Keep on Training

7 May 2020
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L&D was one of the first costs to be cut at Covid-19 lockdown happened…

but it’s time to start investing in training again
We’re several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We’ve faced the biggest upheaval in our work and personal lives ever, Many people have likened it to going into war, so it’s not surprising that adjustments have had to be made, and we’re starting to get used to the new ‘normal’ – albeit with continued changes happening but not quite the huge upheavals we’ve gone through.
According to a Gartner report based on a survey of 279 CFO’s and Corporate Finance Leaders, the first two spends that were cut by businesses were recruitment and and training:
65.4% Froze hiring
63.6% Froze Training & Education
56.4% Cancelled conference spend
36.3% Delayed CapEx investment
33.4% Delayed/froze new hiring offers
21.2% Delayed payments to suppliers
20.5% Froze consultants/contractor spend
It’s not surprising that any investment in continued development was stalled, it’s an easy cost to cut when you’re scrambling to find you feet in an unprecedented situation.
But perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate those initial decisions. Now those first intense weeks have passed, the decisions about who can and will be home-working, who will be furloughed or sadly made redundant, who your key workers are, who continues to be out at work have been made, and everyone is settling into the new ways of working around mitigating any risks of picking up the virus, here’s how to think through the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic might affect your L&D decisions, so you can make strategic, thoughtful choices that will benefit your company and its employees.
Workplace Training and the COVID-19 Pandemic
For the best return on your money, pour your purse into your head.”
– Benjamin Franklin
You might have made a quick decision to cancel all training and development immediately or you might have tried to continue on but found that it wasn’t right for the situation you were facing at the start of the pandemic, but we’re all stepping into those changes and your employees may be looking to you for new direction.
So it’s time to make strategic thoughtful decisions that will support your employees now and benefit them into the future, which will ultimately be good for your business.
So, why train?
  • Technical or Technology
  • Hard Skills
  • Soft Skills
  • Professional or Legal
  • Team Development
  • Managerial Development
  • Health & Safety
Some training involves legal requirements and regulations, such as manual handling, working at heights, technical or equipment operation, protective clothing, etc. If your business is continuing to operate, those requirements haven’t gone away. Your employees will need to continue their programmes with adjustments as much as possible. Some may have to go on hold for a short period of re-assessment, others need to be revised for risk – whether they can continue if proper hygiene and social distancing can be maintained, or whether protective clothing needs to be brought in. It would be a sad situation to have plenty of work available but it can’t be carried out because of lack of trained personnel.
And then there’s personal and team developmental and soft skills training, this may be employees developing their managerial skills or you might have had a programme of mental health and wellbeing training. It can seem like this kind of training is a ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity, especially at the moment, but it is important for a number of reasons:
  • Helps people cope through the current situation
  • Demonstrates that they are valued and worthy of investment
  • Pulls your teams together
  • Enables people to discuss issues that might be causing them problems
  • Includes people who might be feeling sidelined, such as furloughed members of staff
  • Ensures employees are ready to ‘hit the ground running’ when lockdown does ease
When To Implement Training
Some companies are continuing with business as usual, albeit with work from home changes, or reduced numbers as people are furloughed, things might be slower than usual or busier. Whichever applies to your business, this is an excellent time for your company to invest in it’s biggest asset – it’s employees.
People are naturally feeling anxious about the future, they might have financial worries, they might be struggling with the whole pandemic situation, trying to work around home schooling, concerns about relatives. The last thing they need is to feel concerned that they are not valued by their employer or to feel wobbly about their future.
As most in-person (face-to-face) training initiatives can be moved online, they could still potentially be rolled out as scheduled.
You may also want to consider ramping up other options such as accelerating compliance training, promoting existing professional development opportunities available through your company, or even launching new learning opportunities that can lead to a competitive advantage for your workforce. And at this particular time, you really want to be looking after the mental wellbeing of your employees as a priority. 
Moving everyone to work from home has it’s issues:
  • Lack of community, isolation
  • Loss of purpose or status afforded at work
  • Having to share work space with other members of the household
  • May include home schooling duties
  • Getting to grips with new technology
