Webinar Recap: Learning resilience in the new normal

May 15, 2020

Never has learning been a more immediate priority for organisations than it is right now. Learning & Development (L&D) professionals find themselves at the heart of an accelerated global pivot to a new way of working. It requires new skills, and new approaches to learning more familiar ones. We’re under more pressure than ever – however the opportunity to make a difference to the future of our businesses has never been greater. LinkedIn Learning data tells the story of this increased demand, with the 1.7 million hours spent learning on the platform in the first week of April representing 3x the hours spent during the first week of January. 

I recently hosted a fascinating webinar exploring how we can tackle the challenges of helping organisations adapt to the new world of work. In particular, we focused on how L&D professionals can build resilience: for our colleagues, our organisations and just as importantly, ourselves. 

It was a real privilege to have Gemma Leigh Roberts on our panel, host of some of our most popular courses on LinkedIn Learning and an organisational psychologist with deep expertise in building resilience. Alongside Gemma were three leaders helping to shape LinkedIn’s own approach to learning in the current situation: Senior HR Business Partner Carol Norton, Head of LinkedIn Learning in the UK & Ireland, Ian McIlwain, and Ed McConville, LinkedIn’s Senior Director for L&D EMEA and LATAM. Together we explored how learning’s role is changing – and the techniques, structures and priorities that we should be focusing on over the next few months.

I’ve gathered the key take-aways from our webinar in this post. You can also watch our full session on-demand.

Resilience means bouncing forward not back

We traditionally think of resilience as the ability to get back on track once something has happened to knock us off course. However, as Gemma explained on our webinar, the current situation is inviting different thinking. In the midst of the sea-changes that we’re experiencing, bouncing back to where we were doesn’t feel like an option. The opportunity is to bounce forward, by applying a growth mindset to the new ways of working and living that we experience. “We can take the information that we get from learning how to get through the process to get better in the future,” she says. “We can take things from the situation we’re now in to be happier, healthier, more productive and more high-performance.”

In other words, the ambition and objective of resilience is changing. It’s no longer a recovery process but a learning process – and that increases the long-term value that developing this capability can bring to your organisation.

You’re shaping your future culture right now

When organisations are in crisis mode, it’s natural to focus on the immediate priorities in front of you. However, Gemma argues that it’s vital not to lose sight of the long-term. The actions being taken today are defining the culture of your business in the memory of your employees.

“We have to be mindful that how employees feel about the organisation now will affect how they feel about the organisation later,” she says. “We’re in crisis mode at the moment and it’s not always clear what the next steps will be. However, this is also the biggest opportunity we’ll ever have collectively to enhance resilience together. Having conversations and helping people through the process is a great opportunity to create the culture of the future for your business.”

In a complex situation, agility starts with solving for the majority

The sheer complexity of the international situation represents a particular challenge for larger organisations. Having employees in different locations increasingly means dealing with different government policies, different health guidelines, and different public responses. How can a global organisation be agile and responsive to the needs of all its people?

“We’ve tried to solve for the majority first, in order to move at the pace that we need to stay agile, and handle the volume of work involved,” explains Carol Newton. “We’re defining our approach in this way and then tweaking as we go for individual circumstances in different locations.”

This focus on overall agility is vital when you consider the different areas in which HR business partners need to move quickly. “One of the highest priorities at LinkedIn is the safety of our employees – not just physical, but mental and emotional health and wellbeing too,” says Carol. “There are multiple competing priorities for HR to deal with – and it’s important that we allow ourselves to make the best decision we can with the information we have at the time.”

Two-way communication is vital

Communication is another area in which organisations are responding with agility – and seeking ways to bounce forward. Virtual and video now dominate the delivery of everything from employee onboarding to team meetings, to wellness initiatives. As Ian McIlwain points out though, it’s important to remember that communication works best when it flows in two directions. 

“Part of it is about cascading messages thoughtfully and making sure people don’t get overwhelmed,” he says. “But it’s also about finding ways to listen when you communicate. I try to make sure we always have an active Q&A during online meetings – so that people can post questions, even if they want to do so anonymously. It’s also important to try to connect to people on a one-to-one level, acting as a coach and asking questions in a way that genuinely encourages people to share.”

Building a resilient organisation starts with a learning support structure

Gemma talks about how the right support structures are an essential foundation for resilience. As L&D professionals, we know that we have a vital role to play in ensuring these structures are fit for purpose. For Ed McConville, this has to involve a new attitude to innovating and testing. “We’ve been encouraging people to experiment and try new things – and if it doesn’t work, see it as a learning rather than a failure,” he says. “This means that we’re still able to maintain the structure of a great learner experience. For example, we’ve gone from live virtual representing 10% of our employee onboarding experiences in February to 100% in April.”

It’s not just training structures that act as a support to resilience. Cultural structures are also crucial. All of our speakers touched on the importance of employees being able to prioritise their time. “We’ve just developed a LinkedIn programme titled ‘The Necessity of No’, with tips and strategies to support employees with prioritising,” says Carol. “We’re supplementing that with a programme on practical prioritisation. Focus is really hard for people at the moment, and being empowered to say ‘No’ to things more often can definitely help.”

It’s a powerful example of the types of capabilities that are growing quickly in importance as we build more resilient organisations through learning. For more on this, and the rest of our fascinating discussion, feel free to enjoy the full webinar on-demand.