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7 Key areas L&D departments should be focusing on right now

Wilhelm Crous - Friday, August 07, 2020


We have not seen this movie before! 

Covid-19 and the fallout of the pandemic has turned the world upside down and the impact on organisations has been severe.  

For the L&D fraternity it’s been particularly challenging. In most cases they’ve had to move to a full online or virtual learning platform. They’ve also to equip the workforce with skills to weather this storm and cope with the new world of work. 

On a positive note, there is general consensus that L&D is now at the centre stage of the organisation. It is now up to Chief Learning Officers and their departments to seize the day.

So which priorities should L&D departments focus on? 

I would suggest 7 key focus areas to ensure L&D makes a strategic and lasting impact on their organisation…
  1. Revisit your organisation’s strategy and align the L&D interventions and priorities to support and deliver on this strategy. The impact of the pandemic on the economy at large has forced most companies to modify their strategy. In many cases it has changed radically.

  2. Utilise the L&D platform to communicate and strengthen the organisation’s purpose and values. In these times people are inspired and drawn to meaningful and higher order goals. Link every programme and intervention to the organisation’s purpose. These are times when organisations should stand for more than just making profits or to survive. 

  3. Study after study indicates that the mental health of employees are taking strain. They are overwhelmed, frightened, unsure and they are burnt out (this is one of the reasons why we’re holding an online Corporate Health & Wellness Conference in September). L&D departments should collaborate with wellness people to deliver coping strategies.  The online learning platforms are ideal vehicles. In many mid-size organisations, there are no wellness departments and in such cases L&D should take the initiative. Programmes around emotional fitness, financial fitness, etc. can quickly be developed and delivered. Apart from assisting employees, the image of the L&D department will rise among the employees and executives.

  4. Never let a good crisis go to waste! Bear that in mind that at this moment with regards to leadership development. The all-time guru on leadership, Warren Bennis, was of the opinion that the “crucibles of life” shape people to become true authentic leaders. Pivot the existing leadership development programmes to utilise this real-life crucible.

    Andrew Campbell  makes the point in his new book Chaos is a Gift? that now “an innovative leadership methodology is emerging from traditional leadership frameworks to a leadership framework focused on mission-driven agility with cognitive readiness and cross functional collaboration across organisational lines”. In times of unpredictability and entering the unknown, the focus should be on attributes to lead oneself (i.e. self-awareness, emotional self-control, decisiveness, integrity, strategic intelligence and character-based leadership.

    L&D departments should use utilise real-life 'simulations' that the fallout of COVID-19 is presenting to develop capabilities such as crisis management, emotional intelligence, communication, collaborative decision-making, problem solving and team development. That is in addition to sensemaking, psychological and social capital and being resilient. The emphasis should be on developing leaders to be better prepared to face complexity and uncertainty in the future.

  5. Conduct a skills audit of the L&D department. The ground has shifted. Are the L&D staff capable to deliver for this new world? Ensure that they acquire the knowledge and skills to cope and function optimally.

  6. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate! Resources and time are now limited. Collaborate with L&D departments in other organisations, even with competitors to find answers to the wicked problems we are now facing. And assist where you can. This is all in the interest of the country to survive. The KR L&D community is the ideal forum to utilise to collectively assist each other.

  7. Communicate all the initiatives and achievements reached by the L&D department to Exco on an ongoing basis. Make sure they know exactly what the L&D department is doing during these days. It will lift the image of the department, assist in viewing L&D as a strategic and crucial part of the organisation and confirm the fact that L&D is at the centre of the organisation.

This is a time for Chief Learning Officers to show up. Be confident. Lead. You will not get another opportunity like this to truly deliver. If ever.

To discuss some of these imperatives (and more) on 1-3 September 2020 we’ll be hosting our annual Learning & Development Conference online. We’ve secured international and local speakers from leading organisations such as: Ericsson, Old Mutual, Standard Bank Group, Sasol, Absa, EY, PwC (Luxembourg), GAN (Switzerland), Santam, Anglo American Platinum and more. Take a look at the programme line up here.

Reference: Chaos Is A Gift: Leading Oneself in Uncertain and Complex Environments Edited by Ebben Van Zyl, Andrew Campbell and Liezl Lues

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