Learning COVID-19 Recording: Marsh's Joe Garbus & EY's Brenda Sugrue 4-09-20

In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds a weekly series of standing calls to help Learning and Development leaders navigate this unpredictable time.

This week’s Learning and Development action call hosted two special guests, both members of i4cp’s Chief Learning and Talent Officer Board: Joe Garbus, Chief Talent and Inclusion Officer at Marsh, and Brenda Sugrue, Chief Learning Officer at EY. They were interviewed by i4cp’s CEO Kevin Oakes, and new survey data on virtual classroom training during the COVID-19 pandemic period was also presented—here are four key themes that emerged.

1.     Virtual classroom training is a major focus right now. Our latest pulse survey data included 60% of participants indicating a significant increase in the use of virtual classroom training due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with another 31% indicating a modest increase. Garbus noted that at Marsh the L&D team has been very focused on quickly training their trainers to be proficient with the virtual classroom modality, at the same time they work to migrate core content as well. He said they are learning a lot as they pivot quickly in this direction, and expect some of those learnings to carry through into a future where virtual training and remote work in general are more common.

Sugrue at EY noted they too are using virtual classroom a lot: running train-the-trainer programs, leveraging producers, and relying on their strong WebEx integration with Success Factors to manage it all. On the content side they have two levels: a light conversion approach that minimizes redesign work by giving the facilitation team new options, and a full conversion approach that deconstructs the entire program and creates a blended approach that uses a combination of virtual classroom sessions and asynchronous content where objectives don’t require live instruction or peer to peer interaction.

2.     Virtual classroom training has new challenges during this pandemic period. Beyond standard challenges with virtual classroom training (e.g., cultural resistance, making the programs interactive and engaging, and technology issues such as bandwidth lacking for consistent video), we asked call participants what was the biggest new challenge the modality is facing because of our shared situation with COVID-19. The results indicated a wide variability across organizations. 15% were overwhelmed by the need to upskill trainers and convert content, and 10% said the top issue was security concerns from the sudden surge in interest in the platforms involved—both indications of strong interest in virtual classroom training. However, 19% indicated a top challenge was people having too much fear, anxiety, or stress to learn effectively now. And the most common response, at 37%, was employees simply being too busy to focus on learning.  

3.     Some employees are a captive audience, eager for learning opportunities. While many employees are as busy as ever (including many L&D roles working on the training and conversion work mentioned above), others can’t work at full capacity during this time period—including in some cases employees working staggered shifts, as one session participant noted. At Marsh, the CEO pledged no layoffs, so this means some have time to devote to professional development. Garbus noted that many are hungry for content, especially in areas like growth mindset, mental health, remote work, etc. Some programs are so popular they have waiting lists. Sugrue also noted significant increases in learning content usage at EY during this pandemic period, including 40-100% increases in off-the-shelf content usage, a 20% increase in course completions, and a 40% increase in badges awarded. One of the session’s participants noted that they are also seeing an increase in the measured engagement with learning content—a further sign of a captive audience, eager for learning opportunities.

4.     Badges are a big hit at EY. Like many organizations, EY has rolled out a badging system for their employees that helps indicate proficiency in various skills and competencies—many of which are otherwise hard to measure or certify due to their granularity or lack of traditional systems such as degrees or certifications. Unlike most other organizations, EY has done more than experiment in this area, as Sugrue described the breadth and depth of their badging system. They have a strong governance model in place, which helps build confidence and value in the entire system. Popular badges include areas such as data analytics, blockchain, security, AI, as well as specialty domains such as manufacturing. They have a four-level system comprised of Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze badges, with various amounts of learning time, experience, and content contribution components required for each.

The results are impressive, with Sugrue noting a measured 2X higher retention rate for those participating in the program. The badges have been very empowering, helping many employees to get noticed for their skills and competencies, and now play a role in the promotion process. The organization has big goals for their badging system, such as awarding one million badges by 2025.

In addition to the recording above, please see the many resources at our i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center.