We are six months into the pandemic. This was a great time for Nigel Paine and I to gather over thirty learning professionals for a conversation to reflect on their recent wins and upcoming opportunities. The tone was resoundingly positive while being grounded in the reality of the current situation.
While the session was not recorded I’d like to share a summary of key insights from the conversation. We also invited people who had registered to attend to share recent wins and opportunities in a survey before the session. The insights below come from both sources.
What stage is your organisation at?
We used four stages recently defined by Josh Bersin to ask this question. The stages are:
REACT > Identify who is affected, understand impact and develop systems and for communication and collaboration
RESPOND > Develop programs to help employees work at home, wellbeing initiatives, new benefits programs, train team leaders for new environment
RETURN > Develop new protocols and systems to keep employees and customers infection-free and safe in secure work environments
TRANSFORM > Redesign product, services and work experiences for safely operating in new world
Movement between these stages is not linear. Depending on what is happening and where the organisation operates it could move back to an earlier stage. Also, larger and geographically distributed organisations may be in multiple stages simultaneously. One participant noted that their organisation had gone through another stage between respond and return. He called it redefine. In this stage they redefined roles and work in the remote working configuration.
We asked people to identify which stage best described where their organisation is right now. While a little surprised to see 21% in react (perhaps skewed by return to lockdown in Victoria) – we were delighted to see 32% in transform.
Where have people had wins?
Some wins from the past 2-3 months shared in the pre-session survey are shown below:
- Transitioning to online delivery across all programs
- Online transformation program to introduce new online skills to teachers. 15 different areas of department worked together to enable solution in 14 days.
- A well-being learning initiative which included isolation activities, exercises, group activities and more
- Getting my organisation to trial tools we have never used before for better communication e.g. Slack
- Formation of successful community of practice of educators statewide to support each other in delivery of learning in public hospitals
- Reintroducing staff surveys
- Expanding my network and finding truly helpful, friendly and genuine people
- Seeing people embrace new ways of learning and collaborating
- Getting first clients
- Securing a new role
- Increased exposure and getting offers to present at virtual conferences and training work
It’s clear that while the pandemic has been a tough period it has also been a time to seize the moment. Decisions have been made more quickly than usual. Bureaucracy relaxed enough to get things done quicker. People have experimented, learned and iterated.
“In my case Transform has been essential to the firm’s survival. So it was important to get there ASAP – a bit was done on the fly and we worked out things as we went along.”
Being bold with upcoming opportunities
People shared an opportunity they have coming up in the next 2-3 months in the pre-session survey. Here’s a sample of them below.
Key ideas from the breakthrough rooms
Benefit of technology for onboarding – huge opportunities right now for this. Opportunities for increasing connection with interstate/international colleagues that we previously felt we did not have.
- Leadership that cares unleashes everything else
- Leadership mindset is a key enabler or barrier
- Role modelling new behaviours is vital to showcase how to navigate uncertainty and lead in this environment
- People need to feel safe and trusted to thrive.
Community / networks and collaboration:
- Starting communities of learning from points of interest
- Communities of practice enable people to have their stories shared and heard
- Allowing people’s voices to be heard.
Changing culture that defines what learning means.
- L&D having a ‘seat at the table’ to support problem solving in the business
- Revisit the 70:20:10 model of learning in light of our new workplace environments
- Data analysis
Diversity and Inclusion
While this wasn’t a specific discussion topic it was a key theme in the insights:
- Not everyone can work from home – be flexible and inclusive
- Allowing people’s voices to be heard
- Ensure you don’t create a divide between frontline workers and those who have access to new technology
- Accessibility – total no-brainer to make all learning accessible
Building Learning Culture
Learning culture is a thread that wound through many of the discussions. Learning culture can feel daunting and unapproachable. Many of the models about what learning culture looks like and how to build it are unnecessarily complex. Nigel shared the simpler framework that he derived from research for his book Workplace Learning. How to build a culture of continuous employee development. Treat this as a guide for where you may want to focus your attention to build learning culture. A key idea is that the broader organisational culture is critical to creating the conditions necessary for learning to thrive.
Nigel and I have created a downloadable primer on learning culture. If you are curious to learn more you can download the eBook using this link.
If one of your opportunities is to continue developing effective, engaging learning solutions for the online environment ReThink Learning could be for you. ReThink Learning will fast track your progress with a playbook of robust lean processes and tools that you can use to convert or create high impact, effective learning journeys. Developed and facilitated by Michelle, ReThink Learning draws on her experience, that of the organisations she has worked with and the many great case studies shared on her Learning Uncut podcast. It also aligns with the evidence base of what really works in organisational learning.