Over the past few weeks and in response to the coronavirus pandemic, organizations have made a number of workplace changes: going entirely remote, sadly cutting employees in some industries, the worldwide norm of furloughing, or rapidly hiring more employees in other industries. It’s not the world we were expecting to live in at the beginning of our 2020, but it’s our reality for now – and companies have no other option than to adapt to it.
Currently, global workforces are anxious about the future: fewer than four in 10 feel confident that they will be able to continue to meet the requirements of their job successfully, should the economic disruption continue to take place in the post-COVID era.
During this time of crisis, how are leaders thinking about training and development?
As managers contemplate their medium to long-term strategy, they might be considering how to cut nonessential expenses, and that might include investments in employee development. To give you some context here, organizations typically spend 11% of their budgets on training, but during an emergency, it’s common for companies to scale back their development efforts.
When cost-cutting becomes the new normal, training and development are likely added to the list of things to downsize.
But guess what? That’s a MISTAKE!
So, what strategies do companies have to keep investing in employee development during this crisis?
From Manager to Mentor (IQ to EQ)
Prior to COVID-19, Gallup research found that 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work.
These days, even more, organizations must acknowledge and address anxiety and uncertainty: what employees are looking for is an emotional outlet, and what they really need is to talk about how they can continue to do good work and contribute in the future.
Here, it is vital that managers understand their role: by shifting the hierarchy from ‘manager’ attitude and act more as mentors when it comes to giving feedback. As a quick example, more frequent check-ins and coaching conversations are a true necessity right now.
And along with this, another good strategy could be to make employee assistance programs (EAP) available to everyone. These programs are a vital lifeline for employees in distress, and trained coaches would be available to counsel employees as they navigate these uncertain times.
Listening, giving advice, and preparing employees now for when things return to normal can help companies thrive when the crisis is over!
The Importance of Behavioural Skills!
Did you know that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet?
As this crisis fades, there will be greater urgency felt to prepare leaders and employees for the future. This will require HR and learning professionals to dramatically reorient and revise their training strategies.
But while these next-generation skills are indeed essential, a 2019 IBM survey showed that, in the future, behavioural skills will be the area with more significant gaps than digital skills.
Think for example about how important it is to communicate clearly, create accountability, think critically, and develop your people: the mounting human cost of the pandemic will be immense, and it’s important not to overlook the social and emotional costs that will come with it!
In spite of organizations’ tightening budgets, the pandemic can be a significant development opportunity to focus on these behavioural skills that are key to high performance. There’s a real opportunity here!
Leaders can use this period to develop their people to adopt a problem-solving, opportunity-focused mindset: not only does this help employees throughout their careers and lives, but it also ensures that organizations recover faster and adjust more effectively to the new, post-pandemic future of work.
Create a Virtual, Active Network
Before the crisis, alternative and multiplatform learning modes were on the rise, and many organizations had successfully implemented e-learnings.
But the actual effectiveness of these methods remains uncertain, primarily because few organizations have tested them out. Less than half of the chief learning officers surveyed by McKinsey, for example, said that they usually offer peer and self-directed learning, educational initiatives that take participants outside their comfort zones, and risk-free learning environments.
We don’t know how effective these offers are, but one thing we know for sure is that a blended learning approach is always the most effective one. What employees want to participate in is a learning journey, with a more individualized and human focus on the actual people, along with greater connection and intimacy.
During the crisis, virtual learning must be emphasized, sure, but what companies really need to encourage is open learning and peer-to-peer learning with other employees! This will require investing in the right learning technologies and creating a culture where open feedback and dialogue, and collaborative decision-making are encouraged!
Even as the uncertainty amid this disruption continues, companies should keep investing in employee learning and development. It matters now, for employee support, and it matters for the future of our companies, however that may look after this crisis tones down.
Downsizing and restructuring are brought on by financial concern, but we believe it’s a fine balance. Otherwise, leaders risk completely disabling their business that a bounce back from the pandemic will take far longer or at worst cannot happen, both in terms of resource and readiness of their existing workforces.
Those employees saved from downsizing activity will need greater tenacity, wider capabilities, behavioural nouse, and value generation. Right now, it’s hard to see this working, if there are no ongoing employee development schemes in play.
This time is an opportunity to curate a balanced learning and development program, one that brings the best of online, instructor-led, and experiential learning in a way that best supports employees during this crisis.
Doing this effectively will continue to motivate and inspire them beyond the crisis!
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