31 July 2020

Returning to the Classroom Survey Results

When are most organisations planning to return to the office? What protocols are being put in place for face-to-face training? When will we return to the classroom? Milla Clynes, Operations Director at Harvest discusses the results of the Returning to the Classroom survey.

Returning to the Classroom – Your Views and Plans
In July 2020 Harvest conducted a survey of our clients to learn more about their plans and
expectations around returning to face-to-face classroom training. We received a total of 22
responses to the survey and would like to share a summary of the results with you.

At a high-level our key learnings from the survey were:

  • Most organisations (77% of respondents) are not planning to return to face-to-face
    classroom training until January 2021 at the earliest
  • While some companies are looking to return to face-to-face training in 2020, the general
    view is that organisations are unlikely to allow face-to-face training until the risk of COVID-
    19 infection is substantially eliminated and social distancing is no longer in place
  • Any company protocols regarding face-to-face meetings are put in place in close
    consultation with Health & Safety and in line with HSE/HSA/Government advice
  • Organisations are looking for training providers to demonstrate that they have all the
    protocols in place and that they will be strictly enforced on the day
  • A future focus for training providers will be to be able to offer a choice of virtual and face-
    to-face training, and to find a way to facilitate both in the same session.

Here is a more detailed look at the results and the key themes coming out of the results.

Learning methods used in organisations during COVID-19 phase
We started by asking what kinds of learning methods organisations were currently using to
delivery learning opportunities to their employees. Unsurprisingly, virtual classrooms, self-
managed learning and virtual 1:1 coaching topped the methods used. This also corresponds
with our own observation of where the market has been focused for the last 4 months.

Plans to return to classroom training
We then asked about the plans for returning to the classroom – only just under half (45%) of
the respondents said they had already returned or were planning to return. The remaining
55% were not currently making plans or were not sure. The follow up question asked was
around the rough timelines for returning to the classroom, which gave some interesting results.
Only one company had already returned to classroom, 4 other companies were planning to
return during Q3/Q4 2020. However, the vast majority (17 or 77%) of respondents were not
planning to return until January 2021 at the earliest, with 18% indicating it might happen as
late as Q2/Q3 2021. The view of many of the companies was that they will not be retuning to
the classroom until the threat of COVID-19 is significantly reduced and social distancing is no
longer required.

Face-to-face training policies and protocols in place in organisations
Our next question was focused on the protocols and policies put in place by the organisations
for face-to-face training. It’s clear that organisations are consulting extensively with their
Health & Safety Manager, as well as ensuring they are operating in line with
HSE/HSA/Government advice. It’s obvious from the survey responses that companies are
putting their employees’ safety first and implementing strict guidelines for meeting face-to-face
(including reducing the need for it where possible).
Here is a sample of the most common protocols mentioned:

  • Face-to-face training only to take place if it’s absolutely necessary
  • Limited numbers (no more than 10) per training session or smaller groups working in
    separate rooms
  • Contact tracing in place for all close contacts during the session
  • Health pre-screening forms sent in by participants in advance of the training
  • Risk assessment done on classroom environment
  • Use of a classroom big enough to allow for 2m social distancing between participants
  • Some will only use third party venues such as hotels, which have strict protocols in place
  • Hygiene practices, e.g. hand washing facilities and cleaning practices
  • Sanitised desks, chairs and touch points within the training room
  • Shorter periods in the room together (2 hours maximum)
  • Phased entry and breaks to avoid people congregating in common areas
  • Access to Personal Protective Equipment such as masks and gloves (and being encouraged to wear them)
  • Checklists for the venue and the training instructor

Focus for external training suppliers
We also asked about their expectations of external training providers in terms of their
protocols. Apart from adhering to and providing for all the above, the interesting learning was
that organisations are keen to offer their employees a choice of virtual or face-to-face and
cater for both. Some organisations are implementing a more permanent policy around working
from home up to 80% of the time. This presents a future challenge around providing a blended
learning option where training is done with some people physically present and some people
connecting virtually to the same session.

Harvest’s plans for returning to the classroom
We have been completing all of our client work virtually for the last four months and are happy
to continue to do so. We think a well-designed and delivered virtual learning experience can
be as effective as a face-to-face one and is much less risky at this time.
We have put in place a protocol for face-to-face training and coaching, and we are delighted to be
able to provide a face-to-face experience with clients who request it. Here is a high-level summary
of our protocols, which are in line with all current guidelines and have been put together in
consultation with our staff, our clients and the government (through the Skillnet Ireland
ReBound COVID-19 Mentoring Programme and information webinars, which are outstanding
and have been a great support to us).

Harvest’s protocol for face-to-face classroom training

  • Ideally use a third-party venue such as a hotel, which has been pre-screened by us for its
    hygiene and social distancing protocols
  • Pre-screening forms to be requested from participants at least 24 hours before the session –
we will not do temperature checks on entry and will rely on people not attending if they are displaying
symptoms of COVID-19
  • Recommended maximum number of participants will be 10 (in a training room that allows

for adequate social distancing) – however we can increase this to 15 if the client requires
it and the room size/number of rooms allows for adequate social distancing

  • Each course will start with a ground rules conversation, which includes all the COVID-19
    protocols in place for the session
  • We will capture participants’ contact details (name and personal phone number) for
    contact tracing purposes – this data will be shared only with the HSE if they request it, and
    we will dispose of this data in 30 days
  • We will also recommend that our participants download the HSE contact tracing app (if
    they haven’t already) as it will significantly speed up contact tracing in case of a positive
    case being identified during or after the training
  • If required, Personal Protective Equipment (mask and gloves) can be provided for each
    participant along with a personal hand sanitiser and surface disinfectant
  • Breaks and refreshments organised as per the venue’s existing protocols
  • Notebooks or pens will not be provided by Harvest, participants are encouraged to bring
    their own, we will not share markers or other equipment on the day
  • We will continue to encourage collaboration and conversation during the course, however,
    to avoid people congregating we will be using digital tools on either smartphones or
    laptops to capture the outputs of our discussions
  • We will follow the third-party venue’s protocols in case of a positive case being identified
    in the group during the day

The Harvest One Team is committed to keeping our clients and our team members safe, and
we look forward to welcoming all of you back to the classroom in due course. In the meantime,
we will continue to provide innovative and engaging learning experiences through our virtual
learning offer.