Learning Governance: Dealing with the New Normal
Most organizations have spent more than twenty years trying to strike the right balance between classroom learning and other delivery channels. Very few have really succeeded in getting the ratio between the classroom and other media to be much better than 80%/20%. Until now.
In the past few weeks, courtesy of the Corona Virus, a great deal of business learning has ground to a halt. Just about all the classroom learning has been suspended, and there has been a mad scramble to move to either self-paced learning or the virtual classroom. Overnight, virtual learning has jumped to 100% for almost every business.
We all hope that we can return the world to “normal” as quickly as possible. But it’s likely that there will be a “new normal”, in the world in general, in the business world, and in the world of learning. The concept of essential vs. non-essential activities is probably here to stay and will color all aspects of our lives – including how we learn. It is also true that the global experiment with virtual learning has demonstrated what can be done, what works well – and what doesn’t.
So what does this mean for the way in which we govern learning? How will the “new normal” change our priorities, our processes, and our measures of success? As we move forward, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.
Here are some of the key issues to address:
- How do we keep the learning process going without putting our learners at risk?
- How do we continue to use learning to build our business culture if learners are not coming together?
- How do we effectively engage learners in the virtual learning process?
- What impact will the “new normal” have on the way we define, design, develop, deliver, and maintain learning going forward?
- What processes will we need to design and build learning for the new mix of delivery channels?
- How will we engage subject matter experts to build the new learning, and to support its delivery?
- How do we retrofit today’s learning content for tomorrow’s world?
- How do we create blended learning solutions to provide the right mix of foundation, immersion, and reinforcement? And how will the immersion piece work in a more virtual learning world?
- How do we create, maintain, and protect the right technology environment for the new learning world?
- How can we effectively and correctly measure the impact of learning in this new environment?
So how do we deal with all of this? Several suggestions:
1. Accept the change
This is definitely not a case of “this too shall pass”. While some normalcy will certainly return, it is not likely that we will ever see the old “status quo” again. And this will apply both to what we teach people and how we teach it. The first challenges will center on the learning that the business now needs (e.g., “How do we now serve our customers?”) and the ways in which we deliver that learning (e.g., “What are the rules for bringing people together?”).
2. Up the ante on learning governance
Every business organization has some way that it is governing learning today, whether formally or informally. The more that the “new normal” of learning distributes learning activities (more done remotely and/or self-paced), the more important the learning governance process becomes. So this juncture is an opportunity to strengthen the learning governance process as you try to address the issues (and opportunities) that the new environment presents.
3. Leverage the opportunities
Your wishes for more distance learning have now been granted – with a vengeance. Look at what has worked well in this arena and build on it. Demonstrate the value – both in learning gained and travel and time costs saved. And for those things that did not work – see what you can learn from the experience.
Whatever was on your agenda before needs to be re-assessed. Does it still match the business needs? Are you still focused on those things that are most important, both to learning and to the business? Do you now need to focus on redesigning those programs that may no longer work the way they used to?
Many organizations will find that the skills needed to design, develop, and deliver learning for this new environment are different from those that served you well up till now. The ways that you engage learners in remote learning require a different approach, and the tools and skills needed to design remote learning are quite different as well. This should factor into the way upskill staff, what you choose to outsource, and your future hiring decisions.
6. Measure differently
A world filled with more virtual learning, more distributed learning, and more learning on demand requires a different measurement approach. Participation needs to be measured differently, as does satisfaction, retention, and application. Make sure that you acknowledge this difference upfront and build it into the design and implementation of future learning solutions.
Necessity may be forcing you to address some of these suggestions already. But it’s important to step back and make sure that you have all of these on your learning governance agenda.