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: Cameron Hedrick, Chief Learning Officer at Citi, and Humera Malik Shahid, VP, Talent Development at Intuit. They were interviewed by Kevin Oakes, CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), and new survey data was presented on “return to the workplace” strategies and planning. Here are four key themes that emerged:
1. Return to the workplace planning is ramping up. According to i4cp’s latest survey (which included over 300 HR leaders from organizations of 1,000+ employees), 65% of organizations have a team or task force working on their “return to the workplace” strategy, and another 26% are discussing the need for such a team soon. Hedrick said that at Citi they have had this in place for many weeks, due to the global nature of their company, which includes operations in China and other areas further along the COVID-19 path. He noted they are taking a slow and data-driven approach to return to the workplace, taking some steps and then seeing the impact of each. Shahid noted that at Intuit they plan to survey all employees to learn their various needs, recognizing that a return to the workplace will not be a short-term, flip-the-switch approach, but rather a gradual process.
2. Conservative approaches to returning to the workplace means blended and virtual learning is here to stay. Even when some roles that can’t work from home return to the traditional workplace, many that can work remotely will continue to do so for some time—either full time or in hybrid ways whether due to preference, flexibility, or the need to limit numbers for social distancing at the workplace. As a result, the recent surge in blended and virtual training will likely not be a blip, but rather here to stay for a long time to come. Hedrick noted that initially some of their L&D programs were paused due to the pandemic, but that they are ramping up now with virtual approaches being used and likely to continue to be prominent for at least 6-18 months. One key is to make sure the technology involved is hardened as an increase in IT security threats can be expected. Shahid said that at Intuit they had been already increasing their use of virtual training and that the pandemic has accelerated that shift. She noted that the L&D team has become very agile, creating in 3 weeks what used to take months. They are not sacrificing quality, but are recognizing that they can’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good—what matters is whether the learning outcomes will be achieved from what they provide.
3. Leadership communication is key. Return to the workplace strategies will clearly vary greatly from one organization to the next. What will be universal is the need for strong communication from leadership about what is being done to make employees feel safe, as ultimately perceptions will be key to morale, engagement, productivity. Both what is being done and why it is being done needs to be shared, with all of it anchored in the organization’s values, Shahid noted. At Intuit they have had a significant increase in leader communications, including weekly update emails and video updates via the Slack collaboration platform.
4. Expanding learning topics and resources. During the first couple weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organization’s L&D teams scrambled to update or create content on remote work and virtual leadership. Shahid noted that when it comes to good management, the what has not changed, on some aspects of the how. While these topics on aspects of virtual work are still a focus for many organizations, some are now also creating training on crisis management or updating existing content on change management. L&D teams have also surveyed the employees they support to find out what training and resources would be most useful during these times. Shahid noted that one area for her team has been supporting employees who are parents with children doing online schooling. Several participants shared resources in the chat on this, including providers such as Outschool, Revolution Prep, and K12.com. See also the curated list at i4cp’s page Resources for Parents Educating School Age Children at Home.In addition to the recording above, please see the many resources at our i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center.