The global pandemic has dramatically changed many aspects of our personal and professional lives, including learning and development. While the transformation from traditional face-to-face training to virtual alternatives has been ongoing for decades, it has gone into overdrive in just the past month thanks to COVID-19.

As the entire workforce struggles to reskill, whether they sit in the same office or see each other on a computer screen, the challenge ahead of us is to deliver impactful, easy to deploy development opportunities that enable people to learn new skills to succeed in the new normal. Korn Ferry offers best-in-class e-Learning and Virtual Classroom Experiences that ensure that talent development can continue entirely online, regardless of geographic location and time.

The best virtual classroom experiences keep learners engaged in three ways:

  • verbal
  • kinesthetic
  • visual

Our point of view

In times of business disruption, learning and development is needed more than ever. We'll share best practices for converting to virtual learning experiences.

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Every day, COVID-19 is raising new and complex questions for leaders and organizations to answer. Korn Ferry’s Albertina Vaughn shares her perspective and advice.

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How we can help you

The virtual classroom experience brings together a comprehensive web-conferencing platform with insightful instructional design, to deliver an engaging and interactive experience for participants, growing their skills and moving them toward behavior change. They can be used in two ways:

  • Just-in-time experiences that tackle specific challenges.
  • e-Learning journeys driving behavior change over time and reinforcing application on the job.

We deliver engaging virtual experiences that drive behavior change.

We have a portfolio of over 30 virtual learning experiences for individual contributors and leaders. We’ve focused on a few here that are particularly relevant for the current situation.

  • Leading virtually in disruptive times: Offers tips, tools and best practices for those leading virtual teams.
  • The self-disruptive leader: Gives participants an understanding of how they can work optimally in these volatile, ambiguous times.
  • Leadership principles: leading others: Helps leaders maintain employee engagement.
  • Managing inclusion and conscious inclusion: Enables individual contributors and managers to unleash the potential of others by developing inclusive behaviors.
  • Leading change and activating personal agility: Gives participants the skills to operate with agility and drive organizational objectives in changing environments or circumstances.
  • Adaptive Strategic Execution Program (ASEP): Specifically designed to prepare leaders with an adaptive mindset; to enhance their ability to pivot and thrive amid unexpected change.

We have a portfolio of over 30 learning experiences.

Now is the ideal time for employees to use their downtime to continue their ongoing personal development virtually. We have a portfolio of self-paced e-learning and virtual classroom experiences to choose from. This includes:

  • Leadership development programs
  • Diversity and inclusion development programs
  • Individual contributor capability such as effective communicating and inspiring innovation
  • Project and program management
  • Lean and agile practices
  • Business analysis contract management.

We offer virtual learning for all levels of leaders and individual contributors.

Our programs are ready to implement immediately and can be easily scaled globally and across many participants. We can also tailor the programs to your own context and priorities, or build bespoke virtual learning experiences drawing on content and expertise from across Korn Ferry’s ecosystem.

We can deliver at scale now or customize programs to your needs.

This crisis will no doubt expose critical capability gaps in the workforce, and as they emerge from the crisis it’s likely that many companies will be looking for ways to help their people become more agile and adopt a growth mindset. We can work with you to transform your workforce on a mass scale with customized Virtual Learning Academies. We build success profiles for specific roles or levels, run assessments and feedback, and deliver virtual learning through our state-of-the-art training platform.

We can build Virtual Learning Academies to upskill your whole workforce.

Deep insights at your fingertips – at all times

In our hands it’s more than just data. We use it to build the DNA of outstanding leaders, effective organizations, high performance cultures and game-changing reward programs. In your hands it can continue to inform smarter decisions backed by more than 4 billion data points, including:
– Over 69 million assessment results
– 8 million employee engagement survey responses
– Rewards data for 20 million employees across 25,000 organizations and 150+ countries

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Transforming in-person learning environments to virtual learning during coronavirus

E-learning, distance learning, and other virtual learning opportunities have much to offer organizations in ordinary times. They save money because they eliminate travel and accommodation costs. They can be condensed and are scalable. But virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic offers even more benefits: it allows employee training and coaching to continue, even with social distancing and remote working initiatives.

