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Relevance – The Key to Survival, Impact and Prosperity

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

We are probably all fed up of hearing about Covid and its impact, the fact that the situation that faces us is unprecedented and moving forecasts that we will move back to the new normal in weeks, months or years.

However, despite all the uncertainty, the reality is we will face a recession, ways of working and operating will have to change. We are also likely to see a change in attitudes to all realms of life including working patterns, personal freedoms and what we all prioritise as important.

So, what will the impact be to business?

Times of crisis lead companies and individuals to reflect, regroup and reinvent themselves. It may provide the catalyst for whole new ways of working and the end of others. The key to survival is relevance. Does what you do still have a place within a post Covid world and is that place the same place?

Some businesses will have business models which bounce back, however all businesses will be operating in a new customer landscape. We will almost certainly be in a recession, there will be less disposable income, and customer behaviour will be impacted.

During a period of lockdown the opportunity to spend is more limited, will people start to question discretionary spend more? Will they be less inclined to grab a take-away coffee or lunch on the go? A period of cooking at home may inspire some to realise they can do more themselves. For others it will have the opposite effect and they might rush to eat out socialise and have someone else cook for them.

What about businesses such as fashion and gyms, will people rush to spend in these areas where they have maybe made savings over a number of months? Or will new habits have been formed?

And what about Learning?

In the way that Covid-19 has forced home working into many organisations, it also has the potential to drive through the much needed and long-awaited changes to learning which many organisations have failed to deliver.

So rather than look to relaunch your previous training or learning and development offer, use this time to really work out what your offer should look like and ensure that it is an investment that drives your business.

In October I wrote an article highlighting why learning and development might be sleepwalking into extinction. It might be that Covid-19 will be able to help overcome some of those barriers. Below I revisit the themes I identified and whether these still exist.

The Importance of HR and L&D.

Having to change business models overnight, implement new ways of working and furlough large numbers of staff has given HR a truly business critical role. Some Learning teams have been critical to the way their business has evolved and changed. Others have themselves been furloughed or focussed on pushing out generic online learning to “keep people busy”. Where learning teams are not at the heart of their business now it is a good sign they could be dispensable later.

Your positioning to date should be the call to action as to the amount of change needed within your learning function to ensure its relevance and impact.

A New Model or a Transition Online

Covid has taught us that things can be done quickly. It has also taught us that having a predominantly face to face classroom-based approach does not work now. It has also taught us that although things can be done quickly and classroom-based training can be taken into online webinars etc, this can be done very badly and create poor user experiences.

Many internal teams and suppliers are reinventing what they do. Conferences are going online. Face to face training providers are rushing to make online versions. Coaching session are happening remotely. Covid has been a wake-up call and the longer it lasts the harder it will be back to old models. However, there is also an opportunity to evolve and bring in innovation.

Rather than buy an online version of a previous offline version, it is a time to be open to different approaches or options.


Most companies have used existing technologies to weather the Covid storm, a few have purchased technology to plug the gaps in the ability to learn, communicate and work remotely. Platforms which were potentially underutilised have become normal, think Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Overuse of these platforms is also creating fatigue and there are lessons to be learnt around which tech we need and which we don’t.

Now is a good time to review what technology you need to shape your future learning culture.


Necessity is the mother of all invention and for most we will learn something when we need to. These have long been advocated by those who advocated learning approaches with strong components of just in time learning and performance support. Over the past few weeks many learning teams will have had to navigate new skills e.g. running a webinar or Zoom meeting, converting a classroom session into face to face.

The next step in not just to master the practicalities of how to operate these types of learning but to develop a wider set of skills that supports your future learning culture.

Set Yourself Up To Prosper

Covid 19 has got the ball rolling. It has shown some teams and organisations are light years ahead whilst others are bringing up the rear. The coming months create a unique opportunity for learning teams to put themselves at the heart of their organisations and play a key part in their survival and future prosperity. This will be best achieved by looking to the future and what we could have an achieve rather than trying to replicate what we had in the past.

James is on a mission to change the future of learning at work for the good of every employee. At the forefront of learning transformation, he focusses on helping organisations create agile, consumer grade learning experiences which deliver results and enhance performance. This is achieved by creating an amazing learning culture which is right for your people. Having worked in Talent, Learning and HR roles for 20 years. He has built and transformed learning teams in a wide range of sectors including start-ups, large national and multi-national organisations. He is one of the founding directors of The Learning Effect. To find out more about The Learning Effect visit To contact James – email

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