Making the magic happen

Pandemic provides opportunity to refine learning and development strategies

Making the magic happen

With the virtual world exploding amid the pandemic, it’s a good time to refine L&D (learning and development) strategies, according to one expert.

“The question isn’t whether or not we should be offering L&D opportunities because learning is happening whether we call it L&D or not,” says Rumeet Billan, president and CEO of Viewpoint Leadership in Toronto.

“We’ve all had to change the way we work, interact, communicate; we’re learning new ways of doing things and so HR departments, leaders, L&D professionals, all have the opportunity to shape that learning and to enhance it. How are we going to do it in a way that’s applicable and relevant to what is happening in the world? That’s what we need to focus on.”

Billan will be the keynote speaker at HRD’s Learning and Development Canada online forum on March 25.

Empathy and awareness

One of the keys to a successful L&D program during challenging times involves empathy and awareness that many employees working from home are experiencing life in varied ways, says Billan.

“We don’t know the circumstances of our learners so one best practice is to keep that in mind when we’re designing curriculum, when we’re designing the timing of our sessions or conferences,” she says.

Rumeet Billan

“Some people are experiencing burnout and we need to understand that in terms of the mental effort that’s involved in completing new tasks. If they’re learning in a new way, there’s a mental effort that’s required in order to do that and that can lead to exhaustion and burnout.”

Ensuring that regular time-outs are scheduled during sessions will help combat this, says Billan.

“We’ve all heard of Zoom fatigue where people are experiencing exhaustion so making sure that we have breaks throughout our sessions, even if it’s five or 10 minutes, and that they’re constant and consistent, is another best practice.”

Having contingency plans is also important considering the real potential for technology breakdowns, she says. “As an L&D professional, I have a backup of everything: a backup computer, a backup webcam, backup headset.”

Content is key

L&D professionals should also focus on providing a great experience for learners, says Billan, because “content is content; you can get content anywhere and everywhere.”

“Where the magic happens is not in the content, the magic happens in the experience. As L&D professionals, we have to be very intentional about the experience we want to create for everyone.”

Remembering to keep a pulse on what is happening in the outside world will allow a real-time learning experience to happen, says Billan.

“When the tragedy with George Floyd happened, I had to change my curriculum: I was running a full-day training session and it needed to reflect what people were feeling, experiencing [and] thinking at that time because if we’re not intentional about that, then our learners show up and that’s what they’re thinking about and real learning can’t occur,” she says. “If we’re not addressing real concerns, knowledge is not going to transfer.”

For all the upheaval that came with the -19 pandemic, some of the basics of the workplace have remained true, such as learning and development, said five HR leaders in an exclusive roundtable with Canadian HR Reporter.

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