Questions About COVID-19 Impacts, L&D and Reskilling Answered by HR Leaders

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David Rice

HR questions

If you’re in HR, you know that your team is playing a role of heightened importance right now. As people look to HR for help and to be the bridge between newly remote teams and leadership, there has been no shortage of new challenges for the HR department to overcome.

Attend one of our webinars or online events, and you’ll see this come to life in the questions that are asked of our speakers. In this crisis, HR is on the front lines, dealing with everything from layoffs, to compensation adjustments, huge cultural shifts and of course, employee safety challenges.

Through the work we do here at HR Exchange, we spend a lot of time interviewing and chatting with HR leaders around the world. Not all of what they provide us makes it into our content on a daily basis, but it does inform how we talk about the topics we cover. In the interest of sharing the knowledge and insights we’ve gained, here are excerpts from recent interviews we’ve done with leaders from within HR, L&D and talent development recently that didn’t make into the stories we were working on at a given time, but still offer great insights and advice from people who know the challenges you’re facing.

HREN: COVID-19 is forcing a lot of transformation to happen quickly and one of the bigger talking points has been the shift to remote work. What do you think has been the most challenging part of that shift for those in supervisory roles?

“The quick move to WFH offices has showed the real strengths and weaknesses of mid-level managers. Those who ‘managed by walking around’ instead of properly setting goals and accountability and/or by micro-managing key tasks instead of properly delegating are struggling right now in this virtual world. They have lost control and do not know how to get it back. Thankfully, this is a small percentage leaders at this point in time.

“Similarly, those who had not already figured out how to set work-life boundaries moved into a shocking new reality. It is difficult for them to manage themselves let alone others.

“We are now coaching, teaching, and leading managers on how to lead in a virtual world that will more than likely stay with us for years to come in both full time and part time scenarios based upon job requirements and employee preferences.” - Larry Brand, CHRO Elkay Manufacturing

HREN: Obviously reskilling has become a big topic. There is a desire to tap into and uncover skills that people may not even realize they have. What advice do you have for HR folks looking to help people find new pathways forward right now?

“I think of this question on two levels, the micro or individual and the macro, or organizational. At the micro level every HR person should be doing everything possible to keep themselves current. We owe this to ourselves in order to stay competitive.  I personally try to stay as curious about what is happening externally as I possibly can. What are the new trends, how is the future of work emerging, what new theories are being touted?

"On the macro level, I think organizations have a responsibility to help employees reskill when a new, disruptive innovation is adopted. For example, many traditional automotive companies are moving to electrical mobility platforms. This means that software development takes the place of many mechanical engineering activities. As organizations, we have a responsibility to enable the reskilling of these employees.” – Michael Arena, VP of Talent Development, Amazon

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HREN: The increasingly remote nature of work has the potential to unlock a global workforce for companies who previously had not tapped into the global talent pool. What advice would you have for companies looking to do that? How much can that help plug the talent gap within the organization?

“In a Globalization context, where the competition for talents is high, even more in the emergent markets, such as China and India, it is important to implement what we call a Global Talent Management plan that identifies the main risks and strategy by region. In addition to that, employer branding is something that organizations need to understand and put in practice quickly.

“Employer branding is the company’s identity, perceived internally by its employees and externally by its customers and stakeholders. The way employees see the company directly influences their performance and engagement, which could alter talent retention. On the other hand, company reputation in the market will affect positively or negatively its attractiveness to new talent. When it comes to employer branding the main point is consistency: the internal and external image are equally important.” – Gabrielle Botelho, HR Director for South America, CGG

HREN: We talk a lot about the LMS in L&D which is going to play an obvious role in how we develop skills in remote environments. But how is the value of an LMS shifting knowing that a lot of learning is happening off-platform?

“We’re probably not looking at an LMS the same way we used to. We have an internal social media type tool that we use where there’s a lot of learning going on. There’s user generated content by people sitting in front of their camera to do a presentation and they’re uploading information from technical journals and papers they’ve written. In that social space alone, there’s a lot of learning going on and we’d love to be able to capture it. That involves collaborating with our Intellectual Capital Management team to identify all the knowledge and learning that’s out there, so that we can capture that and make it part of our ecosystem and employees can search for it.

"Maybe a learner record store is part of that where it pulls in information about the employee, whether that’s certifications and badging, any external credentials they’ve received, their social learning, any time they went to a certain site to ask an expert and become a record of all learning.” – Nadine Lavigne, Senior Manager Learning & Development, Technology and Innovation Strategy, Boeing

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HREN: Obviously training is a vital aspect of reskilling. What trends in L&D do you think are going to be the most important in the years to come to cultivate a workforce ready to meet the needs of their employers?

“From my perspective, most of the critical training programs remain the same – effective mentors for re-skilling, change management, comfort with different types of technology, collaboration skills, creative problem solving skills. New skills will now be required to lead and participate in a part in-person and part virtual team (some at the job site and some dialing in virtually).” – Larry Brand, CHRO, Elkay Manufacturing