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Insights

Was Corporate Training Ready for COVID-19?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020
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Every year Mimeo hosts an annual State of Learning and Development survey. This year we ran our survey of North American training and L&D professionals in February. The next month, the coronavirus outbreak changed the way corporate America thought and behaved.

Our survey, then, gives us unique insight into whether the training discipline was prepared to support sudden changes, which includes an all-remote workforce for some industries and for others rapid hiring and new health safety training.

Were We Ready to Support Rapid Business Changes?The COVID-19 pandemic forced every business in the United States to make changes, whether a restaurant chain suddenly had to support take-out only, front-office workers had to work remotely for an extended period of time, or suppliers needed to hire thousands of new workers to support essential business.

To successfully support these changes, a training team needed to be poised with the right technology, skills, and bandwidth to convert face-to-face training or create new course materials.

Technology

The good news is that the majority of L&D professionals already had the technology to deliver virtual training. Seventy percent of teams had learning management systems (LMSs) and 67 percent had virtual delivery systems such as GoToWebinar or WebEx.

However, only 55 percent of training teams had e-learning creation tools as of February. That means that while the average trainer was prepared to virtually deliver current course material, they weren’t necessarily equipped to create new materials to support new demands.

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Skills

While virtual and face-to-face training are similar, they also require different skill sets. With 63 percent of trainers using instructor-led virtual training in their mix and 67 percent using self-paced virtual training (like e-learning), most training teams had at least dipped their toes into remote training methods before the pandemic.

However, a full 25 percent of trainers were supporting zero remote learners as of February, which meant they needed to make some hasty changes.

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Bandwidth

Finally, whether or not you have the skills, you need bandwidth to convert or create new training. Every year we ask our survey respondents about how big their teams are and what kind of tasks they are responsible for.

As in previous years, the majority of trainers are on teams of fewer than 10 people, with 37 percent on teams of one to three people. In addition, the average trainer is responsible for the entire spectrum of training services, including designing courses, the logistics of deploying them, the strategy behind them, and managing business relationships.

Most trainers listed time as their topmost challenge. Worse, 22 percent of teams don’t have any outsourcing relationships, which means they have no levers to pull when demand on the training team grows too great.

Training teams were small, lean, and strapped for resources as of February 2020.

It’s no secret at the ATD forums that corporate trainers are the unsung heroes of organizations. After all, without training, new hires wouldn’t be properly onboarded, safety measures would go unknown, and soft skills would never be appropriately nurtured. As business realities changed, so did the demands upon training teams. While most teams were prepared with the right technology and skills, the burden of converting and creating training has likely maxed out most trainers’ bandwidth.

Dive into these results and more in our State of L&D 2020 report, published in collaboration with Challenger.

About the Author

Ann McDonald has over 20 years of experience as a talent development leader with a history of consistently improving sales performance and business results through innovative learning and development methods and strategic talent management initiatives. She has a proven track record in providing talent management and learning and development solutions, and in selecting, implementing and leveraging technology to maximize employee engagement and increase learning retention in order to optimize results in sales driven organizations.

At Mimeo, Ann is responsible for leading the strategic direction of all training and development programs and is currently in the process of putting the right tools and systems in place to enhance learning opportunities and improve training impact for all levels of employees from new hires through the executive level.

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