Digital learning - How employees work & learn

There are a multitude of opportunities and challenges emerging for organisations from this COVID pandemic and many relate to the manner employees work and learn. There is no blueprint for what we are facing but business leaders around the world are certainly changing strategies to adapt.

Organisations have moved quickly to recognize the practicalities associated with keeping workers safe from COVID, including the reality that many roles in an organization can be effectively completed from home.

Many companies were thrust into the transition to remote working (and learning), completely unprepared and had to adapt quickly to the new reality – and adapt they did. One of the lasting repercussions of COVID-19 will be that, while there are some businesses that may always need face-to-face interaction, many roles in most white-collar industries will shift permanently away from the traditional “face-to-face is best” thinking. With so many businesses able to maintain service levels via remote digital options, the need to go back to office-based, face-to-face operations full-time, once the pandemic is over, is neither tenable, desirable nor necessarily the most effective.

The situation we find ourselves in is quite ironic; first, many businesses found themselves digitising their relationships with customers and now they’re digitising relationships with employees. A new paradigm is required to manage this uncertainty.

So, what are the challenges of this shift?

Well, for one there’s the potential loss of individual identity, of the health and wellbeing traditionally derived from the social, altruistic, and professional interactions that were commonplace in an office environment. Organisational structures and cultures that were built around colleagues, teams, and departments operating together, now need completely re-thinking.

Companies are at the crossroads: those that capitalize on the COVID-enforced opportunities will find themselves in a good position to retain their talent and attract people when the situation stabilizes. By contrast, those that fail to change will be left behind, exposing their employees to increased risks of financial stress from having to face layoffs and closures.

People are learning how to do work disparately and with far less oversight: they are learning “on the job” what works and what does not work at home and holding virtual meetings that might have happened before but never to such an extent. This period of adjustment has required us all to be supportive of one another. Control has, to some extent, had to give way to trust.

It’s not just how we work that has shifted. It’s how we learn too.

How do we, as employees and lifelong learners, train and acquire new skills without the group-based, facilitated training sessions or classes that have been the norm for decades? How do we, as leaders, support this learning and manage the performance of our remote teams? How do we get real-time engagement and feedback?

We are now in an era of ‘Learning by Doing’ and ‘Learning by Teaching’. Instead of experienced Group-based workshops facilitated by an in-house trainer, the new model is about digital online facilitation and virtual group-based experiences.

In the past, eLearning was limited to a few individuals who had the appropriate clearance and authorisation. This has changed quickly so now anyone can create digital learning experiences and anyone can experience them.

This openness to the diversity of digital solutions will see less top-down, one-size-fits-all learning and more consultation with employees (end-users) about what online learning and working platforms should be adopted; adult learning will increasingly be done on smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

There is little doubt we are living in a new “low-touch” economy. It is time to adapt and shift our mindsets, develop skills and rethink how we make decisions to stay agile, connected and human.

Nuffield Group has built a virtual workshop capability to deliver teaching and training workshop solutions for organisations. Find out more here.

Call 1300 308 257 or +61 404 852 062 for more or email us direct at nuffield@nuffieldgroup.com

Achieving Excellence Through Learning

Improving the performance of an individual, a team, and an organisation is critical to the success and resilience of any business. One way to achieve this is for leaders to focus on a range of simple measures that can easily be enacted and self-managed to build greater knowledge, expertise, and cohesiveness in an organisation; in short, achieving excellence through learning.

But where to start?

One of the key actions to building a development plan for a division or a department is to talk to the people involved first. Get to understand their needs and ideas on how to deliver better outcomes. It is important the investment you make yields a return for the individual and for the enterprise. So, you need to seek their buy-in.

People need to be able to relate to the topics and understand the benefits of any learning initiatives. Providing information without context is wasting resources (the information goes in one ear and out the other!). Using real-world examples, however, is a great means of providing context. Demonstrating to people how information is applied can give them a great framework for how they will use it themselves.

And, as we all know, practice makes perfect. Giving people opportunities to practice can help them confidently handle the variety of situations they may face on the job.

