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What Colds and Flus Can Remind Us About L&D

Published: Monday, December 31, 2018

‘Tis the season for cold and flu viruses to spread more easily from one to another.  Growing up my parents would always say, “cover you mouth” if I began to sneeze or cough.  However, at one public function where we had to shake hands with others around us to introduce ourselves - I got to wondering why couldn’t we just do fist bumps?   

While good, bad, or indifferent the shaking of another individuals hand is a way to say hello and be respectful. But, especially during the cold and flu season – do we want to shake one another’s hands? 

This got my L&D focused mind turning its gears.

What if I could create a movement that made fist-bumps the social norm?  That would be great, then we wouldn’t have to worry about whether the other persons hands are clean or if we have hand-sanitizer available at every single point of human interaction? 


So, let’s run with that for a moment. What would it take to create a movement that made fist-bumps the norm?  Looking through the lens of many corporate initiatives – my game plan might kick-off with a memo that would illustrate the importance of not shaking hands especially during the cold and flu season. It could outline all the facts and numbers and I could even throw in a few visuals. I could then set up meetings to address the different style of learners – we could walk through a PowerPoint and include some fancy animations and videos. I could then proceed to teach them all the proper etiquette of fist-bumping in social settings and we could role play various points of human interaction. After they leave, I could extend the tail with an email campaign complete with links to eLearning modules and videos for this new initiative.

That should work right?  All we’d have to do is get them excited and train them!  What if it doesn’t? What if the way of life and heart strings are attached to deep to the point of contact from one human palm to another?  Maybe we could train people on how to use hand sanitizer and tissues?  That should work right?  Everyone has the money to purchase hand sanitizer. Everyone can easily carry these around for every instance of human interaction.  We can train them to remember to use the sanitizer after their done with the shaking of hands and before the touch anything else… that should work right?  Germs wouldn’t become immune to the sanitizer and life could go on just fine, right?

Well, what if that doesn’t work?  My L&D mind is continually being perplexed by the situation of the shaking of the hands.  What’s the root cause here? What’s the right approach?  And then, as if I’m struck with the answer - my wife says to a little child near us that is having a coughing spell two simple words. Vampire cough. I don’t know who came up with it, but an article HERE even calls it a “Dracula sneeze”. Now, there’s a thought. It might be hard to break the norm of society to use fist-bumps over handshakes. It might be hard to make sure everyone always has hand-sanitizer available but what if we could start with the kids and parents. What if we could teach them to cough or sneeze into the corner of their elbow versus the palms of their hands?

That little, personal internal dilemma of mine and the cough only reminds me of the ways we can approach L&D. Many projects come across our desks with the requests of pulling reports to prove the learners have been communicated to or train them because our goals are not being met. What if we took a step back and remember ‘the vampire cough’?  What is the ‘vampire cough’ for our L&D projects?

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