COVID-19: How HR is Responding

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

By Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

Employers are still in the early stages of responding to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Brandon Hall Group’s pulse survey of more than 100 organizations shows most organizations are taking an assertive yet judicious approach to adjust how work is done and how employees are trained.

You can download our KnowldgeGraphic here to learn more about our findings.

Our survey remains open and we encourage organizations to respond as their situations change. We also are interviewing HR and learning leaders in a variety of organizations and will share insights as we get them.

Below is a snapshot of trends since the afternoon of Thursday, March 12.

You can also check out our other blogs on the topic:

Biggest Challenges

Organizations of all sizes are dealing with several significant challenges. Overall, larger organizations (more than 1,000 employees) are under more stress.

Managing the interruption of business travel remains, by far, the biggest challenge right now, followed by managing employee stress and the sales/revenue impact. For organizations with more than 1,000 employees, interruption to learning and training is the third-biggest challenge (3.55 average rating on a five-point scale), while it is the smallest challenge for smaller organizations (2.62).

As the climate continues to evolve, we will get a clearer picture of how organizations are managing learning delivery, daily operations in the wake of more remote work, and recruiting and onboarding.

Challenges for Organizations with 1,000+ employees (5 = extremely challenging)













Source: Brandon Hall Group Pulse Survey, HR and the Impact of COVID-19, March 12-16, n=113

Challenges for Organizations with 1,000+ employees (5 = extremely challenging)

Source: Brandon Hall Group Pulse Survey, HR and the Impact of COVID-19, March 12-16, n=113

Remote Work

More than 60% of organizations altered remote-work policies in some way. There is little difference based on organization size.

Are You Altering Remote-Work Policies? – 1,000+ employeesAre You Altering Remote-Work Policies? – Under 1,000

Source: Brandon Hall Group Pulse Survey, HR and the Impact of COVID-19, March 12-16, n=113

In terms of actions taken, at larger organizations, decisions are moving at a faster pace, as you might expect. Larger employers are far more likely to have closed offices, expanded the types of employees who can work from home, established active task forces and have IT teams securing company data and devices for employees to work from home.

There are some commonalities. In all organizations, for example, only one in four altered or lifted sick-time policies thus far. And roughly the same percentage of organizations are encouraging remote work rather than mandating it.

How Are You Altering Remote-Work Policies?

Source: Brandon Hall Group Pulse Survey, HR and the Impact of COVID-19, March 12-16, n=113

The Impact on Learning

The level of impact on learning in the early days of the pandemic depends significantly on organization size. For example, smaller organizations are three times more likely than larger ones to say that nothing has changed.

Larger organizations are at least twice more likely than smaller employers to have canceled some or all live learning events and replaced them with digital learning VILT events when possible.

However, beyond safety concerns, a similar percentage of organizations, irrespective of employee count, are using the situation to deliver learning in new ways or gain greater adoption for non-ILT learning.

For example, the learning director for a large agriculture coop struggled to gain adoption of digital learning among his largely rural member organizations. He is changing learning delivery for safety reasons but with a keen eye on the long term.

“I am looking at this as a test case of how we can permanently evolve our learning away from ILT,” the learning director said. “In this coronavirus situation, digital learning becomes more palatable to change-resistant rural organizations. The idea is to try to create a new normal. We will aspire to do any learning meeting of four hours or less virtually going forward. We also need to start utilizing our new LMS and add microlearning. We definitely will use this crazy virus to push learning in different forms to these organizations.”

Here is a breakdown of how organizations are changing learning delivery in the early days of the coronavirus crisis:

How Learning Delivery is Changing

Source: Brandon Hall Group Pulse Survey, HR and the Impact of COVID-19, March 12-16, n=113

Use of Digital Learning

The good news is the majority of organizations of all sizes say employees are ready to make greater use of digital learning. If fact, smaller organizations are slightly more likely to say their employees will embrace more non-instructor-based training.

Employees Are Ready to Make Greater Use of Digital Learning

1,000+ employees

Under 1,000 employees

Source: Brandon Hall Group Pulse Survey, HR and the Impact of COVID-19, March 12-16, n=113

In terms of the digital tools of choice, the biggest difference is that larger organizations are 62% more likely to have already converted to eLearning modules. This is likely a matter of available resources.

Top “Go-To” Tools to Convert ILT Learning

Source: Brandon Hall Group Pulse Survey, HR and the Impact of COVID-19, March 12-16, n=113

Here are a few more examples of how change is evolving:

  • A large manufacturer is rescheduling big workshops which would have required a lot of travel and personal contact, and increasing the amount of training hosted through Microsoft Teams, Bluejeans and other online meeting tools. They canceled traditional new-hire orientations where employees travel to headquarters and replacing them with smaller in-person sessions in each office lead by HR supplemented with Microsoft Teams meetings to discuss policies, benefits, etc.
  • A business that provides venues for conferences, business events and training — including technology solutions to support and live streaming —increased the promotion of these solutions to clients as alternatives to face-to-face meetings and learning sessions.
  • A mid-size university canceled all in-person classes for the rest of the semester (and perhaps longer) and moving them online by March 24. Students can choose to stay on campus or return home; housing and other support services remain, but students are not required to use them. Many students have lab research and must stay for that. A group is monitoring this at different levels to determine how to adjust. They are also figuring out (in different areas) how to address graduation, administrative staffing, etc.

Stay tuned for additional data and insights as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

-Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

Claude Werder is Brandon Hall Group’s Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst. He focuses on Leadership Development and Talent Management. Brandon Hall Group is a leading research and analyst firm with Practices in Learning & Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and Workforce Management/Core HR.

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Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.