When you hear learning and development (L&D), what is the first thing that comes to mind? Frequently, L&D is perceived as the team that delivers training. And yes, that is true; but these teams have far more value to add than just making sure training runs smoothly at your organization.
Whether conducting needs assessments, educating employees on effective communication skills, or finding ways to provide ongoing engagement, L&D is in a unique position to champion change management efforts during times of crisis and beyond. There are several reasons for this, and this post includes three of them.
L&D Has Established Credibility and Trust With Employees and Management Alike
By virtue of its role, an L&D team can communicate with employees at every level of your organization. In a crisis, when collaboration is needed most and businesses must quickly pivot and find creative solutions to respond, you can rely on L&D to deliver a sense of connection and stability through learning. This ability is critical, especially, as we have seen with COVID-19, when an entire workforce must quickly shift to working from home.
Another tool under L&D’s belt is its ability to guide a company’s transition from a 100 percent live training environment to a 100 percent virtual training environment so employees have access to important information and opportunities for development during the crisis. Based on the reported struggles with this transition, virtual training could be seen by some businesses as needing a change management plan in and of itself. This is yet another reason why the potential of L&D should be tapped to lead that change.
L&D Enables Managers to Effectively Prepare Staff for What’s Ahead
Learning and change go hand in hand—one cannot change without learning. So, when it comes to helping companies successfully navigate change during a crisis, L&D is who you want on your team. L&D professionals are well-equipped to provide leaders with the right learning solutions to effectively prepare their teams for the changes or obstacles they may face during a crisis. They help future-proof your organization during times when the future may not be so certain.
Demonstrating an investment in your employees’ development is a win-win. It causes a chain reaction of lasting benefits, beginning with the ability to build trust—particularly important during times of crisis when employees are fearful of losing their jobs. That trust becomes evident with improved engagement and performance, which ultimately leads to increased loyalty. Employee retention will become critical after the crisis when you are fully up and running and need skilled, high-performing, dedicated employees to keep things running smoothly. And although there was not a playbook for the COVID-19 crisis, employees are taking notes.
L&D Affects the Adaptability of Your Business, Which Can Lead to Sustainability After a Crisis
L&D professionals are masters of flexibility—a must-have trait in an industry that requires organizations to learn at the speed of change, whether they are navigating a crisis or not. Flexibility is also vital for organizations that want to maintain a competitive advantage after they emerge from the other side of a crisis. A company’s sustainability is directly tied to the skills and knowledge of its workforce. To that end, the forward-thinking L&D role could be the linchpin of a company’s future success.
Beyond remaining flexible in a changing environment, L&D teams show the same flexibility in their approach to learning. They are open to and on the lookout for new technologies and best practices that can position their company for success. They have the necessary skills to drive future performance, the tools to pinpoint and address learning gaps, and the ability to identify and develop a pipeline of leaders to effectively inform succession planning. Finally, having a keen understanding of the relationship between learning and a company’s competitive standing, L&D professionals can use data to demonstrate to leaders and executives the direct impact of learning on the company’s business objectives.
Companies would greatly benefit from utilizing the untapped potential of L&D as a central role in their change management strategy, whether it is during, after, or even without a crisis.