Lately, a lot of us are beginning or ending sentences with the phrase “when we all get back to normal” in response to this pandemic. Though an increasing number of states are taking measures to slowly re-open, the reality is that the culture has already changed. Not only that, but the old model of “normal” is now impossible to reinstate. The most at-risk and unprepared organizations faltered, and some failed in this period of “safer at home” closures. The industries that rely on crowds of people will likely continue to find 2020 one of their toughest years.
As businesses that were strong enough to survive this crisis begin to re-open, the safety limitations placed on them will keep business at a diminished capacity. The other variable is the degree to which people will continue “social distancing.” This extends to employees reassessing their own workplace risks. Companies in the technology, financial services, and insurance industries invested heavily in resources to allow their staff to work from home. With so much infrastructure in place to do so, continuing this remote-working lifestyle is obviously on the minds of some. Many of the big tech firms like Google, Twitter, and Facebook have already announced options to work from home on a permanent basis.
The severity and the duration of this crisis is unknowable, but the immediate effects continue to threaten certain business models and industries, as a whole. With adversity comes new challenges but also creates advantages for some. This pandemic is similar to many other events in history in that it will inevitably create “winners” and “losers” as markets, industries, and businesses react.
(Fans of history may enjoy this section. For all others – feel free to skip to the next section at the risk of being doomed to repeat the history from the lessons they choose to ignore.)
The Great Depression
The record high unemployment numbers may be artificially created due to the pandemic shutdowns versus actual financial collapse, the parallels seem obvious. Despite 25% unemployment and widespread uncertainty about the future, certain companies and industries actually flourished. One example: Proctor and Gamble took a known product and greatly expanded its use and relevance to society. They revolutionized the soap industry, developing 30+ products for applications beyond simply bathing. This innovation generated tremendous revenue and opportunity for the company.
Fun Fact: The soap industry marketed their products by sponsoring radio shows and incorporating the products into the storylines so heavily that the genre of programming is now referred to as “soap operas”.
The 90s “.com” Bubble
The mid 90s saw an influx of investors eager to find success with an upstart company using a new creation called “the internet”. This new technology was filled with promise and spurred on by tremendous success stories like Amazon, eBay, Google, Intuit, and others. As with any emerging market there exists a base of investors that don’t fully grasp the limitations of the technology, a buying frenzy ensues. Tech companies grew rapidly and raced to issue their IPO. Many investors unfortunately lost fortunes as their solution was proven to be overvalued. The “winners” from this era were organizations that proved the most value and ease of use for their customers.
Further studies: There is a wealth of books and movies about this era. An excellent case-study on this is the 2001 documentary “Startup.com” Find it wherever you find movies.
The 2008 Recession
Caused by a complicated series of factors and events but suffice to say that it once again stems from people over-valuing an asset. From a lending institution’s perspective, it was the potential profit over the risk of a sudden influx of people defaulting on those very loans. And, from a borrower’s perspective, it was the inherent value of a home versus the market conditions it is under at any given time. Unemployment rates were as high as 10% and a fair number of businesses did not survive.
SIDEBAR: In the UK, a recession is defined as a significant negative economic growth that lasts 2 or more quarters.
In the US, a looser definition is used: negative economic growth that lasts several months.
The “winners” were once again those organizations that innovated, not only around the products themselves but in how they integrated with their customers’ lives. Companies like Groupon, Netflix, E-Trade, Citigroup, and Hyundai all emerged from this period on better footing than they entered it. Each paid special attention in refining the quality of their goods/services and more importantly, their “ease of use” for their customers.
When we published an eBook last year about the importance of preparing your L&D program for an economic downturn, (download it here), we had no idea the shape the next crisis would take. Never before has the economy hit such troubling numbers so quickly; however, this crisis doesn’t possess the same hallmarks as other events. This isn’t the result of a financial imbalance or correction.
There have already been “winners” and “losers” as a result. Teleconferencing is having a moment, connecting people virtually when face-to-face meetings is unadvised, unsafe, or even impossible. Businesses that facilitate the masses of people to remain at home are booming. The “last mile” delivery services, E-Commerce companies, and distribution centers are seeing a boom as a safer alternative. The long-term success of these companies will depend on the level of adoption their customers generate to their services. But, the winners from this group will not only offer the best prices but strive to provide the best customer experience.
A Turning Point
History will look upon this time as the greatest single expansion of eLearning. Prior to the Spring of 2020, many schools had an eLearning component, but now they are essential for nearly every high school and university/college. Transitioning from instructor-led training to eLearning doesn’t end at graduation. The majority of the workforce of tomorrow will be natives to eLearning. They are familiar with the platform and comfortable with the process of continuing their learning on an independent basis.
Brainier will emerge from this crisis as a “winner”. The steps we are making with every software update and product release help us to provide superior technology. Our customer service team continues to lead the industry in accessibility and response time. And, the stability of ownership at Brainier means customers can have confidence in their LMS solution. The need for ongoing learning and development and compliance training isn’t going away. In fact, the data from this pandemic shows us that our customers rely upon learning just as fervently if not more so during times of crisis. With history as our guide, we endeavor to provide value to your organization through world-class eLearning and customer experience. We are The Brainier LMS.