HR L&D professionals are looking to e-learning exclusively for staff development during lockdown. The handling of the coronavirus pandemic has put leadership front and centre – be it political leadership, medical, scientific or organizational. Leaders are being judged in this unprecedented time on their behaviours and communication, more so than their technical skills (hospital practitioners aside).
Leaders are often accepting of the need for technical training for their team members. What this public judgement of leaders and the new working situations (be it WFH, social distancing in an office, little work, or overwhelm in critical positions) has identified is the need for more soft skills – towards oneself and others. And now the implications of the pandemic no longer feel like a ‘sprint’ according to leaders I’ve talked to, rather a ‘marathon’ as no one knows how long this will last.
Why Learn Leadership Skills Now?
Your organization and, by extension, you face an exhausting list of challenges that demand a different way of leading now:
– increasing stress and emotions of and among staff,
– the merging of work and personal/family with WFH and health and wellbeing considerations,
– escalating speed and uncertainty around health, regulations, fiscal policy, technology, let alone, competition and consumer needs and wants,
– trying to achieve more with less – money, resources, staff, consumer demand,
– increasing confidence, competence and empathy in your interpersonal interactions especially with the emotions in yourself and others and uncertainty.
Soft skills are people skills (as opposed to hard or technical skills like accountancy, building a house, assembling a manufacturing line, arranging products on shelves in-store). If you are running a project to build a piece of infrastructure or design a new car, you’ll need hard skills: engineering, planning, cost-estimating, scheduling. These are the skills that will enable delivery of some kind of output. But the skills associated with whether what you produce is successful are largely soft: working with the client or managing your supply chain; negotiating changes to the scope of the project; agreeing solutions to address unanticipated risk; managing any conflict; keeping everyone committed to the project.
They are the behaviours we use when interacting with other people. You might not think of them as skills though (yet). Leaders and employees alike might feel they are just what you do to communicate and relate with others, be it your family, friends or work colleagues.
Leadership Development for Self and Others
Leadership or soft skills for oneself are key because the first person you lead is yourself. In this time the key ones I’m hearing people needing are:
- Self-compassion and fear
- Dealing with imposter syndrome or self-doubt
- Overcoming Hero tendencies to establish boundaries
Soft skills more leaders would benefit from learning in their interactions with others:
- Presentation Skills
- Giving Feedback
- Authentic Leadership
- Motivating and boosting spirits
E-Learning Opportunities – Practical Tips for Finding The Right Solution
The following tips are in addition to the standard L&D practices organization’s typically have in place such as needs assessment of the workforce or target population, understanding the immediate and future business needs prompting development, prioritizing key positions, etc.
- What preferences does the employee have energetically for learning or communicating? This will influence the type of virtual learning programme that would best suit them – self-study vs group exercise might be better for the introvert or might not push them enough outside their comfort zone depending on the development area.
- What learning and growth is possible by just being more intentional and conscious on the job, in daily work? I do a lot of 3600 report debriefing sessions. In advance, I’ll ask people their strengths, weaknesses (development areas) and where they’d focus their development. About 85% of the time their summary is aligned with the data in the 3600 report, it might not be quite as precise or as extensive. As an aside, I’m not saying ditch 360’s, often its that data that motivates them to do the work or clarifies better what needs to be done.
- What size of intervention is needed – for one person or a group? Often if you can identify a group of people in the organization with the same need you can get bespoke training from many organizations which can be quite cost-effective.
- No approval to spend? No problem. Really! There are lots of free resources online that are great (for example, https://www.mindtools.com/, I have no stake in the company). Additionally, with the pandemic many places are offering free webinars, resources and materials. Ask your staff who they follow or to whom they look for thought leadership and then check out those people for potential free stuff. What companies have you worked with in the past and what are they offering? Many coaches, like me, have time reserved each month for people to have a complimentary coaching session. Alternatively, who in your organization has a strength that they can share be it teaching or mentoring? What I am saying is consider opportunistic interventions as well as formal; we are in agile times.
- Ensure the technology of whatever L&D intervention you are considering is compatible with the participant’s set up. This is fundamental and might seem obvious, but tech issues can totally negate the experience!
E-Learning Development – Tips Once Undertaking E-Learning
- Ensure the learner has a clear idea of their own ‘why’ for engaging in the L&D effort. When someone is clear on their purpose for doing anything, the benefit to themselves, they are more committed to the activity.
- What support would help embed the learning and what accountability does the participant need to entrench that learning? Research shows coaching increases the impact of training. This is confirmed in my work with IMD and London Business School for executive education that coaching with training personalizes the learning making it relevant to the participant and their workplace and makes the learning more sustainable for a variety of reasons you can read here.
- Ensure it’s interactive in some way beyond just what happens in the training – with others on the programme, with the line manager, with an HR partner to make the experience and hence skill use less remote.
- If during the L&D intervention the participant is finding they are disengaging (for whatever reasons) encourage them to voice that in a constructive manner (this might be a development stretch on its own!). They can say something as simple as “I’m noticing I’m wanting to disengage, what do you suggest I do to help me re-engage?” Often, they are speaking for more than just themselves in the session. Any good facilitator will be grateful for this sign from a participant.
- Have fun! Enjoy it and embrace it as the opportunity it is.
This turbulent time is creating lots of new opportunities with many creative options for learning and development. Pursuing remote developmental support allows organizations to expand their search for the best and most cost-effective interventions for your organization.
Book a complimentary coaching session for support on your e-learning journey.