Management professor on employee training during COVID-19

  • The coronavirus pandemic is changing education for managers and employees.
  • A panel at Business Insider’s Global Trends Festival brought together three leaders to comment on the changes.
  • The speakers predicted that customization and flexibility are going to be key in online education and remote working in the future. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in an era of remote learning that is already affecting education for managers.

Bettina Büchel, a professor specializing in strategies and organizations for the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland, said at the Business Insider Global Trends Festival in October her course design has not changed fundamentally, but there are key differences to navigate.

“You often must act between different time zones, and that means that you only have a few hours per day in which everyone can be together,” Büchel said. “Zoom and other technologies have become a means by which we can hold discussions in smaller groups and still have active participation of students.” 

Büchel said there are both benefits of not having to travel, like reduced CO2 emissions and participants’ ability to be closer to family, and inconveniences, like network connectivity issues.

“Another thing that I think we potentially underestimated at the beginning is the importance of being able to make contact,” she said. “The initial focus was more on the content itself and on creating engaging content. It turns out that networking is also particularly important, and that course participants can have a drink in the evening with someone new.”

Büchel predicts that personalization of learning will be an important trend in education in the future, with lecturers and universities needing to customize their curriculum to the different needs of managers. Another focus will be on creating engaging lessons, whether they’re in-person or online.

Molly Nagler, Director of Science at PepsiCo, said that her company prioritized learning even before the pandemic, but they’ve still had to adapt.

“We are checking whether our colleagues have the same development and career opportunities as before,” Nagler said. “It is also important provide possible emotional and psychological support, because many people find confinement in their homes hard to endure.”

The company has launched a platform that works with artificial intelligence and has transferred many activities online.

“Everything that happened during face-to-face meetings now takes place online,” she said.

Nagler said increased access to education is one way to get out of the crisis stronger than before. 

“We were really delighted that people were very involved in the programs that we brought into the online world,” she said. 

Eivind Slaaen, Vice-President for HR at Hilti Corporation, a multinational company from Liechtenstein, said that people are looking for science and self-development during this time.

“We have our own training platform, and we see that people are seeking these things out,” Slaaen said. “This shows that maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about compulsory training, because people are taking it upon themselves to broaden their perspectives.”

He also added that his company and others should consider implementing greater flexibility in their operating model in the future.

“Even if you love travelling and you have to fly to your customers, you also realize that not every flight and the time spent in a hotel was more effective than what is being done from home today,” he said.

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