More than 1,000 leadership, learning, and talent development professionals responded to The Ken Blanchard Companies’ annual L&D survey, with roles ranging from facilitators and administrators to the C-Suite. Coming from both large and small companies, they painted a picture of an industry in turmoil and transition.
Here’s what we learned.
COVID Drives a Digital Transformation
The most pressing issue for respondents was creating learning solutions that would still work given the constraints of the pandemic. Embracing remote training methodologies was their solution.
Some 85% of respondents converted face-to-face training to virtual and digital formats. While they pivoted quickly, the final product often fell short of their goals. More than 51% of respondents said their converted offerings were less effective than face-to-face versions.
The biggest areas for improvement? Respondents wanted more learner engagement (19%), more social interaction (15%), and more learning touch points over time (14%).
But incorporating these features into learning solutions—making them more interactive and engaging—will be difficult. About a third of respondents don’t believe they have what’s needed to meet their organisation’s expectations in 2021.
One respondent summed it up by saying, “I have a very young, inexperienced team and a shoestring budget.”
Reimagining Face-to-Face Training
The delivery of face-to-face workshops (the most used modality in the L&D space) plummeted in 2020. Before COVID, respondents estimated that 63% of their delivery was in-person instructor-led training (ILT). Compare that to the last ten months, when only 9% of training was delivered in this way.
The abrupt halt to face-to-face training gave respondents an opportunity to reconsider how it should be used best once the pandemic ends.
Some 56% of respondents said that the physical classroom will still have a role, but as a part of a blended experience. About a quarter (24%) will use classroom training just for high impact events. A minority (17%) think classroom training will continue to be the gold standard and preferred delivery mode.
A deeper dive into the survey data shows that most respondents expect blended solutions to be split between in-person training, virtual training, and a combination of self-paced learning, coaching, and mentoring.
COVID may have turned the L&D world upside down, but a richer workshop experience for learners may be an unexpected benefit.
Challenges and Priorities
The speed with which L&D professionals have pivoted is to be applauded—although it has revealed some shortcomings that need to be addressed.
One-third of respondents said their team lacked the skills and capacity to meet expectations in the coming year. Virtual facilitation, instructional design, and using e-learning development tools were the most frequently cited skill gaps. This concern reflects a hard reality: L&D teams are in unfamiliar territory.
One respondent described the task as a “significant reimagination of our role and which programmes we can support, since everything must transition to virtual.” L&D professionals face the challenge of improving their skills while still meeting expectations.
When asked their most important training topics for 2021, respondents mentioned team building, coaching, leading teams, communication, and leading virtually. Better collaboration is the underlying theme. Given the stresses the pandemic has placed on us, that is to be expected.
So what does all this mean?
Winston Churchill famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” While the COVID pandemic is better described as a tragedy, it also is an opportunity for L&D professionals to reimagine the use of the classroom, experiment with delivering training in new ways, and address emerging skill and motivation gaps.
It’s a daunting challenge for today’s L&D professionals—but one that promises a brighter future for our organisations.