The future of face-to-face training, post-COVID

As many businesses begin bringing their workforces back into the workplace, it’s clear that whatever the #NewNormal looks like, it will include a lot more working from home. In fact, we’ve already seen the odd headline about companies opting for no more face to face working from now on.

This has obvious knock-on effects for teamworking, and customer service… and of course, training courses. Classroom-based training event is still a highly effective learning and development option. But it’s not the only one and in an era emphasising the benefits of avoiding face to face situations, it’s only right we call the classic training into question.

With that in mind, Maximum’s recent “Performance Survey 2020: L&D trends post-COVID – learning to live with the new normal?” tried to dig beneath the surface of the mysterious new normal, including testing the opinions of L&D and HR professionals on face to face training as an option for the future.

Our survey says…

Face to face training is clearly an issue at the forefront of L&D departments’ concerns. When asked, “What are your main L&D challenges and priorities, right now?”, 71% replied: Change in L&D delivery mechanisms. Clearly, it’s time for a reassessment of how we help people develop new skills and knowledge.

The results of that reassessment so far is that 84% of respondents have switched to using virtual classrooms; although satisfaction ratings for the virtual classroom option were hovering around 60%. So, is the virtual classroom (the ‘ZoomRoom’?!) the long-term solution?

The short answer might well be, yes. But it takes more than a global pandemic to kill off the classroom training course…

Likely future changes

Not only are we likely to see less classroom courses, those that do take place are likely to be of shorter duration. Pre-COVID, the majority of such events were half or a full day in length. But 61% are saying that any classroom events in the future will be shorter. This obviously carries an impact on content – there’s a limit to how much you can cram into a shorter run-time (besides, too much ‘cramming’ leads to less learning). Expect to see classroom events more closely dovetailed with complementary, non-classroom options, such as e-learning, webinars, coaching by line managers, etc.

So, although most businesses expect to reintroduce classroom events, that return is in the context of 90% of respondents foreseeing an ongoing trend for more virtual classrooms, blended learning, online learning, etc.

Training budgets

One last thought… classroom events have always been a comparatively expensive learning delivery option. No doubt the thought of cutting the costs of venues, travel, presentation equipment, catering, and so on, is a strong temptation (and will be seen by some as the silver lining of this pandemic, in L&D terms). Indeed, our survey showed 44% of respondents have already cut L&D budgets by anywhere between 25-100%.

But if you’re contemplating a major shift in L&D delivery strategy, don’t expect instantly lower costs. It may be cheap to connect an employee to an online learning option but the cost of development has to be factored in first. Likewise, line manager coaching can be highly effective and timely, and carry minimum disruption to daily operations… but first, you need a cadre of managers equipped with adequate coaching skills.

Undoubtedly, the future of learning and development will be different post-COVID, just like pretty much everything else. Exactly what changes are necessary will depend on your specific business needs, established organisational culture, resources, and so on, but it seems certain that finding alternatives to the classic, all-together-in-a-room training course is a priority for any business.

If you’re interested in finding out what alternative learning options may be available, get in touch and let’s talk about what would fit your current and future needs. Give us a call on 01582 463463 – we’re here to help!

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