My first role on arrival in London in 2003 was as a conference producer; what a great time it was! It was easy to fill up conference rooms with just about any topic and the venue world was rich. I was showered with invitations to champagne evenings in top hotels and “unusual” venues such as tower bridge engine room or the Roof Garden in Kensington.
The only annoyance was my boss (what a surprise!) who insisted that I produce a monthly webinar for the French market.
He was adamant that the future lay online and wanted us to be “ahead of the curve” (his words). I am not techy and then I could barely open a word document never mind advice attendees how to log in and out. As the only French speaker of the office I had to do it. Nonetheless I stuck with the job long enough to learn about setting up sessions and welcoming learners. Back then of course the Internet was much slower than it is now, technology was in its infancy and sessions crashing was common place. Running those webinars were the most dramatic two hours of the month! Well, except maybe for the champagne parties in the more…unusual venues.
Fast forward a few years and I am a training manager in a membership organisation for the property industry. Then the credit crunch hit; members lost their jobs and business activity plummeted. Despite all this, professional development was still a requirement to maintain membership. Suddenly my experience in delivering those webinars became useful - I was able to set up an online affordable programme in less than 6 months. The business climate was heavily in our favour; the days of having unlimited budgets to attend conferences or training was over, companies wanted staff to do more with less and it was a requirement for them to have continuous development through the year. All of the sudden it was no longer gimmicky to attend an online session - it was a necessity.
The programme remained a great success even when the property market picked up, Why? The structure of the membership was a factor, many were based in rural areas with difficult access to learning hubs, others were self-employed meaning that learning time takes away from client time and it was popular with younger members especially those in small and medium firm.
In the years of developing learning solutions that followed, I realised that I was in the right place at the right time. Amongst the thousands of learning options, I had found one that really resonated with the audience. I also realised that there are many professionals in many different industries who don’t get access to quality development. Yes, remote workers, but also self-employed and part time workers who just don’t get access to quality training because their organisations refuse to take the jump toward with technology.
The workplace is not waiting for HR, learning and development professionals and trainers to catch up to digital transformation. It is on the move! And in an age where information, skills and competence define the value of any organisations, having a large part of the workforce not accessing the information resources needed to perform at the highest level becomes a serious hindrance.
Indeed, researchers have proven that it has become essential for professionals to:
(Source: Toward Maturity – In Focus Research – 2016)
In today’s world, where we expect project managers, sales forces, designers, administrator to be mobile, virtual and connected, it is ironic and slightly laughable that people responsible for developing, training and leading changes consider that good quality training can only be deliver in a physical training room. Let’s think about it! A manager having part of remote team attend a training course, where most of the content and all the role play are geared toward a traditional office based workplace. How will this person be ready to manage, engage, coach and motivate the team members out of the office? This is partly where the real challenge lies. How do you run a succesful team meeting when a third of the team is joining by video conference? Technology makes it possible sure, but new ways of communicating, running a meeting, taking minutes, reporting has to be put in place.
Innovation is no longer in technology, it is in processes enabling the new digital workplace to be always more performant and innovative. For those who want to stay “ahead of the curve” these days, that is where they need to focus their energy.
Gaëlle is a certified online facilitator and coach whose work for RICS received an E-learning Award in 2014 in the category “Best use of synchronous online learning/Virtual Classroom”. Gaëlle founded SyncSkills to enable trainers and training organisations to transform and adapt their courses to the virtual classroom without compromising on quality or losing any of their individual course identity. Gaelle works with national and international organisations to design and implement unique, innovative learning strategies for commercial training organisations and membership bodies. Follow Gaelle on Twitter @GaelleDWatson & learn more about her work with SyncSkills here.