Two Years Into the Pandemic, It Is Time to Reassess Learning and Development

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By Yomna Salem

One silver lining of the pandemic whirlwind is that the crucial role of Learning & Development (L&D) functions can no longer be debated. L&D ranks fifth in importance among 11 HR priorities (McLean & Company, HRSM 2017-2021; n=4,100). According to McLean & Company’s 2022 HR Trends Report, developing leaders ranks third in importance among 12 organizational priorities (N=826). L&D professionals stepped up to the unprecedented challenge of helping organizations survive and function in a new reality no one was prepared for. In the span of weeks, we acquired new tools, converted content to digital formats, and delivered training virtually. Two years into the pandemic, though, it’s time to pause and recalibrate.

While being heavily occupied with tools made sense at the time when we were rushing to adapt, we cannot lose focus on what we are trying to achieve. Training, in all its varied forms, is not our ultimate goal. It is our means to an end. It is important to make sure the end and the means we are using to get there are still valid.

To make sure you are still working toward the right goals, ask:

  • Are you focused on what matters the most to your organization? Are your efforts and resources aligned with the organization’s priorities? Get back to your learning and development strategy and regularly check if it needs updating. Are the goals identified a few months ago still what the organization prioritizes today? Organizations expect their L&D functions to support achieving their goals, but not all have built-in processes to keep L&D informed when priorities change. Be proactive and bridge that gap.

To verify your current practices, consider the following:

  • Look beyond training. Contrary to popular belief, our mission is not to deliver trainings; it is to address learning needs. Training remains, and will remain, a central tool in our toolkit. It is only when we build it up to be the silver bullet and the answer to everything that we set ourselves, learners, and leaders up for disappointment. To help an athlete perform at a higher level, you would not be expected to provide a session about nutrition or fitness and walk away. It takes a comprehensive program of training, practice through application, and a supportive environment of feedback and coaching to get them to the next level. Things look different in organizations, but the main concept remains the same. People do not perform in a vacuum, and to improve their performance you need to plan your learning solutions inside and outside the classroom (virtual or real).
  • Give learners what they need. A lot of times we are approached with requests for solutions, usually trainings, rather than a business challenge or a learning need. The proposed solution may or may not be the best choice for this specific need. A microlearning video or a concise job aid an employee could access when needed may be much more helpful, and cost-effective, than six hours of training months before or after the need arises. It is not an either-or game. Coaching, for example, could be an invaluable tool to reinforce the learning and behavior change during or after a leadership development program. Part of our role is to have the sometimes difficult conversations to arrive at the most effective solution for both the learners and the business.
  • Use the right channels. There was a lot of pressure to build up and/or purchase digital and virtual training resources early in the pandemic. It is time to pause and evaluate these tools and platforms. Are your people really using them? What is their feedback? It is not always about finding the best new tool out there. Sometimes it is more productive to go for something that works for your people and your work environment. For example, organizations with people working in multiple locations and time zones might find that any attempt at synchronous live training is ineffective, but virtual collaboration tools are heavily used. Do you still need that expensive software? Should you be upgrading it?

The pandemic has not given any of us a break, but we are past the point of thinking about survival. It is time to focus again on how to thrive and reimagine learning moving forward.

For more information, check McLean & Company’s Reimagine Learning solution set.

To learn more about how McLean & Company can support your learning and development efforts, please visit our website or contact Jon Campbell at jcampbell@mcleanco.com.

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