As I type this article from the
comfort (or confines?) of my home, the reality and severity of the coronavirus
outbreak looms large on me. Earlier in the day, my hubby and I secured “our
spots” – converting unused spaces in our living and dining area respectively
into our make-shift workspaces. That we could flip open our laptops, connect to
the trusty Wi-Fi to spin its magic and begin our “work” day – just like that – validated the positive
impact of technology on our lives.
This is not to deviate from the
crisis at hand. Or worse still to belittle the havoc created single-handedly by
COVID-19, which is not just a human tragedy but is also a grave one that is denting
the global economy. But what it is bringing out is the humanity in humans, the empathy
in businesses, the digital in tech
and the lessons in life.
Digital Transformation and L&D
defines Digital Transformation (DT) as ‘the
process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing —
business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business
and market requirements. This reimagining of business in the digital age is
digital transformation.’ Wikipedia
concises it to ‘the use of new, fast and
frequently changing digital technology to solve problems.’
Whichever definition flies with
you, the essence remains the same. DT is inevitable for organizations in
today’s digital era. This implies the need to equip employees with the tools
and mindset to perform, and hence be skilled, in a digital environment.
And this may perhaps be the
starting point of intersection between L&D and digital transformation. Here’s
Tech-Enabled Learning is Changing HR’s Role. But what’s this got to do with
the Corona mayhem, you may wonder. Allow me.
Below are some things our L&D
friends can learn from the current pandemic situation:
Since there is currently no vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019, the best way to protect yourself is exercising adequate prevention mechanisms rather than overthinking the medical prognosis and protocols to be followed on infection. It’s about keeping your eyes on the prize, in this case, prevention over cure.
Along the same lines, L&D
initiatives and programs should be designed to promote the digital
transformation of your entire organization, not the other way around. Why?
Because with newer tools, technologies and processes comes the need to unlearn,
learn and relearn, which can be best addressed by training interventions that focus
on the key “digital skills” that your employees will need to remain competitive
and productive. The lack of adequate learning resources and training programs with
regard to digital transformation can adversely affect its adoption and success
for the business.
An important point to keep in mind
is, adopting a Learning
Management System (LMS) with online
learning content as a part of the DT journey is only the beginning. There
is a need for a culture shift to happen for digital L&D programs to achieve
their full potential. Here’s how you can rethink
the LMS from a digital transformation POV.
- Focus on
Performance, not Training
God forbid, if you test positive
for COVID-19, the line of treatment that your medical practitioner decides for
you distils down to ‘your wellbeing’ and ‘restoration of health’. The
administration of medicines to reduce fever, fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration,
and supplemental oxygen (in more severe cases) are merely the steps to reach
Source: Gurnick Academy
In a similar vein, focusing on
training outcomes alone without their alignment to the bigger picture leads to
a myopic view to employee L&D. The focus needs to be shifted to the end
outcomes, read performance.
In his 2018 article, The
Digital Transformation Of Learning And Development: Part 1, David James
says, “By looking past ‘learning’,
refocusing on ‘performance’, and throwing off the shackles of the ‘course
mindset’, L&D can focus on activities and outcomes that impact the work
itself, embed learning in the workflow and help employees grow in line with the
organization’s strategic goals.”
At the same time, it’s equally
important to take routines, behaviors and procedures (includes learning pieces)
into consideration as the route to a desired outcome are critical to the
success of the performance achievement.
If you were to believe every piece of information on coronavirus shared by your neighbor, which was shared by his friend, which the friend had read on her WhatsApp forward, which was…to cut the long story short, an inaccurate representation of data and facts. These rumors don’t just paint a false picture of the reality and create panic, for authorities (health workers, medical practitioners etc.) they fail to connect the dots and prescribing a roadmap to avoidance/ recovery.
Dashboard showing India’s COVID status by Kiprosh
In L&D context, operating
without a foundation of data and business intelligence is akin to shooting in
the dark. If the impact/ end result of a training intervention cannot be
measured or if measured is not accounted for, true personalization and
relevancy of employee L&D cannot be attained. On the other hand, making
decisions with data helps L&D to weed out low performing programs and
invest in high-performing, high-adoption interventions that not just deliver on
outcomes but give high ROI too.
According to a research, 70% of
organizations claim they lack the necessary “digital skills” to remain
competitive, and nearly 50% of employees claim that they would leave their
organizations if another offered them more and better digital skills
development and training opportunities. The
verdict is out.
Speaking of verdict, in an almost prophetic manner, Bill Gates, in his 2015 Ted Talk ‘The next outbreak? We’re not ready’ had predicted that microbes might be the reason for our worry (and doom!). In his words, “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war”. His talk wasn’t just a fear-instiller, it was a wake-up call infused with learnings, which should have dwelled upon, solutioned and implemented. *sigh*
With a good chunk of my growth
stemming out of personal tragedies and challenges, I am an ardent believer in
adversities as our best teachers. I am optimistic that together we will beat
this monster and emerge victorious and wiser on the other side. As for my
extended HR and Learning and Development fraternity, it’s in our best interest to
flip our view to COVID-19 and leverage it to fuel our drive to do better for
our people. We owe it to our people.