Learning COVID-19 Recording: Avanade's Rafat Naqvi - 7/23/20

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 special guest Rafat Naqvi, Global Learning Executive at Avanade, a professional services firm with 30,000+ employees. She was interviewed by i4cp CEO and co-founder Kevin Oakes and Senior Research Analyst Tom Stone. Here are four highlights from the call:

  1. There are many paths to a career in Learning and Development. Naqvi has a Bachelor’s degree in engineering and a Master’s degree in computer science. For over twenty years she held technology and technology strategy leadership positions at various companies, until a little over two years ago when she realized she wanted to take her career in a different direction. Many people come to positions or careers in L&D from a wide variety of starting points and paths, with participants on the call noting they came to L&D via finance, marketing, sales, business operations, and more. There was a consensus that coming to L&D from elsewhere in the business gives you added perspective and can help you to stay laser focused on the needs of the business when designing and executing learning programs. 
  2. L&D sometimes has to lead during difficult times. As it turned out, the L&D team at Avanade was their first division to prove their agility and problem solving skills when it came to adapting to the reality of COVID-19 and what it meant for conducting business. This was because of the timing of their flagship leadership development program “Doing Business at Avanade,” which focuses on newly promoted managers and directors, and traditionally has its in-person capstone event in March. This year the pandemic meant all in-person instructor-led training (ILT) needed to be re-thought, including a massive shift to virtual classroom. The focus on safety, strategic thinking, and agility involved in that decision-making process became a baseline for the rest of the organization when they too faced travel-related or other changes forced by COVID-19.
  3. The shift to virtual classroom has not meant a shift in L&D focus areas. In 2019 the L&D team at Avanade determined three areas of focus to apply to all programs and initiatives: focus on impact, focus on skill development, and focus on learner experience. They were well on their way to applying these when the COVID-19 pandemic hit around the world in February and March 2020. At that time about 50% of their learning programs were in-person ILT, with an even greater percentage of the team’s effort focused on in-person ILT, and an even greater still percentage of their budget (due to time and costs involved with designing and executing high-quality in-person ILT programs). Like most organizations, Avanade has seen a major shift to the virtual classroom, but this has not meant abandoning their three core focus areas for design and delivery. In fact, it allowed them to reconsider each program with those focuses in mind, as they needed to redesign the content for the virtual classroom. Naqvi described their approach as including a reconsideration of each program’s objectives to determine which truly needed to be delivered synchronously by an expert instructor and emphasis on peer-to-peer learning, versus those objectives that could be accomplished via self-paced resources or a performance support approach.
  4. Can corporate L&D play a role in supporting parents with school-aged children or schools themselves? A current focus for many is the question of when and how K-12 schooling will start up in the fall. This varies greatly across the different states and of course around the world. Organizations are considering how best to support their employees who might have very different situations regarding in-person schooling, homeschooling, or hybrid scenarios. In a poll of participants on the call, 27% indicated their organizations were surveying employees to understand the impact of their school/homeschool obligations, and another 20% indicated their organization might conduct such a survey soon. We also asked whether their L&D teams were providing curated content or other resources in support of employees who are parents with school/homeschooling needs and decisions to make, and 50% said yes they were doing so. As an example of this, Naqvi said that at Avanade, given their technology expertise, they had gathered online learning resources and best practices together into a kit and were considering how best to provide this to schools in their network and communities to teach virtually more effectively.

In addition to this recording, please see these resources: