How COVID-19 Has Forever Changed How Governments Develop Their Employees

June 18, 2020

See how coronavirus has forever changed government talent development.

COVID-19, it appears, will forever change the way governments develop their people.

For years, governments relied primarily – and, in some cases, exclusively – on in-person, instructor-led training. And while investment in online learning has grown recently and there were pioneers shouting to adopt more of a hybrid model, progress lagged.

That is, until COVID-19 struck, which rendered in-person training impossible. Additionally, acute learning needs popped up, like how to work from home effectively, how to use collaboration softwares and — not to be ignored — how to deal with the stress of living through a pandemic.

The result — a sudden, massive increase in online learning by government professionals. 

Is this merely a temporary fad? LinkedIn data and interviews with government talent developers suggest otherwise. It appears, post-COVID-19, governments will use online learning far more often to upskill their employees.

The consensus about this new development – it’s a good thing.

The data – investment in online learning is expected to increase as leaders make it more of a focus.

In October of 2019, we surveyed government talent developers across the world for our Government Workplace Learning Report. What we saw was a steady increase in investment in online learning, to catch up with years of investment into instructor-led training.

During COVID-19, that walk toward online learning became a sprint. States were deciding to invest in online learning licenses for all employees within a few weeks; a process that usually takes years. And there was a drastic increase in the amount of time government professionals spent learning online.

Is this a fad born out of necessity? To find out, we surveyed 864 global talent developers and asked them. The results – investment in online learning will only continue, whereas investment in in-person training is expected to drop.

There was another trend the data revealed as well. It appeared, globally, learning was no longer seen by executives as a “nice to have.” Instead, partly because of COVID-19, there’s been a massive spike in leaders championing learning and giving talent developers a seat at the table.

In their words – how government talent developers are using online learning to build a better employee experience.

The data gives a nice macro view of what’s happening within governments’ L&D departments. But how about a micro view? What does this all mean to the day-to-day lives of government talent developers?

We spoke to government talent developers to find out. The consensus – this push toward online learning allows them to more efficiently and effectively develop employees. And, employees appreciate it as well, as no longer are they required to drive long distances and take up huge chunks of their day to go to a class – they can learn on their schedule.

Angela Schweibinz, training consultant for the City of Fayetteville in North Carolina, echoed those thoughts. 

Additionally, government talent developers said that government revenues are likely to decrease,  meaning government hiring will decrease as well. That’s one big reason why government leaders are now championing learning – with governments unable to hire the skills they need, they are looking to build those skills from within.

Another trend we are seeing on LinkedIn Learning – a spike in people taking courses on topics like stress management, mindfulness, time management and, now recently, creating a more inclusive culture. This is an area government talent developers aren’t ignoring.

What this all means going forward – a more efficient, “intentional” approach to employee development.

Despite this trend, there’s still a place for instructor-led training and also getting people together to build comradery – that’s arguably as important as ever. Instead, as Schweibinz put it, online learning allows her trainers in Fayetteville to “be more intentional and focused on what we train in-person.”

That means, a hybrid approach, where online learning is used to replace lectures, bolster IT, “flip the classroom” and answer in-the-moment challenges, whereas instructor-led time is spent on discussion, practice and feedback. Good news – all the research shows this is the most effective way to develop employees.

And a hybrid model is far more cost efficient than having in-person training cover every learning need. That’s particularly important as government budgets are expected to be tight for the foreseeable future. 

Bottom line, COVID-19 will forever change the way governments approach talent development. If done correctly, this will be a change for the better.