Rethinking L&D in a post-COVID world

Ann Rollins

Solutions Architect

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COVID-19 has had an immediate and massive impact on the leadership, learning, and talent development community. As one client shared with me, “I had to recreate everything that was face to face and make it virtual. We did that, but our learners did not respond favourably to what we created for them.”

That client’s experience was not unique.

Many clients stopped production on all types of work so their instructional designers could “digitize everything” or “virtualize everything.” It put a lot of pressure on people who were new to creating virtual learning experiences. As a result, a lot of “click next to continue” or a “click through this series of videos” digital experiences were created. And on the virtual side, a lot of face-to-face classroom designs were moved to online platforms without an opportunity to test for engagement, retention, and impact.

That’s certainly not the best way to design virtual training, nor is it the best use of our learners’ time.


When the goal is just to get a check for completion, the tendency is to build something in a familiar form. To create truly memorable learning experiences, we need to be thinking about more complex architectures that look at ways to maximize existing resources and technologies.

Today, learning and development departments have the ability to reach employees at many different points in their workday. With new learning technologies and other collaboration tools, L&D literally can meet people where they are—inside and outside the classroom.

But with digital tools becoming more widely available and accessible, the challenge is not to lose the human element.

Start with an internal analysis. Look at the technology and skills of your internal team and your partners and ask, “What can we do? Can we rethink this?” Don't just think about converting existing programs—think of 2021 as a reinvention of how you might develop and really accelerate performance in people's careers.

That means really thinking about the learner experience. What is the experience we need to be able to create for them? How can we pulse out curated content in a way that can scale to serve a leader population of hundreds or thousands?

As a part of the process it’s important to step back and consider all of your design options.

If we've got some face-to-face training that needs to be done in a different way, virtual classroom might not always be the right way to deliver it. Instead, maybe it's a series of live sessions that has activities woven through it, small group work, assignments that happen in the space between, with opportunities to reflect on how it’s working or what others are doing that is working, and perhaps some curated content that gets posted out.

We also need to make it easier for our learners by getting creative with the infrastructure of the LMS platform, other content providers, and thinking about the holistic and organic experience that you can create. Perhaps the best design includes content from your own organisation, from several vendors blended together, with a sustainment strategy that wraps around it.


In Blanchard’s Solutions Architecture Centre of Excellence, we partner with our clients to co-create the perfect experience for your scale, timeline, technology needs, and budget. It's a shift away from “I've got to force people to complete all the pieces and parts” to “What do I want them to say/think/do/feel, how can I do that differently, and how can I measure effectiveness?”

The process includes

  • Developing à la carte options to fill in the gaps in your leadership development curriculum
  • Building a leadership development journey that unfolds over time and incorporates Blanchard content, your custom content, and content from other providers
  • Deploying the new leadership development experience on a learning management system, a learning experience platform, or other innovative learning technologies

This is an incredible opportunity for us to not just iterate and build on what was, but to do something totally different. Going back to the old way of doing things and trying to iterate certain things we did before is not going to move the needle.

Digital—and the mandate to reach our learners in new and different ways—is here to stay and it is going to continue to be disruptive. As L&D professionals, we need to be comfortable with disruption; it’s no longer a new way forward, it is the way forward. Yes, we’re going to be doing different things, but the knowledge and capability that make us great at what we do today are still as important as ever, and the foundation for what comes next for us as a profession and industry.

The Ken Blanchard Companies®

If you wish to learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies’ research on virtual leadership and L&D, please contact [email protected] or visit The Ken Blanchard Companies website.

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