Corporate learning during a crisis 2

Our second videoconference on 30 April gathered about 40 members from the EFMD corporate network to learn and discuss ‘how to adapt the learning portfolio to a materially changed context’. It followed our first call on 23 March that focused on ‘how to keep the workforce engaged and productive under remote working conditions’, and will be followed by a third call on ’how to prepare for recovery and reimagination of the future’ on 28 May.

Despite all the pain, the pandemic can also be regarded as a large unplanned experiment that offers plenty of stretch assignments and as a huge assessment centre for learning agility and resilience. It also allows to radically advance the digital learning agenda and to overcome organisational inertia.

Three EFMD members shared their way of adapting their learning portfolio. SIBUR’s Natalia Yamshchikova saw, by necessity, lots of opportunities to experiment with new approaches to technical learning that so far was always in person and in direct contact with technical equipment. A new HiPo (high potentials) programme got virtualised and spread over several weeks with so far good response. And SIBUR has engaged in many outreach activities with the higher education sector in Russia, to provide digital learning technology and knowledge, thus combining doing good with securing a future talent pipeline.

David Arnéra from L’Oréal confirmed the huge push toward digital learning with more online learning hours during the four first months than in the entire year 2019. About one-third of learning programmes will be virtualised going forward; business-driven action learning, however, will stay as is. An editorial committee was established that decides on the learning offer for the coming week, in line with how things evolve. L’Oréal began producing disinfect and supports NGOs in fighting the pandemic, again an opportunity to engage as a social enterprise and positioning oneself accordingly.

Elisabetta Galli from Santander Group reported that 120,000 employees, i.e. 60% of the workforce, currently work from home. Digital learning is getting viral at Santander, and the not digitally savvy employees get finally accustomed to it. The digital leadership development platform for the top 2,000 managers is well frequented, and the new learning experience platform Dojo will get launched in June, still in time to ride the digital wave triggered by the pandemic. Many social activities have been organised by Santander to support local communities during these difficult times.

Companies will have to revise their budgetary regime, following the strong shift to digital learning. Pricing each consumption of a learning asset is less sensible in the online space than it was in the offline space. A personal learning budget, potentially varying per workforce segment, might be the answer.