Creating a connected community during the pandemic

I’ve followed TED for many years during my career. I’ve been to several TEDx events and missed out on even more tickets! I’ve even dabbled with the idea of putting myself on the red circle… maybe next year?! When I heard that TEDx was coming to Warrington, I knew I had to be part of it. I was born in Warrington and have run my business from Warrington for the last 11 years. I’m passionate about connecting people, I love nothing more than to introduce two people together who then go on to partner successfully in some way. When I heard the theme for TEDxWarrington, ‘Build connection, Strengthen communities’, it confirmed the idea that my business was a perfect fit to sponsor.

The theme reminded me immediately of a project we drove during the pandemic. During Covid-19, as most businesses did, we had to look to diversify our offering. As a coaching and training company for the past 10 years, we’d been primarily delivering face to face, which obviously during lockdown wouldn’t work. This was probably the biggest test the business has ever faced, a huge test of resilience and determination. We had to change most of how we operated and connected with stakeholders without the opportunity to consult alongside our clients as they struggled to adapt too.

Launching our Virtual Learning Scheme

In May 2020, we launched a Virtual Learning Scheme that included a programme of webinars to our clients, giving them (and us) much needed routine, connection and learning during a very disconnected time.

We covered topics to look after wellbeing, as well as productivity and leadership. This meant we were able to stay in touch with our clients, offer them something to show their staff they valued them and also to help staff feel more equipped to deal with the completely alien world we were learning to navigate. This was a huge turning point for our business.

As we developed our confidence delivering virtually, we realised there was a whole different skillset to ensure zoom sessions were interactive and impactful – not just reading from a slide deck!

Pre COVID-19 we delivered little virtual learning, as generally our clients preferred face to face. This was the silver lining to one of the most difficult times certainly our business had faced, is that not only were our clients more willing to try working virtually but also, our team had time on our side to develop our skills and confidence using the new software and delivering training in a completely different way. This meant, during lockdown we were able to provide high quality training and coaching, not only upskilling our team in the delivery of virtual learning, but also our learners.

Collaborating to learn new skills

We introduced our clients in the very early stages of lockdown to using Zoom, Mural, Padlet and Google Jam board, giving them skills, they were then able to use in their own roles as

leaders and managers. In addition to connecting with our clients, some of our team joined an amazing network of trainers and coaches led by the lovely Sheridan Webb (Training Designers Club), which gave us the opportunity to learn in a safe, collaborative environment before we got in front of our clients, building a strong, supportive community around us.

We trialled new software, techniques and problem solved together… absolute game changer! When we could, we also joined some networking groups to ensure we were in touch with what businesses needed as it was increasingly difficult to talk to our stakeholders as they were struggling to manage their operations.

Partnership working

Looking to build on the virtual learning offer we’d built and wanting to help our clients financially during an obviously difficult time, we sought some government funded training options. We built a new partnership with Northern Training Academy who deliver apprenticeships and like us, are passionate about developing people. More collaboration in action.

Together, we designed two brilliant training programmes which enabled learners to achieve two different leadership apprenticeships. Working remotely, we designed engaging, interactive, virtual training sessions using at the time, cutting edge collaborative software.

Hybrid approach here to stay

Virtual learning and apprenticeships remain a huge part of our business as it stands today. We found that our clients enjoy a hybrid approach to our work together, virtual sessions mean much less interruption to the business and lower costs due to no travel or venue fees.

We recognise however, face to face learning most definitely still has its place. The social interactions, physical learning exercises and the break from screens are important benefits we don’t underestimate. We partner with our clients to build learning solutions that work for them meaning their people are more likely to get more from their development.

Thanks to the collaborative learning and the communities we’ve created, our post-Covid business is stronger than ever. Virtual learning, webinars and apprenticeships mean our clients, old and new, have more options to suit their needs. We continue to strive for better though – always looking to learn and find the most engaging ways to support learning in the workplace. Just as TED and TEDx support learning by introducing new ideas and encouraging others to share them.

As Lucy Hone said in her TEDx talk 3 secrets to resilient people, “Resilience isn’t some fixed trait. It’s not elusive, that some people have and some people don’t. It actually requires very ordinary processes. Just the willingness to give them a go”.

Blog post by Rebecca Wray Coaching Consultancy.

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