We live in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world, a fact brought only too close to home by recent global events. To continue to survive in this environment, successful organisations understand they must think and act differently.
Of course, for some organisations, ceasing operations, albeit temporarily, may be the best immediate course of action in the face of crisis. But for companies with resilient systems and the right leadership, it is simply a question of re-configuring to address the new environment. This applies no less to the continuing professional development of employees and addressing their ongoing learning requirements.
One way in which the best organisations have already adapted is to switch the mode of learning from classroom-led to virtual instructor-led training (vILT). Many of these organisations already had development programs that contained a mix of classroom and virtual delivery, so the changes required are minimal.
vILT is not the same as eLearning. In fact, vILT is structurally identical to classroom learning, all but in the fact that the classroom is online. Participants assemble in the classroom at the designated time, meet the other participants and instructor, and interact in very much the same way as they would in a physical classroom. The latest conferencing software tools offer great functionality as well as use minimal bandwidth, so that technical interruptions (especially, as is usual, by not using video) are rare.
The interesting thing, many participants and organisations are discovering is that vILT has many advantages. Let’s take a look at these:
- The learning environment is rich. The traditional whiteboard and PowerPoint® interfaces are supplemented by other multimedia tools (such as drawing tools, polls, quizzes etc), chat boxes, breakout rooms and instant access to support documents. People have different learning styles and this environment lends itself to addressing each individual’s learning preferences in the optimum way.
- Enhanced interaction. Although it requires some initial effort by both participants and facilitator, interaction may be enhanced over that within a traditional classroom. For example, the usual classroom constraints can be broken down so that participants can easily ‘gather round the whiteboard’ to brainstorm ideas and notes. And whilst verbal communication is normally encouraged, participants can easily ask questions within the chat box where they prefer not to interrupt the facilitator’s (or others’) flow.
- Mirrors real-life better than a physical classroom. When is the last time that your project team actually managed to all gather around a physical table to develop a plan or build ideas? And even if they normally have that luxury, virtual working is inevitably becoming the norm. So, team members get great practice, not just in the techniques being learned, but also in the process of working together virtually as a team. Putting together a risk plan using Post-Its in a classroom may be fun, but when virtual teams work together to produce a plan in a virtual breakout, then they are practicing multiple skills. In short, the class is more directly linked to the real job.
- Real life experiences. Whereas traditional classroom ‘training’ often involves the use of sometimes simplistic case studies, vILT is more likely to use examples from participants’ real life experience. As an example, whereas a live classroom scheduling training may include a ‘post-it’ exercise to create and analyse a simple schedule, a vILT is much more likely to involve a real project schedule, and perhaps involve participants analysing and improving this schedule based on their new skills. This also encourages continuous learning, as where participants have been working on real projects during the class, they are encouraged to reflect upon these, and to develop more ‘joined-up’ action plans as part of continuous personal improvement.
- vILT breaks down barriers. Although in a live classroom everyone is encouraged to participate, there will inevitably be participants who may not feel comfortable contributing, perhaps where there are more senior colleagues in the room. This barrier may not be completely eliminated in a virtual class but is significantly broken down by the much more interactive nature of the class.
- Lower cost and longer shelf life. Of course, vILT has the added advantage of lower cost and time away from the project, but cost saving should not be seen as the principal driver. vILT should be seen as allowing more learning, especially when it is combined as part of a development program comprised of multiple elements. Additionally, it has a greater ‘virtual’ reach in that team members may be involved for whom it would otherwise be impractical to participate.
- The last advantage? There are few, if any, disadvantages! In practice connectivity problems are few, and time-zones have not shown themselves to be a real obstacle in practice.
Organisations with the systems and leadership to survive and thrive within the VUCA environment continue their commitment to professional development. Some of these organisations have already switched all or some of their continuing programs to the virtual environment. Strategy Execution (part of Korn Ferry) have a complete range of vILT programs available to start now.