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Shift Your Focus from “Surviving” to “Thriving”

Published: Sunday, September 6, 2020

The events of 2020 have caused many organizations to drastically alter the way their employees work, and leaders have had to rethink their learning and development strategies as well. Many organizations have been performing triage on a massive scale to keep their businesses alive. Many companies quickly turned to Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other digital platforms as a quick fix to solve their training and communication challenges. However, these short-term solutions have steadily become “business as usual” and that is likely to continue well into the future. How do leaders thrive in the “new normal?” 

 Executives, managers and learning professionals across the globe are searching for solutions to address the complex challenges facing distributed and remote workforces. On the bright side, myriad solutions are available to help with these challenges. However, leveraging these tools effectively as part of a comprehensive strategy is the real key to success; this is how leaders thrive in the “new normal.”

 Once an organization has stopped “the bleeding” as the result of effective triage, it is time to shift the focus from surviving to thriving. Below are tips that will help talent development professionals improve the overall “health” of their companies: 

  • Tip #1: Assess and Analyze
    • Prior to making further changes, it is important to slow down and assess the current state of the business.
    • A great assessment tool is an employee survey. A well-designed survey can help managers gather feedback about recent changes from the people in the organization that have been most impacted.
    • Analyzing a wide array of data can help immensely; for example, reviewing performance data to identify struggling employee groups.
    • Analyzing personnel data to better understand how workgroups have changed can be extremely valuable as well.
    • Finally, assessing utilization of various tools, sites and software can be tremendously insightful; companies might find that employees overwhelmingly prefer one piece of software over another for communication/training.
  • Tip #2: Develop A Communication Plan
    • Few factors will derail a company’s recovery like poor communication. This is true at all levels of an organization.
    • In the absence of communication, gossip and fear can take over and have the same impact as an infection that slowly pulls an organization back into triage mode.
    • Communication can be both formal and informal; clarity and consistency are key!
    • Every leader should have a clearly defined communication strategy for their team. It might also be wise to standardize this across the company. For example:
      • Send a “Monday Message” outlining current priorities, key dates, and other useful information
      • Daily team check-in through Slack
      • Weekly one-to-one coaching with each team member
      • Weekly team meeting with the whole team
      • Monthly multi-department meeting
      • Random, informal “how are you doing call” every other week
    • Learning and development teams can really shine by sharing their expertise with others during these times, here is a few ideas:
      • Create communication templates for leaders to use
      • Publish tips and tricks for effective meetings/presentations
      • Offer to help leaders setup meeting invites or test new software
      • Offer to “produce” or “assist” with large virtual calls/meetings
      • Publish a newsletter, article series or blog to free up managers to focus on other communication methods
  • Tip #3: Experiment
    • A season of change presents the perfect opportunity for testing out new ways of training and communicating.
      • Instead of using an email or web conference to outline a minor process change, try leveraging microlearning.
      • If multiple time zones are making it challenging to host a synchronous web conference, try collecting videos from various leaders and stitching them together into a “monthly video series.”
      • Trying to communicate a change to a dispersed workforce with irregular schedules? Try a podcast style interview and post it to your company’s intranet site.
      • Instead of continuing to host the same virtual training call for new employees, it might be the perfect time to test out a blended learning solution.
    • While experimenting, it is important to collect quantitative and qualitative data. How many views are the videos getting? Do employees like the content? Are behaviors changing?
  • Tip #4: Repurpose Content
    • Repurposing content is a great efficiency boost and it provides maximum flexibility for training and communication.
      • For example, a facilitator might present a series of slides to a distributed workforce using Microsoft Teams
      • The facilitator might record the presentation and distribute it after the call as a reference
      • Next, they might load the recording to the company’s intranet site for later viewing
      • The facilitator might extract the audio and post it to the company’s internal podcast so employees can listen to it when it is most convenient for them
      • Additionally, they might use a transcription software to convert the audio to text. After a bit of editing they will have a perfect blog post for their company’s intranet site
      • After that, they might streamline the presentation content and distill it down to a job aid or execution checklist and distribute it
      • Alternatively, they might break the job aid into bite sized “chunks” and post a “Tip of the Day” spotlighting elements of the content for several days after the training presentation occurred  
      • Finally, they might use video editing software and course authoring software to quickly create an eLearning course for new employees or to be used for testing, recertification, etc.
    • Whenever possible, look for opportunities to create several pieces of content from a single training event or communication. This is especially true if the content is something that might be utilized 3 or more times in the future.
  • Tip #5: Lead the Change
    • No one could have predicted the events that transpired in 2020 and no one can predict the future. It would seem that uncertainty is the only certainty.
    • However, uncertainty does not mean leaders shouldn’t plan. In most organizations there is enough data regarding current business needs to establish a direction in which the company should proceed.
    • Once a direction has been established, leaders can utilize iterative decision making to advance their business forward while mitigating risk.
    • Leaders and learning development professionals should continue to assess changes inside and outside of their business. This should include evaluating new technologies, solutions, and strategies to ensure employees are best positioned to face challenges head on.
    • Many employees and leaders feel “stalled” without a clear path forward. Leaders that provide direction, embrace new solutions and lead change (instead of reacting to it) will fare better in uncertain times than those who do not.
    • Learning and development professionals have an enormous opportunity to partner with leaders to support change management initiatives. Instructional designers and facilitators that are able to quickly learn and cascade new learning throughout their organization, provide tremendous strategic value.

Leveraging these tips will empower leaders to continue to blaze a path forward through uncertainty. To thrive in the future, organizations must apply strategic and holistic solutions (not fragmented and reactionary fixes). With the right approach, it is possible to move beyond survival; it is possible to thrive!

1 Comment
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Great article David. Thank you for sharing your perspective and expertise. Looking forward to bringing these learnings back to our organization.
Thank you for the feedback and comments Benjamin, I'm glad it was beneficial!
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