As we continue to live in a world where businesses are in disarray, public spaces are closed, and most of us spend the majority of their time indoors, there is no doubting the fact that corporate sectors are facing their biggest crisis in years.

Financially, this has led to culls in budgets across businesses of all sizes, from SMEs to multi-national, blue-chip corporations.

One area that some companies will be looking to reduce, or even ‘pause’, is learning and development.

For now, businesses will have hopefully taken steps to conserve as much cash flow as possible, protect the safety and wellbeing of employees, and setup (as best they can) for remote working in the coming months.

With all this in place, ensuring that the entire workforce, from the top-down, is able to carry out their role is paramount. One way in which to achieve this is by restructuring and improving learning and development.

There will ultimately be two types of reactions to this crisis from a learning and development perspective. These are:

  • Freezing L&D funding for short-term savings
  • Use this time as an opportunity to improve operations and adjust to the new ‘normal’.

The businesses that act now and prepare their workforce (both from a leadership and broader employee perspective) for the future will be the ones that gain a competitive advantage and ensure continuity.

Learning and development for leaders in the workplace

While leaders will be continually expected to develop their skills in order to best manage the needs of the workforce, few would have predicted or even prepared for the challenges that they are going to face following the coronavirus pandemic.

Not only will leaders be required to make difficult and important decisions in the near future, such as furloughing employees and conserving cash, they will also be responsible for maintaining operations when the business starts to recover. The question is; are these leaders well-prepared for this?

According to Level Up Leadership, only 19% of organisations claim to be effective at developing leaders, highlighting that improvements in leadership development need to be made, especially in a crisis.

For those currently in charge of a depleted and potentially demotivated group of employees, effective learning and development for leaders can be critical in steadying the ship now, and sustaining operations when things start to pick up again.

Learning and development for the wider workforce

The majority of businesses across the world will have learning and development programmes and courses in place to cover all aspects of their business, from graduate training to commercial skills development. During this crisis, however, many companies will either halt or cancel these.

Throwing away progress like this can prove to be extremely detrimental to the business in the long term, and should be avoided at all costs.

Instead, business leaders should look towards infusing agile learning and implementing digital solutions to ensure that any training does not go to waste.

Mental health awareness has been a large part of employee wellbeing throughout this pandemic so far, and with so many people feeling anxious and unproductive, introducing that familiarity in terms of training and learning can serve to boost mental wellbeing and help employees to feel like they have a real purpose once again.

In addition, introducing digital learning for remote workers can help prepare employees for the future of the business when this is all over, as well as new outcomes and processes long term.

For more of our employee wellbeing tips during COVID-19, please read our blog here.

MDA Training’s Digital Solutions

While training cannot be conducted in the classroom currently – there is no reason why learning and development has to stop altogether.

Here at MDA Training, we are hard at work developing digital solutions for remote workers to help strengthen communication networks, embed key messages and ensure business continuity during these challenging times.

Drawing on innovative methods like e-learning and microlearning, our programmes serve to engage and motivate employees, thus helping them to make real improvements both now and in the future.

We are also regularly producing video content to assist SME owners with any financial concerns they may currently have. Head over to our YouTube channel for more information.

There is far more to be lost in abandoning learning and development for the sake of short term financial gain. In focusing time and effort on the right solutions, the progress made towards ensuring continuity throughout the business is more likely to be salvaged.

As for business leaders, the importance of developing people management skills is arguably more important now than it has ever been, as judgement will be made on how the business was run during the worst of times.