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As I look back over the past eight months of COVID-19, Learning and Talent Development practitioners were forced to evaluate the structure and sustainability of their learning organization. Running the business of learning that seemed to have worked so well prior to March 2020 would need to be reevaluated based upon new criteria. Having uncovered new information may require us to take a hard look at how we were operating and challenge processes that had been in place.
It may require an overhaul for some, a reengineer for others and an entire redesign of the previous model as we acknowledge any setbacks that may have ensued. As well as to recognize opportunities that may have unfolded during these unprecedented times.
In a process-driven, operationally focused business, where compliance and accuracy are crucial, technical skills can tend to be the primary focus for some training.
For us, much of this type of training could be distributed virtually. When COVID-19 hit, I was confronted with a different challenge. We had recently started our Senior Leader Development Program, which is offered each year over a period of 6 – 8 months. It involves a combination of all-day in-person sessions, collaboration meetings on Action Learning Projects with cohort teams, executive sponsors, and other organizational leaders. It then concludes with in-person presentations, graduation, and networking. Such a program was built to create sponsorship and expand an individual’s leadership network.
In a process-driven, operationally focused business, where compliance and accuracy are crucial, technical skills can tend to be the primary focus for some training
The simple notion of taking an entire program that had predominantly been delivered on-site, along with all the development activities, was daunting. We considered canceling the 2020 cohort all together but immediately ruled it out since we had already completed the official Kick-off session earlier in the year. We then contemplated delaying the upcoming sessions until later in the year but immediately decided against that approach. The cohort would have had neither interacted with the program nor engagement with each other for several months, creating some concern about maintaining the momentum after having such a strong start.
Instead, I worked closely with both our internal and external stakeholders to strike a nice balance and maintain the quality of the program. We elected to postpone the actual program from April through July while offering to the cohort a monthly, one-hour virtual session on leadership development topics. It resulted in a 98 percent participation rate, and the topics complemented the overall program very well. The interim approach allowed us to go back to the drawing board and reshape the entire program. Through these efforts, we were able to produce a highly engaging, well-constructed virtual program and restarted it this past August. It has been running quite smoothly ever since, and we now have two effective options to deliver this program long-term.
On the one hand, having to rapidly shift proved that we had the organizational capability and partnerships to do so, especially for the short term. It also revealed that in order to effectively sustain in the longer term, it might require.