Changing Workplace Dynamics: What Can L&D Teams Do?
In this article (part of a series of 4 articles, an eBook, and a webinar), I outline the changing workplace dynamics and the anticipated impact of disruption (short term and long term). In light of this, what are the key areas L&D teams should focus on to handle changing workplace dynamics due to COVID-19?
The Impact Of Disruption On Account Of COVID-19 And Changing Workplace Dynamics
All of us are reeling under the impact of the coronavirus. What is adding to our woes is the fact that we still do not know when this crisis will end and what will be the eventual impact on people, businesses, and the global economy.
Even though the overall impact of the crisis is still unfolding, there are several aspects L&D teams need to process immediately, notably:
- Engaging and training the workforce working remotely, as many of them are new to this mode.
- Helping managers and leaders manage the crisis and remote teams (again, many of them may be handling this for the first time).
- Moving facilitated (Instructor-Led) training online quickly .
- Trainings that were under development have been impacted, as vendors are grappling with a similar crisis. While they may have moved their teams to a fully work-from-home mode, there are challenges in meeting planned deliverables.
- Upcoming training budget freeze or cuts.
- With a cloud of global recession over our heads, there is also an increased expectation from businesses to optimize the dollar-spend on training and achieve the required results quicker and faster.
Changing Workplace Dynamics And Challenges For L&D Teams
While governments are responding with various measures to handle the COVID-19 crisis, businesses too are responding as they try to realign their strategies to face the rapidly changing workplace dynamics. For many businesses, there are disruptions in their supply chain or reduced demand on account of economic volatility. While many can operate with employees working from home, many have had to shut down operations.
At the forefront is the need to take care of the well-being of employees and manage business continuity during long lockdown periods. Given the fact that this will not likely have a short-term impact, what should L&D teams gear up for?
What Are The Key Areas L&D Teams Should Focus On To Handle Changing Workplace Dynamics Due To COVID-19?
One of the important outcomes has been the move to remote operations for several industry verticals. For others, it has led to disruption. Work From Home or WFH is poised to redefine the definition of the workplace in the future.
It has led to the need for an agile and flexible digital workplace. As a result, L&D teams need to focus immediately on the following 7 aspects:
- Creating a flexible digital workplace that can rapidly move from 100% in-office working to 100% remote working. This needs to be agile and should have no disruptions.
- Adopting workflows that offer the same, predictable output even as the mode of operation changes.
- Opting for additional business continuity measures, which have technology that allows employees to work remotely with high efficiency.
- Investing in a range of collaboration tools that facilitate working remotely.
- Providing online training that allows employees to handle the current dynamics.
- Moving face-to-face trainings to a predominantly online , self-paced, or Virtual Instructor-Led (VILT) mode which can be consumed remotely.
- Realigning the strategy to factor for the limitation of discrete trainings.
- They are not the answer—sharing one course or one webinar will not make the learner an expert.
- There is a clear need to draw up a long-term plan to engage learners and have multi-pronged approaches to connect, reinforce, challenge, and nudge learners toward continuous learning.
Impact On The Workplace: Will It Be Dramatically Different In The Long Term?
My assessment is that we will see a long-term impact on the workplace, and this pandemic will create a change in the workplace. As I have highlighted earlier, the focus of L&D teams must be on how they can help their organization create an agile and flexible digital workplace.
With changing workplace dynamics, several employees and organizations are finding value in the WFH mode, and my assessment is that this will continue on account of:
- No clarity yet on when the disruption will end
The majority of countries across the world are adopting social distancing or implementing lockdowns. There is no certainty as to when businesses can move back to a normal operating mode.
- Value for the organizations
This mode is creating an opportunity for businesses that hadn’t used this mode extensively in the past. The key benefits are reduced infrastructure costs and the ability to attract talent across geographies.
- Value for the employees
No time is wasted commuting. They can be more focused as there are fewer distractions. Plus, they have room to handle their work-life balance issues.
However, this transition is not as simple as it sounds, and a simple move toward WFH (in spite of the changing workplace dynamics) does not necessarily translate into gains for an organization.
The reasons are:
- Not all employees have the discipline to leverage this mode. There are related questions if this can be sustained in the long term.
- Technology barriers can lead to underperformance.
- Team leads and managers need to adapt to handling remote teams—this learning curve can lead to less output in the short run.
What Should Be Done By L&D Teams As This Transition To Remote Operations (In Response To Changed Workplace Dynamics) Happens?
It needs to begin with the measures that employees and leaders must take. This is precisely what I outline in my next article, 8 Best Practices Business Leaders Can Adopt to Lead Through Business Disruption During COVID-19.
If you want to realign your learning strategies and online training delivery, download my eBook COVID-19: Survival Guide for L&D Teams—Featuring Tips, Strategies, and an Action Plan to Handle the Challenge. Join the webinar I also conducted on the same topic and get to discover additional insights.