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Is our new (learning) normal here?

Is our new (learning) normal here?

This is now the fourth month my colleagues and I have been writing about developing teams, designing and delivering learning, and generally living under the strangest ‘lockdown’ conditions we’ve ever experienced. During this time the majority of our staff team have not been working in the business (but have had other issues to deal with). The toll it has taken on our team relationships is probably yet to be tested as we now consider how and when we might return to working together again. 

I wrote about ‘looking forward to the next new normal’ back in April, and as many of us across the world are either now experimenting with new ways of living our lives and operating our local economies, or looking forward to some kind of ‘lockdown alternative’, it’s still unclear to us what that normal will be, and how long that version of it might last.

So I’m going to review what I think we’ve learned - looking back to our recent ‘normal’ experience of developing teams and designing and delivering learning, to see what we have to offer.

Let’s return to McKinsey’s Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagination, and Reform model, as it’s something I’ve found really useful.

Resolve: Determine what you need to do now to survive, and resolve to do it.
This stage didn’t finish with the plans and actions we put in place back in March. In talking to customers, suppliers, partners and staff, we have rewritten our ‘Resolve’ plan several times since then, and will continue to do it monthly. We’ve written previously about how we can help supply tools to generate the quality of discussions you’ll need for this. We e continuing our rapid prototyping on digital/online tools as a direct response to what our customers say they want and to provide an alternative revenue stream to our physical tools.

Resilience; Accept that this will take some time and keep people together and connected as best as you can.
This remains a struggle for us and I suspect for many teams and leaders too.
It’s clear and obvious that remote working, communicating solely via video-conference, and motivating remote employees in uncertain times is extremely difficult for some. It feels like we need to provide a way of satisfying the next Maslow levels in terms of belonging and esteem needs that non-working employees are losing. High quality conversations are needed for both teams and individuals.
The team maintenance functions Geoff described last month are difficult, or maybe impossible to address right now - resilience is also about knowing what can’t be fixed at this point, and moving on.
Are you spending enough time on team maintenance, or are all your team interactions task focused?

Return: Look ahead to what you will need to do to get things restarted, or to slow down if you were one of those who had to go into overdrive
For many of us, this is probably the key stage to consider right now. I know if we are to recapture the team success we enjoyed 6 months ago, then we need to rethink all of our business operations. If like us, your staff are vital to your business success then it’s vital that teams spend time on team maintenance, and not just task achievement. If you are in an HR function or people leadership role, then it’s your job to convince senior and operational management to do this. One of the best examples we’ve seen is a charity customer of ours investing in RSVP Design providing train the trainer support for their small L&D team.This will allow them to implement team development efforts on their return, quickly giving operational leaders tools and techniques to deliver their own impactful, effective and engaging team development sessions. Contact us if you e interested in doing something similar.

Reimagination: What might be different in your learning sector post COVID-19, and how might you adapt to deliver what is required? What new opportunities might it bring when this current phase has passed?
Following discussion with many business schools, consultants and internal HR departments in the last few months, it’s clear that some are re-imagining some return to face to face learning in key areas like building new team relationships, exploring leadership and other soft skills development. Others expect to not only build knowledge entirely through digital delivery, but to develop soft skills and instill behavioural change through existing and new digital tools, (including some from RSVP Design) - and some plan to use a combination of both. Our approach is to continue to commit to rapid prototyping (we’ve already relaunched Simbols (online version) to offer a fully online delivery, added free digital resources to physical product versions, and developed new relationships with new digital product developers. Please get in touch if you are interested in delivery of our new post-COVID-19 digital simulation for your team.
Our business, its products, and the staff skills required to be successful are already significantly different. I suggest yours will be too - we can’t be the same as we were pre-COVID-19.

Reform: Start shaping and reforming yourself. What can you learn now to insulate yourself from future shock?
We have learned new skills in the last few months, and used new tools. Google and Zoom have provided a wonderful collaborative fast prototyping environment - my current favourite online tool for increasing quality of customer support is loom.com . It’s free and an incredibly easy way to create personal, useful videos - even as email responses! I’m now learning about new online simulation development, creating our own secure digital development and delivery environments, how to create and maintain a safe physical workspace for my team and how to improve my remote management and leadership skills. None of this was on my 2020 personal development plan in January - to be honest, some days it seems really daunting, whilst some days it feels exhilarating. My Reform is to accept that feeling like this is my new normal - what’s yours?

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