  • Communication
  • Change in routine
As do people who are continuing to be out at work:
  • Having to continue to be out when all the messaging is to ‘stay home, stay safe’
  • Feeling at physical risk of contracting Covid-19
  • Worrying about contact with other people in the household
And then of course you have the people who are furloughed, who might be:
  • Feeling worried about their future employment
  • Lacking purpose and routine
  • Isolated and feeling left out of the work community
  • Frustrated with not being able to contribute
By providing training opportunities, you not only help your company long term but it will also give everyone a shared purpose – and bringing people together with a shared purpose is sure to help everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.
You can find out what your employees need through a basic survey, but bear in mind that many people benefit from some areas they might not automatically think applies to them such as stress management or mental health training, wellbeing, etc. Training is usually brought in either because it’s pushed from above (management deem it is necessary), or it’s pulled from below (employees identify an area of interest and request it) – ideally there’s a meeting in the middle!
At the moment you may be called on to provide training initiatives specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These requests will likely require a fast turnaround, so should take precedence over other L&D initiatives. Here are a few examples of the types of training requests you might receive:
  • Policy-based such as educating employees about your company’s sick leave or remote work policies
  • Technology-based such as showing people how to use tech to enable better work from home, especially around internet/cyber security
  • Health & Safety such as reminding people of how to practice good hygiene and social distancing measures, also supporting good mental health and wellbeing
  • Customer-focused such as training to answer customer queries about your company’s response to the pandemic
Finally, a quick look at the future of training
Overnight it seems like we’ve all moved online, and that’s especially relevant in training. Almost any training that was delivered in person can be done online but of course there will be some adjustments (and this doesn’t apply to training that requires practice on equipment or people such as first aid training).
The video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Teams allow screen sharing so presentations can be shown, they may also have whiteboard facilities or even break-out rooms. The management of the training is crucial to the overall experience:
  • Seminar-style talk – unlimited attendees, all muted to minimise disruption. Chat box available for questions which are answered in the Q&A at the end. It is preferable to have someone other than the presenter running the tech, checking for questions and running the session. Around 1 hour – 90 minutes long.
  • Interactive workshop – ideally no more than 10 participants, some seminar-style periods with interactivity throughout the presentation. Ability to ask questions throughout rather than waiting until the end. This can be run as half or full day sessions, or over several days.
  • Online training – mixture of written content, videos, multiple choice interactivity for individual training to be done at their own time and pace. Ideally short sessions, around 30 minutes – 45 minutes long.
In principle, the following house rules should be observed but each presenter and audience may have slightly different requirements:
  • All cameras remain on, unless an emergency or personal issue arises – this helps the trainer and attendees to connect, the trainer will also be able to adjust the pace of the content based on reactions and is as close to being in the same room as possible. A sensitive approach needs to be taken for people who feel uncomfortable with appearing on screen and alternative arrangements might need to be made
  • Muting attendees – depending on the number of attendees and what is happening in their individual locations, it’s a good idea to ask for people to mute themselves so they can un-mute if they have questions. Alternatively the presenter may decide to mute everyone for a period of time to minimise disruption
  • Chatbox – having a chatbox available for any questions is a good idea, usually questions may be directed at everyone or privately between attendees or presenters if there are multiple
  • Schedule – it’s important to set out the schedule with breaks in necessary and the approximate end time, just as in live meetings or training sessions
  • Inform attendees what they need to bring along – generally a notepad and pen, but some training may involve providing workbooks which can be emailed in advance, or other items. Having them in advance will save any disruptions during the session
We hope you have found this article useful. If you would like to discuss how we can help your business and employees with training around mental health, stress management and building resilience we’d be happy to talk.
Email: or complete the ‘Let’s connect’ form here
If you’re interested in Covid-19 training to manage stress and anxiety around the recent changes, and particularly in supporting your immune system you can view a taster of our online course here (it shows the first module and the first page of subsequent modules to give you an idea of the content):

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