Great organisations are committed to learn constantly from everything they do. They use their experience and that of others to improve their performance. They are consistent in their approach and use both successes and failures as learning opportunities. Continuous learning is systemically built into a successful organisation’s DNA and infrastructure*.

How do you continuously improve?

One key mechanism to continuously improve performance is to debrief your successes and failures; spend time identifying what went right and what went wrong and what you would do differently in the future. And, importantly, conduct the debrief in a blame-free and safe environment so everyone is confident in sharing their experiences enabling you to get to the truth of the real lessons you need to learn.

Good organisations meet regularly as a whole entity rather than in departmental silos. To be effective people need to understand the whole system otherwise they only improve their part of the system. While these small improvements can be important, they do not optimise the success of the entire system. A ‘whole of business’ approach will generate a competitive advantage for your organisation.

By providing people with the opportunity to work in cross-functional teams you will get greater collegiality, innovation, and cohesiveness in your organisation. You’ll also win hearts and minds as people learn to grow their skills and develop their careers.

Nuffield Group’s IEMR team can assist your business in emergency management & recovery training. Call 1300 308 257 or +61 404 852 062 Or email us direct at nuffield@nuffieldgroup.com

*according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report “Employees at all levels expect dynamic, self-directed, and continuous learning opportunities from their employers”

Nuffield Group has established an emergency and crisis management capability – an Integrated Emergency Management Response & Recovery (IEMR) team – tasked to address the ‘before, during, and after’ phases of an emergency scenario. Our team of highly credentialed experts uses a holistic approach to the services it provides across risk management, emergency management planning, training, exercising, and coaching.

We provide expertise and advisory services to support an organisation, individuals and teams tasked with executing emergency management plans. This includes not only compliance before but execution during any major emergency.

We have re-imagined traditional approaches to provide more contemporary thinking in the area of emergency and crisis management. There is ample evidence on the value of investing in thinking and planning management strategies for emergency scenarios; And if nothing else, COVID-19 has taught us the value of having a plan that is not only tested but which considers a range of hazards and scenarios in order to help prevent or manage business disruption.

When framing a Business Continuity Plan, the first building block is an accountability matrix that identifies who is responsible, who is accountable, who needs to be consulted and who needs to be informed. Many organisations refer to it as the RACI model (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed). Bottom line is – if people are unclear on their roles then successful management of an emergency or disruption will be difficult, resulting in a poor performance.

There are generally four tiers of ownership and oversight of a Business Continuity Plan:

  • The Board
  • Audit and Risk Committees
  • Executive Teams
  • and Business Unit Managers

These four groups can be supported by internal and external audit teams.  It needs to be acknowledged that this is the ideal model and many businesses may have flatter structures. However, the principle of having particular people accountable for particular responsibilities is a foundational piece and the RACI model is a great tool for a cohesive and integrated approach supported by strong leadership.

Once clear accountabilities and responsibilities, and interdependencies vertically and horizontally across an organisation are established, an assessment of the critical products and services an organisation produces or delivers needs to be conducted. What are the tolerance thresholds an organisation can absorb if these goods and services are not being delivered?

A Business Impact Analysis should be conducted to identify the key facilities, equipment, materials, business systems and people (internal and external) involved in producing these goods and services. Conversations with suppliers and customers are critical to ensure a complete assessment and all impacts are fully understood. An investment in this process will enable an organisation to be creative and innovative in adopting solutions to address any identified (and emerging) problems. A focus on Business Impact Analysis outcomes will assist an organisation to develop its mitigation strategies and recovery objectives.

Following on from this organisations must document and adopt a Business Continuity Plan. The plan must be regularly updated, particularly following any disruption, so any lessons learned can be added to a review of the plan. Further, the importance of regularly testing and exercising the Business Continuity Plan cannot be overstated. Exercises must involve all business units to avoid a siloed outcome from occurring. The best results for business continuity are when an organisation works up, down, and across departments, and involves other key stakeholders. Internal and external auditors should be involved but the final document must be real and owned by the organisation. It is critical key leadership groups champion and invest in this aspect of the business.

