What has Being Forced into e-Learning Taught Us About L&D?


COVID-19 has sparked a great deal of change in organizations around the world, so much so that simply saying that has almost become an exhausted phrase. For learning and development, the implications were clear. In-person instruction is, for the time being, dead. The fallout from that is that training efforts have to be taken online, even if you never imagined how that would work.

And in many cases, there wasn’t much of a plan to move L&D into virtual environments. While some companies were proactively already making the move and merely had to speed up, others had to start from square one. In a session titled “Learning Rebooted: Lessons Learned from Being ‘Forced’ into e-Learning” at our recent HR Exchange Live Corporate Learning event. Michelle Strasburger, Co-Founder of HR Rebooted led a discussion that provided the example of her former employer, Emerson Ecologics, where prior to COVID, learning was not centered on an e-learning strategy. Coaching and development happened in real time and tools to support e-learning consisted mostly of video housed in the HRIS system.

“There wasn’t really a huge need in this case for e-learning,” Strasburger said. “And then March happened and the governor of New Hampshire announced a stay in place order. We were very unprepared to facilitate remote work. We were forced to change from a fully centralized team to a team with new laptops working from home. As a provider or vitamins and supplements, our business increased so we needed more customer service agents which meant that we had to implement online training for new agents and figure out ways to keep current ones engaged.”

Tools for Change

The new hires were based in locations from across the country which meant that the company’s usual in-person trainings had to find a virtual home. Through using a combination of new and existing systems the company felt they could execute this shift.

Google Classroom would play a vital role as the primary system due to its availability and how quickly the company could transition the trainings for sales reps. This had some important benefits as it facilitated ongoing learning beyond the onboarding process and made it easier for team members to share experiences and best practices.

WEBINAR: Learning Rebooted: Lessons Learned from Being Forced into e-Learning

It also had some unintended benefits. For example, new hires got up to speed quicker than people who had previously done the onboarding in-person. It was so effective in fact, that Emerson decided to keep its sales teams remote so that they could expand the talent pool that they could draw from.

Steps to Success

Strasburger went on to outline the some of the key elements that drove success for Emerson. The most notable elements included:

  • Start small to allow for experimentation
  • Examine the viability of your current tools
  • Involve the necessary stakeholders to ensure buy-in and addressing pain points
  • Focus on the long term
  • Seek out peer advice from the HR and IT communities
  • Diversify technology options to ensure interaction and drive engagement.

Through the Emerson experience, Strasburger has seen how quickly organizations can shift to e-learning, but she has one important piece of advice to add: don’t wait.

“I always tell my son that mistakes are good if you learn from them,” Strasburger said. “So I hope others can learn from our mistake and think ahead about what happens if there’s another pandemic or a natural disaster? Are you prepared to keep your team engaged and connected? Do you have a forward looking strategy that meets the current and future needs of the organization in terms of developing skillsets?

In the end, the type of systems used don’t matter as much as addressing the needs of our people and . To keep L&D at the center of what comes next, getting to the core of what you’re trying to achieve by addressing key concerns from within the organization is vital.

“I always go back to finding the pain point within the organization and solving that through training, whether that’s free systems or something else,” Strasburger said. “I think we’re going to see L&D and training professionals getting really creative during that time and as long as those innovations address a pain point, L&D will remain a key priority for your organization.”

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