Adapting Digital Learning Post COVID-19

6 Best Practices for Adapting Workplace Learning During the COVID-19 Crisis

Jun 12, 2020 9:29:09 AM

Training & learning | Employee engagement

***This post was originally published on April 1st and updated on June 11th. 

The COVID-19 crisis may have permanently changed the workplace, and workplace learning along with it. 

Some of us have been working from home for almost 3 months now - 60% of both American and UK workers, in fact.

Some would like it to stay that way, even after their workplaces can fully reopen. 3/5 of Americans working from home would like to keep doing so. 

Their wish could actually come true. 

Companies like Facebook have told their employees to expect to work remotely for the rest of 2020, and Twitter has gone as far as allowing employees to work from home permanently if they want to.

Other employees are still furloughed or temporarily unemployed, but expecting to return to work soon, especially as non-essential businesses gradually re-open across the world. 

8.9 million jobs in the UK have been put on the government's paid furlough scheme as of June 7th.

And although 40 million Americans had filed for unemployment by the end of May, around 3/4 were only temporarily out of work and feel positive they'll get their jobs back when the crisis subsides. 

One thing's for sure - the workplace isn't going back to normal, whatever industry you work in. And that means workplace learning has to continue to adapt. 

Knowledge is what makes businesses adaptable. 

Organizations may be tempted to cut costs by trimming budgets from employee learning and development.

But going down this route means that employers are giving employee skills, retention and job satisfaction a trimming as well. 

Digital workplace learning has the power to differentiate every business post COVID-19. 

Bearing this in mind, here are 6 best practices for adapting your digital workplace learning as the world shifts out of crisis mode and beyond. 


1) Make workplace learning your competitive advantage (even for employees off work)

Whether they're working from home or furloughed, employees now have more downtime to put towards learning, and they've been eagerly jumping right in. 

Online learning platform LinkedIn Learning has seen a 153% increase in courses being shared, and a 301% increase in members joining learning groups between January and April. 

It could be long-term career advancement, mastering new responsibilities or bridging knowledge gaps. But whatever the reason for wanting to learn, businesses who take advantage of extra employee downtime will reap the benefits sooner rather than later. 

This is especially valid for frontline employees in the retail and hospitality industries, who might be off work but will be returning soon.

For example, fast casual burger chain BurgerFi is using YOOBIC's mobile learning app to train and engage employees across their corporate and franchised locations - many of whom are off of work while restaurants are closed.

>>>Read more about how BurgerFi uses YOOBIC to train and engage their frontline employees here! <<<

To make online workplace learning your secret sauce post COVID-19, create tailored learning tracks based on the long-term skills employees want to learn, skills they’ll need for cross-training, or even skills for switching over into another role in the future. 

Having a say in what you want to learn increases motivation. Giving employees choice will make them feel valued, which boosts engagement and retention in the long term. 

Workplace learning can be a tangible and rewarding activity for employees in and out of lockdown, alongside painting, knitting, learning to code or that novel they’ve always been meaning to write (but still haven't started 3 months later).


2) Make it social, even with social distancing

Learning has to be social to be effective. This gets tough when coworkers who used to see each other every day can only see each other on video calls. 

And even when it's time to go back to the office, there will be only so many employees you can fit in a conference room with social distancing precautions in place. 

Now is the time to make sure your digital learning requires employees to collaborate with each other even more than they usually would. 

Collaboration builds community, and community builds self-motivation to learn. Community makes knowledge that already exists within the company easily accessible. It’s like crowdsourcing your information. 

Make sure your learning platform has features that facilitate working together as a team, like chats and knowledge sharing channels. Take it further by using polls, surveys and quizzes more than you usually would. 

Live video, virtual team lunches and even group assignments done over video calls are proving popular ways to keep training social.


3) Bring in the fun and games 

If you haven’t already, now is the time to gamify your online learning

Incorporating game-playing elements like badges, points, scoring, battles and leaderboards into learning materials creates an extra boost that pushes your employees to keep learning.

A third of employees cite uninspiring content as a barrier to effective learning. Gamification is an effective way to reverse this trend. 

And even without gamification, it's easy to bring the fun back into learning with a little creativity. Challenges where the winner gets an online gift card or a free lunch are solid ways to engage learners when working remotely or out in the field. 


4) Make training sessions shorter and more structured

"I'm all Zoomed out for the day" is now a thing.

Let's be honest, we've all thought this more than we'd like to admit since lockdown began. 

Short attention spans have been a challenge for L&D professionals during lockdown, but lessons learned will be applicable for much longer than that. 

Kids (indefinitely!?) home from school, household chores, pets and real-time news updates are all still all competing for your learner’s limited attention, and now isn’t the time to make training sessions longer. 

Even Stanford University economist and work-from-home proponent, Nicholas Bloom, said recently that "Working from home with your children is a productivity disaster."

Whenever possible, use microlearning to format your training sessions into shorter sessions (preferably no longer than 5 minutes), all grouped around a common theme. 

Structure your sessions so it’s easier for learners to pick up where they left off after a break or distraction, with a logical flow that helps them retain the information better - for example, ending each session with a quiz and then a quick feedback poll. 

Even when we're back to a new "business as usual", using the tips above will help employees retain and apply knowledge. 

Because let's face it - the workplace is packed to the brim with distractions, too. 

There might not be kids, pets and chores, but there are chatty coworkers, unexpected meetings, and going back into the kitchen to consider having a 3rd slice of Bob in accounting's birthday cake. 


4) Give your learners extra support

Some employees might love working from home and find themselves more productive and focused than they would be in the office. 

Others may struggle with distractions and feeling isolated. 

You'll probably need to adjust your expectations of learners for as long as social distancing lasts, because despite your best efforts to make online learning as engaging and user-friendly as possible, employees may not have the time or mental bandwidth to learn as quickly as they usually would. 

It’s also important to frequently check in with your employees and take active steps to support mental health.

Uncertainty about the future, lack of social contact, worrying about loved ones and constant exposure to bad news will all take a toll on your employees’ mental health and morale levels, if they haven’t already. 

One survey found that 83% of young people in the UK with mental health needs reported the crisis made things worse.  

Use polls, surveys and chats to get a sense of how employees are feeling, and don’t forget to reiterate that L&D as well as HR teams are always available to help with employee concerns. 

6) Always collect and implement feedback

Ultimately, there’s no way of knowing how long lockdowns and mandatory work-from-home policies will last, or if there will be another lockdown in the future. 

So while it might be tempting to let “good enough” be the status quo because L&D will go back to normal at some point this year (or next year, or in 2022), your employees will feel more valued and more engaged if you ask for and implement their feedback on a regular basis.

And not only will collecting and implementing employee feedback help your online learning better, but what you learn will also help you make better decisions for your workplace learning in the future. 


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