These last several weeks have been strange, challenging, and at times more than a little scary. They have brought major changes in workflow, the need to form new habits, and a demand to respond to an entirely new set of needs from stakeholders and customers alike. In L&D, the idea of “hitting a moving target” is something that we’re used to, and it’s hard to think of a time where the target moved any faster than it is now.

We at Fredrickson are continually impressed by the adaptability of all of you, the L&D community. Maybe it should be no surprise that in a time when new ways of thinking and new approaches are a necessity, you’re all leading the push to innovate and solve problems. All the same, we can’t help but be amazed at the stories we’re hearing on the successes that are coming out of this trying time.

We thought it would be fun to share some of these stories with you. We’re all feeling a bit isolated, and we miss seeing everyone at the community events. We hope that by focusing on some of the positives coming out of the response to the pandemic, you might glean a little insight that you can take to your own virtual workplaces. Plus you might feel a little more connected to this unflappable and talented community.

A big thank you to our 14 contributors spanning 11 organizations. You may quick jump to different parts of this article using the links below:

Dawn Baker & Vince Therrien – City of Minneapolis

We’re fortunate to be part of a profession that has laid a lot of groundwork for virtual service delivery. Our team was easily able to work from home and transitioned so effortlessly that we delivered new employee orientation to more than 30 new employees in a Skype room on day nine of our “new reality”!

That said, we were a bit rusty on virtual learning tools since the City is such an in-person culture. The pandemic has motivated us to sharpen our collective saw around the workings of Skype and other tools. We’ve also turned into a just-in-time learning resource for the rest of the City on troubleshooting Skype and other applications.

Speaking of sharpening our collective saw around virtual tools, we see this as helpful both now as we’re navigating through this crisis, and helpful in the future as virtual meetings–either entirely or partially virtual–are a part of our normal work environment.

Our team has responded to the need by launching customized just-in-time job aids and even a video on supervising employees, working from home, and conducting meetings virtually. We are working on creating virtual learning on these topics, which complement the currently-offered ILTs on this subject. An anticipated positive from this experience may be that management previously reticent to allow employees to work from home might discover advantages and promote this option in the future when we’re back to “normal.” These tools will likely be reused at those times.

Our L&D Team has found ways to keep our spirits up. At one virtual meeting, each team member came with a funny, interesting, or stylish hat. At another meeting, each member came with a picture they drew that illustrated something positive they have experienced during this situation.

Michelle Casper, Doron Clark, and Jake Turner – Medtronic

We have been using team connect meetings with the core team to stay engaged with each other, share work priorities, and help where needed. It’s also a time to get some laughs and face time together. We allow for time to talk about non-work related matters especially at this time.

We’re currently sending a series of communications to our department and internal customers to connect them with resources for professional development, preparing pre-populated training content they may edit and share, and sharing tips for being effective while working remotely. We’ve also made some content for handling technology-related issues and bandwidth issues, especially because many of us have a lot of new “coworkers” that are sharing or hogging the bandwidth at home.

We’ve found the following tips to be useful in the transition to working from home:

  • Set a routine – get up and do the things you normally do. Get to work on time, shower, get dressed, “commute” to work after saying goodbye to your family, and log in. When you take your breaks, check in with coworkers or family members. Get outside!
  • Have an accountability buddy – set up a short check-in with a coworker near the beginning of the day. Tell them your goals for the day and week. At the end of the day let them know how you did on your goals. For me, it is listing my top three priorities and then any longer-term projects to work on and then an email at the end of the day to my accountability buddy with progress.
  • Get physical exercise – I recently ordered a fitness tracker and have been wearing it for almost a week. I’ve learned that working from home can have a huge negative impact on the steps I take. One day, I only took 3,500 steps, and that included chasing kids around the house. It is helping me to remember to get up, get outside, get the blood moving, and get refreshed.

Mike Dillon – C.H. Robinson

One of the biggest positives from an L&D perspective to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that as the workforce has gone to a remote work-from-home setting, people are very focused on making things easier for the front line staff. That has always been a focus to some extent but now is a primary focus.

