Discussion on Demand

COVID-19 Has Changed Corporate Learning Forever

Steve DineenLondon (UK), May 2020 - Fuse Universal has seen so much positivity from their customers over the last few months, when many of their worlds have been turned upside down. Fuse CEO & Chief Storyteller, Steve Dineen, wanted to capture some of the incredible ways their customers are transforming their L&D.

Steve was keen to share some of the successes and new ways of working by many of their customers. What is clear from the examples below is that now is a time in which everyone can make a huge positive difference, especially if they learn at an accelerated pace from each other.

Undoubtedly this is one of the most challenging times individuals, companies, and society have faced. People are having to rapidly adjust their personal and professional lives with almost no precedent or experience to leverage. This means having to learn faster than ever before and create a new way of working, but at the same time, it offers the "learning" industry an opportunity to add greater impact to their people and their organisations than ever before.

To give context to this article, Fuse Universal saw a huge increase in engagement across their customer base. With traffic doubling from a million views a week to two million from the second week of March onwards, Fuse wanted to dig into the data to understand what their customers and learners were doing differently. They wanted to see if there were valuable lessons to learn, capture, and share for everyone to benefit from.

1. Digital leadership engagement means people engagement
Fuse Universal has seen a huge upsurge in leaders connecting with their people in more frequent and digital ways. For example, Seasalt, a lifestyle retailer that has very high levels of people engagement (over 90% monthly active usage) is seeing its leadership team connect and engage with its people in a variety of ways. During these days of social distancing, people engagement is even more key to mental health, sense of connection, and the maintenance of company cultures.

Seasalt's CEO, Paul Hayes, published an article recently on the online fashion site "Drapers" eloquently saying, "During this time, I think it's more important than ever for leaders of retail businesses to remain connected to their employees and to be visible. Communications are transparent and regular at Seasalt. We post a daily update on our recently introduced app, The Anchor (Fuse), which has proven invaluable at this time and can be accessed by all of our employees. I also send a weekly message to the entire business. We're running a whole range of internal initiatives, including posting video content, mindfulness, and opportunities to participate in activities from home."

Paul and his team don't see themselves as simply stakeholders in connecting with their people; they understand the need to be the biggest active advocates of people connectivity. Right now, people are scared, and social distancing magnifies that fear. People need leaders to be heard regularly and in a human way.

Steve Dineen said, "Work with your leaders to create, short regular videos, in which people can see and emotionally feel them and take strength from them. It's far more powerful than emails or newsletters written for them. They create a sense of security and oneness. People need to feel they have been informed honestly in uncertain times."

2. Crowdsource change
As a tech startup/scale up, Fuse Universal is used to constant change, and having to "pivot" business direction is a part of their normal world. However, even for those that are set up for rapid change, they are also shocked by the severity. Many larger companies have been thrust into a world where they need to pivot as if they were a startup, learning to work and collaborate purely through digital technology for the first time. What is evident is that to survive and thrive, companies can't just wait for the normal command-and-control instructions and ideas generated from yesteryear to come from the top: In an unprecedented pandemic, experience is less relevant, and new ideas are of higher value than ever before.

One company that has broken the notion of ideas only coming through the top is Rockwool, and a great example was how they crowdsourced ideas from the whole collective intelligence of their organisation in the area of sustainability. Rockwool created a campaign in which new ideas were encouraged and captured in videos across the organisation, discussed in an open fashion, and the top seven were celebrated company wide.

Right now, it feels like there needs to be lots more of this: more harnessing of ideas from across organisations, leveraging the best thing they have -their people. There are undoubtedly so many great ideas latent within organisations, which if aired, given visibility, and openly discussed and celebrated would help them come out of the current crisis stronger than when they entered it, and Rockwool's examples is a perfect role model of this.

3. Accelerating policy change 
In this new world, companies have had to change policies fast, like Ocado, who are helping keep everyone fed with their groceries in the UK. They have been brilliant in rapidly digitising new knowledge and getting it into the hands and minds of their delivery teams. As soon as the outbreak started, Ocado's people were fully informed on new ways to interact with their customers and make them feel safe. The company also made sure its staff, too, was safe, and as new policies are created, the same day they are brought to life, on everyone's mobile device, they are shared, consumed, and tracked for impact.

