Intel’s COVID-19 strategy? ‘Learn your way out of the problem’

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated many workplace shifts that were already underway: adoption of remote work, an increase in flexibility, digital transformation. Learning and development–which quickly was targeted by employers as a driver of business outcomes and by employees as a lifeline for resilience amid the pandemic–also transformed, and quickly.

“Our learning strategy, the skills we’re working on–they have not really changed,” says Noah Rabinowitz, chief learning officer at tech giant Intel. “The importance of learning hasn’t changed. But the way we deliver learning, that changed almost overnight.”

Noah Rabinowitz, chief learning officer at Intel

Before the pandemic, the organization was already on the path toward technology becoming a bigger part of its approach to learning, and the pandemic’s remote-work mandate accelerated it. Intel partners with Degreed for its Exponential Learning portal, which provides curated digital content, learning communities and opportunities for employee-driven learning.

“Our big push has been in the direction of personalized learning, which is an end-to-end learning experience that is much more self-directed, much more learner-led,” Rabinowitz says.

After the pandemic started, Intel converted any previous in-person offerings to digital and on-demand channels and created a curriculum known as Pathways, which covers hot topics important to employees today: remote work, leading virtual teams, mental health, wellness, even ergonomics.

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The shift to digital learning, especially in a self-directed format, also requires employers take into account a number of other considerations, Rabinowitz says. Good content management, for instance, is a must–you need to be able to tag your content and offer a strong search function so employees can get matched with the content they’re looking for. An online community, like Intel offers through Exponential Learning, is also a smart way to help employees connect–especially those working remotely–with other learners interested in similar topics.

See also: How to avoid employees ‘learning through Google’

Employers should also prioritize marketing the learning programs.

“Organizations make big investments in buying a lot of this content and people should know about it,” Rabinowitz says.

While the pandemic has prompted most organizations to transition to all-digital learning, Rabinowitz doesn’t think we’ve seen the last of in-person, classroom learning. Right now, the pendulum has swung all the way to digital, but “it’ll swing back at some point–but not all the way back; I think the mix has been altered forever.”

When in-person learning is reintroduced, he predicts employers will use that method much more intentionally than in the past.

“We’ve realized that a lot of the stuff we used to do in person doesn’t need to be done that way and that we should save in-person for when you have a really good reason to bring people together. That’s for when people need to talk and problem solve and dialogue and work together,” he says. “It’s not about having people sit together and stare at a screen; what’s the point of that?”

“[The pandemic’s impact on learning] has made us realize how precious in-person learning is and that, in the future, we can use that time better,” Rabinowitz adds.

Learning at Intel, he notes, will continue to play a pivotal role in 2021. In fact, the organization’s performance management strategy is based on three dimensions: results, culture and learning.

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“Learning can become one of your most important levers for transformation and change,” he says. “With the amount of change we’ve had this year, we didn’t always have that many ways to deal with it–so we have to learn our way out of the problem. And organizations that learn the best as they’re going through so much change are the ones that are going to win.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].