Although Vodafone operates many different business lines, their retail stores are a key channel to connect to existing customers and onboard new ones, but with shops being forced to shut they pivoted quickly and in days, they were able to re-train their retail staff. The thousands of staff we used to see in their stores every day are now supporting their customers via live chat taking on board the knowledge and understanding gained almost overnight. It's phenomenal to think both the content creation, learning experience design, consumption and change was all done within a week, and their customers are receiving that benefit. 

 Vodafone store

I imagine right now there are many organisations figuring how to rapidly re-skill their people with their face to face delivery mechanisms removed and the standard 12-week course build times no longer relevant. As Darwin said - It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. 

5. Simplicity keeps people safe

It's no surprise that the most popular topic has been COVID-19. What is interesting is that there is a 300% difference in engagement depending on which tactic is employed to create, signpost and share this information. 

It was clear from the data that those who put all the content related to the subject in a simple to access topic/playlist and signpost it clearly get significantly more people to read and watch rather than individual content pieces shared within social feeds or hidden away in an e-learning library somewhere. 

In essence, simply created or curated content on this topic that is easily signposted such as the one below from Medivet's new site are seeing significantly higher engagement and likely to lead to better behaviours. 

medivet layout

An argument often made, is that simply watching videos or reading articles does not change behaviour but that is likely too vague a statement because context, as in the case of the Coronavirus, is a huge variable. What I can say is watching a video of, how to wash your hands in the same way as doctors and nurses do, has led to my family and I to change our behaviour and daily habits. 

Undoubtedly we all now have a powerful motivation to do so but a simple video illustrating the what and the how, was key to the change in our behaviour, as has been other behaviours that my family and my company team have adopted with simple access to signposted knowledge during our quarantine. The average of 300% more is a huge difference and especially on such an important topic.

So my reflection on this is to create or curate useful content about COVID-19, but make every effort to signpost it, place it with related content, and keep it bite-sized for quick consumption. 

6. Learning from home and the need to accelerate to digital

Face to face training will always have relevance and even the most progressive of L&D departments such as Hilti use it for great impact, but right now that tool is temporarily not in our arsenal but learning most go on. Over the last few weeks, L&D teams like Hilti's have gone into overdrive moving their face to face programs to digital, using a combination of virtual training software and Fuse and hitting around 60% monthly active engagement whilst their audience learns from home. As a shoutout, 60% monthly active user engagement with a company with 30,000+ is truly impressive. Other learning leaders like Matt Donovan at GP Strategies have helped re-retrain their trainers within a week to become virtual facilitators, and Ocado moved their re-onboarding to digital within a week as well. Agility and learning from home is becoming the new L&D thing - led by these game changers !!


Also, Interestingly, because Hilti are a genuine leader in learning and development they are able to showcase that capability as a recruitment tool to attract great talent who want to learn from Hilti's best, which their social media posts on LinkedIn exemplify.

What is evident is that although over the coming months we will hopefully start to see the world return to one we slowly start to recognise whereas where we will see industries like construction and manufacturing re-open first, face to face events training, like trade shows, will return towards the end of our road back to normal and those that have been agile and pivoted their L&D like a startup will have offered their people a greater connection during the era of social distancing as well as giving their companies a competitive advantage out the other side.

What are your reflections?

Some of our customers mentioned above have kindly offered to be part of a panel-style webinar to share their experiences and offer advice, guidance, from their skills as well as answer questions you may have. Feel free to register for the free session below ...

FY20-May-L&D_Roundtable-Featured_Banner V2

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