The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for leaders in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors alike. Whether they’re struggling to lead while social distancing or finding creative ways to pivot funding, organization leaders are under an elevated amount of pressure due to the pandemic.
This is where leadership associations, and the resources they provide, come into play.
Before the pandemic, associations provided leadership skills training through location-based learning experiences such as conferences. However, those events can no longer go on as planned. Because of this, e-learning and virtual conferences and events have grown in prominence.
If your association is providing virtual leadership training to help members cope and be stronger leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic, these are a few tips that might help:
- Stay ahead of the latest developments and update learners accordingly.
- Provide a variety of engaging learning experiences.
- Create a community across your leadership learners.
- Outline a flexible learning environment for busy learners.
- Include non-business-related topics and experiences.
Continue reading to learn how your leadership association can best serve members with educational content during COVID-19.
Stay ahead of the latest developments and update learners accordingly.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an unstable landscape for leadership association members. Each day, your members are faced with new challenges leading their employees and maintaining their businesses as the pandemic continues. It’s up to you to stay ahead of the latest developments and trends to ensure you’re providing the most up-to-date, useful information to your members.
For example, many businesses pivoted to working from home to abide by the social distancing measures recommended by the CDC. As of April 2020, as many as 20% of adults in the U.S. are now able to work from home and are doing so due to the pandemic.
For many of these employers, working from home is a dramatic change. Leaders are now challenged with motivating employees while remaining mindful of the additional challenges posed by at-home offices, such as less frequent communication with team members and trouble with prioritization. When providing learning experiences to these leaders, focusing on managing employees during work from home scenarios is a great idea.
Another great example of this is the revenue challenges many leaders are facing right now. As this blog post states, many businesses and nonprofits alike are facing revenue challenges and are needing to seek alternative income sources due to COVID-19.
For some businesses, that may mean pivoting product or service lines to be distance-friendly. For others, however, it may mean looking into small business and nonprofit provisions outlined by the federal CARES Act.
The act includes loans for overhead costs through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Program, among other relief opportunities for small businesses and nonprofits. Check out this guide to the CARES Act for more information.
Providing information about the diverse alternative revenue streams available to tide your members’ businesses over during this time is another timely educational opportunity.
Provide a variety of engaging learning experiences.
As essential as they are, there’s no denying that educational experiences can fall to the wayside for busy leaders. This is true during times when businesses are operating as normal, and it’s especially true during more chaotic times (such as during a global pandemic).
When you’re providing educational content to your leadership association’s members, it’s crucial that the content is truly worth the time they’re dedicating to it. In addition to providing useful information, one of the best ways to provide valuable e-learning experiences is to include a variety of engaging media.
For example, consider incorporating:
- Video experiences. Whether live-streamed panels or pre-recorded webinars and demonstrations, video experiences are an interesting and engaging medium for sharing educational material.
- Text-based content. Provide additional text-based resources as well as transcripts from any video or live-stream experiences. This ensures that members that prefer learning by reading are able to do so.
- Community-building elements. This will be covered in more depth later in this piece, but networking and other social experiences are great for encouraging learning across your association.
- Interactive assessments. Test your learners’ knowledge with interactive assessments throughout the course material, whether polls, quizzes, or something else.
When you’re providing content that’s interactive, engaging, and useful for learners, they will appreciate taking moments out of their busy days for the experience. Check out this Web Courseworks guide to virtual events for associations for more inspiration on the many media types you can incorporate into association e-learning experiences
Bonus Tip! As your virtual e-learning event grows in complexity, keep the basic tenets of website accessibility in mind. This will ensure all of your leadership learners are able to participate in the experience. Learn more about website accessibility through this guide.
Create a community across your leadership learners.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many reasons, but one of the most pressing is the isolation it has caused. Many are staying within their own homes to quell the spread of the virus and therefore interacting with their peers significantly less frequently than they used to. Even with the rise of Zoom and FaceTime interactions, your members are likely still feeling the effects of isolation.
Alongside your leadership education, consider carving out space for your leadership learners to experience community with one another. There are a few ways to do this:
- Create chat rooms or discussion boards. Associate any discussion boards or chat rooms with specific aspects of your leadership learning topics and encourage members to discuss the content, pose questions, and otherwise supplement their learning experiences. For example, a discussion board surrounding work from home best practices after you’ve provided a course on the matter.
- Hold social gatherings via video conferencing software. Encourage members to join together via video and discuss what they’ve learned or even just socialize with one another. A post-course virtual “happy hour” can be incredibly beneficial for leaders struggling during the pandemic!
- Facilitate the scheduling of one-on-one meetings. Outline processes for learners to schedule one-on-one meetings with one another to continue discussing topics after their courses are completed.
If you’re working with a comprehensive virtual event or conferencing software, you should already have the infrastructure built to facilitate these social experiences.
Outline a flexible learning environment for busy learners.
As has been mentioned previously, the members of your leadership association are busier than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are likely pivoting operations to keep themselves and their team safe during the pandemic while working to effectively navigate having a fully-remote workforce.
When providing educational content to those learners, ensure you’re doing so in a manner that’s understanding of this current climate. Your learners are busy, so provide content that will fit into their busy schedules.
One way to do so is to provide on-demand learning materials in an online vault or library. This has been incredibly successful in the nonprofit sector— after all, just check out The Nonprofit Academy’s work— and the benefits will likely transfer to associations as well.
In addition to on-demand learning, consider:
- Providing recordings of live broadcasts after the fact.
- Providing transcripts of videos for learners who are unable to watch the entire video.
- Removing time constraints on learning experiences and allowing learners to experience topics on their own schedule.
One way to facilitate this is to work with a comprehensive LMS system, with which you can store e-learning content and allow members to navigate through it at their own pace. To learn more about that and other software solutions for leadership associations, check out this Web Courseworks guide.
When you provide a flexible learning environment, your members will be able to engage with it even though they’re likely working with a more hectic schedule than ever before.
Include non-business-related topics and experiences.
As a leadership association, you have a role to play— providing educational and networking experiences to the members of your organization and helping them to become better leaders because of it.
This could be in regards to management and communication tips or even more concrete business guidance. However, did you know that emotional education is just as important to ensure your members are the best leaders they can be?
If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that leaders need to be skilled at managing stress during a crisis. Consider incorporating non-business-related teaching into your leadership association curriculum, including topics such as:
- Time management and the preservation of personal and professional values.
- Tips for maintaining focus during chaotic times.
- Tools to make working from home as easy as possible.
Covering topics such as these will help your leaders be well-rounded and better-equipped to handle any stressors life throws their way.
As a leadership association, you’ve probably noticed that your members are in need. Facing leading in a crisis and weathering a pandemic, your association’s members could likely use some additional guidance and assistance during this time.
While the above tips are especially timely right now, they will also be relevant in a post-COVID-19 world. Building a few learning management best practices now will benefit your association’s members in the long run.
Amber Winter is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Web Courseworks. She’s committed to helping association executives realize the potential of their education programs and turn them into high performing revenue generators. Amber was named one of Madison, Wisconsin’s 40 under 40 and the number 1 LMS salesperson by Talented Learning.