Working with our clients during and beyond COVID-19
The past few months have been very challenging for our clients and BRS. We hope you have been able to make the most of your time in isolation as we start to look at life beyond COVID-19. In our newsletter this month, we have focused on the positives that we have experienced in working with our clients during this time and the lessons that we have learnt that we would like to permanently implement as we return to our new ‘normal’.
Our BRS team members are scattered across Australia and New Zealand, so for us working with our team members remotely within the cloud was business as usual. For our clients, we had always tried to deliver our workshops, training courses and coaching face to face, as there is an understandable perception that face to face delivery would always achieve the best outcomes for our clients. However, the restrictions forced us and our clients to find new ways to deliver the same outcomes differently and with this we have identified some unexpected improvements in the way we have engaged and delivered outcomes to our clients which include:
Typically, in the past most of our training sessions and workshops were facilitated face to face and delivered over a period of time which was usually a half day, or one-two full days. What we have found is that by separating the topics out into different sessions or modules of only 1.5-2 hours each over several days using Zoom, this has led to a higher level of engagement from the attendees. We also found that the more introverted attendees thrived in this environment as they were more willing to participate in the sessions and share their ideas and contribute through chat functions and the use of virtual breakout rooms.
Value for money
We believe a consultant should be engaged on a project based on their skills, experience and the value they can add to a project; not by where they are based. However, unfortunately there are always going to be costs associated with travel and they can be prohibitive to a client’s budget. Providing a virtual option for clients if done the right way, can reduce the need for travel and keep costs to a minimum while still providing significant value.
Another cost that is often overlooked is the opportunity cost of the attendees at a workshop or training session. In facilitating these sessions over shorter blocks of time we found that the facilitators and attendees joined the sessions much more focused and were keen to get the most out of the shortened allocated time. Whilst we all strive for this during face to face sessions, a lot of time can be lost during breaks or with other office and project distractions.
Regional organisations and individuals are also benefiting from the changes we all making towards we work. Particularly when it comes to government agencies, because now there are no restrictions based upon where you are located. Often these people have been overlooked with respect to training opportunities as the costs associated with the travel for either the participants or the facilitator, often meant that they were not able to receive training to the same standard of their counterparts in metropolitan areas. It has been terrific to see the uptake and involvement of those clients and participants who are regionally based as they are so eager to learn and develop themselves.
Increased desire to learn
Another benefit of the isolation is that we all had time to reflect on where our lives are at and what we value the most from a personal and professional perspective. It also gave us the time to learn new skills and undertake the training we never had time for before. Going forward, it is becoming evident that people don’t want to return to being too busy, but will continue to make time for self-development and learning opportunities.
As we start to review our budgets for the next financial year, it worth ensuring you make sure your employees learning and development opportunities are discussed and the appropriate training is identified. This is even more important with those organisations who are regionally based, or have team members who are located in different locations.
More flexible approach to collaboration
Implementing technology like Zoom or Microsoft Teams into how we facilitate workshops has created a whole new opportunity for some of our clients. Having the ability to allocate your attendees to breakout rooms, where the facilitator can move from one break out group to another, demonstrates that you can still achieve the same outcome online as you can face to face, if you invest time into your preparation. It could be argued that these online break out groups were more successful than face to face as the attendees were placed into break out groups with people they wouldn’t consciously sit with and/or collaborate with. These observations were made by many of the attendees of our workshops and training during COVID-19. Not only were great ideas and outcomes achieved for the client, but the attendees were highly engaged and making the most of their online sessions along with interacting with people virtually they may not normally get an opportunity to engage with.
Taking a mixed model approach going forward
As we continue to navigate our way through COVID-19, our team at BRS are going to be taking a mixed model approach to the services and deliverables we offer our clients. This means that we will continue to offer both online and face to face services to our clients in the longer term based on what is best for the project. Please know that even though we are all looking forward to being able to get on a plane and meet with our clients and colleagues face to face, we have already seen so many benefits of utilising technology to achieve more timely, cost effective outcomes for our clients.
Changes to bid coaching delivery using a mixed model
To illustrate this using an example, prior to COVID-19, our approach towards bid coaching and interactive workshops was traditionally undertaken through face to face. COVID-19 has forced us to approach this differently as we continue to work on important bids with our clients. This has included undertaking virtually a number of bid coaching activities with our clients which has included:
- Win bid strategy workshops through Zoom;
- Customer Insight workshops using breakout rooms to really test and challenge our knowledge of our clients;
- MBTI and Human Synergistics 1:1 and team coaching insights to ensure we are developing teamwork and collaboration through the bid phases;
- Bronze, Silver and Gold review of bids virtually including reviewing CV’s and tender material;
- Interactive preparation for client interactives ensuring that we are preparing well as a team;
- Bid team forming workshops; and
- Many other aspects of bid coaching including coaching support.
We would not have envisaged that all these activities could be undertaken effectively through virtual means. BRS plans to continue aspects of our bid coaching going forward utilising this knowledge to ensure we continue to provide value and insights to our clients.
Virtual changes to Commercial Acumen Training
To continue the momentum with our Commercial Acumen Training courses, our team have been delivering these completely online over recent months. Before COVID-19, we facilitated the course material face to face, and provided access to our online Learning Management System to support the participants learning beyond the training sessions. These training sessions were typically run over a one or two-day period. During COVID-19, our material has been broken down into modules that are being run as 5 x 1.5-2 hour sessions over a five-day period. Here is a snippet from Adam Gerloff, Project Officer for the Office of Projects Victoria, who summarised their experience working with BRS during COVID-19 as follows:
“BRS have been fantastic to work alongside during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The whole team have been responsive and flexible, ready to adapt to the challenging circumstances whilst maintaining excellent standards of service. BRS have helped us to restructure the Commercial Capability Training courses into a format that runs just as well online and delivers a great training experience for participants. They’ve treated the current challenges as an opportunity to innovate, thoughtfully redesign the workshops and improving the outcomes from the training.”
Thanks to Adam and his team along with our other clients for their support and openness to delivering training in a different way through COVID-19.
Introducing the new Human Synergistics Connection Meter
Most of our clients will know that we are great advocates of the Human Synergistics leadership and development tools, frameworks and products. The Connection Meter is a new survey tool that was developed to support clients through the COVID-19 challenges and ensure their people stay connected. The Connection Meter provides organisations and leaders information on how connected their employees are now and then we can track this over time. The 4 categories it currently measures are collaboration, leadership, practicality and stress. It has 10 questions and uses a subset of these questions to provide a connection score – ‘how connected are you to your employees?’.
This tool can also be adapted to include questions applicable to your particular organisation, project or a particular area of interest. Even though this tool was initially developed to support employees during COVID-19, we can see that this tool will be used by many organisations on projects beyond COVID-19 as it is a great way for clients to measure the baseline and effectiveness of any leadership, resilience or wellbeing program.
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