It’s hard to imagine that this time last year, the world was, by and large, unfamiliar with the term coronavirus. Now, COVID-19 rolls off the tongue with the same familiarity as a favorite quote, while dominating conversations about customer experience and why employee training is perhaps more critical than ever before.
Here’s our take on what employers should be doing to support a workforce struggling with uncertainty.
This isn’t meant to be easy.
COVID-19 has reconfigured our professional and personal spaces, blurring (or maybe even eliminating) the line that separated the two. Practically overnight, working parents have found themselves challenged to meet professional commitments from their kitchen or dining room tables, while juggling the demands of homeschooling their children. Everything from handshakes to business lunches, strategy sessions, and watercooler gatherings have gone virtual.
“Simply saying, ‘we need to move our training to virtual sessions now’ is wildly irresponsible. Employers need to, in some cases, completely reimagine employee skills and capabilities, not just the venue in which they are trained,” said E.J. Kritz, Director of Training & Insights at ath Power.
The American workforce lives in the digital world more than ever before. Approximately 40% of the population is now working from home, which complicates the hiring and training process for employers. In-person interaction has been replaced by Zoom calls, which has resulted in employees reporting increased symptoms of exhaustion and frustration, dubbed “Zoom fatigue.”
According to National Geographic, Zoom fatigue evidences what research has long known about virtual interactions on any platform: the brain finds them more stressful than face-to-face exchanges.
The pandemic continues to redefine best business practices, which is why smart employers are recommitting to employee training to survive the shift and remain relevant. As Zig Ziglar advised: “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”
Supporting employees with appropriate training gives them the tools they need to be successful, which is key to nurturing an ideal employee experience during a time that has been anything but ideal.
Forbes recently reported that Employee Experience is More Important than Ever During the COVID-19 Pandemic, citing “The time is now to reset employee experience during the Covid-19 pandemic to create a more meaningful and lasting emotional connection between the employee and their employer.”
As employers attempt to nurture this “new normal,” the importance of training cannot be overstated. John F. Kennedy wisely observed that “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” With that in mind, Kritz notes, “Employers need to have a Talent Optimization strategy that complements their overall business objectives. This is nothing new and has nothing to do with COVID-19. Unfortunately, for many companies, it took a global pandemic to realize their hiring and training practices were antiquated and not appropriately aligned to the needs of the business. Now, they have the unique chance for a do-over.”
Industry experts recommend embracing strategies, like those listed below, to deliver effective training:
- Know and play to the strengths of your team, specific to this recovery. Restaurants have done this, relying on delivery drivers and phone sales to keep business moving before diners are allowed — or feel comfortable enough — to return to indoor dining. In this example, waitstaff are not as critical as they once were; instead, it’s the drivers, and whoever is manning the phones.
- Teach the skills required to accommodate this change. An example might be offering Zoom training for your team to help them have more productive meetings.
- Know what you need to teach your team to ensure its success. With in-person exchanges either on pause or available on a restricted basis, online and phone sales are critical to keep businesses moving. How literate is your team when it comes to e-commerce platforms or securing sales over the phone? Ask these questions and develop trainings based on your answers.
- Don’t wait — accommodate! In other words, just because you’re not 100% confident, moving forward with new employee training doesn’t mean you should skip it. Even if you find that your efforts to redevelop your team somehow fall flat, simply review, evaluate where things went wrong, and come up with a new strategy. Learning should be a lifelong process, and attempting to address all the needs presented by this pandemic at once is overwhelming… and impossible.
- Think small for big results. Sometimes larger companies are blind to their weaknesses; whereas, the small business owner is acutely aware of what their company lacks for greater success. Try to take a micro view of your company’s strengths and weaknesses, no matter its size, in order to develop a more strategic plan moving forward.
- Don’t assume you have the right people. Often when training doesn’t work, the employer says, “must be the training.” It could be that the employee of the past is not the employee of the future. Be thoughtful to use tools to gauge both the cognitive and behavioral makeup of your teams.
At ath Power Consulting, we have solutions tailored to support your team’s specific needs and goals. Contact us to learn more when you’re ready to better assess, align, and achieve your vision.