Learning COVID-19 Action Recording - Adapting L&D During COVID with former CLO John Coné - 9/10/20


This week’s Learning and Development action call hosted special guest John Coné, former VP of L&D at Dell and Chair of i4cp’s Chief Learning and Talent Officer Board. He was interviewed by i4cp CEO and co-founder Kevin Oakes. Here are some highlights from the call:

The purpose and benefits of i4cp’s CLTO Board. i4cp’s executive Boards bring together research and forward-thinking leaders to discuss, debate, collaborate, and anticipate trends and next practices in HR in order to make more informed business decisions. The Chief Learning and Talent Officer Board is reserved exclusively for the senior-most learning or talent leader in organizations. It is designed to serve as a true Board of Directors for the function and ensure its members are in the driver seat of organizational innovation. When describing the board to new members, Coné said he often notes that you and your team are likely ahead of most or all of the board members in one area, but that you’ll be able to learn from your fellow board members in five or more areas, making for a nice win-win for each member. He then described the three main benefits for board members:


  • Providing an instant peer network to get answers and perspectives quickly.
  • Grounding and directing i4cp’s learning and talent research, the results of which then inform members in the areas of most interest to them.
  • Providing a private forum where leaders can discuss their biggest issues with candor, sharing both their successes and their struggles, with a big focus on what is next.

Thoughts on learning and talent in response to the pandemic. Coné was very insightful when asked to review his learnings from talking with learning and talent leaders over the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that while we are obviously past the very early, chaotic days of adjustment and change, it seems like we are still in the beginning phase of major changes not the middle or end. He’s noticed that distance is not merely physical, but has emotional and attitudinal aspects to it as well. The future of work will not be homogenous but will rather vary a lot across organizations and industries, and likely involve a lot of personalization to get the right fit to each need. He said he often wonders if all the recent changes have sent us in new directions or more often accelerated trends that were already happening? As an example, call participant Rob Lauber, Chief Learning Officer at McDonald’s noted that virtual instructor-led training is not new, but clearly has been greatly accelerated during the past six months. Also, questions have always existed about the optimal office footprint for each organization, but now there are some new aspects to consider, such as physical distancing and the proof that some work can be done remotely.


Considerations on the future of learning. Coné has a long career in the learning field, including founding the first corporate university at Motorola in the 1970s. He has seen a lot of change and growth since then, with no doubt more on the horizon given the events of the past six months. For instance, a large number of employees, and therefore learning programs, were forced to quickly go virtual back in March and April of 2020. Speed was of the essence, but was quality of learning maintained in each case? Just because we proved we could do something in three days instead of three weeks, or three weeks instead of three months, does that mean we should continue to work at that speed on all projects going forward? 

Given that circumstances forced a lot of improvisation, questions of measurement of learning also arise. How do we know learning’s benefits are accruing to the same degree as before, or is it less or perhaps more in some cases? Not all remote work setups are equal, so how is that accounted for (something that was not an issue when all participants in a program had identical in-person training setups)? This issue of measurement will be increasingly important also due to the recent SEC ruling that will likely mean some training metrics will be required of public corporations on a quarterly basis.

L&D is also now involved in more than it was before. The function should feel emboldened to participate in all “How do I…” discussions in the organization, e.g., how can we improve our listening strategy; how can we reduce bias in our hiring; etc. 

What is the future of performance support? The conversation concluded with some quick thoughts on performance support and the importance of learning by doing. Coné provocatively asked the group whether performance support is or will become commoditized due to products becoming easier and easier to use over time and search capabilities (especially enhanced by ever-improving AI) making information retrieval ever faster. 

In addition to this recording, please see the the i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center for new research and next practices to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.


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