Going Virtual: The Impact Of Coronavirus On L&D

Going Virtual: The Impact Of Coronavirus On L&D And How To Navigate Through Change

COVID-19 has changed the way we work forever and it’s creating all sorts of issues for L&D professionals. Working from home has been implemented and businesses are scaling to protect their workforce efficiency and their operations. But building effective WFH practices into office-based teams isn’t a piece of cake—especially when it has to be done with immediate effect. When implemented correctly, however, workforce contributing form home can stay just as engaged and productive as they are at workplaces.

Whether your business already has a learning continuity plan in place or is frantically working around the clock to create one, L&D teams are bound to be affected in the coming days. You need to analyze the effect of and make strategic, thoughtful decisions that benefit your company and the workforce. In this article, we’ll walk you through touchpoints to focus from a workplace L&D perspective. We’ll see how to handle and continue online training initiatives.

Impact Of The Current Situation On L&D

Teams are working in unprecedented times and L&D teams have started to understand their capacity and their priorities. This has resulted in a radical switch from just learning programs to capacity building for online learning. We’ve witnessed three broad orientations of L&D leaders in recent past-

Avoiding the crisis at the cost of employees (Smaller organizations)

Given the huge shift from face-to-face to virtual, some companies are cutting their costs and lessening or even eliminating their learning programs. People are losing their jobs and it is not clear when companies will begin recruiting again. Therefore, some enterprises are on boarding a few highly-skilled individuals to utilize their knowledge and move forward more effectively. This, in turn, eases the pressure on L&D operation.

Going Virtual (Mid-sized organizations)

A lot of other enterprises are putting enormous pressure on their L&D staff to not just get the existing face-to-face programs online, but also help the entire workforce shift to virtual learning ecosystems, so there are people working frantically to lead on two fronts. This requires leaders to do what is feasible, or everyone will get sick with overwork and stress.

Increase the speed of accommodating virtual ecosystem (Large Enterprises)

Large businesses with distributed workforce are struggling to build sufficient capacity and infrastructure to move learning programs online at will. The staff is not sure what tools are appropriate, what their options might be, and how they build a relationship with their already-stretched IT teams. Many of the larger enterprises are discovering that their existing infrastructure does not have enough cloud storage, or capacity to have large numbers of people learning online using video, let alone running high bandwidth online programs with two-way video and support. They need help building the learning ecosystem in a way that is resilient and robust.

Tips To Address The Situation Better

The outbreak has increased the pressure for L&D professionals to deliver learning programs when it comes to a remote workforce. Thanks to EdTech we have enough solutions to address the new challenges this situation has brought the industry and the community.

Emerging from our experience in transforming remote workforces for numerous enterprises and universities, we’ve realized the following tips to be effective –

Keeping “Learning” First

L&D teams have to work out what capacity they have and what their priorities for delivery are. This might mean a radical switch from learning programs to capacity building for online working. What they need to be clear about is that it is impossible to do everything simultaneously, however urgently it is needed. Be clear what is possible or not possible right now. Simply translating the face-to-face world into an online experience is inappropriate and ineffective. No one can sit staring at the screen for eight hours, or be expected to spend three hours on a videoconference. This way madness lies, or at least sickness and depression. Please look after your staff by developing new guidelines and ensure, for example, that people take decent breaks, they are encouraged to get up walk around, as well as get out into the air on a regular basis.

It is important to take a holistic approach

Look after people’s physical and mental health as well as their technology needs. The solutions you come up with will be vital over the long term. Please do not be insensitive when allocating the workload. People generally are under a lot of pressure and they have parents, children and other responsibilities nagging at them. Also remember, as Nick Shackle ton-Jones wisely pointed out, there are resources like books available. It does not have to be online. Encouraging people to read offline or to write down their thoughts, individually, before sharing them online can enrich work, enhance the learning process and build in some flexibility.

Ask for help

Huge numbers of organizations and their workforce are trying to make sense of what is going on at the moment. They are all at different stages of development, and by sharing challenges and potential solutions everyone rises together. No one should be grappling with really hard problems, and feel that theirs is a lonely, solitary task as a leader.

There are many consultants (or laid off specialists) who would have expected to have been working flat out in some location and are now no longer at capacity. Bringing someone in to talk issues through and work on challenges together can be a wise investment. Having support for a few days can be massively productive and cost-effective.

Go for what works, and not for perfection

Often something that would appear to be ‘cobbled together’ but is offered quickly, can be more effective than putting anything through an extended development cycle. Co-create everything. Do not impose working environments on anybody. It is essential to negotiate with them – take stock, make alterations, be humble, listen and above all ask questions.


As the entire team is suddenly working remotely, businesses need to communicate with them and assure their wellbeing. Building time for social activity and offering support is important. Check out who has elderly parents, young children and other links with vulnerable individuals. Understand that their mind is often full of many other issues. Be understanding, and be tolerant. Organizations will be judged on how they treated their staff during this crisis. L&D should be part of the solution not part of the problem.

Finally, remember that this is also a learning experience. You are breaking new ground, for your organization and perhaps personally. Remember that you are helping build the future. Nothing will ever be quite the same when we eventually go back to something approaching normality. You are a pioneer at the cutting edge, and very few people get that opportunity in their entire working careers. Another equally heartening acknowledgment is that there are many resources that can help, and more are being created every day. Individuals and companies are giving away their resources in a bid to help. The best thing that can be done to maintain workforce learning experience is to figure out what’s already working in the office day-to-day and keep that going.