With people working remotely and dealing with professional and personal stresses alike, leaders are recognizing the value of collaborative learning. Investing in the workforce and keeping people engaged and growing is an effective way to walk the talk of those repeated value statement phrases about people being a company’s most important asset.
by Steve Schmidt
In the past, getting top-level buy-in for virtual training was often an uphill battle. It wasn’t easy to convince leaders that training, particularly in soft skills areas like sales and service, could be conducted effectively without everyone being in the same room together.
One of the reasons for that pushback was that people often confused virtual learning with e-learning or simplified it to technology-based interventions that may or may not have had a true learning component. This tactical approach focused more on the delivery mechanisms than what the business and the learners would get out of the investment.
Now that external events and social distancing have put the in-person option on hold for the most part, we’re seeing something of a forced awakening around the possibilities of virtual learning. Not only are the skeptics more accepting of it, organizations are discovering that they can take advantage of virtual options to address today’s specific development, engagement and retention issues in more strategic ways.
Especially in an economic downturn, every investment is going to be scrutinized. Indeed, in recent recessions, the default was to clamp down on all spending, starting with learning and development. This time around, though, there seems to be a different view. With people working remotely and dealing with professional and personal stresses alike, leaders are recognizing the value of collaborative learning. Investing in their workforce and keeping people engaged and growing is an effective way to ‘walk the talk’ of those repeated value statement phrases about people being a company’s most important asset.
A recent LinkedIn Learning survey confirms that executives are prioritizing and championing learning, and the interest in virtual isn’t expected to end once social distancing does. Nearly 80% of learning leaders expect to have a lot more virtual instructor-led training, even after the current crisis passes.
Here are just a few of the ways virtual training is taking root in the workplace and delivering not just training but clear, strategic benefits for organizations and their teams today.
Shifting the Emphasis to Collaborative Learning
As sales leaders will tell you, some of the best answers lie within their people — their best practices, their experiences, how they’re articulating the value prop, what they’ve learned from deals won and lost, and more. One of the greatest benefits of virtual is the way it lends itself to more collaborative learning.
Because of the medium, virtual demands more engagement from participants and less one-way presenting by the facilitator. If the facilitator delivers a long-winded lecture, it’s too easy for people to tune out or multitask. Effective virtual training gets people talking to each other, collaboratively solving problems and building on each other’s experiences. That’s something that can happen in a traditional classroom, if you have the right facilitator. But with virtual, it’s built in.
Closing the Skills Gap
Staff reductions and changes in how customers interact with salespeople have created new challenges and exposed new skills gaps. Companies that have the foresight say now’s the time to be strategic about upskilling and reskilling, especially with more salespeople in their home offices instead of out in the field. They’re taking advantage of this time to focus on heightening people’s communication and sales skills as well as their ability to build relationships virtually.
It’s also a critical time to be proactive and equip the organization and its people for a more digital future. That’s one reason we’re seeing an increased focus on developing the mobility to carry the business forward to the next phase. And of course, what better way to learn how to effectively sell and interact virtually than through a virtual training experience.
It’s important to note that the digital future won’t diminish the need for soft skills or what Josh Bersin calls “power skills.” If anything, it will only make them more pivotal. From ethics and integrity to tenacity and drive, these power skills are critical for individual and organizational success, but because they’re rooted in behaviors, mindsets and attitudes, they take a lifelong commitment to develop and reinforce. Virtual training, which can easily incorporate ongoing “bite-sized” microlearning and blended approaches, is particularly well-suited to building these skills and changing mindsets and behaviors.
Increasing Engagement and Mitigating Burnout
Leaders’ eyes have been opened. We’re seeing it in the different conversations we’re having with clients. They’re talking more about the value of communicating consistently and increasing transparency, particularly now that people aren’t together. They know that with stress levels high and distractions everywhere, keeping people engaged is harder — and more important — than ever.
The reality is, when there’s a lot of disruption going on, mindset is a big factor in how engaged and productive people are. It can affect focus, confidence, performance and ultimately what a person is able to achieve. Collaborative, virtual training that supports the whole employee can build resilience and help people realign with purpose. And it shows employees that the organization cares about their well-being and is willing to invest in them.
Younger employees have always been pretty accepting of technology and using it for learning. Others are now being forced into the arena, and the good news is, they’re adapting well. With the skeptics now coming around, companies have the opportunity to be strategic about creating a more defined and holistic learning loop that will not only address today’s business needs but also prepare their workforce for the future.
Client Engagement Manager
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