Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. – John F Kennedy
COVID-19 and the Lockdowns have created several challenges and it has impacted every aspect of our lives. One of the most impacted I believe is Education. Who would have thought that kids would not be going to school but attending online classes and even universities and campuses would be completely shut? Corporate training too has gone completely online due to the pandemic.
Many of the leadership programs that we run are currently being conducted online and this is something that I could not even fathom just a few months ago. Leadership training in my mind is very experiential, activity driven and about elevating the leader’s thought process to think bigger and better. It is that link between the type of “work culture” leaders think they are building in their organisations and the type of culture they really want to build. They help companies reach both their short and long term goals. Having said that, the success of leadership training depends on its methodology.
Considering the present times, we have also now adopted to new learning styles by leveraging the technology that is out there.
A lot of questions are being raised about the future of professional learning and development as well as its significance in the present scenario. According to a Brandon-Hall Study, learning through e-learning typically requires 40% to 60% less employee time than learning the same material in a traditional classroom setting. Some other surveys state that, Online learning increases retention by 25-60%. Face to face retention is only 8-10%. Apparently, 57% of L&D professionals expect to spend more on online trainings. Is it all that hunky dory? So what type of training is right for your company, especially given the current situation?
There has been a lot of discussion on virtual being the way forward. Virtual Training refers to training that takes place in a virtual or simulated environment. Here, both the learner and the instructor are in separate locations. It can be done either synchronously or asynchronously. In a synchronous learning environment, the trainer and the trainees meet during a specific day and time. Synchronous training uses technology that is specifically created to host online meetings. Asynchronous training, however, refers to self-paced learning that occurs over time as the trainees schedules allow.
Does it work?
Is virtual the real future? I have penned my thoughts regarding the same in my last blog and you can read it here. When it comes specifically to training, here is a look at both the pros and cons of going virtual.
One thing that I have noticed is that in a virtual training set up, meetings become longer and inevitably there are technology issues and not everyone tends to have proper infrastructure, including the trainer. Interruptions due to power and internet in specific locations the participants are in, is commonplace. Though everyone is present, there is less engagement as participants are not being completely attentive. Since they are not physically present and are in front of their laptops, there are more chances of them multi-tasking. There is always that temptation to take a quick peek at the emails to check if there are any burning issues. Of-course there is a huge need to respond to your manager’s emails or messages at the cost of your learning session. And here lies the problem as a session does not get a participant’s complete attention. I have also noticed both the participants and the trainers getting disturbed by the unannounced arrival of their family members into their virtual space.
Also, the virtual approach so far has been the one size fits all model. This is not ideal as training/coaching has a lot to do with improvising according to the participants’ reaction to situations. This reaction is not clearly visible in a virtual environment as one can easily miss spotting body language and gestures. Monitoring and tracking is also not highly effective in a virtual environment. We have seen enough memes about this in recent times that really makes you question the success of virtual. This can even lead to a lot of frustration, inefficiency and lost opportunities while learning.
Virtual training can be cost effective as HR teams no longer have to worry about location and logistics. It is also scalable in reaching a worldwide audience and causes no major work disruption either. Since it is location agnostic, we can also reach a much wider audience.
Another perk is the access that it provides to top notch trainers who may otherwise be unable to physically visit organisations. Also, employees from all locations can attend the sessions as it is being imparted virtually. There is also the ability to quickly share digital files with the whole group and the ease of conducting tests online. Training here can even incorporate a wide range of learning styles with connected leaders anytime and at anyplace. Some online tools can spawn creativity.
I have noticed the ability to use power point presentations, as a tool for example, makes the lives of the participants much easier to present their thoughts in a structured way during group activities. I have personally seen many participants get super creative with this. Several online tools and break out rooms simulate a classroom training session in many ways and at times are even fun.
Of course, there is more to a successful training than simply communicating information. An effective training program not only shares information, it also creates a sense of community and connection with the meeting participants and leaves people feeling inspired, supported and energized.
While given the situation, we cannot completely shun online training, what needs to be done while choosing a training program is selection based on the specific need of the organisation. Ensure that you select a training program that covers all the bases and diversifies your employees’ leadership skills. Plans must be in place to ensure that the session encourages motivation, inspires productivity and maintains the engagement.
Remember, if online training makes the most sense for your employees “at the moment”, go for it. Online videos, assessments, and virtual interactions are all excellent tools for teaching the latest leadership strategies.
Good leaders are unforgettable, and it is mainly because of them that companies attract the right talent. If you look back to the best leaders you have ever encountered, you will still feel motivated and inspired and your working experience during that time would always be remembered as being pleasant. The pursuit of training your leaders so that they become the best version of themselves must not be given up because of the world going virtual for a bit. After all, learning never ends!