Learning Goes Viral in the Ebola Crisis

When a disease as destructive as Ebola comes around, it’s time to test your employees’ competencies.

In New York City’s hospitals, Dr. Ross Wilson, chief medical officer for the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation, has deployed actors faking Ebola symptoms to test how well health care facilities can identify and isolate possible cases.

"We’ve been gratified that most things have gone right," Wilson told CNN. "But there are a lot of human beings in this process, and they all have to come together in the same way every time, with every patient."

Learning leaders take note: Learning and development doesn’t stop in a crisis. In this case, it can’t stop. Wilson’s brand of assessment and subsequent training is a little dramatic, but it’s also an example of how learning leaders need to be on top of changes in the industry and society. Not teaching employees the newest skills in automation won’t cause a deadly virus pandemic, but it could lead to an organization falling behind and employees who lack the skills to get a new job if the company folds anyway.

Companies that aren’t staying current are also unable to provide the right services to clients, just as hospitals that don’t stay on top of disease control practices are potentially dooming the entire planet to a 21st century plague.

For example, Spain is in serious trouble after a series of uninformed inactions led to an Ebola patient potentially spreading the disease to others. After nurse Teresa Romero Ramos, who had been working with Ebola patients, said she felt she might be suffering the same symptoms, she was forced to sit in a public waiting room for hours as she grew more contagious before being seen by a doctor, only learning about her positive diagnosis from a newscast that declared her the first case in Spain.

Talk about being on top of things, Spain.

Take a leaf from New York’s book: Assess skills, even in times of crisis, and mitigate any knowledge gaps before it’s too late.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This blog post originally appeared in Talent Management's sister publication, Chief Learning Officer.