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Organisation learning re-imagined: adapting to a new reality


Harini Indiketiya

Learning & Organisation Development Manager, Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka

If there’s one thing the past few weeks have highlighted – and there have been many – it’s the fact that we are living in a real-life VUCA scenario – a term that until a couple of weeks ago was just another “buzz word”. Organisations have transformed overnight to stay alive and have been challenged to rethink their approach towards business strategy and people strategy.

Although these are tough times, businesses cannot afford to put peoples’ development on hold. Learning will be the foundation of survival for both organizations and their employees once this pandemic is over, leaving behind long-lasting changes in the way we work.

For those of us who are learning professionals, it has been a true test of our abilities. Our task is to shift our organization’s conventional learning programs to remote and virtual platforms as fast as possible. Adaption and re-imagination of what Organisation Learning is going to be key to this transition’s success. L&D professionals together with business leaders need to look beyond tactical measures and start exploring alternative digital learning strategies in order to blend into the new normal that awaits us.

To build a future-ready learning agenda, and to drive new and futuristic learning habits in your organization, we must re imagine organisation learning during this pandemic and beyond. Here are a few examples.

1.      Understand the new reality and the complexities it brings

Be mindful of the challenges your learners/employees are going through given the new reality they are faced with. They are no longer within the confined spaces of your office with only work to focus on – they are managing a household, attending to kids and elderly family members and trying to grapple this new reality on their own. The mindset of attending a training program will not be the same as it was before. The complexity of the newly blurred lines of home and work should also be considered when designing and delivering learning interventions.

2.      Make technology your friend

The technology you use will be key in maintaining the classroom-like nature you would experience in a traditional learning program via a virtual classroom and to also meet learners’ expectations.

Be mindful of the limitations when using online tools, digital classroom set ups and virtual live sessions such as webcasts, video-conferencing. The technology you use should facilitate a conducive learning environment focused on how the participants process information and encourage learning reinforcement ensuring effective knowledge transfer.

Alert your participants and facilitators and set expectations that will create a conducive environment for the learning to take place. Technology will democratize learning – everyone will be able to share and create a learning community. Foster this.

3.      Prioritize – you will not be able to have it all

Organisations are at different times of their respective financial years – as for the learning plans you have in place, for the new reality to work and be effective, you will have to pick and choose.

It will help to refer to metrics. How critical is this capability/topic? How soon will it translate into business delivery? How many employees will be impacted? Feasibility of topics being delivered virtually needs to also be assessed. Give priority to essentials such as employee on boarding, followed by up-to-date programs (such as working from home skills, crisis leadership skills, and developmental leadership and functional skills). Everything else can wait. 

4.      Adapt, not “copy and paste”

Remember to adapt – but a mere “copy and paste” of a conventional classroom into a digital session may not be the most effective method. The key is to use novel and effective design and delivery methodologies to maximize the learning impact. Try not to “push” learning towards employees but create content that would “pull” them to learn.   

Look at how your organisation’s conventional 70:20:10 principle now needs to change - 70 percent "learning by on the job" using the online applications and materials and applying the same when working from home, 20 percent of “informal learning” practised using virtual peer interactions (in our organisation we call these Learning Huddles) and 10 percent of formal training now in the form of virtual learning interventions, whether instructor-led or otherwise.



5.      This is an opportunity for innovation in organisation learning

We need imagination now more than ever. This could be that ticket you get to go wild with what you imagined Learning should always look like! Use this time to make a mark for yourself and the experts within your organisation and offer knowledge and expertise to others in the corporate community. These bite-sized learnings can be in the form of blogs, best practice tips, videos etc.

Digital-learning providers have recognized this pandemic as an opportunity to market their products to organisations and are reaching out more than ever before. Take up some offerings reduced or complimentary services that you could try out in your organisation to assist in your digital learning agenda. 

6.      Track what’s been done but don’t police people

All learning interventions should be a journey, not just a one-off event. We all know that the post-learning process is just as important as the first learning opportunity for learning to have an impact.

Measurement offers data that can be used to improve and support ongoing virtual learning efforts. Celebrate your top learners and have them champion the learning agenda – this will work wonders. Create an atmosphere of friendly competition and excitement which will ultimately result in peer learning – run leader boards and keep your senior leadership up to date on what’s been happening in the learning front.

7.      Align leadership

If the leaders of an organisation disregard learning, you stop adapting and run the risk of losing your edge as an organisation. Highlight the fact that your learning agenda is a tool that will help to keep a distributed workforce focused, energized, and up-to-date on their capabilities despite external changes. Have senior leaders model behaviors by participating in virtual learning sessions and have them lead post learning conversations. Leaders who are seen as thought leaders could also use this time to impart their knowledge with the employees to create more close-to-home learning interventions.


8.      Explore a digital learning strategy


I see Covid-19 as a catalyst for a much-needed transition to a longer-term strategy shift. Take this opportunity to carve out a digital learning strategy for your organisation. It won’t be long till the entire organisational strategy becomes digitized. Make sure the digital learning strategy is aligned to the on-going digital efforts of the organisation. The present circumstances will be a sound pilot to test your organisation’s appetite for a digital learning strategy and will help you identify your strengths and areas to focus on. 

The disruption the learning industry is experiencing is one that has never seen before. While we navigate complexities and uncertainties this pandemic has brought about, it is also an opportunity to re imagine organisation learning as we know it.


What we do now as L&D professionals will pave way for a new era of learning, post pandemic.


See Harini's article on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/organisation-learning-re-imagined-adapting-new-harini-indiketiya/

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