As the pandemic forces millions of workers to hunker down for an indefinite period of time, workplaces have become remote by necessity. This means work-related activities, including learning and development, have also gone remote.
Employers with robust L&D functions know that workers need to keep growing even during exigent circumstances, both for their own professional development and to master needed on-the-job skills. In fact, some experts view it as an opportunity. "Innovation in online learning and development is the biggest opportunity that will emerge from this crisis," said Drew Remiker, senior instructional program manager at NovoEd, speaking to HR Dive via email.
"Companies that have been resistant to moving select workshops and legacy development programs online will find that they can conduct these programs in a digital format with greater impact, more engagement and at a lower cost."
As organizations assess how the novel coronavirus will provide them opportunities to innovate their own L&D programs, HR Dive spoke with three sources, including Remiker, to determine the tips and tricks of moving a program completely online.
9 tips for creating an effective remote L&D program
1. Plan first
"[D]evelop a clear plan which includes identifying your team and clarifying learning objectives before identifying the appropriate technology solution, the timeline and the desired content," said Remiker. "It's helpful to develop a common framework and structure for moving training online. For example, migrating a one day workshop will have different components than a 12-week leadership development program."
2. Think beyond the video conference
"[I]n the rush to get programs online, companies will be tempted to just distribute learning materials and online content and set up a series of video conferences," said Remiker. "High impact learning that produces real results requires more than this, especially considering employees may be burned out from video conferences with all of their meetings taking place in this format these days."
3. Support your teams
"Don't assume people will just 'figure it out,'" advised Tania Luna, Co-CEO of LifeLabs Learning, via email. "Some might but there will be a great deal of conflict and frustration along the way. Many of the skills needed to work well in such a diverse, distributed environment go against our instincts (we naturally work well in small, homogeneous teams)." Luna suggested employees and managers work together to see what adjustments and accommodations are possible.
4. Stretch it out
"[I]t's important to stretch learning over time," said Remiker. "If you've typically offered full-day or multi-day workshops, break up your training into smaller lessons with participant activities in between live or recorded sessions and content over two to six weeks. Retention is higher with more time to absorb and reflect with peers."
5. Trust employees
"When you trust people to do their work, that's when the respect comes back to you," said Jill Felska, director of people and culture at Limelight Health, commenting via email. "This changing of behavior is like treating adults like adults, and I have always found that when you take that stance, people show up as their best selves."
Trust is crucial, concurred Luna: "More trust leads to less conflict, more fluid communication, and better collaboration, resulting in more speed, efficiency, and quality of work."
6. Design for application
"[B]e sure that the learning activities are authentic and allow participants to connect what they're learning to the real world," said Remiker.
7. Curate and create content
"With online training, you're not limited to lectures and PowerPoint — think videos, articles, podcasts, infographics, games, ebooks, web conferences and other creative formats," Remiker advised. "Repurpose existing content wherever possible, and create your own content to supplement it so you can include messaging and a look that's on brand."
8. Keep it social
"Retain the social elements of in-person workshops with intentionally designed activities and tools including group assignments, breakout discussions and peer feedback," said Remiker. Luna added that "face time" is important: "Research reveals that simply seeing people's faces increases liking and trust."
9. Be patient
"The switch to remote work can be a big enough change, but this is a completely new version of working from home," said Felska. "This is uncharted territory. There will be some days that are great, and others where you wish you were able to get out of the house more. Give yourself and everyone else some grace."