I reunited with some of our colleagues at this year’s ATD International Conference & Exposition in Salt Lake City. Like many of the other in-person attendees, I took a 50-minute flight from my home in Las Vegas to the Salt Lake airport and the city’s light rail train into the city. As I was riding the train back to the airport to fly home, I was impressed with the cleanliness and efficiency of the system. While looking at the route map, I saw that multiple lines extended to the various parts of Salt Lake City and that it seemed to be used by all segments of society.
I compared their city’s system to the one here in Las Vegas. Both cities have a variation of a mass transit system. Where the Salt Lake light rail system is a publicly run system, Vegas has private trams that run from casino to casino. We also have a monorail system owned by the convention center; however, its primary purpose is to move people from casino to casino and to the convention center. Even though our airport is essentially on the Strip, our monorail and mass transit system doesn’t extend from the Strip to the airport. Mass transit systems are a vital component of a city’s infrastructure.
Webster’s Dictionary defines infrastructure as:
1. The systems of public works of a country, state, or region; also: the resources (such as personnel, buildings, or equipment) required for an activity
2. The underlying foundation or basic framework (as a system or organization)
3. The permanent installations required for military purposes
Typically, we think of infrastructure as what we need, as a society, to survive. But really, it is much more than that. It is what we need, as a society, to provide the tools to allow our society to grow and thrive. We have limited ourselves to thinking of infrastructure as societal items provided by government and public utilities, such as transportation, water, sewer, electricity, and communication. If you go back and reread the definition for infrastructure, you can apply it to each of our unique organizations—both the organization(s) each of us work for and your own departments within that organization. This even applies to freelancers and individual contractors.
If we turn back the clock to February 2020, what was the work infrastructure required to do your job? For most of us, the company provided a desk and chair that would enable you to work comfortably for eight hours, electricity, heating and air conditioning, a phone and internet connection, and other physical entities that allowed you to perform your assigned taskings. The company also provided the necessary software and applications to develop and deliver training, conference rooms to hold the weekly or monthly meeting(s), and other unique items designed to meet your organization’s needs.
How is that different today?
You still need everything I just listed; except now, for most of us, you are providing them for yourselves, not the company. The company will still provide your computer and software, but each of us are providing those other physical items and services. We’ve had some sort of internet in our homes, but we need a more reliable and dedicated internet that can handle parents working from the bedroom, kitchen table, or home office and ensure children are able to attend school. Each of us is paying for our own electricity and heating and cooling. Most of us have spent our own money to upgrade our home offices—new desks, ergonomic chairs, and so on. The company also has had to distribute new software that enables us to have the weekly and monthly meetings. We also need new software that protects the company data and prevents unwanted hacking and intrusion, such as dedicated VPN and encryption.
Like the evolving definition of societal infrastructure, organizations and training departments must also have an evolving definition of infrastructure. Historically, you may have had an LMS, dedicated instructors, and computer software to build the training and classrooms to give the training. But what is the infrastructure we need 18 months from now? What is your infrastructure definition going to evolve into? To answer that, you need to look at your organization’s resources—time, people, and budget—and compare that with your status quo. Is your company growing and you need a new LMS? Has the past year-and-a-half forced you to repurpose classroom training for the virtual environment? Do you want to attract and engage a younger, more digital, and electronically adept learner? There are plenty more questions you should be asking yourself. And the answers to these questions will determine how your infrastructure will evolve.
If your company is growing and you need either your first LMS or an upgrade to a new LMS, can your current computer systems handle the new software and applications? If your students are more disengaged in the virtual environment, do you need to have lesson plans designed from the beginning as a virtual lesson with engagement activities specifically designed for the virtual environment? Can your virtual platform handle an increase in viewers? If instructors are struggling with presenting the material and that causes disengagement during virtual classrooms, do you need to have a dedicated producer working the various technical issues, monitoring the chatroom, and so forth to enable the instructor to focus solely on presenting the material? If you are trying to engage a more digital and electronically adept learner, are AR or VR solutions? If it is, do you have not only the software to build the training and AR/VR equipment, but also the dedicated space to run the simulations and a trained individual who can supervise the learner in the AR/VR environment?
As we move toward a post-pandemic training environment, we must look at our existing culture and infrastructure and identify what infrastructure will enable our organization to grow and thrive. A training department must review and improve its internal infrastructure to support the company’s operations and business strategy.