For the majority 2020, almost all planned training courses and learning and development support was paused or cancelled. This was echoed across almost all areas of our business. However, whilst most of these cancellations came down to physical safety or financial capacity, ongoing learning is not a disposable aspect of our business or culture.

Much of the learning delivered to dealer sales and after sales staff is critical to the immediate, and long-term success of the business and this pause in early 2020 gave training partners and suppliers the opportunity to review every aspect of both the delivery and outcomes of automotive learning and development.

Change was happening before the pandemic with many businesses already investing in L&D technology and virtual platforms. The pandemic supercharged the pace of change. Overnight, we all became experts in remote communication and this supported the new approach learning delivery.

Lockdown shut down busy offices and automotive retailers overnight at the start of the pandemic

What were these changes, how did they happen and what has been their impact?

It takes time for businesses to figure out how to manage their operations effectively. Therefore, it also takes time to determine what kind of learning is necessary and how it can be delivered. At the start of the pandemic determining whether Sales, Service and Technical teams had access to their brands’ Learning Management Systems, what technology they had access to and whether they were working onsite, remotely or on Furlough was all unknown.

Though those who were on Furlough or working from home could continue with learning, the practicality of this was difficult. Challenges included communicating what they would need to know, how to access the relevant resources and, in the case of Furlough staff, being paid for time spent learning. These were additional complications in an already tricky environment.

With face-to-face learning not being an option, skill and behaviour-based workshops, product launches, and assessments all had to be delivered differently.

There are many options available for alternative learning approaches including virtual classrooms, digital learning and of course on-the-job training. Initially, however, the question initially was less about how and more about what and when.

  • What is essential learning at this moment in time?
  • What will have the biggest positive impact on the dealer’s businesses?
  • When will the pandemic be over?
  • As a result of the pandemic, what do the retail staff need to do differently?
Behind the Scenes: Online Mazda MX-30 Network Launch

Adapt to Survive: How did Learning Priorities Change?

So not only did the learning approach need to change, but the priority of the learning content also needed to change. Short-term, there was a need to focus on what Covid meant for the retail operation in terms of cleaning, vehicle service and maintenance and remote sales and service.

Once it was established that the pandemic wasn’t going away, the learning content then needed to focus on how to continue as best as possible. So new product training, supporting customers with their financial services queries and how to sell remotely were all core topics.

After the priorities and content were established, the delivery approach was mostly determined by the speed it needed to be rolled out or needed to be addressed.

Learning on Demand
Behind the Camera: Our trainers had to adapt their presentation style to suit virtual classrooms

Virtual Classroom Training

Virtual Classroom Training is an effective way of delivering learning quickly without needing significant development time and became the go-to method for many brands.

Early virtual classroom sessions were direct replacements for face-to-face training courses and this meant reviewing and adapting the content to fit into the shorter periods for virtual delivery.

However, this exercise wasn’t just about streamlining content to fit into the new format, it was about reviewing the objectives and identifying the desired outcomes. This meant adapting or creating material to meet these delivery requirements and the needs of the business in the current and post-pandemic world.

It also meant change for facilitators. Most have honed their skills in a real-world environment where engaging with learners and creating interactions is essential. The virtual classroom, in contrast, is completely different and requires different skills to encourage information retention.

Many virtual platforms adapted quickly to make classroom sessions more like the real world and made engagement with other learners easier. Collaborative learning using sophisticated break-out rooms has greatly improved the learning experience and the ability to use a variety of content sources to support delivery such as text, images, diagrams, audio, video, etc. has created a flexible learning medium that can be tailored to suit the exact business requirement.

A great bonus for the industry is that when we all return to work there will be a suite of virtual learning that is ready to go and will meet the challenge of upskilling and reskilling the workforce.

Digital Learning and Development

Another significant area of accelerated change was in digital learning and development.

One positive from this pandemic is that many brands have been able to escalate their digital learning offering beyond the traditional eLearning module. Screens of text, low-quality graphics and the dreaded next button are now a thing of the past. Immersive, media-rich digital content is now an essential part of preparing teams for future challenges.

What has ‘going digital’ meant for learning across the automotive sector?

The scope of digital learning is vast and includes media-rich ‘how to’ videos to digital learning experiences, new format eLearning, online games and complete digital experiences. Over the past few years, we have seen a huge explosion in learning technology, from learning apps, rapid digital content creation tools, through to learning platforms.

Learning agencies that had previously invested in app platforms were able to develop apps and content rapidly and efficiently and saw demand for this type of technology increase significantly.

When staff returned to work between lockdowns, learning had to fit in with disrupted working patterns and home-schooling schedules. This led to the introduction of new or enhanced learn-on-demand systems – platforms that look a little bit like Netflix, enabling dealer staff to access digital assets from any device.

Learn on Demand

Learn On Demand systems overcomes the accessibility issues inherent to most learning management systems that many dealers had during lockdown. They focused on staff-specific learning requirements and experiences, with easy to access, bite-sized and engaging learning assets. These digital assets ranged from how-to videos, challenges and missions, customer video branching scenarios, through to 3D click-reveal and interactive modules.

Live Learning Broadcasts

A popular method for delivering new product launches and change initiatives was Live Learning Broadcasts which were supported by a range of digital assets and allowed the presenters to interact with the audience through polls, Q&A sessions, and live chats.

Peer-to-Peer Learning

Lockdown also saw the growth and acceleration of peer-to-peer learning. Through platforms such as Teams and Zoom, colleagues, and peers within dealers as well as across networks, have been more open to sharing expertise and learning from one another.

Instant Feedback

A core benefit of digital learning is that you get instant feedback about how the learners are interacting with the content. There is visibility of how long each person is interacting with a page, what they are getting right and where the gaps are which meant that the learning could be easily tweaked ensuring maximum engagement and impact.

So, what has been the impact of Covid-19 on L&D in the Automotive Sector?

The learning offering has been shaken up significantly. Content focuses on what will have the biggest impact on a business both now and in the future. The focus on virtual and digital learning has escalated the move to more immersive, media-rich and engaging learning approaches. Finally, the outcomes are easier to measure with analytical data from learner engagement.

Digital and virtual learning does not suit everyone but the advancements to digital and virtual learning developed during the pandemic make blended learning solutions more appealing post-pandemic.

To find out more about our digital and virtual learning solutions, book a digital showcase demo with us.

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