Who’s your favorite Alfred from the Batman films? Your options are …

Alfred from the Batman films

Photo from Unsplash

● Alan Napier (Batman ’66)

● Michael Gough (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin)

● Michael Caine (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Returns)

● Jeremy Irons (Batman v Superman, Justice League)

They may have been the same character, but each Alfred brought something different to the Batman story. Napier was more comedic to match the tone of 1960s Batman. Gough was a wise old mentor who never really got into the action. You could tell Caine had done some stuff in his day before he became the “guy in the chair” to support Batman during the fight. Irons was a combination: fatherly mentor, guy in the chair and ultra-capable mechanic. They were different Alfreds, but they were all there to provide Bruce Wayne with the help he needed so he could go out and Batman to the best of his ability.

L&D isn’t Batman. We’re Alfred. We’re the person in the chair doing whatever it takes to help our heroes do their best work every day. Circumstances will change. New “villains” will emerge. People may not know how to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. That’s when Batman needs Alfred the most.

Being the person in the chair will mean something different for every L&D professional. We have different roles. We support different organizations and functions. We use different tools and tactics. We’re all facing our own unique challenges right now, both inside and away from the workplace. Just as Batman must figure out how to adjust his strategy to take on his latest foe, L&D must adapt and play the role people (not just employees) need us to play in these formidable times.

What it means to work in L&D day-to-day has changed a lot in just a few weeks. And it will continue to change in ways that we cannot predict. I typically spend a lot of time thinking about the L&D mindset; the way we perceive our role within an organization. The hows of our job may be heavily in flux, but the whys remain the same. Bringing the right mindset to our work is essential as we try to help people perform amidst disruption.

In one of my most shared columns on Learning Solutions, I sought to define a “modern learning mindset” using six emerging workplace learning themes. But how do those same principles apply within our current context? What mindset should we adopt to be the best “person in the chair” possible for our heroes on the frontline?

… is a critical part of the employee workflow

Some people are working 14+ hour days on the frontlines of the pandemic in healthcare facilities, grocery stores, and delivery operations. Some are working normal schedules but they’re doing so from home while trying to educate their children. Some are taking on new tasks and adjusting their roles based on the current state of their businesses. In every case, any help they need must fit their current working reality. Time is limited. Distractions are everywhere. Value must be clear.

… takes advantage of the full ecosystem

We’re in an “all hands on deck” situation, regardless of your industry or organization. To help people do their best work, we must provide solutions that are simple and high-value. This will likely require L&D to rapidly adjust tactics or adopt new practices. For example, you may have traditionally leaned on your LMS as the source for all L&D resources. But is that the best solution to use right now if your priority is to get people the information they need as quickly and simply as possible? All options must be considered, including tactics that are not commonly used for “learning.”

… applies data to guide and accelerate decision-making

Advancing your measurement practices may not be on the top of your to do list right now. So how can you potentially leverage existing data to provide more targeted, right-fit support? For example, do employees commonly search for resources on your learning platform or intranet? Can you review search data to determine what topics people are looking for right now and use this insight to focus your solution development on the biggest problems people are facing in their everyday work? Identify gaps in your data practices so you can have a more practical strategy conversation later.

… provides a personal experience at scale

I have been working remotely for years but most of my team is new to this concept. Some people may need help getting up and running while others can slide comfortably into their new setup. Are you able to take personal support needs into consideration in a potentially chaotic workplace? Adaptive learning can be an effective approach if you have the right data and content in place. Providing searchable, on-demand resources (and making sure people know they exist) is also a way to provide personalized support as an alternative to requiring people to complete training they don’t really need.

… drives clear business impact

HR and L&D pros on the frontlines have said many of the same things during our conversations over the past few weeks. The main theme: focus on what matters right now. Everything else can wait. For example, L&D pros in grocery are focused on communicating the latest updates to associates, rapidly onboarding new staff, and providing training on just the topics people need to stay safe and productive on the job. The training program schedule you created in January doesn’t matter. How can you work with your operational partners to pivot all of your efforts in alignment with their changing priorities?

… fosters ongoing organizational agility

“Agility” as applied to the workplace has an entirely different meaning right now. If I were to rewrite this part of the modern learning mindset definition right now, I would use the term “resilience” instead. Every business function, including L&D, will be trying to balance two competing priorities for the foreseeable future. What can we do RIGHT NOW to help our employees, customers, organizations and communities? And, what should we be doing to prepare for the FUTURE needs of our employees, customers, organizations, and communities? Most of us are off-balance right now and we don’t know when that will change. L&D can help management find the right balance whenever possible while playing the role we need to play to keep everyone from falling down.

Just like Alan Napier, Michael Gough, Michael Caine, and Jeremy Irons, we all play our L&D roles differently in real life based on what our teams need most. It may be rapid content development. It may be performance support tools. It may be virtual training. It may be supporting other functions, such as recruitment or operations. Regardless of the specific work we are now taking on, we’re still fulfilling our role as the person in the chair. We’re there for our heroes, no matter what Batman is up against this time.

Thank you for everything you are doing to help your people and your communities in these challenging times. If there is anything I can do, please reach out via [email protected]

Be well.