According to Thomas Friedman’s “Golden Arches” Theory, no two countries with McDonald’s restaurants would go to war. Whereas due to COVID 19, Countries closed their borders, millions of them are under lockdown, schools have closed, international travel has halted, conferences have been cancelled, and global supply chains have been disrupted. Not a single corner of the global economy is immune to the epidemic coined as “pandemic”.
Events of this magnitude get etched in history for three reasons – i) Devastation (illness and death caused due to its nature), ii) Long-term impact of what it teaches humans, organizations & all other stake holders on things to prioritize and iii) the kind of socio-cultural/political/economical changes they bring about.
While this is at the global level, many organizations across the globe employed significant measures to mitigate the risk of the virus spread by enforcing telecommuting / remote working. However, as the pandemic spreads, workplace learning/education, training and developments (L & D) teams will be affected. Whether the company already has a business continuity plan in place or is frantically working around the clock to create, the L & D teams are bound to be affected in the coming days, weeks, and months without having one.
TechRepublic’s Macy Bayern writes in “How to manage employees working from home during the corona virus scare” that working from home does not equate to not working, but it does cause people to work differently.” Jason Cipriani writes in his book “Work from Home”: 64 expert tips for staying healthy, happy, and productive – “Not only do employees have to learn how to work from home and remain efficient, but managers also have to learn how to effectively lead and manage remote workers.”
In such a scenario, it is necessary to think through many ways the COVID-19 pandemic might affect the L&D operations. Accordingly one can make strategic, thoughtful decisions that will benefit the company and its employees. Depending on business requests, it may become essential to initiate and launch training initiatives specifically in response to the pandemic. Such trainings should take precedence over all other L&D initiatives.
In order to keep employees busy and feeling productive during slow times, few examples of the types of training requests that may be received could be that of –
- Policy-based – Educating employees about company’s leave or remote work policies (OR)
- Technology-based – Showing people how to use company hardware and software to work from home, including how to log on and access applications securely (OR)
- Health and safety – Reminding people on good hygiene practices and social distancing measures (OR)
- Customer-focused – Training staff to answer customer questions about company’s response to the pandemic.
 In view of the fact that some form of employee training needs to be carried out by the company during the pandemic, we need to explore the concept of “learning and training anywhere, any time (an idea central to the concept of lifelong learning)” by looking at a number of issues, such as –
- New and innovative approaches to learning and skills development observed since the start of the pandemic.
- New forms of learning partnerships / collaboration that emerged during this crisis period.
- Resources required in maintaining training services remotely via e-learning platforms.
- Challenges that learners face in accessing / using e-learning.
- Learners’ adaptability to new and evolving forms of training and learning.
- Measures to be taken in order to assure that potential learners are aware of existing learning solutions and can access and use them autonomously.
- Kind of technical hurdles in delivering online training and skills development.
- Role of individuals and learning providers in minimizing the effects of the disruption and ensure apprentices/learners are not negatively impacted in the long-term.
- Impact of current situation on the concept of lifelong learning.
At this juncture, it is not out of place to refer to what Charles Darwin says in his “Origin of Species”. He says, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change in which it finds itself”. By and large, situations like this call for Collaborative Virtual Innovative Digital (COVID) learning/education, training and development strategies that respond to the disruptions as the new normal. As such this discussion seeks to garner insights into innovative practices in learning, education, training and development, particularly those that are embracing technology to promote skills development. The discussion also encourages addressing emerging issues that arise in the current context of moving to online learning and skills development, and ensures that no one is excluded from new ways of learning and training.
 Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman, COVID-19: How the enterprise is adapting to disruption, March 17, 2020
 Kamal Haasan pens open letter to PM Modi criticising implementation of the lockdown, Apr 08, 2020
 PANKAJ MISHRA , Coronavirus is just the start, get ready for a bigger disruption, 17 March, 2020
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