Testing can occur on an annual basis but it would prove even more prudent to test and exercise when there are changes to business operations. This will build the skill, capability, and agility of an organisation to manage any future challenges.

A key driver of business success is Information Technology continuity services. It is important to ensure processes are in place to address the recovery of IT systems, infrastructure, and data. There is an ever-increasing amount of cybercrime and cyber-attacks on business systems – making it even more compelling to ensure these systems are resilient. Developing standards around service level continuity makes great sense, as does regular testing and reporting across the organisation.

Business Continuity is a function that has to be owned and valued by an organisation. It has to be part of the organisational way of life. It has to be owned by all and it needs to be inclusive; that is it cannot be owned by one person or one business unit. It must flow through the organisation’s attitude, DNA and temperament.

Clearly, Business Continuity Planning is the best form of insurance an organisation can invest in as the world we live in becomes more challenging, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. It needs to be seen as part of everyday business and valued as something that will enable an organisation to flourish during testing times.

Nuffield Group’s IEMR team is ready to assist your business in developing well considered and sustainable business continuity plans.

Can we help you?

Call 1300 308 257 or +61 404 852 062

Or email us direct at nuffield@nuffieldgroup.com

silience & Business Conitnuity Management

One of the key factors integral to the continued and effective operation of an organisation is a carefully planned and developed Business Continuity Management Planning framework.

Throughout this last 12 months organisations have continued to operate due to the planning they had completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, enabling them to pivot and adapt to support the continued delivery of products and services to customers.

Now, as we face further disruption, it is timely to focus on ensuring your business invests the time and effort to review your continuity plans and make any necessary adjustments to build your resilience. The process needs to combine individual and industry learnings and should address issues such as insurance, lease arrangements, supply chains and their resilience, workforce requirements and business systems.

This article focuses on Business Continuity Management, which is a key element of any Risk Management Framework – the purpose of which is to manage actual or predicted disruptions.

A Risk Management Framework is a critical function for successful operations and helps businesses:

  • Identify their risks
  • Determine risk appetite
  • Develop and strengthen risk controls
  • Monitor and measure level of risk

Risk Management is an overlay that organisations adopt to enable them to operate effectively and Business Continuity is a key element of any Risk Management Framework.
A Business Continuity Management System is a tangible demonstration by an organisation to its customers, employees, stakeholders, and suppliers of how resilient their business will be with the supply of products and services during a disruption.

The purpose of an organisation undertaking Business Continuity Planning is to deal with any potential business disruption, including natural and manmade disasters, which do not discern who they impact or when. It is significant to note the frequency of these events, from the evidence available, has substantially increased. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for organisations to spend time in examining the critical functions performed in their business and adopting controls to manage the impacts from any disruptive events.

Organisations are also encouraged to examine their business systems such as information technology, supply chains and third-party providers, to fully understand their vulnerabilities and the mitigation controls that can be adopted to strengthen these systems.

Further, many organisations have clear expectations from investors, stakeholders, regulators, shareholders and the community to prevent or manage these foreseeable events. So, by investing in Business Continuity Management to deal with disruptive events an organisation can minimise impacts to customers, operations, finances, legal & regulatory obligations, brand reputation and materiality.

A Business Continuity Management Framework is the mechanism that facilitates the development of a Business Continuity Plan. The key components of the framework aim to govern, assess, create, train, exercise, maintain and continuously improve the Business Continuity Plan.

Governance is about leadership, structure, accountability, roles and responsibilities, performance standards, communication and integration within and outside of an organisation in considering the importance and needs of suppliers and major customers.

Assessment concerns understanding the critical components of the business that are fundamental to its operation and the controls that can be adopted to manage disruptions.

Creation, or the formalising of arrangements, is another important step and should be conducted across all business units to capture all the interdependencies within an organisation. This approach addresses any siloed culture issues that will prove detrimental to an organisation during a crisis period. There are many examples of plans that have failed due to internal disconnection and siloed approaches. The best results are produced when plans are fully integrated and a ‘whole of organisation’ approach is nurtured and rewarded.

