LEARNING COVID-19 RECORDING: MICROSOFT'S KAREN KOCHER & FORMERLY OF ABB AND SHELL'S MICHAEL KILLINGSWORTH 4-16-20

In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds a weekly series of standing calls to help Learning and Development leaders navigate this unpredictable time.

This week’s Learning and Development action call hosted two special guests, again both members of i4cp’s Chief Learning and Talent Officer Board: Karen Kocher, General Manager, Global Talent & Learning Experiences at Microsoft, and Michael Killingsworth, former L&D executive at ABB, Shell, and American Airlines. They were interviewed by Tom Stone, Senior Research Analyst at i4cp, and new survey data was presented on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on leadership development and succession planning. Here are four key themes that emerged:

1. Self-development during isolation. Michael Killingsworth set the stage by sharing a great quote from author Henry David Thoreau, “We must first succeed alone that we may enjoy our success together.” He then led a discussion of the importance of self-development during this time of physical isolation. He described the various ways in which he is focusing on learning and development for himself, including networking (leader forums, webinars, and LinkedIn), formal learning (books, online courses, and from nature), coaching / mentoring (both self to others and others to self), and finally making sure to sustain these efforts through good calendar management, self-discipline, and proactive planning.

2. Book recommendations. During the discussion of self-development, several participants on the call shared books they are reading or re-reading during this time. Included were:


3. The importance of agile development. Karen Kocher from Microsoft noted that they have been very successful over the years developing effective learning experience, but that much of their focus had been on in-person learning experiences. Because of COVID-19, they needed to take a step back and work very quickly and very iteratively to create highly effective virtual learning opportunities. A key learning for her team has been a focus on agility while maintaining a high level of quality. Participants on the call shared the following additional perspectives on the need for speed:

  • Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.
  • What is needed is a mix of quick, heavy prioritization and rapid development.
  • More resources, less courses.
  • Curation of external content is important compliment the internal learning resources and tools.
  • Just in Time (JIT) is key: how do we get them what they need when they need it?
To determine what content is most needed, desired, and timely, use multiple sources of information: surveys, Teams/Slack channels, HR hotline feedback, employee resource groups (ERGs), etc. 4. Leadership / succession data. The latest i4cp pulse survey data was shared, with this week’s topic being the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on leadership development, succession planning, and talent risk. Key findings included:
  • Only 4% of those surveyed said COVID-19 has not had any impact on their organization’s leadership development programs, with only 7% saying the same for their succession planning / management process.
  • 70% said that leadership development programs have been rescheduled or delayed, 73% said that at least some programs have been delivered virtually, and 60% said they are encouraging leaders to leverage self-paced e-Learning programs where applicable.
  • 40% indicated that talent reviews that are part of the organization’s succession planning / management process are continuing but being conducted virtually, with 33% saying such meetings are being delayed or rescheduled.
  • While 27% said that talent risk for current leaders at their organization would increase somewhat or significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even more (32%) said it would decrease somewhat or significantly.


In addition to the recording above, please see the many resources at our i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center.