Home-working Mark Two
The opportunity for team-based skills/knowledge development
The sudden return of advice to encourage maximum use of home-working provides an opportunity for organisations to invest in team-based learning.
First-time around, we all obtained insights into the pros and cons of working from home. There was a time gain by eliminating commuting and travelling, and for some individuals, a palpable increase in productivity. For others, there were problems of technology, distractions and the newly-diagnosed zoom-fatigue or equivalent.
Many people and businesses took advantage of the opportunity to refresh personal skills and to catch up on neglected reading and study. But these were mostly individual ad hoc initiatives prompted by a desire for career development or personal improvement. It is probably fair to state that most organisations had so much else to think about that Managers had little scope to stand back and consider what strategic training needs could be addressed during this period.
This time around, it could be different. So many employers, including public services, have discovered that skills and knowledge priorities may be different. If job roles require staff to provide advice to others, and where there is no office environment in which to discuss potential answers to difficult questions, professional staff must be more self-sufficient and knowledgeable. Today, it is far more likely that team competence is more evident, and the knowledge gaps easier to identify.
For the Consultation Institute, our members and supporters in the fields of public engagement and communications are typical examples. More will work from home in the coming weeks, and given that many of these are committed self-starters, will be happy to spend some of their time investing in personal development if their Managers provide the right leadership and invest modestly in the best available teaching.
Based upon our successful programme of Webinars – initially built around the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, and its effect on public service engagement, we have identified three distinct priorities where there is a clear need to upgrade skills and knowledge.
- Creative dialogue methods
Many of the traditional methods of engagement and consultation are now considered old-fashioned, and ill-suited to younger generations. They are also biased towards the ‘usual suspects’ and attract low participation rates. New, creative dialogue methods offer real alternatives, and the e-learning course provides a foundation for organisations to consider what might or might not work in any particular environment.
- Digital engagement
Social distancing rules restrict the choice of dialogue methods. It has meant a rapid, but not always well-planned move to digital engagement techniques and not all organisations have easy access to the software platforms that enable the more advanced applications. Even those that do, are yet to teach their staff when and how to use them. New Codes of Practice (e.g. on Virtual Public meetings) can be discussed. One-to-one and group mentoring and support is available along with useful e-learning packages to help remedy this important skills gap
- Law of consultation
The growth in legal challenges on public engagement and consultation has been astonishing as key stakeholders, campaign groups, or residents opposing policy changes or projects use the law to seek to overturn local or national decisions. It is now becoming essential for public services to equip their Communications and engagement teams with a sound knowledge of the law, and the Institute’s unique and comprehensive Law of Consultation online e-learning course does this.
How does it work
A team learning project would probably involve all members of the team given a timetable within which undertake the agreed e-learning packages. After that, team members will join virtual Workshops led by the Institute’s experts – usually. those who authored the e-learning packages, Here the emphasis will be on applying the generalised learning to the specifics of the organisation’s situation and culture. For example, a local authority planning department, having learnt about creative dialogue methods might join in two or three zoom Workshops to discuss the practicalities of using them in its local plan. Alternatively an NHS Trust Comms & Engagement team might follow the Law of Consultation online course followed by Workshops to delve in more detail into those judicial review cases that involved major hospital reconfigurations.
No-one knows how long the new period of home-working preferred policy will last. Now, at the moment when organisations are discussing with staff members, whether and when to change the work location, is the time to be bold and settle upon agreed training priorities. The major advantage of using ‘oven-ready’ e-learning is that there is no lead time, whilst trainers’ diaries have to be consulted. Learning programmes can be agreed and implemented very quickly.
If you’re interested in team based learning and knowledge development please get in touch.