In a time of lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, in-person workshops, seminars and consulting engagements are at a standstill. In response, many forward-thinking companies are beginning to offer online assessment tools and action plans across all disciplines.
As they turn to virtual education and consulting, companies are building out new cloud-based, prescriptive assessment tools. Their efforts are being enabled by artificial intelligence, machine-learning programming and and natural programming language (NLP). IBM’s Watson, a learning computer that deploys A.I. to solve many types of complex problems, is just one example of that trend.
With many employees now working from home, organizations and staff have begun to embrace online education, using asynchronous learning techniques and virtual education. The logical progression for consulting is to move online as well. Survey techniques and tools for achieving that goal have expanded tremendously over the last two years, and companies are now offering unique and cost-effective approaches toward that end. As the practice matures, companies will electronically receive profiles of employees’ talent levels and degree of alignment with company goals. But companies must adopt certain tactical action plans in order to ensure a roadmap for success.
The challenges will be many. First is the virtual arena. Many business people have become familiar with Zoom video chats or their equivalent, but the personal touch just isn’t the same with online meetings. Next is the time issue. Most companies are working around the clock (if they’re working at all) with limited staff and resources, just to survive. And finally, what about company data? Information will need to remain confidential and secure in learning-management systems. Companies that participate in this new arena of online consulting will need to be assured that their data will never be shared with any other organization.
The new world of online education, consulting and company guidance isn’t a sure thing. Beta tests are underway now, and new forms of online education and consulting services are emerging every day. How such options will survive in the post-pandemic era remains to be seen, although some form of continuing education and communication via online channels is virtually assured. As the age-old proverb states, necessity is the mother of invention — and innovation.
Gregory L. Schlegel is founder of The Supply Chain Risk Management Consortium, and executive in residence for supply chain risk management at Lehigh University.
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