The training, exercising and maintenance aspects of the framework are somewhat self-explanatory but take note: Developing the plans is not the end of the story. Exercising and regularly reviewing to continuously improve plans, particularly after an event, is also critical (and highly recommended).  It simply makes sense to include training, exercising and scenario planning in your corporate training calendar to continually drive success and to overcome any complacency.

A regular ‘review cycle’ allows an organisation to align its changing business strategy with its Business Continuity Plan. During this Covid-19 period organisations that were agile and had given consideration to business continuity were innovative in their operational responses to disruptions.

The Business Continuity Plan should be tailored to the needs of the business and the plan should be scalable and flexible, recognising there will be differences in the impacts and consequences associated with the various types of events an organisation may experience.

There is strong evidence that points to the benefits organisations derive from Business Continuity Management and Planning. The thinking, planning, documenting, exercising and reviewing enable an organisation to absorb and bounce forward more effectively from the shocks and stresses of any disruptions.

Nuffield Group has built a highly capable team to deliver sustainable Crisis and Emergency Management solutions to organisations. Find out more here.

Can we help you?

Call 1300 308 257 or +61 404 852 062

Or email us direct at nuffield@nuffieldgroup.com

Women In Engineering

June 23rd is International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED21) – a day when we celebrate the work and achievements of female engineers and technicians around the world. At Nuffield Group we are blessed to have some really talented women, and whilst not all are qualified engineers, all are highly skilled, experienced and critical to the ongoing success of our organisation and our customers businesses.

International Women in Engineering Day began 7 years ago and has grown spectacularly every year since. Of course, there have been women in engineering for decades but the defining period for the professional and social status of female engineers can be traced back to the First World War when tens of thousands of women were recruited in munitions factories, in the field of transport and the aeronautical and automobile industries. That movement arguably blazed a trail for women in engineering but it still took decades more to fully break down the barriers.

Today, with UNESCO recognition, #INWED21 is about raising the profile of an engineering career as a great choice for women (and young girls), with an exciting future and amazing opportunities. This year’s theme is ‘Engineering Heroes‘ – profiling the best, brightest and bravest women in engineering; Pioneers who recognise a problem, then dare to be part of the solution; who undertake everyday ‘heroics’ as much as emergency ones (like fighting a global epidemic!).

So, at Nuffield Group we’d like, once again, to recognise the critical contribution our ‘women in engineering’ make to us, to our customers and to their colleagues. Celebrate your achievements today and every day…

There are many ways to say ‘thank-you’ and the benefits for both the recipient and the giver of such a small gesture are huge.

This week in AFL the Collingwood players said ‘thank-you’ to their departing coach of the last decade, Nathan Buckley, with an upset win over top of the table Melbourne. Yesterday, a driver on the freeway waved a ‘thank-you’ to another driver who left a gap for them to merge in to. Today, my son and daughter did the cooking and cleaned up (THANK YOU!)…

It’s a simple but powerful gesture of appreciation that conveys both gratitude and respect at the same time. Whilst it has long been recognised that there are strong benefits between two people involved in an exchange of gratitude (saying ‘thank-you’ is good for our health and happiness), new research has shown that there’s a ripple effect too.

It’s now acknowledged that there’s a third-party impact on family, friends, neighbours, co-workers and even complete strangers who witness an act of gratitude. It’s a simple act that can bring entire groups together, inspiring people to connect better with each other by building trust and closer bonds.

When it comes to resilience, gratitude has been shown to increase a person or a group’s capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or challenges. The impact of gratitude, from a resilience perspective, is incremental. It’s not as instantaneous as the other benefits (above) but works over time by helping “repair the psychological damage inflicted” by disasters and hardships; it is developed by fostering positive growth, that aids recovery.

It may be as simple as this: gratitude makes us reflect on ourselves and our lives, averting attention from the negative to the positive. Whatever the psychology behind it though, being grateful, acknowledging gratitude, witnessing the ‘thank-you’, all help develop us for the better – one ‘thank-you’ at a time.

