Jun 03, 2020

“Learning and development still on the agenda”

Teaching & Learning 5 min read last updated on: Jul 02, 2020

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Confinement, inclusion, engagement, furloughs and recruitment; in the second of a series of talks with senior HR people, GE Healthcare’s Head of Global Culture, Inclusion and Employee Engagement Rachel Scheel talks about how the company dealt with employee engagement at the start of the coronavirus crisis and how they are looking at learning and development “even more than before”.

If this becomes the new norm looking forward, what would the implications be for employee engagement?

We've been considering that. We have a huge field-based population who are not with their leader on a day-to-day basis and sometimes not with their teams on a day-to-day basis. So their roles will continue in the same format. The task for our leaders is now to really think about the ways they connect with teams and how they do it in a way that is collaborative, that checks on safety and that builds trust. Those are the key things: being a bit more creative and thoughtful around these virtual team connections to really drive that team continuity. And then, we've got lots of information about how to develop teams. But how do you do it virtually? And how do you lead through impact and output rather than delivery?

How do you find,  hire and onboard new employees in this sort of context?

I don't think we have really seen the impact on hiring at this point. And to be very honest, where the roles are critical, they're still going ahead. We use Skype very regularly for a lot of interviews. The second aspect is the on-boarding. And I think what's going to be more challenging is getting people set up with I.T. and equipment. But I think it's too early to really comment on how we're dealing with that.

Training and learning: from classroom to virtual

Is learning and development still on the agenda?

Even more so now. We have a lot of facilities that have been running classroom-style training. We're already making plans now to convert a lot of those to virtual learnings. We've put out a list of initial programs that we're going to try, to see how they work in a virtual environment that will be taught in forums with small groups like you would in a classroom with lots of interaction.

Are there any best-case scenarios that you are following? Do you have a kind of model in your mind or following?

In terms of training, yes. We work with quite a few partners. We also have a very heavy corporate learning and development team with a lot of experience that are putting their heads together. One of the reasons we want to try these and give them support is because the courses have to be impactful. They have to be engaging, particularly some of the courses that traditionally can be over three or five days. How do you build that into a virtual kind of learning environment without losing participation? 

Opportunities to connect

In cases of lockdowns, or situations where far more homeworking is taking place, how do people bring things to the attention of their manager?

I think this is a difficult one to kind of gauge at this point. I've seen some teams doing some really great stuff. The team I work in has a daily stand-up session, which is 15 minutes every day. And it's just generally just, "How's your day going? What's happening? What are we hearing?” I think it's forcing people to find opportunities to connect more virtually. And interestingly, I've heard a lot of comments around the organization that emails have kind of declined, but phone calls have increased.

Is it too early to talk about long term dangers or have we already actually entered the future of work?

I don't think we're going back [laughter]. I think this is the new normal and it would be scary to see organizations trying to fight against it. I think people are going to start demanding a little bit more flexibility, knowing that they can still be impactful and deliver [at work]. But they could do it in a way that fits their lifestyle. It's a key point, the work/life integration model, work life balance, because you're making your life fit with your work. And it works!

3-minute read: When distance is part of the solution, not the problem

Some people are being redeployed inside companies. Is that something you see?

Yes. It's all geographical as well. We've seen decline in some part of our business, so we've had to furlough some teams because we know that their work is going to come back again. But we've also had to go heavy and recruit teams in Madison, for example, where they're producing these ventilators because we can't keep up with the demand. So we're seeing real troughs and we're seeing some real peaks.

"People could work from anywhere”

Given the recent upheavals, how do you actually see the future of work?

I think the future of work is looking at a different talent landscape and the cultural shift of how this is going to impact future human behavior - being adaptable to it. I don't think people are actively going out there to try and source new jobs at the moment, because there's that element of instability. But we need to develop talent and we need to do it in a way that's different. So we almost need to go back to what are the programs or what are the development systems we have in place that we put earlier on board, help leaders grow and change through this.

And how do we think about talent differently? One of my roles is diversity, inclusion. We often say we need someone who's based in Chicago or Paris or wherever. So we only look for the talent in those locations whereas now, as we're discovering, people could work anywhere. Could that talent be based in Australia or Singapore? That is going to change the way we think about the attraction strategy we have and how we become more global and more inclusive.

Has anything else struck you over the past few weeks?

My biggest concern is that as lockdown rules are gradually being removed there will be companies out there that expect people just to get back into an office. But for me, the biggest concern I have is how people get back to the office. That's the safety element I keep flagging. I think about the broader community issue around people going on a tube or people getting on public transport. I think that's going to be a challenge.


In a world where distancing, remote working and/or travel bans will be more frequent, companies have to diversify their training delivery methods to ensure continuity and that the workforce’s skills match current challenges. Real-time distance learning provides a central pillar that meets the needs of workers but also as a way to prepare for a complex and changing world.


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