Learning and Development is a term applied to most aspects of training and career growth opportunities. Put simply, it is the mechanism by which businesses invest in their talent, employees curate their career path and leaders then access the skills they need to serve client objectives. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a revolution in the way we communicate. In the face of these positive forces of disruption, great agility has been demanded of L+D functions across our sector and H+K is no different.

Our L+D programme was recently revamped, bringing a broader and deeper offer of skills training that is more aligned to our clients’ and business needs. We launched Advance, an L+D programme aimed at the junior members of our team, and implemented a career progression plan so colleagues had a clear L+D path to follow. We introduced over 20 new sessions including Storytelling 101, Facilitating Client Value, Measurement Basics and Client Obsession to name a few.

We were running an average of 5 sessions every week in our London office meeting rooms like Shakespeare and Dickens, with a waitlist that was growing by the month.  We started working on Advance+ for our mid-senior level colleagues, which would include more commercial and hard skills as well as soft skills training modules. Colleagues, whether learners or facilitators would travel around the region to attend or deliver training programmes abroad.

And then came Covid-19.

The spectre of pandemic and the unprecedented impact it has had on our modes of working were initially regarded as a serious impediment to targeted training programmes, that so far have relied predominantly on in-person classroom settings. Our concern was compounded by scepticism surrounding the credibility of training given in an enforced remote working environment. As it turned out, with the application of some quick thinking and a few deep breaths, those concerns turned out to be unfounded.

We had a decent starting point. We knew that our colleagues really value learning*. We had and have a robust, tailored L+D offer that encourages participants to take ownership in their acquisition of skills and career growth. That said, a copy/paste approach wasn’t going to work. The learning modules had to be redesigned and repurposed before they could be delivered virtually.

First and foremost, this meant garnering a strong appreciation of the tech functionality and precisely what it would allow us to do. How far could we go in terms of delivering learning experiences that were equal to the engagement and interactivity typical of in-person training? What might be the optimal participant numbers and duration for each session? Then we needed to consider what interactive elements would a) work and b) add value. Would people be able to work in a group? And, quite importantly, would anyone even sign up under such changed circumstances?

Well, the results are in and I’m delighted to say they have surpassed all our expectations. It turns out that learning doesn’t need to stop if you aren’t in the same room!

New sessions tailored to this new environment were popular, such as Virtual Presenting Skills and Creating Effective PPT Presentations.  Overall, attendance has not wavered. In fact, engagement continues to rise, feedback is overwhelmingly positive and the doubts we had initially have long since evaporated. So much so that our thoughts have turned to these insights and truths we can derive from nearly six months of adaptation.

Pretty soon now, many if not most of us will begin returning to the office. What that looks like in the medium term has yet to be fully determined. Most though agree that despite the many challenges presented by the pandemic, there are hugely positive learnings, thus far obscured by the bustle of daily life, we want to capture for the long-term.

There are three ideas that, if embedded in our culture going forward, offer a comprehensive win for our clients, our business and our talent.

First, the greater the emphasis we place on the provision of training, the more people respond.

Second, skills development should be as much a part of our daily lives as the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. It should never stop. We are, each of us, our own greatest investment and you get out what you put in.

Finally, training offers the foundations, but the real-life application of those skills will amplify that learning exponentially. It is in the interests of every line manager to quickly find opportunities for recently trained consultants to apply their learning in practice.

If we hold true to these principles, we’ll have set the foundations for an evolved and fully optimised L+D ecosystem as we come out of one of the most disruptive periods in our history.

*H+K employee engagement survey 2020