5 L&D Considerations for Returning to the Workplace

5 L&D considerations for returning to the workplace

It’s time to start planning our return to the workplace. Adjustments made during the pandemic will extend into and impact our return to the office. Employees returning to work doesn’t necessarily mean children are back to school, families are healthy, or that each individual’s situation is anywhere near back to normal. As we’ve heard a thousand times in the past month, there is likely no returning to “normal” – whatever that may mean.

While we are planning for facilities management, social distancing, and providing PPE, employers should also plan for a variety of learning and development initiatives that can ease the transition. For some “returning to work” means simply going back to the office, while for others this means actually coming back to work after being out of work for some period of time.

As with any Learning & Development initiative, understanding your audience and their needs is key. Employees will likely fall into two categories: 

  1. those that are excited to get back to work (returning from remote work or furlough) and
  2. those that are not (for a variety of reasons)

Your management likely has new things to consider and be trained on, such as new processes and procedures related to health and safety, changing business priorities, and a schedule to safely return employees to work. 

Returning to work provides an opportunity for L&D to help our employees feel supported, cared for, and that their health and safety are a priority, while empathizing with a variety of experiences that people are having through this pandemic. Here are the five areas that should be considered for returning to work: 

    • Were there any required training or deadlines that were missed due to furloughs? Compliance deadlines? 
    • Are there any new requirements, knowledge, or information that you haven’t historically trained on? (e.g. social distancing requirements, PPE training, OSHA safety training) 
    • Have business goals, focus or strategies changed? Do teams need to be trained on new goals? We’ve all seen examples of companies completely changing their product or focus to help during this time. Think of alcohol brands that shifted to producing hand sanitizer, or apparel companies now producing PPE. 
    • What impact has this had on your L&D plans for 2020, including professional development plans, leadership development, or other budgetary impacts? 
      • What was formerly trained in person, large group training, and/or requiring travel? This will likely never be coming back. L&D can, and should, take this opportunity to plan how to improve and modernize their training and development programs to help better train and retain employees. 
      • Where can we implement a blended learning approach, and where can Instructor-Led Training be completely replaced by elearning? 
    • For our leaders and management – what do they need to know? 
      • Has there been any shift in leadership style during this time of crisis? 
      • Flexibility for employees, what considerations should be made for new schedules, new shifts, etc.? 
    • Have there been any changes to any of your previous roles? 
      • Many roles have been eliminated or taken on more responsibilities to respond to this new reality. This likely means that employees will have skill/knowledge gaps that we will need to identify and fill. What training is required to ensure these employees are productive? 
    • With so many changes occurring in companies, it is very likely that L&D has identified new opportunities/knowledge gaps that need to be addressed and planned for. 
    • Gather feedback from your employees, they will be able to provide you with the best information regarding where training will be most beneficial. 
    • Who are your new subject matter experts, or champions that you identified? Who are the employees you can lean on to help drive your program forward? 

It’s possible that for many companies, L&D initiatives have been paused during the pandemic. If that is the case, there are endless opportunities to get ahead on other L&D projects, such as building toolkits, communication plans, 2021 training curriculum year, or getting a solid handle on reporting and metrics for your program. 

At the end of the day, remember we are all dealing with this situation in different ways. Be empathetic with your employees and identify the areas where we can help them succeed and thrive as we continue to grow and learn from this situation. We mentioned “normal” might never quite mean the same thing it did before. This is your chance to redefine that normal for your employees and learners, show them you’re here to help them succeed. 

As organizations around the world prepare for their workforce to return to the workplace, elearning can provide a critical and efficient path to train and prepare employees for the changes they will face.  From staying healthy at work, best practices for safe business travel, to collaborative working with virtual teams, your workforce can return to the workplace more prepared and knowledgeable. These courses are made available free of charge through 15 June 2020.  Please use them to help your employees return to the workplace more prepared and knowledgeable.