But with the rise of online learning, organizations face new challenges too: they can’t just use their same instructional materials in an online environment and expect to engage learners the same way they do in person. They need ways to address the two key challenges of operating in a virtual classroom: virtual learning engagement while social distancing and learning and measuring their learners’ engagement.

First, virtual learning engagement is difficult. Organizations must recognize that participants in e-learning are prone to distraction. When learners log in to a virtual classroom from their computer, phone, or tablet, they have a panoply of distractors at their fingertips, whether it’s their email, social media, news updates, or online games. Organizations need to deliver relevant learning content that is interactive and keeps learners engaged.

Second, they need to figure out how to measure their learners’ engagement. When trainers or leaders are in an in-person learning and development environment, they can see people taking notes or nodding off, so they can adjust their delivery, if necessary, to re-engage those who have lost interest. Virtual facilitators must compensate for the loss of these visual cues and use technology and techniques to encourage participation and track virtual learning engagement.

The difference between traditional e-learning and today’s distance learning

Many organizations transitioning to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic have worried about its effectiveness. In part, that’s because they’re used to traditional virtual training. Traditional virtual learning has minimal impact on engagement, because little thought goes into how these presentations need to differ from in-person classes; organizations typically reuse the same materials for their distance learning sessions as they do for in-person training. As a result, participants are prone to distraction, and it is impossible to know how engaged attendees are.

Here is a short list of the drawbacks of traditional e-learning, where organizations don’t design sessions to reflect the demands of the virtual world:

  • No application or behavior change resulting from shared information.
  • No opportunities to practice learning.
  • A passive learner experience, with a “sage on the stage” in one-way, “Death by PowerPoint” communications with viewers.
  • Low to no virtual learning engagement, with participants using learning time to catch up on their email, news, and social media channels.

Fortunately, distance learning platforms have evolved significantly over the last few years to increase opportunities for employee virtual learning engagement, accountability, and action. Virtual learning takes place on the phone or online, using a remote conferencing tool.

Korn Ferry believes that the most effective virtual classroom experiences are designed to build virtual accountability. In this model, not only does the learner engage with the material, but the facilitator and the rest of the group also hold each learner accountable for their engagement.

The Korn Ferry model of virtual accountability requires organizations to design the learning experience to hold learners accountable on at least one of these three levels:

  1. Verbal accountability: Virtual communication platforms today are equipped with a number of features to drive verbal accountability. Instead of requiring participants to listen to one-way communication from the instructor, learners can take part in breakout groups, where smaller numbers of attendees discuss and share ideas, improving their virtual learning engagement. Instructors should also encourage their learners to participate verbally throughout the session, if they need additional explanation of the covered material or other help.
  2. Kinesthetic accountability: Some learners become passive with e-learning platforms. Organizations should build in as many interaction opportunities as possible, including chat, call-out, and polling functionality that requires users to type or otherwise physically engage with the screen.
  3. Visual accountability: Many organizations use a platform’s default screen because it’s easy to use, but that ignores the other powerful features of many of these applications. Try changing the layout and using the screen to share richer content, such as videos, process diagrams, and charts.

Distance learning experiences that incorporate these three accountabilities can improve engagement and drive behavior change, especially those that activate each area at least once every minute.

Best practices for driving virtual learning engagement, accountability, and action

To keep participants engaged in virtual learning during the coronavirus, organizations should follow these best practices:

  • Keep classroom sizes about the same as you would in a live experience.
  • Ask learners not to mute their lines, unless they are in an excessively noisy environment, so they are forced to be more engaged with conversations. People are likely to forget this request, so remind them often.
  • Use your online platform’s functionality to facilitate communication and virtual learning engagement.
  • Encourage people to speak up and ask for help whenever they want, just as they would if you were leading an in-person class.

