In many parts of the globe, hints of a post-COVID-19 world are emerging. Virus rates are declining, restrictions are being lifted, and in-person gatherings are back on after a two-year hiatus.
So, it’s not a surprise that we are seeing an uptick in clients implementing instructor-led training (ILT)—live learning sessions where learners and facilitators share the same physical space. ILTs were the preferred training modality for many organizations pre-COVID-19, but they disappeared during the pandemic overnight.
The rapid pivot in 2020 to virtual-led instruction training (vILT) and digital modalities posed some challenges but worked better than originally anticipated in many cases. Learners and clients reported that they were grateful for continued opportunities to develop, that the virtual classroom was more engaging and interactive than expected and that they could still grasp and practice core skills and concepts despite the virtual setting. In addition to this anecdotal data, we also did not see a drop in initial effectiveness and satisfaction scores from session evaluations.
At the same time, however, we heard loud and clear from learners and clients that they were eager for the type of connection that only an in-person experience can provide. Particularly for cohort-based programs, learners disliked missing out on formal and informal opportunities like coffee breaks, meals, and after-hours outings with colleagues, which helped to build rapport and relationships.
Like many other areas of life right now, the ILTs of 2022 and beyond can be a success with a bit of extra intentional effort. Here are some considerations for training professionals when “flipping the switch” back to in-person trainings:
Individual learner needs and preferences: Recognize the differing comfort and ability levels related to gathering in person for training events. Though rates are declining, COVID-19 is not yet over, and each person has their own set of needs and limitations related to the ability to travel and be in person with others at this point in time. From childcare concerns to considerations around immunocompromised selves and family members, an ILT experience may not be possible or practical. Consider offering multiple modalities for training, if possible, or provide viable alternatives to those not yet willing or able to travel.
Facilitators: Consider what your facilitator pool looks like – it may be different than you remember. Like many of us, facilitators’ lives shifted drastically during the pandemic. While some are ready to get back “out there” again, others have determined that a remote arrangement is their new long-term normal. For facilitators traveling on-site to deliver training, ensure that providing a safe work environment for them is top-of-mind.
Travel considerations: If bringing learners or instructors in from multiple locations, remember that 2022’s travel plans look a bit different than 2019’s. Air travel has been impacted by staffing challenges and reduced routes—meaning a missed or canceled flight could have heightened consequences. Additionally, it is helpful to remember the local variability of the pandemic. What is feasible in one part of the country may not yet be in another as virus cases, vaccination rates, and regulations vary from location to location.
COVID-compliant training modifications: Consider some practical ways to modify training to maximize comfort and safety for all involved. You may want to:
- Know applicable local and company regulations related to COVID-19 (and be prepared for them to change).
- If vaccination proof, masks, or testing are required, ensure that these details are part of the pre-communication to learners and facilitators.
- Add supplies like antibacterial wipes, disposable face masks, and hand sanitizer to your training toolkit.
- Plan for physical distancing during the ILT, if needed or desired. Arrange attendee seating and adjust activities accordingly.
- Keep discussion groups consistent throughout the day to minimize exposure.
- When possible, avoid or minimize the use of shared objects (markers, flip charts, etc.).
- Have a contingency plan in the event that your in-person training may quickly need to pivot to hybrid or fully virtual.
We want to know: What’s your timetable for returning to ILT? What questions, needs, or concerns do you have as you embark on the process?