Has the coronavirus disrupted your organization’s learning and development strategy? Dr. Jim Guilkey has spent more than 20 years in the instructional design space working with clients to create immersive learning and development strategies for their businesses. Here, Guilkey shares some insight on why learning leaders may need to have a new, flexible approach to their L&D strategy, especially in the face of a health crisis.
Guilkey is the founder and president of S4 Netquest, a learning solutions provider, and the author of “M-Pact Learning: The New Competitive Advantage — What All Executives Need To Know.”
Chief Learning Officer: Why is it important for leaders to have a flexible plan for training and development in place?
The crisis we’re under right now is literally changing on a daily basis. For instance, we had a client that came to us saying they wanted a transformation [to their learning strategy]. We said: “What’s the situation?” They said: “We can’t fly our facilitators to Italy.” We were like, “OK. So the learners are still going to be together in a classroom, the facilitator’s just not going to be there.” We had a way to design that using impact learning to make it effective. Well, two days later, they said groups weren’t allowed to get together in Italy anymore. That changed in two days. If you don’t have this flexibility or know how to redesign or transform these programs quickly and effectively, you’re going to get behind.
CLO: From your experience working with clients, what steps should be taken in order to transform or convert an organization’s learning strategy?
It has to be flexible. I can’t emphasize enough that when you’re looking at a new strategy, that strategy can’t just be a converted strategy. The client we’re working with right now is global, and they’re holding classes for the next six months all over the globe. Their initial concern led to a strategy of conversion: Just take it, convert it, and basically not transform it. So in order to be effective, that strategy has to include transformation: Looking at it and using innovative, highly effective instructional design methodologies to transform it, not simply convert it.
CLO: Can you explain the difference between what you mean by conversion versus transformation?
Generally, what people are thinking about [in terms of learning strategy] is the technology. That’s what they start with. There’s things like Webex, Zoom, Adobe Connect, Google Hangout, Skype, all of these are technologies that enable things to be presented virtually. And a lot of organizations concentrate on that. But they’re missing the point. It isn’t about the technology. It’s about the instructional design. Whatever technology you’re going to use isn’t as relevant as how you redesign it.
In conversion, what they do is simply take that classroom material, such as a powerpoint presentation, and then utilize those for conducting, say, a Webex. The problem with that is, it’s still a lecture method; the same thing they’re using in the classroom, except converted for virtual dissemination. It’s not engaging, it’s not effective. You can’t tell what your participants are doing. They could be surfing the web or on Facebook.
When somebody’s standing in a classroom and has people’s attention, can see the look in their eyes, can answer questions, can do group exercises, can have that interactivity in a classroom, that’s fine, if it’s designed correctly. But once you start distributing [learning] virtually, it has to be transformed. It has to be redesigned based on the fact that it’s a new medium and it’s just a new type of distribution.
CLO: What about disease response training for health professionals and those who work with healthcare providers? Is online learning a solution there, too?
It’d have to be. Normally, I could get all my doctors, nurses and surgeons together in a room to do some training. Now if they’re saying, “Hey, health care professionals, we’re going to train you quickly on a phone, tablet or laptop or at home,” since it’s ever-changing, then again, you can’t just take the stuff they were doing in the classroom and try to put that together and distribute it differently. It has to be transformed and not converted.
CLO: With this health crisis spreading so quickly, how can learning leaders deal with the rapid turnaround to roll something out?
It depends on the amount of time you have. If you have time for a complete transformation, the cool thing is that you’re going to be able to utilize that after this crisis dissipates. With some of the others, if you had a two-week turnaround with some of the materials, then you have to do rapid prototyping. And you have to ensure that people know how to utilize some of the more rapid development tools. Because if not, it’s going to take too long, and by the time you get it done, something is going to need to change, whether it’s the approach or the content.
CLO: Training is done in the workplace in relation to job skills and things people need for their job. But what sorts of information should leaders be sharing with their workforce about the health crisis?
Part of it is training, part of it is communication. There’s got to be an essence of “Don’t panic, things are going to be fine.” But what is this virus? How do you avoid contagion, for instance, and what do symptoms look like? How do I know if I’m getting sick? There’s a whole piece around what it means to the individual. The other thing that I’m starting to see is how does the coronavirus affect the business? We’re normally onsite with our customers. We’re not going to be onsite. Vendors are no longer allowed in the building. People are asking: How are we going to be looking at our business model, and what alternatives do we need to develop and train on so we can work virtually with our customers?
The other thing you’re going to want to train your organization on is long-term and short-term effects. If this is going to be a short-term thing, this is what it means to you, and this is what it means to our organization. If it’s longer term, weeks or months, here’s how that’s going to affect our business.
CLO: Any other advice for CLOs and learning leaders about how to navigate disruption from the coronavirus?
I would go back to conversion versus transformation. But I would also say that you can use this time to your advantage. What it’s requiring you to do, especially at a chief learning officer level, is really make you examine how you currently do training today. Now maybe the virus is forcing you to do that, but as a chief learning officer, you might as well take a very close look at what you’re doing now, because through this, you can gain a lot of insight and probably implement a lot of improvements in your training because you’re being forced to look at it in a much different light.