Leading L&D programs in times of uncertainty

How can learning managers keep relevant and adapt their mission to the turmoil in the business environment in the face of massive layoffs at some of the world's biggest companies?

2022 is going to be remembered not only as the “coming back to the office” year or as the time mark of the quiet quitting; it’s also marking itself as one of the troughs in the market stability timeline, as reflected in massive layoffs in companies such as Meta, Twitter, Amazon, and more. Considering that companies cut back in every aspect that is not a must for their survival, how can learning managers remain relevant and re-direct their efforts towards supporting the companies’ recovery, rather than being subjected to the situation and its potential implications?

While working with and interviewing behind the scenes many L&D professionals, team Uppey has gathered for you in this article a list of tips and advice regarding the burning concern of learning management adaptation in situations of business uncertainty.

1. Re-mapping the needs and expectations

We’re all familiar with the importance of mapping the needs prior to designing a learning program, not alone a learning & development long-term process and work plan. But assuming that the situation was stable most of the time so far – many of us are not trained (naturally…) in revising and changing the “needs map” – a must-step when things go unplanned.

This is the exact time to strengthen the agility skill and re-read & re-write the map of learning needs. This step will require an evaluation process, not necessarily a long one but definitely a deep one, for example through conversations and questionnaires. Preferably, more than one angle needs to be taken into account, in order to capture what’s really important for both senior management and employees during these turbulent times.

Along with reidentifying the current needs, some expectations realignment is required.
Has the learning budget remained the same?
Are there specific business plans that would affect the learning program and its goals and deliverables?
Are you expected to focus on new areas within your role?
Whatever you can reveal rather than finding out too late into the execution of learning programs, will prevent a lot of frustration, wasted resources, and even your professional effectiveness and relevancy as the learning manager.

2. Designing a strategy that’s aligned with the revised business goals

Once the needs were redefined, and expectations were set according to the present and near-future predicated situation, it’s time to plan accordingly.  

Now is also the time to be efficient and visible about it.

When you redesign the strategy, show your supervisor/senior management the changes made. Point out how are you about to support the company’s effort to recover and focus on healthy growth. 

Make sure to align all the learning and development initiatives to business goals and design the programs to generate a respectable ROI – one that you can clearly show.

3. Using inner mobility as a foundation for learning and development

Market changes ripple out into more changes, such as company structure, role changes, inner mobility, and the like. This all affects the learning goals and should redirect your efforts, for example towards reskilling (in the case of horizontal mobility) or upskilling (in the case of managers’ layoffs followed by young employees taking leadership roles).

Use this as an opportunity to adjust the learning path of the relevant employees, and again – to show how your department is supporting the necessary organizational changes.

It is also an opportunity to “train the trainer” and encourage employees to mentor each other by providing them with the tools and capacities to do so in an intentional and even structured manner. This step is not only essential for immediate recovery, but also in conjunction with any future plan of growth and development.

4. Modular milestones: a new way to think about long-term goals

Remember the classic way to set a stretch goal, then break it down into smaller goals and take the planned, predicted path to get there? OK, park that aside for a moment.

At times of uncertainty, nothing is predictable. It’s time to try out something new: Modular milestones.

Modular milestones is all about using an “if/then” process but instead of writing code, we’re writing the unfolding path of learning processes.

Here’s an exmalpe:
If the company gets to a certain growth stage by__, then___ [set the appropriate goal(s)]. But if the company will have another wave of layoffs by___, then [set a different, more appropriate goal for this one]. If at this point the company will recover well and hire new employees, then___ [set a goal that matches this case].

This is almost like a scenario-based goal setting, that allows you to stay agile while facing uncertainty. The modular part relates to looking at those different scenarios and different goals as building blocks, which you can assemble and employ according to a given situation.

Confusing? So does the situation.

But this method allows you to stay ahead and respond more quickly to different scenarios, even if you can’t predict them in advance (and most of us can’t really predict the future, right? 🙂 )

5. Measuring and iterating in short loops

Last but not least, comes the important bit of measuring the results as indicated, and iterating accordingly. Only this time, because of the rocky situation of the market or the company, you need to measure and iterate in short and efficient loops.

Keep the cycle lean: asses, conduct training on a small group, collect key results – then duplicate or adjust – while keeping it all in minimum time without committing too much for the long term. As much as we like deep and long processes, stormy water requires light and quick boats, moving swiftly from one shore to another.

Remember that learning and development processes are still truly essential for organizational growth, even when the ground is shaking. By re-assessing the situation and quickly adapting to organizational changes through the lens of your department – you can remain not only relevant, but essential support for facilitating change.

Curious to know how Uppey.ai helps companies achieve their training goals? Get in touch today!

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