Learning During a Crisis: Possibilities for Growth


Learning Can Help Us Cope

Learning can help all of us—leaders, distributed teams, and new-to-remote employees—cope with the uncertainty and anxiety brought about during times of crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Developing new knowledge and skills helps us feel competent and in control. Learning a new skill can offer a chance to break away from the repetition of news, chores, and work tasks. Furthermore, the structured nature of learning encourages a feeling of “flow” in a context that offers immediate gratification.

Learning is energizing, and there are tons of resources available for developing new skills such as General Assembly’s free training and webinars, or the creative platforms of Masterclass and Skillcrush

For individuals who may transition to new roles or want to use this time to explore new opportunities, skillbuilding is a key part of professional development. If, on the other hand, you’re currently experiencing a career setback—be it furlough, unemployment, or struggles as a job seeker—a focus on professional development and learning skills will set you up for success when the job market starts to turn around. 


Our Workplaceless Remote Work Certification and Growplaceless remote career development programs are aimed at specifically developing the skills needed to thrive in a more-remote future.

How Can Companies Adopt a Learning Focus to Help Teams Cope?

In times of crisis, leaders and companies are under intense pressure to cut costs, conserve cash, and keep morale up. These objectives may seem mutually exclusive, since cutting budgets and reducing your workforce can result in lower morale. However, 42% of organizations surveyed by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) said they would try their best to maintain their leadership development budgets in a downturn or recession 

An investment in the development of your employees will contribute to short-term and long-term company benefits including:

  • Boosting employee morale
  • Retaining key employees
  • Growing your skilled talent pipeline

In the face of a pandemic, how can you support the development of your employees? Here are a few recommendations.

Invest in Leadership Training 

Since leaders are expected to protect organizations during the downturn and leverage opportunities as we emerge from the crisis, now is an ideal time to train your leaders, especially in the skills needed to support a future remote workforce. Strong leaders will motivate managers and teams and make effective decisions, leading to increased morale, but they need timely training and support. CCL found a majority of leaders—70%—are incentivized to protect leadership training budgets because of the positive impact provided to organizations. It’s also worth considering learning experiences to build skills specific to managing during times of crisis. Of course, the style of training has shifted to accommodate employees working from home. 

Transition to Asynchronous Digital Training

Since in-house training requires substantial resources and expertise, companies can fulfil their training needs by seeking external learning and development support. And as companies await future decisions from state and local governments about reopening, many are switching to digital delivery to cut costs yet capitalize on this time to upskill their staff despite work from home limitations. For leaders and teams with complex living situations and family commitments, asynchronous training allows individuals to learn at their own pace from any location.

Adjust to Your Employees’ Needs

Since we are living in times of uncertainty, companies should invest in employees to keep them engaged, motivated and moving ahead with their personal and company objectives. Since there is flux in organizational structure and client needs, roles and responsibilities may need to shift to accommodate. By engaging your employees in stretch projects or conversations about future aspirations, you’ll keep morale high and individuals focused. Continuous check-ins to assess employees’ professional needs and offer support for their mental well-being are important. For employees that have time and energy, make space for creative ideas, brainstorming and cross-training. For those who are overwhelmed, reduce or adjust projects and allow others to step up.

Embrace a Growth Mindset

As an organization, a growth mindset is needed to reframe challenges positively. As leaders tackle new technologies and business practices amidst COVID-19, encourage employees to engage in a learning mindset as well. Instead of viewing forced work from home as a negative, how can you challenge your team to build community, increase their knowledge of remote resources, or develop new skills? Routinely upskill to keep pace with the many changes and challenges ahead.

Focusing on the learning and development needs of your teams will prove beneficial now and as businesses look towards the future. The Placeless Playbook focuses on steps your company should take now, soon, and at the time when businesses aim to evaluate and return to a “new normal.” For example, the Placeless Playbook includes an employee survey template you can leverage to document the learnings your team is experiencing during the crisis to inform future business decisions. 

The Workplaceless team is here to help. Please schedule a chat with us any time to talk through your team’s needs at each stage.

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Workplaceless envisions a workforce that thrives in a flexible and digital-first future—where performance and growth are not constrained by location. Our team goal is to share insights and practices that will help professionals and companies achieve this aspiration.
Workplaceless envisions a workforce that thrives in a flexible and digital-first future—where performance and growth are not constrained by location. Our team goal is to share insights and practices that will help professionals and companies achieve this aspiration.
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