A new dawn, really ?

I was going to write about the future of L&D post Corona crisis.  I figured it’d be a piece of cake.  All I had to do was summarise the brilliant opinions of a bunch of L&D gurus and we all know there’s plenty of those on the Internet.

More of the same or not ?

Clearly, that had been a miscalculation.  Their crystal ball displayed not much more than an increase in online training sessions and a decrease in “life” workshops.  Those who dared to add a touch of adventure, mentioned “artificial intelligence “ (aka AI) and “virtual reality”. A lone critical voice proclaimed that an online platform isn’t suited for the development of interpersonal or emotional intelligence.

Moreover,  everyone seemed to agree that “hybrid working” would be the way to go : you work from home a few days a week and you commute to the office a few days a week. Trainings would follow in these hybrid shoes by mixing digital and classroom settings.

Digital, the new normal ?

But that’s where my fingers started itching to make a side note… How about all the jobs that simply can’t be done from home ? Today, in full corona-mode, barely 40% of all employees are working from home - and not all of them full time either.  That’s more than double compared to five years ago. Taking into consideration that more than half of the working population indicates that telework is possible in their function, we can safely assume there is still some growth potential for that percentage to go up.

This leaves another 50% who will need to make it to the workplace every day.   And we are not even taking the 1/3 rd of today’s teleworkers into account who claim they want to diminish or stop  working from home completely once the corona crisis is over.  They miss the coffee break chit chat with colleagues and/or are sick and tired of video calls.  In other words, a significant number of us have discovered the benefits of the digital work space, but at least as many of us will keep on working in an “old school” setting. 

Put everything in the blender ?

So what about those hybrid trainings ?

Whether you like to call it “hybrid” or “blended” the basic idea is that you combine different learning methods in order to get an exciting learning path.  For instance, you get an individual e-learning for starters, followed by a webinar and to close you get a “life” group session to practice.  Participants have the option to exchange ideas with a teacher in a learning community and they get extra support through short video’s, articles and other relevant information.

Today, too many digital solutions are as good as literal translations of mediocre classroom workshops. You used to listen to the teacher in a group and now you do that solo behind a screen. The biggest advantage in this case is that you don’t have to whisper to your neighbour if you’re bored, you can simply chat online or even finish  going through your e-mails.

A digital imitation of a classroom intervention - even a successful one - has a double drawback : you loose the added value of a classical workshop and you barely benefit of the advantages that digital learning has to offer.

Moreover, it encourages the sorry trend to shorten any learning intervention to its barest bone.  That is a bizarre evolution, in my opinion.  Anyone who has ever tried to master statistics, play the piano or speak Spanish, will agree that learning takes time. You are kidding yourself if you think that reading five management tips twice a week (on your smartphone, of course) will make you a better manager.

A matter of time 

And yet there is a silver lining.  If there is one thing that this lockdown has given us, it is time.  We are walking again, we cook, we bike, we read, we shop for food at 3 local specialty stores instead of at one big supermarket.  All this takes a certain kind of ‘slowness’.  The only extra cost is ‘time’.

If we really want to greet a “new dawn” after corona, we will need to find a way to unite a couple of opposing concepts : teleworking and the need for human contact, enjoying the things that require time and the pressure to perform in an ever changing world, buying local produce and the globalisation symbolised by the delivery vans stopping at our door, short attention span “edutainment” and slow, in-depth learning.

Technology is but a tool albeit one with a huge impact.  I used to write a letter to my far away friends. As international phone plans became more affordable, I called and now I send whatsapp messages. But the truth is, whatever I wanted to write down in a letter, will never fit in a whatsapp message. I admit I can be verbose but don’t you agree that those old fashioned letter exchanges remain fascinating ? Call me old-fashioned, but I really  doubt that whatsapp will stand the test of time as gracefully. 

Regardless of technology, regardless of how the world will look like, if we want to keep what we gained from this time, we will need to combine the essence of working and the essence of learning and that is caring for yourself and caring for others.  And  care  takes time …

So, my hope for all of us, is to bottle up some of this time and keep it on the shelf for post-corona days to welcome a new dawn after all.


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