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3 Ways Remote Working Changed Learning Culture Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic

In this article, adapted from a recent ebook, ‘Preparing for the Future of Workplace Learning: 7 Challenges and Innovations for Changing Times’, we look at the impact that the pandemic and remote working have had on learning culture and practices.

With the pandemic, mass working from home, and huge changes to working environments, 2020 saw incredible transformations across the working world. L&D teams had to pivot almost overnight. For many organizations, this initially meant transferring predominantly or completely face-to-face learning into the virtual realm.

Alongside the more practical elements of change we saw through lockdown, we’ve seen a shift in the learning culture of many organizations. Here are three examples.

1. Changes in Stakeholder Buy-In

One of the more promising things we’ve seen from customers and other senior L&D professionals is a change in attitude towards the L&D function. A 2020 study from LinkedIn Learning found that as many as 83% of L&D professionals said that executive buy-in wasn’t a challenge. 

No longer simply a nice-to-have or a do-it-when-we-have-time, L&D is increasingly seen as a business-critical function. In organizations willing to tap into the potential of learning, the rewards are being measured, in a fully online context, through hard evidence and seen in improved performance, sales, and staff retention.

But learning culture isn’t just about stakeholder buy-in. In fact, one of the most important aspects of learning culture in the workplace is the people, at all levels, who engage with the learning process on a regular basis.

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2. Push Towards Self-Directed Learning

In many organizational cultures, learning seems to have become more informal, perhaps as a result of a lack of designated physical space and time to conduct training—and we’ve seen an increasing trend towards self-directed learning as part of spaced learning journeys.

This echoes the way we’ve previously seen organizations handle the translation of single-event learning into the online world. While some have maintained the full-day or half-day formats previously employed, we’ve also seen many break these events up into smaller sessions. What would once have been a three-day training event has been adapted and split into several sessions over the course of several weeks.

When this methodology is applied, self-directed elements of learning often come into play. Sometimes this takes the form of homework tasks between sessions, supporting eLearning courses, or even collaborative work to complete before meeting again.

In those organizations with technology in place, particularly those with LXPs, we’re also seeing an increase in the use of curated learning. In these cases, resources are pulled together (from inside or outside of the organization) into playlists, learning pathways, or courses on their systems.

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3. Different Models for Learning

User-Generated Content (UGC) is another area of growth we have seen. With the appropriate technologies in place (such as an LXP), learners are able to upload their own content onto systems for genuine knowledge sharing. Learning from other employees can be a great way to boost engagement, and provides far greater variety and context than most top-down models of learning.

When discussing learning transformation and the lessons learned from lockdown in a knowledge-sharing session, one senior L&D professional said:

We currently have a “Netflix model” of learning. There’s a lot of content, which is great, and it’s all searchable and organized into playlists. But the next step is to move to a “YouTube model” of learning, where anyone can upload content and we can knowledge-share at scale.

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Key Takeaways

The perceptions of L&D from senior stakeholders are changing.

L&D is increasingly seen as a business-critical function. The enforced distance between colleagues has meant an increased focus on both collaborative and self-directed learning. Self-directed learning in particular is being used as a sustainable way to scale up the impact of learning. The biggest cultural shift we’ve seen is a considerable move from single-event training to cultures of continuous learning.

This article was adapted from our recent ebook ‘Preparing For the Future of Workplace Learning: 7 Challenges and Innovations for Changing Times’. Download your copy here.

Andrew Joly, Director of Strategic Design

Andrew is the Director of Strategic Design for LEO. He joined the company in 2001 and has worked in the learning sector since 1989, when he was employed as a training film editor and producer. Having moved into the new area of multimedia in the 1990s, Andrew joined the BBC as a Commissioning Editor for learning games, and then spent time as a consultant at the branding agency Wolff Olins. Andrew now leads the consulting faculty at LEO, at the frontline of strategic learning design and learning innovation in practice.

Andrew focuses on his personal passion: how technology-enabled learning experiences and communication blends can transform behaviors and performance in the workplace. Andrew is always keen to explore how new modes and strategies for learning and connection can make a real difference to people, teams, and global organizations today.

Andrew holds a BSc in Biology from Manchester, a diploma in Systemic Coaching, and is a certified Lego Serious Play Facilitator. He’s a senior volunteer for a Peak District-based charity working towards sustaining the local ecology, habitats, and natural environments of pollinators. He also plays the mandolin and guitar. By his own admission, he has collected too many examples of both instruments.

Follow Andrew on LinkedIn.

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