Spotting the difference
Everybody by now knows by their own experiences the impact that the pandemic has had on every aspect of life. Rather than the usual focus on the general disruption, uncertainty and veiled lessons learnt, this article will spotlight specifically what has changed from a training perspective.
In the halcyon days when one could choose to take a training course either in-person or online, the only sizable restriction that could affect this was usually funding restrictions, or availability of spaces on courses. There were few issues with the variety of courses in the market – training has always been a lucrative industry and the security sector is blessed with many well-positioned, credible providers.
Taking online training isn’t usually as simple as logging onto a laptop and cracking on with the course; for many, it means juggling family commitments, work demands, shift patterns and a social life. For some people, for these reasons, learning on their own time is simply not an option.
“We have observed an increased number of employers purposefully facilitating allocated training time for employees who they have sponsored to complete training courses.”
Over the last 12 months, we have observed an increased number of employers purposefully facilitating allocated training time for employees who they have sponsored to complete training courses, which takes away some of the issue above, driven by a need for greater expertise and a post-pandemic job market demanding better ‘on-the-job’ development. But learning styles are different for every learner – many craving the need for human interaction, discussion and desktop exercises. Face-to-face training also has the benefit of being able to learn from and network with others on the course, enhancing the overall learning experience.
So the problem to solve was that there was a need for training, but the online self-study method wasn’t ideal for everybody.
Cue: the mammoth and staggeringly steep rise of Zoom (other video-conferencing solutions are, I’m told, available). Okay, so now there was the technology – already adopted by many for cross-team meetings – so the challenge was how to bring what would usually be delivered in the classroom to the screen in people’s homes. How do we repackage the traditional classroom experience into something that a.) attracts a learner onto the course, and b.) still carries professional value and benefit to the recipient? Not only did we examine the best methods of delivery through a huge amount of trial and error but removing stigma around the previously held belief that online training held lesser value was and continues to be a sustained effort. Remote training is a different beast altogether, with some very specific issues that training providers needed to find quick solutions to.
“Pre-COVID, around 40% of our face-to-face learners came from overseas from nearly every country…”
For us – a global provider of accredited and vocation security training – pre-COVID, around 40% of our face-to-face learners came from overseas from nearly every country, predominantly spread across Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Classes with this demographic give the opportunity to find out about each other’s security challenges, solutions, and cultural differences. Post-COVID, much of this has moved to virtual or online delivery.
But in places such as these, the internet connection is patchy or unreliable. On a Zoom training course where classes are sectioned off into small groups and cohorts are assigned to work together on a project-based task, the need to be present and online is important not just for the individual’s learning but for their group’s success. As a work-around to this, we engaged the learner before the course and provided them with the alternative to take their training course in an online distance learning method. This gave the learner the space and time to work on the course when convenient to them, which meant they could work offline and then upload coursework when the internet availability was better. We offered additional tutor support which enabled them to benefit from those expertise, and a chance to discuss their findings of the assignments and learning points.
Additional changes we’ve seen is a significant increase in the number of organisations – from large multinationals to central governments – requiring security training to be delivered on an in-house basis, privately. In-house training is popular for many reasons, not least because it is often more cost-effective for training to be delivered at the client’s premises.
Courses delivered specifically to one team from the same organisation can be helpful to bring the team together on their learning experience. They can discuss their real-life situations in the workplace which can bring up issues that haven’t been worked through yet, or they are able to share in common problems and work on their resolutions together.
The training provider of in-house courses should be well-versed in tailoring the training content to that client. For example, case studies, assignments and group work scenarios can be written specifically to that client and their environment. This not only demonstrates the training providers grasp of the clients’ requirements but reinforces to the client the providers capability. Tailoring a programme adds further value because the learner has a chance to work through their training using real examples that they have first-hand understanding and experience of, putting into practice new skills in their safe training environment. In this way, the training then becomes immediately beneficial and has instantaneous applications.
“With the demand for more and more job flexibility, this attitude is facing an adjustment as employers find themselves to be in competition with other employers who are willing to offer what the employee needs in a way that suits that person best.”
Finally, and perhaps least surprisingly, learners themselves have changed. The post-pandemic shift to a firmer work/life balance has filtered through the mass to the everyday person. Flexibility in a job role is now seen as a right from employers instead of a rare benefit; it is a trend that is here to stay. We have seen an increase in employers sponsoring their employees to take training in work time, instead of their own time. Some would even have to take annual leave to attend classroom courses, whilst others would complete their online learning during evenings and weekends, eating into their personal time. But with the demand for more and more job flexibility this attitude is facing an adjustment as employers find themselves to be in competition with other employers who are willing to offer what the employee needs in a way that suits that person best. Cue: the professional-led change. Forced by the post-pandemic shift in the individual employee mindset, employers are now listening to what their employees needs are and acting on it.
And this carries across a diverse range of training programmes, no matter the depth, breadth or level. For example, our Masters degree students, many of whom are working full time alongside study, completing their degree inevitably has to fit around their working day, but many employers are now allocating time into the student’s work schedule to ringfence the time for study. This can only serve to support staff retention, raise employee satisfaction, and ultimately create a more cohesive and productive working environment.
As training providers, we constantly strive to find new ways to bring learning to life – so that it has the maximum impact on how our professionals do their jobs after the course. Because, surely, there’s no better reason to take a training course – regardless of how it’s delivered?