July 15, 2020
Training in the Time of COVID-19
COVID-19 is upending the way companies are addressing questions about employee training. LRN took part in a webinar this week that looks at how two companies took differing approaches to deal with the pandemic, and how both had to assess the situation from the lenses of their own experiences.
LRN’s Susan Divers moderated a panel during the virtual Canada Ethics Summit, which is running across three weeks this month. In the second installment on Tuesday, Divers spoke with Ilona Niemi, chief compliance officer of the Cooperators’ Group, one of the leading insurance companies in Canada; and Joanne Horibe, CCO of Magna International, a tech company primarily involved in automotive parts.
As companies move away from face-to-face training, the emphasis should be on offering learnings that are values-based, accessible, and flexible, said Divers.
“One of the lessons that is emerging from the crisis is the importance of ease of access, of making your whole program-not just training-available,” she said. “That is going to emerge as a key focus.”
Magna has 160,000 employees in 28 countries, with more than 300 manufacturing plants. Many had to be closed when COVID hit, leaving some workers furloughed and those that were not tasked with working to ensure a safe environment when it comes time to reopen.
With so much going on, Magna chose to pause its training, not wanting to appear “tone deaf” to the upheaval occurring in the company. Horibe and her compliance team took the time to pivot, working to envision what training could look like in the short term, and what it might be going forward.
As an example, the company’s onboarding for its most senior people included four hours of in-person training that now is being done via live Webex sessions Horibe said she hopes convey key company messages about the code in a more time-efficient way.
“If it goes well, we’ll keep it going,” she said. “That way, we can redeploy our regional compliance officers in different ways,” especially since they won’t be visiting facilities anytime soon, and when they do, maybe not as frequently because of budget and travel restraints.
That plays into another goal of getting more managers to act as ambassadors for ethics and compliance. With regional managers unable to travel as extensively as before, the idea is “to arm our managers with effective tools to deliver compliance messages,” said Horibe.
Learning from an earlier experience at trying to enlist support, this time the team offered short bursts of learnings that managers could use. For those managers who are shy, or uncomfortable speaking, they can add a reinforcing message of their own. For those managers who are more savvy communicators, the program offers flexibility so they can customize it to their teams.
“We are arming our managers with different tools they can customize, depending on their personal styles and their roles,” said Horibe.
While they took a pause at Magna, the decision was made to forge full steam ahead at Collectors’ Group. Training already was mostly online before COVID hit, so it was less of a strain to transition when employees began working from home, said Niemi.
When COVID hit, she said it was important understand the new emerging risks, as some risks had a much bigger impact while others were of lower impact, and then adapt training.
The company proceeded with a mandatory training soon after workers transitioned to being home, starting the training at an earlier date so people would have more time to complete it, and could take it wherever they were, said Niemi. It also made more use of pictures and simpler sentences in the training, to make it as easy as possible to digest and retain.
“COVID is a time to innovate,” said Niemi. “You need to find ways to make things start happening. It was similar for training...I needed to start thinking about how do we make it happen.”
The other thing the E&C team did was make sure it had a seat at the tables where decisions are being made.
“We needed to make sure we are part of the discussions taking place at the higher levels of the company,” she said. “We needed to stay relevant, we needed to demonstrate a different kind of flexibility. At the end, we had to make sure we are remembered.
“There is a lot of information, a lot of competing priorities-not just at the office but at home-so the question is, how do we make sure employees think about training?”
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