What the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Means for Learning Teams

what is coronavirus

As the coronavirus continues to spread unease around the globe, many companies are taking proactive steps to keep their employees and customers as safe as possible. But these precautions are having massive ripple effects throughout the organization, and learning teams are being similarly affected. 

From office closures to restricted travel, here is how training teams are being impacted by COVID-19.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 is a strain of coronavirus first identified and spread to people in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. It can potentially cause severe illness such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. So far, tens of thousands have been infected and thousands have died.

The virus is spread through “respiratory droplets”, so to be infected, you would have to be within six feet of someone who is contagious and come into contact with these droplets. However, it may also be possible to contract the virus by touching a physical object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, ears, or eyes. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms are typically seen with 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

Global confirmed COVID-19 cases as of March 5th 2020 according to CDC

How is it affecting corporate training teams?

The virus and its resulting illnesses are forcing businesses to put measures in place that reduce the potential spread of the virus. In a nutshell, this means limiting human contact and movement wherever possible and realistic.

  • Freezing spending

Economic factors are already starting to be felt. As the coronavirus continues to play havoc with global markets, many businesses (especially those with extensive operations in China) have put a freeze on all unnecessary spending until the situation becomes clear.

For training teams, this could mean a temporary halt to current strategic plans, new course development, and expanding resources such as hiring or taking on new vendors.

  • Cancelling conferences

Events around the world are being cancelled or postponed to a later date. This list contains updates on events around the world that have been cancelled so far. 

For learning teams, this means some conferences, workshops and trade shows may have changed their dates or been called off completely. Any learners who were relying on these events to upskill their performance will suffer, putting pressure on learning teams to fulfill these needs. It seems like new cancellations or postponements are happening daily so it’s definitely a good idea to keep checking on event Twitter feeds and websites for announcements.

  • Banning non-essential travel

In today’s global world, travel has become a regular and frequent aspect of many people’s roles. With the outbreak of coronavirus, many organizations have banned non business-critical travel for employees.

In an initial assessment, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated the potential impact of COVID-19 on global airline revenue to be as high as $29.3 billion. This includes a potential full-year drop of 13% in passenger demand.

For training and development teams who deal with a global employee base, this may limit their plans to travel for coordination with regional teams and decentralized training departments. 

  • Limiting Instructor-Led Training (ILT) sessions

Even with the rise of elearning solutions for training needs, instructor-led training (ILT) is still widely used. The coronavirus outbreak could potentially limit group sessions and put L&D teams behind on their training plans, not to mention the financial implications for cancelled ILT sessions with external vendors. Many organizations are also enforcing work-from-home periods in heavily affected areas or where a coronavirus case has been detected. 

Advice from the World Health Organization

How training teams can mitigate some of these risks

The world is reeling over the velocity of the coronavirus’s impact on economies and business operations. But, to limit the damage and ensure employees are still getting the training they need, there are some things you can do to keep your learning program functional:

  • Virtual meetings

If your organization doesn’t already use conferencing software, meetings can be conducted using free tools such as Skype or Google Hangouts. This is a great solution to both work-from-home enforcement and business travel restrictions.

  • Webinar sessions instead of ILT

If you have in-person training sessions scheduled, investigate the possibility of having your learners join a virtual webinar version instead. Webinar tools such as Zoom and GoToWebinar allow you to carry out live presentations and interact with learners almost the same way as an in-person session.

  • If training is absolutely necessary…

If in-person training cannot be avoided, ensure your trainers and employees are following all the World Health Organization’s guidelines and advice to avoid contracting and spreading coronavirus.

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