Undoubtedly, the old ways of spending twelve weeks building a course and rolling it out electronically or face to face seem antiquated, with the practical need to which everyone must now respond. It will be interesting to see whether the organisations that are moving to the ways that Ocado have been using for a while will ever fully go back to the old ones.

Interested while chatting with a local Ocado driver, Steve Dineen asked her how else the Fuse Universal app was being used. She explained that she found the social-engagement piece key, or as she said, "I used it to keep up with the gossip as well", which would have been a side benefit a month ago. And being able to facilitate that emotional peer-to-peer connection digitally is likely to become even more important during the weeks and months ahead.

4. Surviving and thriving through rapid re-skilling
For Fuse Universal, it's also been interesting to see how other smart companies like Vodafone have been able to pivot so quickly because of their experience of their teams in digital learning and communication. Although Vodafone operates many different business lines, their retail stores are a key channel to connect to existing customers and onboard new ones. With shops being forced to shut, however, they pivoted quickly, and in a matter of days they were able to re-train their retail staff. The thousands of staff everyone is used to seeing in their stores are now supporting their customers via live chat, taking on board the knowledge and understanding gained almost overnight. It's phenomenal to think that content creation, learning experience design, consumption and, change were all done within a week, and Vodafone's customers are receiving that benefit. 

Right now, there are many organisations figuring how to rapidly re-skill their people with their face-to-face delivery mechanisms removed and the standard twelve-week course build times no longer relevant. As Darwin observed, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." 

5. Simplicity keeps people safe
It's no surprise that the most popular topic consumed by Fuse Universal's customers has been COVID-19. What is interesting is that there is a 300% difference in engagement depending on which tactic is employed to create, signpost, and share this information.

It was clear from the data that those who put all the content related to the subject in a simple-to-access topic/playlist and signpost it clearly have got significantly more people to read and watch rather than individual content pieces shared within social feeds or hidden away in an eLearning library somewhere.

In essence, simply created or curated content on this topic that is easily signposted, such as the one from Fuse customer Medivet's new site, is seeing significantly higher engagement and is thus more likely to lead to better behaviours.

An argument often made is that simply watching videos or reading articles do not change behaviour, but this statement is likely too vague because context, as in the case of the coronavirus, is a huge variable. Steve Dineen said, "What I can say is watching a video of how to wash your hands in the same way as doctors and nurses do has led my family and me to change our behaviour and daily habits."

Undoubtedly everyone now has a powerful motivation to do so, but a simple video illustrating the what and the how was key to the clear change in Steve Dineen's behaviour. This is also true of other behaviours that his family and company team have adopted due to simple access to signposted knowledge during the quarantine. The average of 300% more is a huge difference, especially on such an important topic.

So create or curate useful content about COVID-19, but make every effort to signpost it, place it with related content, and keep it bite sized for quick consumption.

6. Learning from home and the need to accelerate to digital
Face-to-face training will always have relevance, and even the most progressive of L&D departments such as Fuse customer Hilti’s use it for great impact. Right now, though, this venerable tool is temporarily not in anyone's arsenal. Since learning most go on, over the last few weeks, L&D teams like Hilti's have gone into overdrive moving their face-to-face programs to digital, using a combination of virtual training software and Fuse. With this medium, they are hitting around 60% monthly active engagement whilst their audience learns from home. And 60% monthly active user engagement in a company with 30,000+ is truly impressive.

Other learning leaders like Matt Donovan at GP Strategies have helped re-retrain their trainers within a week to become virtual facilitators, and Ocado moved their re-onboarding to digital within a week as well. Agility and learning from home are becoming the new L&D thing - led by these game changers.

It is also interesting, because Hilti is a genuine leader in learning and development, they are able to showcase that capability as a recruitment tool to attract great talent who want to learn from Hilti's best, which their social media posts on LinkedIn exemplify.

What is evident is that although over the coming months everyone will hopefully start to see familiarity returning to the world, a new recognition is gradually being engendered. Industries like construction and manufacturing will re-open first, with face-to-face training events like those at trade shows returning toward the end of the road back to normal. Those organisations that have been agile and pivoted their L&D like a startup will have offered their people a greater connection during the era of social distancing, as well as having given their companies a competitive advantage out the other side.