November 2020
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TD Magazine

Pandemic Next Steps: Focus on L&D

Monday, November 2, 2020

Companies need to prioritize training efforts to equip employees and leaders with necessary skills.

The talent development function plays an integral role in helping organizations navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely one of the most pivotal workplace transformations in modern history. John Bersin Academy's The Big Reset Playbook: What's Working Now report captures urgent next steps for business leaders during this unprecedented time of transition.


The report categorizes the pandemic's business and workforce impact into four phases: react, respond, return, and transform. Training and development need to be part of each phase—whether as new online learning courses or training programs for employees in roles newly created as a result of the pandemic.

In the disruption's early stages, Bersin researchers initiated conversations with executives from more than 160 companies. Due to varying needs and interests, they formed four working groups that executives self-selected: culture and well-being, workplace transformation, leadership and learning, and return to workplace. The groups then identified 20 top priorities—including continuous real-time communication with workers, digital transformation at speed, and adapted talent practices—for companies navigating business during the crisis. Some of those priorities will rely on talent development professionals' expertise and involvement to implement.

Supporting and developing leaders was the number 3 priority, with managers most affected right now. Previous development programs cannot meet the needs of today's leaders, who must demonstrate trust, patience, and forgiveness while supervising and supporting a remote workforce. The report notes that many companies—including Verizon and Ford—are now focusing leadership development on trust, communication, empathy, and support.


Another top priority is maintaining productivity while adapting. Acknowledging the uptick in dispersed workforces and the many distractions that employees face, companies are developing training and support programs to help employees maintain focus and learn to effectively run meetings and manage remotely.

The level of involvement the talent development function has in this transformative period will depend on various factors, such as organization structure, size, and industry. What is clear, however, is that corporate learning programs are essential to workplace transformation.

About the Author

Derrick Thompson is a former writer/editor for ATD.

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