The COVID-19 pandemic is having major impacts on businesses. In the wake of this disruption, many L&D leaders are wondering how they can adapt to the challenges of a world on lockdown.
For an event management and facilitation company like MCI Group, the pandemic has had a particularly significant impact on business planning - including L&D strategy. The world is shifting from face-to-face events to digital ones, and MCI has had to lead the change.
Recently, I hosted a discussion with Avinash Chandarana, Global L&D Director at MCI Group, about how MCI is pivoting its L&D strategy in response to these global challenges, and what other companies can learn from this response.
As Avinash observed, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant, and will continue to be felt for years to come.
“Economies are being impacted in all different industries. Our industry is meetings, events, and conferences. The disruption has been a major hit to our industry, as pretty much every face-to-face event has been postponed or even cancelled.”
“The challenge for us is how to cope with this situation. Our business needs to continue, so how can we realign our business strategy to find solutions to serve our clients?”
The answer, according to Avinash? Helping clients move events from the physical world to virtual platforms.
“The world is going digital, and this has been the biggest shift - even with events. We’re going from events in the physical world to the virtual world. This has a lot of implications for our clients, and our challenge is to help them to adapt. We need to help them along in the transition.”
"We’re going from events in the physical world to the virtual world. This has a lot of implications for our clients, and our challenge is to help them to adapt."
This is about delivering different experiences for MCI clients, and about training MCI staff with new capabilities - all in a remote digital environment.
So, what does this shift mean in terms of L&D strategy for MCI Group?
The first step in responding to a global crisis is to identify the major challenges to your business. Then, you need to make sure you can offer your clients the same great services and experiences, no matter what else might be happening in the world.
For Avinash and MCI Group, this meant some fast and responsive re-planning.
“We needed to quickly pivot to a new annual plan and L&D strategy. Our previous planning isn’t completely wiped out, exactly, but it is on hold for now. These aren’t normal conditions, and our L&D team has had to adapt to what is happening right now, namely, shifting real-world events to an online environment.”
"These aren’t normal conditions, and our L&D team has had to adapt to what is happening right now, namely, shifting real-world events to an online environment.”
This isn’t just about some employees, either. Everyone across the business is in the same boat, says Avinash. “Our project managers are the ones who design and deliver events and conferences for clients, but our salespeople have to adjust as well.”
As Avinash says, you have to hold on to your core values as much as possible, even with a shift like this. “We have a strong existing skill set in terms of virtual events. But the concept of human connection in a face-to-face environment is still predominant. We’ve put a lot of work into the tools and skills necessary to make this switch.”
These existing skill sets can make all the difference for companies coping with widespread disruption - you just need to know how to leverage them in the right way.
Disruptions like the COVID-19 crisis require a swift response from business. For Avinash, this response all depends on knowing how to draw from existing skills and assets.
“Part of the challenge is, we don’t have months to create content,” says Avinash. “This is a challenge for a lot of L&D departments. You need to look at what you have in-house already, and how you can leverage and repurpose material.”
"We don’t have months to create content. You need to look at what you have in-house already, and how you can leverage and repurpose material.”
“For us, we have digital solutions, including our AI learning recommendation engine, micro-learning, and learning management systems. We’re aligning and curating our response based on what we have already.”
One other key thing to remember? Now isn’t the time for perfection. Instead of developing the perfect learning content, businesses need to ship fast and iterate.
“We’re in a time we’ve never faced before,” says Avinash. We can’t aim for perfection - with limited time and resources and speed to market being key, we have to create something that’s fine, then iterate from there. We’re improving on the fly, like everyone else.”
As disrupting as crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic can be, they can also be a chance to get a little perspective.
For Avinash, the crisis has offered the opportunity to revisit the value of L&D in general, and to look at how MCI Group’s training approach can be adapted to suit the needs of the wider business.
“It really pushes us to rethink the value proposition of L&D,” says Avinash. “This crisis is forcing us to change quickly, as everyone is in a reactive situation. This teaches us new skills, to think long and hard about our value, and the immediate need of the business. L&D should be asking this all the time, but we can sometimes become complacent.”
Global events like the COVID-19 pandemic can also be an opportunity for businesses to pull together in solidarity. “The crisis is accelerating the pace of change,” says Avinash. “It’s a cliche, but we’re all in this together, and we need to come out stronger.”
As companies around the world try to find new ways to cope with the disruption posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s helpful to look at examples of what other businesses are doing to adjust.
Thanks once again to Avinash for sparing his valuable time and joining us for this great discussion!
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