Tips for improving virtual coaching conversations

Organizations should follow these three approaches to ensure the virtual coaching experience is at least as effective as it would be if it were face-to-face.

  1. Establish a safe space. Just like lawyers, doctors, and therapists, who have learned how to build trust and credibility in virtual visits with clients and patients, coaches need to find ways to be human and authentic during coaching sessions with their direct reports. Consider whether the person you’re working with will feel more comfortable using audio or video. Many people feel less comfortable chatting on video; coaches may also feel more self-conscious about how they appear on the screen. In this way, audio helps build intimacy and forces each person to listen more closely to the other for cues. Turning video off may also help reduce unconscious bias, forcing the listener to concentrate on the other person’s tone and content.
  2. Compensate for loss of visual cues. Online and telephonic coaching has one clear drawback from in-person coaching: you can’t see attendees’ visual cues, such as their gestures or facial expressions. Use your listening and questioning skills to elicit the detail required to understand the other person’s circumstances. You’ll also want to be as clear as possible in your meaning, so the other person doesn’t have to guess at what you’re trying to say. Make sure you are speaking clearly and articulately and avoiding technical speak and jargon.
  3. Share resources. When you’re communicating virtually, you can share resources that wouldn’t be available in an online setting. You can use resources such as tip sheets, videos, book lists, and even custom materials both during and after the session to reinforce your coaching.

Deciding between video and audio virtual learning during the coronavirus

When deciding whether to use video or audio virtual learning during the coronavirus crisis, take stock of the situation and your learners. Here is a quick guide for when video may serve your learning purposes best:

  • Video is useful for webinars and other forms information sharing.
  • Video can demonstrate or show techniques that you want to impart, such as how to perform a sales pitch.
  • Video establishes the speaker’s credibility and humanity.

However, video is not always the best choice for online learning opportunities. Here’s why:

  • It’s less effective in the virtual classroom setting.
  • It can stress out the facilitator, who may worry that they can’t tell how well they are engaging the audience.
  • It may make intimacy more difficult, because many people feel self-conscious when they see themselves online.

Organizations should take these factors into account when choosing the right vehicle for their organization’s virtual learning.

Best practices for virtual learning during COVID-19

Here are several considerations that organizations should keep in mind when they are forced to transition from in-person learning to virtual learning during the coronavirus crisis.

  • Shorten and condense learning. Meeting in a classroom for day-long learning sessions can be highly productive, especially when you’re able to interact with other learners. But it’s a drag to sit through long sessions when you’re in front of a computer. To captivate your learners’ attention, keep sessions short: for instance, turn a three-day training into a targeted experience over three half-days.
  • Mix up learning experiences. To keep participants interested, incorporate a variety of learning experiences, including virtual classrooms, breakout groups, and individual work sessions.
  • Build in opportunities for participation. Maintaining virtual learning engagement is difficult, so continually give learners new ways to interact with the instructor and each other. Consider assigning short tasks for attendees to complete during the training and offline, and use tools such as virtual whiteboards to replace your flip charts for recording your learners’ ideas.

Why virtual learning matters during the coronavirus crisis

A pandemic doesn’t have to put an end to your organization’s efforts to develop your people. Learning and development are always powerful ways to engage your workforce—and particularly now, while everyone is socially distanced.

Despite social distancing, investing in online learning and development shows your people that you aren’t solely motivated to get your business back up and running during the crisis; your organization wants to support, encourage, and motivate its most valuable resource—its people—too.

Contact us to learn more about how Korn Ferry can support your organization’s e-learning initiatives, whether that’s offering critical learning during the coronavirus for leaders, building a continuous learning program for self-development for leaders and individual contributors, upskilling your workforce, or a creating a custom virtual classroom or other distance learning experience.