Nuffield Group’s Integrated Emergency Management & Recovery team incorporates human factors (like gratitude) and an understanding of team interaction as part of its emergency management training program to help build resilience. Read more here.

References:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_ripple_effects_of_a_thank_you

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31414873/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2014.902492?journalCode=rpos20#.VHUJGlfF9As

Mental Health Matters

It’s June 2021 and Victorians are emerging from yet another COVID-induced lockdown and all the associated side effects business closures and working from home create. So, now is as good a time as any for businesses to develop a mental health risk plan for the wellbeing of all their staff, customers and suppliers.

In terms of business risk, mental health is unique and challenging. Stigma and shame are all too often associated with mental health – which makes disclosure hard…

When the pandemic first hit Australia (way back in March 2020) Nuffield Group developed a guide to help businesses step through the process of developing a Mental Health Risk Plan specific to their organisation. The guide used a risk management framework approach to show businesses how to develop a mental health risk plan. You can get a copy here.

Mental health hazards and their associated risks are usually considered as ‘Headline Risks’ and it is incumbent on an organisation to ensure these risks are managed with appropriate and effective governance processes.

It is important to document the ‘What, How and Why’ for each hazard but first you need to:

  • identify the mental health hazards (internal and external)
  • describe the identified hazards & add them to your risk register
  • evaluate the mental health hazards
  • determine the actions required in response to the hazards

In this framework using your risk register allows you to not only understand the risks and the controls you’ve identified but to track any actions and progress made in implementing controls.

An example of an appropriate risk register is available in the guide provided here.

Remember, a healthy workplace that supports the mental health of its employees should include the following:

  • Prioritising mental health by providing mental health education for all employees to raise awareness, increase understanding and encourage open discussion
  • Encouraging a trusting, fair and respectful culture so employees at all levels can interact with honesty and respect with colleagues, suppliers, customers, and the public
  • Ensuring open and honest leadership which gives employees a sense of shared purpose in the goals of the organisation
  • Developing good job design by matching job roles to people’s skills and abilities, ensuring they are physically safe and offer working arrangements that suit employees
  • Managing workload by setting tasks that can be accomplished successfully in a reasonable time, using readily available resources
  • Offering employees an environment where 2-way feedback is encouraged, acknowledged and rewarded
  • Ensuring employees feel included and have control of the way they work and input to the important decisions of the organisation
  • Recognising the importance of successfully integrating work with life and provide employees the opportunity to manage the demands of work, family, and personal
  • Enabling managers and business leaders to be responsive to employees’ mental health conditions, regardless of cause, and letting them make adjustments to work and counselling support as required

Using a risk management framework to develop a mental health plan for your business is a great resource which can (and ideally should) be supplemented by the support resources available from the many Mental health charities we have in Australia. These are particularly useful for implementing mental health plan controls and understanding some of the unique challenges mental health creates. Check out:

Mental Health is back in the news this week with another State lockdown in Victoria and the withdrawal of tennis star Naomi Osaka from the French grand slam at Roland Garros – both highlighting the toll on individual wellbeing of stressful events and situations. It’s time to talk – Mental Health needs to be mainstream.

At Nuffield Group we recognise the importance of positive mental health in creating strong and resilient working environments, leading to increased productivity and staff retention. That’s why we promote building mental health strategies to reduce risk at every workplace.

And it all starts with awareness. Employment is a significant part of a person’s life and employers can affect their employee’s mental health positively and, whether it be intentional or not, negatively. So, to build resilience organisations need to raise awareness; to engage with employees to both prevent and address mental health issues. There are a number of things organisations can do:

  • Jobs can be designed to promote positive mental health and wellness and remove risks like stress or trauma
  • Workplace health programs can be run to raise awareness and open communications to remove the stigma around mental health
  • Support mechanisms can be put in place to identify issues early and assist employees in appropriate ways

Regular, honest and open communications are central to any organisation and especially at times like these when Covid-19 is causing so much uncertainty and anxiety.

