For this fifth post in our series of interviews with Human Resources and training professionals, we stayed close to home and had a chat with two Barco experts. An Dewaele (AD), Chief HR officer, and Isabelle De Wulf (IDW), Talent and Organizational Development Director, elaborate on enabling people to stay relevant and the changing needs that are driving L&D.
What are the biggest things you realized during the past few months?
AD: These last months, we definitely learned how to run virtual meetings more efficiently. Especially in hybrid environments, with part of the team dialing in while the majority is in the meeting room, it’s easy to forget remote colleagues while you’re conversing with the others in the room. You need to be much more inclusive when there are remote participants and safeguard the connection with everybody. It wasn’t until every participant in every meeting was calling in from home due to the lockdown, that people had the same experience. The situation forced us to listen actively to each other, to check in with everybody, to stick to the agenda. As a result, we experienced how to run meetings more efficiently.
IDW: I agree with An. I hope that we take the benefits from this virtual experience into the new normal and learn from it as we move towards a hybrid approach. In fact, the same goes for training and development.
How has this situation changed your view on the role of learning and development?
AD: Learning and development were already high on our agenda. Employees will always need to up-skill themselves throughout their careers. That’s something you not only do by acquiring knowledge, but also by having the mindset to cope with change and always look for the better way to do things. Training programs and courses enable employees to keep their knowledge and skills up to date and relevant. That will not change, even though the content or the way these courses are provided will.
IDW: I believe you have to reinvent yourself several times throughout your career. This past couple of months showed how important resilience and ability to deal with change and uncertainty are. And I think people who do not have that skill can get lost. In addition, people often look at learning and development in terms of the training we offer. But it’s broader than that. There are so many experiences in the daily job of employees that are potentially developmental.
Next to the daily development opportunities on the job that employees experience, we are convinced that investing in leadership and talent development programs is not only beneficial for the growth of individual employees, but it has to be beneficial for the business as a whole. The key to learning and development is always to align your programs with the business. Where do we want to go? It’s about looking at the efficiency of your organization and closing skill gaps. How can we as a learning and development team help individual people grow and develop, while also enabling them to contribute to the business strategy?
AD: Let me give you another example of how employees learn and develop, besides training programs. We have an internal mobility forum with HR to find matches between people, projects and teams. There is so much potential and talent in our own pool. We increased the frequency of these meetings during the crisis to redeploy where necessary; but internal mobility is extremely important in ‘normal’ circumstances too. Changing jobs within the organization, gives employees a broader view on the organization and offers them the opportunity to get to know new people and new tools, processes. The crisis didn’t change our views on this at all, but accelerated the adoption of temporary redeployment and internal mobility.
Coming back to your question on how the crisis has impacted our views on learning and development. As said, learning and development has always been top of mind. But it did affect the actual organization and the ways we deliver our existing programs. We were forced to switch gears and do things differently. And we must admit that, although we strongly believe in the added value of real-life human connections, virtual has a great potential. In that, the lockdown has accelerated the adoption of digital and hybrid learning in our company’s L&D strategy and talent management.
How did you tackle the training of new employees and onboarding tracks during this situation?
IDW: We usually organize a monthly Welcome Day at our campus for the new hires. Now we do it online. It’s been challenging, but the weConnect platform has been big help to organize this as normally as possible. With good results: we received a lot of positive feedback from the new colleagues. We’re even thinking about keeping the virtual onboarding through weConnect, which would allow us to extend this onboarding day to welcome international employees too. But again, we will transform the event into a hybrid one then, combining the virtual aspects with a live gathering, as real-life human connections remain important.
You now use distance learning much more. What is your feeling on this?
IDW: Distance learning certainly requires the trainer to change the way they’re teaching. It’s really different. We are lucky to have a virtual classroom with weConnect, which allows trainers to teach naturally, either for only remote students, or for a mixed audience in a hybrid classroom. For our Global Emerging Leaders Program, for example, we planned to have a one-week face-to-face learning session in June in which we bring all the participants together. Due to the travel restrictions, we had to reinvent the program by changing the content, timeframe and delivery method.
AD: Digital online learning or virtual classroom learning is here to stay. Still, the ability to network remains important. We have found ways to solve this, by connecting people in breakout sessions with smaller teams. However, I don’t think we’ll take out classroom trainings out of our programs forever, because they’re still valuable. It’s like working from home to focus on a certain task, and coming in the office the next day to meet with colleagues: both have their merits. Hybrid is the way forward.
If anything, the recent crisis has further accentuated the importance of L&D. Yet it has also changed the way that we organize and deliver trainings forever. Using quick-fix conferencing solutions to deliver the learning results required to meet this challenge has given mixed results. To experience for yourself the difference an engaging and interactive virtual classroom can make, join one of our next free sessions on “The Future of Learning”.