Learning COVID-19 Recording: Boeing's Bethany Tate Cornell & Delta's Brandon Carson 5-07-20

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 from the air travel industry: Bethany Tate Cornell, Vice President - Leadership, Learning & Organizational Capability at Boeing, and Brandon Carson, Director of Learning - Airport Customer Service and Cargo at Delta. They were interviewed by Kevin Oakes, CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). Here are four key themes that emerged:

1.     Changes have been implemented for in-person instructor-led training. While a lot of training has shifted to the virtual classroom, some programs that must be delivered in-person have continued. At Boeing, a lot of the workforce can only work on-site: “We can’t build planes and rockets from home,” Cornell noted. Likewise, training programs such as FAA-required certifications for manufacturing cannot move to virtual delivery. So the focus has been on how to continue such ILT training in a safe way, with physical distancing practices in place. Cornell said that they reduced class sizes by 40%, increased the number of classes by 50%, and leveraged personal protective equipment (PPE) for hands-on learning. For some skills, rather than the instructor and learners huddling around a lab table, Boeing has leveraged a “cooking show” technique where the instructor models at the front of the room with a camera and screen, and then walks around to watch learners perform the skill, while still maintaining proper physical distance.

2.     New training topics and programs have been needed. Like many organizations, Boeing has seen a surge in interest training and support on virtual teamwork, virtual leadership, and collaboration, as well as modelling self-care and well-being best practices. Delta’s new training needs have gone beyond this because of their new initiative called Delta Clean, which includes strategies to make travelling during these times as safe and clean as possible. Carson noted the broad range of focus areas from the boarding process, enhanced cleaning of planes and airport spaces, not using middle seats on plans for the time being, and more. These changes require training and other support from the L&D team, so that has kept his team as busy as ever.

3.     The shift to digital has accelerated quickly. Carson noted that at Delta, they had already started a shift of some training programs to the virtual classroom, but that the pandemic has accelerated this change. A specific example is Delta’s Leadership Development Academy, which was already a blend of several modalities, but they have even further accelerated their goal of having elements of the program as close to the workstream as possible. Carson noted one benefit of virtual delivery and online meetings is an increase in equality, as everyone in the organization—from a top leader to a first-year individual contributor—appears in a virtual environment with the same square tile.

At Boeing, Cornell noted that prior to COVID-19 digital learning made up about 40% of their training but that now it is more like 60-70%. Boeing had already started using Degreed to provide easier access to learning content, but the pandemic has led to a surge in usage. Cornell also oversees onboarding at Delta, and hiring has not stopped so that has meant a shift to virtual onboarding, including the L&D elements involved.

4.     L&D has focused on organizational culture during this time. At Boeing, significant work on organizational culture was already underway after the two airplane accidents from 2018 and early 2019. These initiatives were building on strengths such as collaboration, innovation, safety, and pride in work, while focusing on improving in areas such as transparency and integration. During the pandemic, leaders have been leaning in to keep a focus on culture by doing check-ins, from the top of the house down. During this time they have seen a 60% increase in the use of resources available to help support the employee experience.

At Delta, the CEO is doing two town halls each month, and each team leader is doing two town halls each week. There has been a noticeable increase in dialog, transparency, and inclusion. Carson said that their leaders can’t communicate too often, as things sometimes are changing by the hour. Lastly, some employees have taken leaves of absence, but they have not been turned off in the systems so they can still stay connected during this time.

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