Everyone reacts differently to these challenges and organisations must be mindful of the new risks changing procedures can bring. For, example, socially distancing at work or working from home has become the norm during the pandemic but how are these practises impacting your employees? Are they more isolated as a result? Do you need to review and change your support procedures to deal with the ‘new normal’?

Of course, mental health awareness and training programs are an extremely effective way to engage employees and raise their awareness. And, in turn, this improves communications and support structures, empowering individuals to look out for themselves as well as their fellow workers.

Nuffield Group has worked with Lifeline Australia to produce and distribute a “Workplace Mental Health Resource for Managers” to our customers via our membership platform, GNTX. Given the importance of this resource and the ongoing challenges we all face, we’re also making it available free here.

Stakeholder collaboration in Emergency Management

At Nuffield Group we don’t believe our dealings with our customers are transactional. We believe in establishing strong, mutually beneficial relationships that are ongoing. It’s a philosophy we seek to extend throughout our network and supply chain because we recognise the benefits of shared value and shared knowledge. Bottom line: Stakeholder collaboration is essential. Take […]

Business Continuity

Business Continuity Plans need connection if they are to succeed in managing a disruptive event. The benefits of good business continuity planning have been self-evident over the past 12 months. Organisations that have good Business Continuity Planning systems in place have been successful in both managing and adapting to the changing operating environment resulting from the COVID pandemic.

They’ve done this by having a thorough knowledge of the critical elements of their business both internally and externally. The importance of recognising and working with suppliers and customers in the formulation and exercising of Business Continuity Plans cannot be overstated. The organisations that have flourished during these challenging times have been agile and had alternate solutions in place, practised and ready to go.

Businesses that have treated Business Continuity as more than a process have been the businesses that have been successful. Organisations that have gone beyond simply applying a template approach and instead produced a business continuity plan developed with input from all areas of their business, are the ones that have thrived.

The importance of organisational interdependencies is key. It is the vital piece of the business continuity jigsaw, the adhesive that gives life and meaning to a Business Continuity Plan.

There is little meaning, and a low probability of success in the deployment of a Business Continuity Plan, if it has not been built by the very business units that will be impacted by the disruption. If there isn’t this symbiosis with the relationships and the connections across the entire organisation, then the implementation of any plan will be fraught and doomed to fail from the outset.

Business Continuity Planning is a whole of organisation requirement. It may well be the case a single person or a business unit is accountable for the development, exercising, updating and implementation of a plan, however, other business units with particular responsibilities enabling continuity of services must support the accountable business unit. Therefore, there will always be other areas within an organisation that should be consulted and informed on aspects of the business continuity planning process. The input of a greater diversity of corporate knowledge leads to best practice solutions.

A siloed approach in developing business continuity plans denies an organisation the ability to use all of its intellectual and corporate knowledge to deliver optimal solutions. It also reinforces and perpetuates an unhealthy culture. The idea of business divisions operating independently and avoiding knowledge sharing is not a foreign notion. These limitations can be overcome through leadership, governance and systems.

The leadership of an organisation has the accountability to ensure the organisational goals are clearly spelt out and communicated to avoid any ambiguity and avoid teams making their own interpretations and defining what the organisational goals are. This is but one key action leadership can enact to promote a ‘joined-up’ approach.

The governance around business continuity planning is another lever that is important because of the high stakes and consequences associated with getting business continuity right. Governance mechanisms are critical to ensure the right outcomes are achieved. Some suggestions of good governance practice include, involving boards and board sub-committees in the development and exercising of these plans; regular discussions, exercising and reporting on performance associated with business continuity planning; reward and recognition programs for good performance and the engagement of an external body to provide independent assurance of the process and product.

Finally, the systems an organisation has in place to guide the conduct of the preparation, readiness, response and review of a business continuity plan are another important aspect. An organisation must have clear policies, standards, processes and procedures in place to ensure its systems are robust and clear to all.

Business continuity planning is a wise investment in managing organisational risk and Nuffield Group encourages all organisations to take the time to reflect on how their business is placed to manage a disruption.