Technology has enabled real-time communication beyond face-to-face interactions for decades. And for nearly as long, learning professionals have been warned that sophisticated advances in teleconferencing, collaboration platforms, and interactive content presentation tools will inevitably render the traditional classroom workshop obsolete. Yet, year after year industry data shows that the in-person, classroom-based, face-to-face workshop is still the most popular and preferred means of learning.
Many of us with a history in this industry decided long ago that virtual training is best saved for technical skills (learning the latest computer program, for example) or compliance training. The so-called soft skills that we specialize in – leadership, management, communication, team building –well, those are sacred. We’ve convinced ourselves that only in the classroom can we truly reach our participants. Only face-to-face can we communicate the nuances of our program or model and enable the discovery and practice required for real, sustainable learning and behavior change.
This learning construct had been working just fine for us . . . until coronavirus upended everything. COVID-19 has cleared out our beloved classrooms – just when our employees need connection the most. Now what? Do we put talent management on hold, or do we challenge ourselves to put aside old notions and open our minds to alternative ways of learning?
Now is the time to lean into the tension of this situation and embrace blended learning for leadership, management, and interpersonal skill development.
The work we do to build stronger, well-prepared leaders, teams, and managers is more important than ever. As we face this worldwide health crisis and its financial implications, and as our businesses recover from the massive disruption, our employees will need these vital skills. Could this crisis be the impetus for acceptance and innovation? Might we view this as an opportunity to take some chances or try some experiments with virtual training for soft skills?
At Dion Leadership we have been transitioning our content from the classroom to live, proctored, virtual sessions over the last few years. We, too, were skeptical if this modality would achieve the results our clients have come to expect from us. We are here to report that it does work! We encourage you to shift your mindset from virtual training as a second-rate solution we are stuck with for the time being to a modality that has some enhanced benefits that don’t come with face-to-face learning.
Various technology platforms offer options for the facilitator to connect with learners in a virtual classroom and engage participants with each other in ways that replicate elements of our familiar classroom environments. And let’s not forget that much of our day-to-day work is done using this technology. Why not utilize it to teach our learners how to communicate, engage better with others, and solve problems?
Some of the courses we offer in a virtual format include:
- Effective Feedback
- Emotional Intelligence
- Exercising Influence
- Leading Virtual Teams
- Teams and Trust
- Wiley Everything DiSC® Workshops
As you convert classes to this format, we offer the following tips:
- Keep each event to no more than two hours, offering multiple modules if needed. Convert your half-day class to two, two-hour sessions.
- Redesign the content so participants are engaging with the screen every few minutes. Use available technology such as polls, chat features, whiteboards, and break-out rooms. These replicate flip charts, hand raising, and other classroom experiences.
- Ensure participant materials are formatted in ways for the participant to follow along and engage in remote content.
- Encourage the use of webcams when possible so everyone can see each other.
- Understand that virtual training facilitation requires uniquely different skills and styles to deliver effectively. Ensure your facilitator is prepared to engage well with virtual learners and technology.
- Use a producer, in addition to a facilitator, to run the technology.
This is a PERFECT time to engage your work-at-home leaders, managers, and professional staff in learning events that keep them engaged in your business and show that you remain invested in their development. Help them cope with the stress of this situation by providing ways for meaningful virtual connection. To learn more about virtual and blended learning options, including a client case study, listen to our webinar titled Taking your Leadership Development Program Virtual.