Over the past 18 months the world of work has changed massively!
To mark National Customer Service Week we’re reflecting on how our things changed for us during the global pandemic, and how we think the future world of work will look.
We spoke to some of our team to find out how they continued to deliver high-quality training during a period of so much change.
Alex Rimmer – Dental Assessor
Jo Reynolds – Childcare Assessor
Jo Abraham – Managing Director
How did your role / delivery change during the pandemic? How did it change at the start and how is it still changing?
Alex: I went from being out almost every day visiting dental practices to doing video calls - it was a lot to get used to. I managed to do more 1-1s in a day but it just wasn't the same as being in a classroom with learners, and being in the office with my team.
Jo Reynolds: When the pandemic hit, I immediately changed to delivering online, through teams, phone calls and delivering classes for traineeships online. It was difficult as I was part-way through doing my PGCE and learning hands on class activities!
Jo Abraham: Our role as The Learning Foundry didn’t change. We still needed to deliver inspiring and engaging training but we had to do it in a new way. We switched our delivery to online within 24 hours and we were out delivering learning packs, pens, paper and devices to learners. We all had to pull together and it wasn’t just our tutors and delivery teams. We needed IT, Health and Safety support... it was a huge undertaking.
Why was it important to change the way we worked during the pandemic?
Alex: Obviously it was important to change the way we worked for everyone’s safety. We have staff who can be considered vulnerable and their safety is important. In my field of dental also it made it more likely we would catch covid if going into dental practices.
Jo Reynolds: To do the best to all our learners, to support them to continue their education, strive to achieve and develop their skills further.
Jo Abraham: Our mission stayed the same and we couldn’t let anyone fall through the cracks. We exist to make sure no one is left behind. None of our learners could afford to miss 12 months of classes – we had to support them and be there for every individual.
What challenges did you face? What challenges did learners face?
Alex: I struggle quite a bit working from home. I thrive being in the workplace and communicating with people face to face rather than through a screen. I think some of my learners struggled a little bit with motivation as they were not used to this kind of learning. It was tough for a lot of us!
Jo Reynolds: Creating interactive activities for all of our learners was a challenge. We had to provide technology so everyone could participate so we were delivering laptops and teaching learners how to use them. Some of the learners struggled with motivation, anxiety and mental health - the world that they knew with their friends had been taken away and they had to go on Teams to attend classes.
Jo Abraham: We faced huge challenges as an organisation. We had staff at home with children who were home schooling and working. Delivering lessons through a screen was a big challenge – keeping learners engaged and motivated was hard. There were a lot of emotions – this was a huge global event and our staff and learners were looking at a new normal.
How did you overcome them?
Alex: I had to take a lot of mental breaks. This could be calling a colleague just to chat or stepping away from the screen when I could - it really helped me when I was working alone at home.
Jo Reynolds: We delivered laptops, set up documents to help the learners to use the laptops and the different resources, promoting inclusivity and offered support to all to overcome own barriers for learning, complete tasks and achieve success.
Jo Abraham: In terms of keeping our learners motivated – we were out delivering activity packs, we had them doing activities from home to get them out of bed and doing stuff. As a team we worked together – The Learning Foundry team is like a family and we got through it by supporting each other.
What was your biggest success?
Alex: This will sound cliche but making it through the height of the pandemic at home!
Jo Reynolds: I’ve got a list! Learners completing programmes, helping learners overcome their own barriers for learning, and seeing learners completing work placements under such difficult conditions.
Jo Abraham: I would definitely say that our biggest success was pulling together as a team. I think we’re a lot closer after going through the pandemic together – being flexible and supporting each other was so important. I’m also super proud of the fact that we were still getting people into jobs and work placements even though the world effectively shut down. Oh and the scale of our deliveries of activity packs, laptops and breakfasts for those who needed them!
Did you learn anything during this time? About yourself, your learners or your role?
Alex: I learned how important routine is to myself and to my learners!
Jo Reynolds: I learned a lot about motivation, communication and confidence of learners, especially when using online class and resources. I had to find different ways to engage them and make it as interesting as possible. I created online games to attract them to participate. I also learned that it’s very hard teaching to a blank screen when learners didn’t put cameras on!
Jo Abraham: I learned that while online working can be more efficient, I much prefer being in the office with my colleagues! In my opinion it’s where the best working relationships are formed. I absolutely believe that our learners are better off in our campus and this is why we went back to face-to-face delivery as soon as we could.
What do you think the future ‘world of work’ looks like now?
Alex: I definitely see us adopting a mixed approach. Sometimes working from home can help you get more done but being in the office and being able to come together as a team is very important!
Jo Reynolds: I see it returning to normal. I’ve been back to normal teaching face-to-face for a while now - obviously this has changed slightly to ensure we’re Covid-safe and in line with government guidelines, but for me it’s all getting back to normal. It’s nice to see real people, interact and feel part of a team again rather than always being behind a screen. I’m a people person and I’m encouraging the learners to communicate more rather than relying on being behind a screen.
Jo Abraham: I think we’re still trying to find the new normal. We’re in a middle ground right now. While we’ve learned that we can deliver learning online, and there’s a space for that, I see us sticking with having our young learners in the campus with us. Our adult learning courses and apprenticeships can be delivered in different ways but our trainees need to be with us. I think the future world of work is going to be agile and remote at time, but I truly believe that the best place for all of us is together.