Dec 06, 2021

Coronavirus was the kick the L&D sector needed to lurch forward; it must now maintain that momentum

Teaching & training 3 min read

Ed Monk, Chief Executive Learning and Performance Institute in Raconteur: Digital Learning 2021. It is clear learning is not merely about courses, tutors or platforms. It is about attitude and action; it is the armor with which we fortify ourselves against challenge and adversity with confidence and alacrity.

Just hours after the first coronavirus news, the memes started rolling in. Within weeks, people were ordering Zoom shirts from Instagram and sipping quarantinis. Then the reality of juggling home schooling with furlough finances began to bite.

Yet from the chaos, came progress. Restaurants signed up to Deliveroo. Yoga classes went virtual. Classrooms went online. Businesses adapted to the most devastating year of the 21st century.

Those that prevailed had one vital advantage: not their office spaces or their balance sheets, but the creativity of their people. Programmers, marketers, salespeople, accountants, administrators, all had to mine deep reserves of innovation, agility and collaboration to save their companies from disaster. For those who work in corporate learning, the lessons are unforgettable.

Miracles can and do happen in companies that value human potential as deeply as raw profit. Secondly, people will adapt, learning new skills when and where they need to, not when and where they are told. Thirdly, agile and flexible networked teams will naturally outperform isolated people in fixed roles.

Technology, too, played its part. 2020 was a year in which going online meant survival, yet pre-COVID it was considered an optional extra. Consequently, some learning and development (L&D) professionals found themselves ill-prepared and lacking the necessary digital skills to drive the machinery.


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That it needed a global pandemic to drag classroom training online, when employees had been plugged into YouTube and WhatsApp for years, was proof of how arrhythmic the L&D profession had become to the beat of its learners. Coronavirus was the kick L&D needed to lurch forward. It must now maintain that momentum and advance into a fearless digital future, building next level skills such as data analysis, artificial intelligence personalization and performance consulting, and primed for the next challenge.

I am confident we will succeed. Last year, more than 100 prominent chief executives signed a statement on the purpose of a corporation, pledging to “support employees through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world”. In America, the Securities and Exchange Commission recently mandated that training and development metrics be included alongside financial statements for certain US companies. These bold actions will undoubtedly have a far-reaching impact on workplace L&D. What does this all mean?

Firstly, we must cultivate the human skills that will help us tackle future challenges. Secondly, we must build digital skills to support a rapidly evolving technical landscape. Continuous skills mapping will become critical for workforce planning, as will the need for communities of practice that keep ad hoc skills current. For more in-depth learning, capability academies will become the backbone for specific business strategies and function areas.

As we reflect on 2020, it is clear learning is not merely about courses, tutors or platforms. It is about attitude and action; it is the armor with which we fortify ourselves against challenge and adversity with confidence and alacrity.

Corporate learning must now power up and transform. It must be compelling by creating an irresistible magnetic pull for the employee. It must be constructive by fulfilling a purpose for both the company and its employees, while striking a balance between stability and dynamism. And it must be convenient by effortlessly integrating into the flow of work, neatly synchronized with how people learn. Human ingenuity in harmony with digital skills, orchestrated by compelling, constructive and convenient experiences: this is the learning meme of 2021.

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