We have a workforce that may use four screens and two computers to get their daily work done in the office…moving to a laptop at home. So productivity can take a big hit. So my team has shifted their work to be focused on anything that will make their work easier, more efficient and streamlined. My team is slightly outside of a traditional L&D team so their work is now focused on helping find ways to be more efficient, automated, and generally make work easier.

I am most proud of the way my team has stepped up to the challenge. They have shifted what they do and how they do it without complaint. They’ve demonstrated a LOT of leadership in this situation. It makes me very proud.

Janna Dorman – Allina Health

Our L&D department was able to cancel all non-essential classes and moved all essential classes to virtual delivery in less than one week. Due to the effective communication we put out, we had only one student show up for class on that Monday. We are using Saba Classroom and Zoom to facilitate virtual training and have implemented one trainer and one producer per class, which seems to be working well. 

On the instructional design side, we were able to crank out an eLearning for all staff within 24 hours of the request, have developed tip sheets to help our providers learn how to use telehealth and virtual appointment options, and we converted our new employee orientation to eLearning in a matter of days. 

Our team is amazing and our centralization that took place last year in our department is one of the main reasons we have been able to respond so quickly.

Tara Florek – 3M

In the 3M Health Care Business Group, the global health care education team created guidance related to customer education during and after a crisis that was shared across the globe at 3M. This provided a framework for area teams that design, deploy, and deliver customer education. 

Some themes included analyzing current content, imagery, audiences, and promotional campaigns to align to the current predicament. We also coach and advise on capabilities when shifting from ILT to VILT or e-learning. One of our core attributes at 3M is winning with agility as we keep our customer at our core and the team is demonstrating that daily. I am proud of the work they are doing.

Karen Hanson – Medica

Medica has always been a very face-to-face organization—lots of meetings and very minimal remote work. We’ve had to come up to speed quickly with working from home and learning how to use the tools to run meetings and training sessions. I quickly put together a webinar to go over our web conference system, instant messenger/group chat and softphone technology. In the past two weeks I’ve held four sessions and word keeps spreading. I also converted it into an eLearning using Storyline and recorded audio. The training is now in our corporate LMS.

To support our sales brokers, we’re also introducing a new telephonic enrollment process. This will allow our brokers to meet with their Medicare customers (most are 65+ years old) and enroll on our Medicare plans without having to meet in person. Social distancing sales opportunities! Thanks to Articulate and Rise 360, I was able to develop a quick eLearning and get it on our external broker LMS within a day.

Sivaram Jambunathan – General Mills

This is a time when L&D teams have had to step in and provide quick responses, anticipate situations, and plan actions within our organization. As soon as the work-from-home plan got finalized, L&D teams across the enterprise came together under the leadership of the central enterprise L&D team to create a curated learning content collection on working from home. So when people started working from home, they had resources on day one to help them manage this transition.

Our plant L&D functions have been extremely resourceful too. As one can imagine, in most plants onboarding content is delivered in person. We had to incorporate social distancing into our onboarding routine–which meant L&D leaders at the site had to quickly develop their skills in hosting virtual sessions with participants in different meeting rooms within the same site. Our teams also worked to find unique solutions including the redesign of training to determine what  the minimum time required is to be in-person/hands-on and what can be done virtually. There have been interesting experiments involving bone-conduction headsets, whiteboards for communication of ideas and demonstration of knowledge on the shop floor, etc.

Our central L&D team has created a site that crowdsources ideas from multiple plants and has started populating that with ideas that worked and those that did not. This enabled quick sharing of information and reduction of efforts. The teams are now working on synthesizing content across multiple locations so that in the event of additional support required for plants, back-up operators can be trained very quickly on the available content, while site or system specific content can be delivered locally. Holding weekly meetings with site L&D leaders accelerates the knowledge share and information asks.

L&D teams are working in step with HR business partners and business leaders in simplifying learning content, converting in-person into virtual content and providing training in advance to back-up resources.

