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Training In The Age of COVID

training in the age of covid

What does training look like in a COVID-19 or even post-COVID-19 world?  A lot of people are talking about how their jobs are changing. Whether it be working from home, adapting to new norms, or changing their skill set as an essential worker, these changes are impacting the way we work and how we approach and embrace technology.

In this week’s podcast, we sit down with Brent Schlenker of dominKnow and the Instructional Designers In Offices Drinking Coffee Crowdcast (better known as IDIODC) to gather some of his thoughts on workplace change as a result of the pandemic. Brent took some time with us to point out some interesting trends we didn’t expect, share some wisdom about how to up-skill as we move forward, and gives us advice on how to be successful in our own careers.

You can join Brent every Wednesday morning on the IDIODC Crowdcast to learn more about his colleagues’ and his perspective on learning and development. If you can’t make it on Wednesday mornings, all Crowdcasts are recorded and available on the dominKnow Crowdcast page.

Listen using the player below. Please leave us your thoughts in the comment section or on twitter @train_champion.

Transcript of the Conversation with Brent Schlenker

Brian Washburn: Welcome to the Train Like You Listen podcast, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. Today, we are here with Brent Schlenker, who is the User Community Director at Domino Learning Systems. And he’s also the co-host of the weekly webcast, IDIODC, which is Instructional-Designers-In-Offices-Drinking-Coffee. Brent, thank you so much for joining us today.

Brent Schlenker: Always a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Brian Washburn: It is a lot of fun to be able to connect with you. I know that we spoke in person, when we could actually sit in person about a year ago — just over lunch having some conversation. 

6-Word Introduction

Brian Washburn: Before we get into some actual questions, let’s get the folks at home to know you a little bit better. For this particular session — for this particular recording — my six- word biography is, “I love seeing what others do”.

Brent Schlenker: Wow. I don’t know if I need to go do the math. But just to keep it short and sweet would be, “I love helping others do what they do because what they do is help others get better at what they do.”

Brian Washburn: And you didn’t do the math. I think that was about six words, if you throw some hyphens in.

Brent Schlenker: We’ll hyphenate the whole thing.

Brian Washburn:  I think that’ll work. 

Trends In The Learning Field During COVID

Brian Washburn: You know, Brent, we had a chance to sit down on the instructional-designers-in-offices-drinking-coffee webcast at one point. I know that you do them every week. And whether it’s through your webcasts, or your activity and social media where you’re super active, or some of your other projects — you really, of anybody in the L&D field — I feel like you seem to have your fingers on the pulse of L&D from lots of different perspectives. What are some of the trends that you’ve been seeing as people adapt to this age of COVID?

Brent Schlenker: I think more than anything, the whole global pandemic stay-from-home, social-distancing thing has mostly just sped up what we all already knew was happening. I don’t think any new tech is coming out of this. You’ve got virtual reality. You’ve got online live sessions. You’ve got self paced e-learning. You’ve got mobile learning, micro learning. 

I wouldn’t even necessarily call them trends. But the terms for the different ways that people are delivering training are out there. And I think what has happened because of the current situation that we’re in, the big trend is just a spotlight on training. Whether you work from home or not, the tools that we used to train people virtually and in the classroom, and the self based e-learning…it’s the perfect time for us to be putting all of that to use.

And now we’re finally getting recognized for it. And people are saying, wow, maybe those people can help us figure out how to still get work done and how to educate our workforce on how to better work from home, better teach from home, to have better meetings– more productive meetings– all of the things that we thought technology was going to do for us, but business kind of had a different, slower approach to transitioning to it. Now they’re forced to do it. And we’re the only ones that know how to help people be successful doing it.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. That’s really interesting. So that wasn’t where I was expecting the response to go and I really appreciate what you said, is, in terms of virtual or asynchronous e-learning modules or whatever it might be. Those aren’t necessarily trends. Those are tools.

And what I heard you just say is the trend is really people are starting to look to folks in the learning and development field and say, “hey, they kind of know how to do it. So can you help us do it?” I appreciate what you just said. 

Learning Technologies – Why Has It Taken So Long?

Brian Washburn: Now, something else you said is this stuff has been around for a while — virtual meetings, e-learning — that technology has all been around a long time. Why do you think it’s taken so long to adopt these technologies?

Brent Schlenker: Change is hard. It’s kind of a cop out answer, but change is just hard, especially when you have a big machine like a corporation or any business has a tendency to function like a machine on autopilot, with a lot of other priorities taking the attention from the leadership. And just teaching people how to do their job, and buying and spending money on new technologies to make it easier — to make it more virtual — is just not — it’s not a priority.

Completely changing how your organization runs isn’t something that most leaders within businesses are just willing to do willy nilly. Now — when you’re forced to — we don’t know how to transition the managers so that the managers know how to have them work from home. We don’t know if they’ve got all the right equipment. What are all the legalities? What does HR have to say about it? What does legal have to say about it? How do we deal with this? There’s so many moving parts that I think most people just don’t even take into consideration– when something like this needs to happen– to just do it. Not being forced to would be completely upsetting your business and your company.

And nobody wants to do that. There’s easy wins along the way. Companies said, “Yeah, sure. Training department — spend the money on one of those tools and save us some travel money so the trainers don’t have to travel. If it saves us money, yep, do it.”

Brian Washburn: Yeah. And I think that what you’re hitting on is really important in terms of any type of introduction, especially of new technologies. There’s a change management issue at hand. 


Brian Washburn: I’m curious from where you sit, kind of what you’re observing. Are there lessons that you think that this current transition holds for L&D folks who want to adopt other emerging technologies more quickly going forward, short of hoping for some sort of forced lockdown every few months or few years? What lessons are there for folks that do hope that we can adopt other technologies we might not even know of today, but might be available to us six months, a year from now?

