Last month, I was invited by friends from Toyota Kirloskar Motors (TKM) India to be the keynote speaker for their Teacher’s Day celebration. Teacher’s Day in India is celebrated to commemorate the birthday of India’s former President and academic scholar Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishan on September 5.
TKM has sizable learning and development department composed of over 40 trainers responsible for all learning and development activities of Toyota in India. They handle technical-vocational trainees’ classes, training for regular team members, and advanced programs for managers and executives across corporate, manufacturing, and marketing and sales functions.
This responsibility is made more complex, given the effects and limitations imposed by the COVID-19 virus. Under these circumstances, they asked me to share my thoughts about learning and development in the new normal. My reflections focused on four items purpose, customer, content and process.
In terms of purpose, trainers may be deployed to help communicate management direction and crisis management measures of the company in times of crisis. They can also teach employees and share information on how to cope with the new normal. I suggest that organizations provide trainers with a document containing frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers to respond accurately to trainees and participants’ questions.
I believe that we should approach trainees and participants as if they were our customers in terms of customers. By approaching trainees and participants as customers, we become more sensitive to their needs. I identified several factors that may make online learning challenging for trainees and participants. These are the physical environment, connectivity, familiarity with equipment and software, digital skills, learning style, interest and motivation.
A training organization catering to a diverse group of trainees and participants needs to be aware of these factors. The physical environment, equipment and quality of a trainee’s internet connection, a newly hired employee, a seasoned manager, and a top executive may differ from each other. Being aware that trainees and participants may have different circumstances make it easier to be sensitive to their limitations and needs.
This awareness will allow trainers to adjust their teaching methods and style to better support trainees and participants with special circumstances.
I suggest that training organizations do the 4S of Learning and Development in the new normal in terms of content. This involves shortening, simplifying, sharpening and summarizing content. At the start of the pandemic, there seemed to be a heavy discussion on the choice of software or application that would be used. I believe that content should also be discussed and revisited. Bad content will always be bad content.
It does not automatically become good content when it is made digital or delivered online. Trainers should go over their content and identify activities that can be done outside online classes (e.g., reading an article or watching a video). This is to allocate screen time with the trainees and participants to value-added activities such as plenary discussions, clarificatory questions and supplementary explanations.
By shortening online synchronous activities, it makes the session friendlier to trainees and participants. They can now study content and perform learning activities convenient to them or off-peak hours when the internet connection is stronger. Also, trainers need to simplify their explanations and sharpen their content by ensuring that the sequence of points discussed follows strong conceptual logic and structure.
Taking time to find the best and most obvious examples also help illustrate the concept effectively and make the points easier to understand. Lastly, a carefully worded summary will help trainees and participants remember the important points of the training.
In terms of process, I encourage everyone to think of ways to make the learning process light and less cumbersome. I shared a list of various learning activities that may substitute a traditional lecture and make the learning process more engaging (e.g., pre-work, consultation, report-out). There are many ways to incorporate technology and make the learning process easier (e.g., use of learning management systems, gamification, short videos, various applications, or printed modules).
Trainers can use this time to maximize their existing learning management systems and digital tools (e.g., email, messaging apps, social media, meeting applications) and explore new applications (e.g., Kahoot, Padlet, Jamboard). The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) maintains a list of various distance learning solutions on their website: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse/solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon us the need to switch from face-to-face to online delivery of learning and development programs. It is difficult to imagine a learning and development organization that is not affected by the pandemic. At this time of great change, I encourage everyone to “Try new things. Plan, Do, Check, and Act rapidly. Everyone is learning at this time.”
The author is an Assistant Professorial Lecturer at De La Salle University. He teaches undergraduate and graduate subjects in the Behavioral Sciences Department, College of Liberal Arts and the Marketing and Advertising Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business. Before joining DLSU, he worked for Toyota for over 13 years supporting various projects in the Philippines, Asia-Pacific and Europe regions. He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of De La Salle University, its faculty, and its administrators.