Interview: Navigating the Evolving Way We Work and Learn

Author: Meghan Kennelly


As a Senior Learning Executive at a global building services company, Penelope has had to evolve not only her own working situation, but that of her organization.
While the current climate across the globe has spread from country to country, her global role has had her working since January to adjust to the new norms and guidelines.
Charged with supporting a workforce who’s roles vary from in-office to manufacturing and on-site service, she not only had to think about the tools for those employees shifting to work from home, but also providing the necessary personal protective gear for those in the field.
With training and communicating a huge part of their business, Penelope discusses the changes they have implemented in order to keep their employees engaged and learning during this time.

How has your organization been impacted given this recent climate?

Our organization is very global - so the impact started first in China around the Chinese New Year. Office employees in China began working remotely at that point. As the virus spread, the global policies have followed. Now most office-based employees in North America and Europe are working from home. We also have a large population of employees who work in manufacturing and on routes servicing buildings. These hourly employees have been provided appropriate PPE and continue to do their jobs to ensure that buildings where people live and work - and of course hospitals - keep running smoothly.

What has been the biggest impact to you and your team thus far? (Positives and Negatives)

On the negative front – I think the uncertainty about how long this crisis will take has impacted individuals’ moods. I do feel that after a few days of wallowing though, most people have settled in a bit and are able to be productive and not spend their days panicking. Another positive has been a shift to using video for online meetings. This way we maintain distance but can still see each other and feel like we are collaborating.

What tools are being put in place to enable your teams to not only stay business-as-usual, but also feel connected?

Software and hardware for video chats, added VPN bandwidth, and virtual happy hours where people can meet “face-to-face” to socialize.

What is your team doing in order to support their customers at this time?

As our customers are our internal team members, we have done a few things to empower them. First, we have provided various sources of content to help people collaborate and work remotely. There is a lot of this type of content out there now, so we are being judicious in how we flow it out. For example, different regions are in different places in their fight against the virus, so one size does not fit all and regions are leveraging their own communication channels to get this type of content out. In addition, we have opened up more content on our internal learning management system to limit access issues and ensure that our remote workers have sufficient learning tasks to fill their day. This is a great time to upskill!

Given we all learn differently (some are visual learners, others verbal, etc.), what should managers and educators keep in mind when moving their day-to-day to a virtual platform?

I have found great success in asking employees to turn on their video in addition to audio. This helps us all stay focused on the task at hand versus scrolling social media. During learning sessions, leave frequent pauses and check-ins to ask for questions & test understanding. Call people out by name to ensure they are paying attention!

What will change from all of this, once things return to "normal"?

Our company had been slower than some to embrace the remote work and collaboration possibilities of remote work. I hope and believe that this experiment will convince any doubters that remote work is productive work.

What guidance are you giving team leaders during this time?

Our mantra is that the safety of our associates and their family members takes prime importance. The business aspects are critical too and business doesn’t stop, but everyone needs to take the appropriate precautions to keep themselves and their families safe.
The companies that evolve and adapt quickly, as well as help their teams and customers adapt to new work from home environments, will more than likely see positive results from their efforts.
With a people-first attitude and a transparent, trusting culture, organizations can help alleviate some of the stress with today’s unique challenges.

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