Brent Schlenker: I would say the best thing that you can do is to upskill yourself, because you just never know. How many people kind of poo-pooed transitioning their courses to online? And then all of a sudden, everybody had to scramble. I think the real lesson is everything is going online, whether we like it or not.

Sooner or later, something is going to force the issue to happen. And it’s no longer enough to just be a good, solid, instructional designer. You need to have a grasp of the technologies. You need to know how to use them. And you need to know how to use all of them. You need to gain some level of experience in all of the technologies that are out there.

Brian Washburn: Someone who does that really well is Mel Milloway. And we had a chance to talk with her a little while back and did a podcast with her. So what you’re talking about is this idea of — and I really appreciate how you said it — upskilling yourself. Don’t expect the company to want to adopt something if they don’t know what’s out there.

Change in COVID Times

Brian Washburn: Now, all of that said, whether we’re talking now in the age of COVID or other times when adaptation is necessary, do you– beyond, kind of, upskilling yourself, do you have any advice or specific basic steps that people should be thinking about if they’re listening to themselves and thinking, this all sounds great, but my organization just doesn’t like the change?

Brent Schlenker: You just have to have patience, I think. And one of the key things that I deal with a lot is when people come to me and say that exact statement. “This all sounds great. Thanks for sharing, Brent, but my organization will never do anything like that or they’ll never– they’re never willing to change.”

And it’s just a matter of being patient, but also being persistent and sharing what’s new, and then sharing the value of why the change is necessary, and the value that can be gained from making that change. A lot of times, you have to just repeat that value proposition over and over again.

And in many cases, messages need to be delivered and said over and over again before the situation is right for somebody in a leadership role to say, “Yeah, you know what? We couldn’t do it last year because of budgets or COVID or whatever. But now, we’re on that next budgeting cycle. And you know what? I remember you saying something about two years ago about something that I was really interested in. But we just never could get it on the docket. I think I’m ready to put it on.” So you just have to be patient. You just have to wait until all the chips fall in the right places. But just to also be persistent and to help people make that change, to know what their options are.

Embracing Change 

Brian Washburn: And one of the other things that you said, I think, a little bit earlier, is finding those small wins– those small victories– so that when we can show success… And sometimes that brings us a champion or two who’s outside of our own department who can also put in that good word. So sometimes it does take a village for that change to finally be embraced.

put in the time

Brent Schlenker: Right. Well, Mel Milloway is a great example of putting in the extra time. I know people want to just get a job. And in a lot of cases, they just want to put in their time. And they’ve got other things in their lives that they want to deal with. And I get it. I have a family and other hobbies and other things that I do, as well. But a lot of times, if you’re going to want to stay employable and you want to build your career, you really don’t have much of a choice but to try to spend some time– even if it’s just a little bit of time– 30 minutes, an hour on the weekend or whatever– just devoting to learning something new or practicing a skill you already have.

And just being very diligent about that. And that’s how you move up. If people ask me, how did you get to where you’re at? It’s that. How did Mel Milloway get to where she’s at? Because she was always working on it, always trying to figure out what– practicing with the tech, building new things, trying out new things, doing little free projects for people. That’s what gets you ahead and that’s what’s going to help you stay on top of your game.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, Brent, thank you so much for giving us some insights there. 

Get to Know Brent Schlenker

Brian Washburn: Now, we just want to have a little bit of fun, as we’re closing out here– let people get to know you a little bit more. And so, are you ready for a speed round?

Brent Schlenker: I am ready, yes. This is my favorite part.

Brian Washburn: Let’s do it. What is your go-to food before you have to get in front of people to present?

Brent Schlenker: Normally, a Cliff bar or power bar of some sort.

Brian Washburn: Keeping it light.

Brent Schlenker: Yeah.

Brian Washburn: What should folks be reading right now?

Brent Schlenker: Everything.

Brian Washburn: (CHUCKLING) Anything specific?

Brent Schlenker: Just stay connected and just be reading, I think is the most important thing.

Brian Washburn: What’s a piece of training tech you can’t live without?

Brent Schlenker: Currently, it’s my Logitech C920. I mean– you can’t buy them online anymore, so it’s a hot commodity. It’s what handles all of my live streaming, and my webcasting, and my Zoom meetings, and all of that kind of stuff. So if you want to level up your game from just the built-in webcam on your laptop, that’s what you need to have. And right now they don’t exist.

Brian Washburn: Are you promoting anything at the moment– any shameless plugs?


Brent Schlenker: IDIODC is the best thing to shamelessly plug all the time– Instructional- Designers-In-Offices-Drinking-Coffee. We even have the URL, so you can go to and you can see all the shows from the past, subscribe to the podcast, to all of the shows on YouTube. And you can see what shows are coming up next. And you can follow us on Crowdcast and participate in the audience. It is a ton of fun, and it’s a great community of professionals to hang out with.

Brian Washburn: I agree. It is a ton of fun. Can you remind us when people can check that out?

Brent Schlenker: Absolutely. Wednesday mornings. We go every Wednesday morning at 7:00 AM Pacific time and 10:00 AM Eastern time.

Brian Washburn: Awesome. Thank you so much, Brent, for giving us some time today. I appreciate your insights and thoughts in terms of technology and change management. Thank you, everyone else for listening to the Train Like You Listen podcast. You can download this recording or you can subscribe to us on platforms like Spotify, iTunes, iHeartRadio, or wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, have a great weekend, and we’ll be talking to you soon.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox.  Sign up today for a free demo.

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