Virtual Leadership Training is still very important, but surely not the only way to go forward. Until lately I had here argued about adaptation of training programs to COVID circumstances. These are not yet fully over, but are no longer the main reason for digitization. The emphasis has now shifted towards digitization as such and its benefits. We still want to save cost, such as travel and hotels, and we want to support new ways of learning. In order to do so, we can adopt our lessons learned!
A specific method in face-to-face training is no longer possible in its pure form: developing (as nonchalant as possible) content on the flip chart in the course of discussion. It’s quite some surprise, though, that participants now express an increased interest in theory! In practice, this means some more preparation work for virtual leadership training, in concrete terms: more slides. Fine that this is in WebEx et.al. can be integrated directly!
As ever before, participants have to be sent to breakout rooms for group work. It was and is very important for me that small groups get different assignments so that they can bring different results back to plenary, thus adding interest. I always want participants to be able to choose the group and thus the topic themselves – it is not always possible, some tools don’t allow it. So, preliminary planning – criterion: mixed groups – costs time (but it’s fun).
Virtual trainings and workshops sometimes lead to very long periods of time spent sitting at the PC. I built a slightly windy bar table:
This is a provisional setup – but nothing last as long as a makeshift solution…
We do have extensive experience in design and conducting virtual leadership trainings: they work! The benefits are clear – but slightly different from what was expected! Firstly, it was about digitizing teaching. Thus, practice and tools for facilitation from home office were in the foreground, instead of events in hotel rooms. In the meantime, however, we have well come to see mobile working as the long awaited New Normal. We thus have created discussions, biz simulations and consultation rounds as virtual training methods!
1 to 1 discussions, for example to agree on goals or a critical dialog, now have to take place just as before COVID, only virtually so. And so they must be simulated in virtual training. In the end, the same procedure is used in training as in the reality of leadership: WebEx, MS Teams … (Admittedly there are always technical problems, wonderful time wasters! But was setting up and synchronizing the projector really so much nicer?)
The drastic change in the world of work forced by COVID (keyword VUCA) requires a new type of leadership (keyword NOPAT). Mapping or mirroring these in training sessions may not have been the original intention. However, in our experience, there is no other way of doing it. Leadership in the virtual world means new rituals, special attention to all team members, and greater attention to rifts in the team or even conflicts. One-on-one discussions and meetings must be carried out as calls (via WebEx, MS Teams …). And the same scenes have to happen in a virtual training session. Why not grab the chance to simulate and address the specifics of target agreements in a virtual setup? Not to mention more complex team meetings …
Original hope was that at least simple knowledge transfer (facts, procedures, models …) can be processed and standardized with media. And the simultaneous presence of learners could be given up. These have come true. Webinars or tutorials, video sequences like TED lectures, can actually be shown outside of the event, thus not simultaneously by all. We had already recorded slideshows directly in Power Point. Furthermore, short video sequences, typically via YouTube, such as TED lectures, other videos or mentimeter queries, can even be started more easily now: participants are already logged in, the technology is already installed – no obscuring the room, no connection to the projector must be done … Yet, for deeper insights into topics and for real discussion in the group, more is required. Like understanding, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, application and reference to your own conditions*. So the simultaneous (!) interaction of all participants is a must.
* See also Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives in the cognitive domain
You can meet very nicely in communication media such as WebEx, MS Teams, Zoom, Circuit or StarfaceNeon … Again, more is possible than expected: in coop media such as Conceptboard, several participants can work at the same time. Simple versions of this tool can be implemented at any time. Or: Participants meet in breakout rooms, one notes the results in a power point template, and this is easily integrated directly into the tools. On the other hand, whiteboards at first appear to be technically difficult, but we all learn!
Not all apps are always fun – for now it seems to me that the simpler and “smaller” the setup, the better they work. And: the participants are more patient than we trainers ourselves, who of course want to be perfect – and we want to appear helpful and competent!
Finally – for a long time, for most topics at least, interaction cannot mean sitting together in the same closed room!
Even if personnel developers, managers and employees (and of course trainers and facilitators) continue to emphasize the value of face-to-face events, there will be no simple return to a “pre-COVID normality”. In the end, much can be done virtually as easily as before. Some methods are even possible for the first time, and the savings potential is too great! The New Normal is of course not in any way near, and will not be a static state! Though it will be a mix of very different forms of work, communication and learning. “Embedded, multimedia, digital” will continue to be filled with content. And we are already working on the implementation!
Actually everything is available on the internet at the level of sheer knowledge! In this respect, it is more about the development of search skills on the part of those interested in learning, and less about the presentation of nicely prepared content to them. For example, how do you get from a principle interest deeper into a topic?
Actually everything is available on the internet at the level of sheer knowledge! In this respect, it is more about the development of search skills on the part of those interested in learning, and less about the presentation of nicely prepared content. For example, how do you get from a principle interest deeper into a topic?
And that is by no means enough: developing the ability to evaluate the findings is part of it! Learning offers that have been well prepared, but also contributions that are clearly recognizable as discussion, such as TED, tempt you to believe that this is the only way it is! Learning from textbooks …
This is finally over!
- Satisfactory technology is in place.
- The skepticism of the participants passes with the practical experience.
- Group work and exercises can in part be digitized, which is how new ones become possible.
- Important problem-solving and creative methods, joint consultations (reflecting teams)
- through to procedures that are typical for psychodrama or systemic approaches can be adapted.
- In particular, simulation games allow the changing world of work and its demands on management to be mapped – a real added value!
- Trainers and facilitators are getting better and better at the process!
- And we no longer print the trainer guidelines on paper!