Webcast Recap: How L&D Will Drive Inclusivity, Lead the Future of Work

June 26, 2020

Join guest speakers Mary-Frances Winters, D&I Leader and Simon Brown, CLO, Novartis

The past few months have upended the status quo—and we’ve all been forced to make changes both personally and professionally. Just as we were starting to settle into the COVID-19 state of “business as unusual,” the horrific death of George Floyd sparked a movement to address racism head on, with many employers taking a stand in support of #BlackLivesMatter and recognizing the role learning could play in making their companies more inclusive.

Through all of this, L&D has stepped up to fill a critical need of supporting employees and leading their companies through change. 

As the newest host of LinkedIn Live!, I was fortunate to talk with Mary-Frances Winters, President & CEO of The Winters Group and LinkedIn Learning instructor on Diversity & Inclusion, and Simon Brown, Chief Learning Officer at Novartis, about how L&D is leading during this dynamic time. 

We’ve pulled some highlights from the webcast to inspire your own L&D strategy. (But this is only a sampling—so be sure to watch the full discussion here.)

L&D uniquely positioned to lead in times of crisis

L&D has had to pivot—and pivot again—to support employees with content they need to navigate so much change. When COVID-19 hit, L&D teams quickly curated existing courses around how to manage virtual teams and use collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, then transitioned to delivering content around resilience and wellness. 

No matter the subject matter, learning during lockdown skyrocketed. “In February, we were looking at around 1,000 hours per week of learning on our learning platforms—including LinkedIn Learning—and by May it was up to around 7,000 hours of learning per week,” says Simon.

Mary-Frances explained that following George Floyd’s death, Black employees in particular were feeling a lot of pain and anguish; this was compounded by the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities and they may have had family members impacted by the virus. This has presented a unique opportunity for L&D to partner with DE&I leaders to enable learning to foster a more diverse and inclusive environment at their office.

“There’s a lot for L&D to consider these days,” says Mary-Frances. “We’ve been holding healing sessions with Black employees, looking at new kinds of learning for leaders who want to be allies, and revamping diversity and inclusion training that we’ve already done in order to include content about historical racism.”

Measuring and making the case for learning

According to the our new report, “Leading with Learning: Insights and Advice About the New State of L&D,” 70% of L&D pros say their CEOs are active champions of learning. That’s up from 27% in March—a whopping 159% increase.

When Simon made the case to “Go Big on Learning” two years ago, he unlocked additional investment and raised the profile of learning within Novartis. He focused his argument on two key points: 

  1. If they want to attract and retain the best, diverse talent, then they need to give people the opportunity to learn and grow. “Employees won’t stay with the company unless great development opportunities are there,” says Simon. 

  2. Learning capabilities must match skills demand. “You have this mixture of skills expiring and new skills coming,” says Simon. “Unless you’re getting great at learning and building those skills then you’re not going to have the most competitive skill set and most up-to-date thinking to be able to deliver against the company strategy.”

Simon also emphasized the importance of data to show the impact of what you’re doing. For example, Novartis does a quarterly survey asking the question, “Do I have great opportunities to learn and grow?” After being behind the industry benchmark with a score of 68, they’ve since gone up every quarter and recently hit 74 (four points above the industry benchmark.)

It remains difficult to quantify the value of learning experiences, especially when it comes to measuring how behaviors have changed around D&I. One tool Mary-Frances uses to measure change is the Intercultural Development Inventory. “We have people take it, we do some education and learning plans, and then nine months or a year later we have them take it again, and most of the time they have moved along this continuum so we can measure that they’re more culturally competent.”

The time is now to create lasting culture change around learning

In our recent Leading With Learning survey, we saw that 56% of L&D professionals agree that their learning culture was actually stronger post-COVID.

For Simon, the current situation has helped accelerate the company’s push towards a “curious, inspired, and unbossed culture.” And as he looks to the future, embracing a “rough and ready approach” will help L&D continue to adapt to support an evolving business model.

“Being close to the business to understand the changes that are happening and then adapt our solutions and offerings to work in a much faster and more agile way is going to be key,” he says.

From Mary-Frances’ perspective, creating lasting change requires changing tactics: “What I’m concerned about right now is that I’m seeing organizations pretty much put out the same kinds of strategies that they had before about D&I. I’m saying to them if you do what you’ve always done then you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten, and that is not satisfactory.”

Diversity and inclusion isn’t a one-and-done effort. “We have to learn, we have to unlearn, and we have to relearn,” Mary-Frances says. To facilitate a mindset change, she encourages L&D pros to consider how their work around diversity connects to overall leadership development and skills that are required in the organization.

Skills are moving faster than ever—L&D must too

Also in the Leading with Learning report, 64% of L&D pros said that reskilling the current workforce to fill skills gaps is more of a priority now than ever before. 

“Whether you’re reskilling (helping an employee learn new skills for a different job function) or upskilling (helping them learn new skills to enhance their abilities in the same job function), L&D must be able to quickly identify what skills are needed and deliver effective solutions to build those skills,” says Simon.

To that end, Novartis has restructured where learning teams report; most of their divisional learning teams now sit in their strategy teams. “Part of the logic there is to look maybe three years out and ask ‘What are the capabilities that the organization is going to need for that particular division?’ and then translate that back through so we have people with the right skills in the right locations,” says Simon. 

This is just the starting point

What we’ve experienced these last several months is not a flash in the pan, but a new reality that will impact our workplaces for the foreseeable future. As L&D grows into its more strategic role, we are committed to be a resource to connect you with your peers and share lessons learned and emerging best practices to help you manage through this time of change. In fact, we have unlocked a complete learning path on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for you to share with you organization, as well as a specific course on Rolling Out a DIBs Training Program at Your Company,” to foster a more inclusive and equitable new world of work.

To watch the full discussion, check out the on-demand webinar recording here

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