Since well before our current crisis, smart companies have been asking tough questions about traditional approaches to training and developing their people. The early 21st Century fantasy of “all-online digital learning” has largely not played out, especially since some of the most important management competencies are best taught and learned in-person. “The soft stuff,” it turns out, is actually the hard stuff, and managers seeking to develop interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and the ability to engage and influence others aren’t going to improve much via an on-line module.
That said, 2020’s entirely unexpected change of course is forcing all of us to rethink how we can develop and train our people and create and strengthen organizational capabilities and culture when we simply cannot get together in person. Managers must coach more (as they should do anyway), and HR and training departments have to get more creative in their programming. Simply putting people-development on pause until we “get back to normal” is not an option, because we’re not going “back to normal” anytime soon, if ever.
While it’s still not clear what “the way we work” will look like in a post-Covid world—the answer to that question will likely take years, not months, to figure out—in talking with our colleagues and clients some good ideas for acting in the present are starting to emerge. The better organizations are actively wrestling with the questions of how to invest in their people to develop skills (including new skills to lead change and stay resilient through this pandemic), fortify their cultures, and help employees execute and create value for all their stakeholders.
Some Lessons learnt about developing people during these times:
1. Be Courageous
2. Plan, Consult, and Make Decisions in an Inclusive Way
3. Challenge with Support
4. “We Are All in This Together”
The unimaginable challenges of 2020 have made business-as-usual difficult if not impossible in almost every sector. As is usually the case, the organizations that are creative and tenacious on focusing on what they can do, rather than what they can’t do, to maintain momentum, growth, and the engagement of their people and their customers will be the ones who survive and eventually thrive in 2021 and beyond.