Mara Lawler – Red Wing Shoes

What we have learned so far…

  • The need for connection. Several teams have started a daily “Java and Jammies” 30- minute video meeting that is not necessarily work-focused. It is a time for teams to connect, let off some steam, and get ready for the day.
  • The importance of showing vulnerability. When company leaders are vulnerable, it gives others “permission” to show it too. We have heard positive feedback from employees about the authenticity coming from our leaders.
  • You can be productive working at home AND have several interruptions during the day. Many of us are home with family and pets that sometimes distract us.  My team has been introduced to wee ones, partners and four- legged family members. It brightens our day.

It’s ok to feel stress, sadness, and anxiety. Many of us are grieving many things: routine, social time, weddings, graduations, sick loved ones. Self-care is important and can help us cope. Folks at Red Wing are walking and getting in their steps while on conference calls, taking breaks to be outside, scheduling video calls with friends, family and even participating in virtual happy hours.

Greg Mellang – Minnesota Management and Budget

The COVID-19 virus has fast-tracked the acceptance and implementation of our virtual classroom and digital delivery strategies. Fortunately, we already had the processes, tools, and experienced learning staff in the bullpen warming up for a while. After a few rapidly- scheduled test projects and pilot courses we realized we can adapt to any technology limitations and hiccups to deliver quality, engaging content.  

One of the coolest things that has come out of this is the readiness of our learners, and the support of their managers, for distance learning. When the topic and timing are right, they will engage with the content, and are ready to implement what they’ve learned.

The fast-track also confirmed what we had been planning for:

  • The importance of a well-planned and tested Plan B (and C, and D)
  • Stay calm under pressure. Plan the work, and work the plan.
  • Engage the learner as much as possible

Positive Attitudes Change Everything (P.A.C.E.)

Erick Reinikka – Graco, Inc.

We have seen an increased interest in training through eLearning, video, webinar, etc. Here are a few examples:

  • Numerous distributors have reached out to us to set up learning teams and assign learning to their employees. They see this as an opportunity to build knowledge during down times.
  • A division is switching a product launch from a live event to virtual. The learning will happen on our LMS and webinar for all participants. The eLearning and video suddenly got more valuable!
  • Traffic on Graco U (our LMS) has increased three to four times since last week. Course completions have tripled as well.
  • Webinar traffic is way up, four to five times more than usual. Two of our trainers have over 20,000 meeting minutes on their Zoom accounts for the past 7 days!
  • EMEA has moved their classroom training to virtual. Over two days, they had 140 participants in virtual classroom training sessions.
  • AP has increased the use of webinars and added video production after the Covid-19 outbreak.

We are working on a plan of adding podcasts to our learning options.

The thing I’m most proud of is that Graco training personnel have been working hard on digital tools for the past 15+ years, so when the market demanded, we had the platforms and content in place ready to meet customer needs.

Chris Walmsley – Thermo King

Since our company is following CDC guidelines (rightfully so) related to social distancing and reduction of travel, we’ve tried to focus on the silver lining these restrictions have placed upon our ability to deliver hands-on instructor led training. The restrictions have accelerated our plans of implementing new technology to deliver more engaging virtual training. It’s also allowed the team to focus on much needed course updates and development projects. We’ve been able to create more content for our TK TV program, an internal on-demand video platform, that delivers short task focused videos for our technician workforce.  

And, while these changes may seem small, they are leading the way and proving out concepts that may not have been as readily accepted by our staff and customers if we weren’t forced to implement new and creative ways to develop and deliver training during these unprecedented times. So, while we’re hoping for a quick resolution to the COVID crisis, we are doing our best to focus on the positive and using this time to explore and expand our ability to develop and deliver training for our customers and internal workforce.

Thank you again to these 14 community members who took some time to share with us! If anyone else would like to share positive L&D news coming out of these challenging times, email your stories to and we’ll continue to highlight them on social media and on our website. We’re in this together!

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