I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 was challenging in many ways. Like many businesses small, medium, or large, TrainTheCrowd was affected by the global pandemic that hit us this year. We sat down with founder Alice Hodgson (nee Becker) to reflect on all the changes the company has made this year. In this Q&A, she shares the biggest hurdles the company has had to overcome, lessons learned, and also how she’s protecting TrainTheCrowd from another situation like Covid-19.
1. 2020 was a turbulent time and one they don’t prepare you for in any business school, how did you adapt?
Yes, 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. As a business, we have adapted in the following ways:
The project plans for many of our clients were impacted by Covid-19 and as a result, several projects were put on hold, cancelled, and/or rescheduled. This caused issues for our resourcing and resulted in us changing our focus for a few months to make sure we could retain our current team. We are very grateful our team remained flexible during this time. Many of them used the time to upskill and a couple of them built very impressive home offices that would be winners on an episode of The Block!
As it became clear that working from home was here to stay, clients opened up to the idea of remote training and restarting projects they had put on hold. This gave us the opportunity to be more innovative with how we deliver our services. Our talented instructor team has found many new and exciting ways to ensure the remote learning experience is an engaging and successful one. Online knowledge check tools such as Kahoot have been a winner for participant engagement and one of my favourites for entertainment is a soundboard that can be programmed to play sounds like a round of applause and ring a bell just to name a few.
We have all faced challenges both professionally and personally during 2020. We recognised early on that the team needed new ways to remain connected and support one another. With all meetings moving online, the casual conversations that typically take place in the corridor, beside the “water cooler”, on the way to/from lunch and before/after a meeting begins had been lost. This sparked the launch of CrowdCoffeeConversations, a 30 min online meeting three times a week for social interaction only, no work chat allowed. It has been a great way for team members to remain connected. We have also used the time to celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, and once a month it becomes a trivia night.
2. What was the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome this year?
Our biggest challenge has been to maintain a full schedule for all of our team, whilst juggling changes to project plans many of our clients were facing. We had to be creative with how we filled gaps appearing in our calendar at the last minute. We had the opportunity to complete some internal projects which we have had sitting on the “to do” list for a while which has been very exciting and productive. Several of our team also used the time to develop their own skills and knowledge – we now have a certified yoga instructor, a few experts on Adobe Premier Pro who can make impressive instructional videos, and a social media guru who has improved our presence on LinkedIn, just to name a few.
3. What were the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year as a business owner?
Expect the unexpected
It is not possible to plan everything, there will be curveballs thrown at you, that’s life. Be prepared to stop, re-prioritise, and start again. It is how you adapt and respond that is important. Use those lemons to make lemonade!
Prior to Covid-19 we recognised milestones in an ad-hoc fashion. We now have an automated reminder system for birthdays and work anniversaries and make time to celebrate both.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Rather than wait until you have an update to share, often no update is just as important. Keep people in the loop as best as possible so there is little room for feelings of anxiety or uncertainty… especially when there are many things in our world that are uncertain at the moment.
4. Have you put any processes and structures in place to protect the business for another scenario like Covid?
Let’s hope we don’t have to face another scenario like Covid in our lifetime, however, if we do, we are prepared. Two key changes we have made are:
The biggest change we had to make to our services is to move from developing and delivering training in-person to remotely. We have learned many lessons along the way and are loving the progress we have made. We now provide a remote training experience that is equally engaging, entertaining, and educational as a face to face classroom training session.
One factor that this scenario has presented was a higher likelihood that people would fall ill and be unable to work. We have done cross-skilling of team members to ensure more than one person knows every part of the business so we minimise our risks.
5. What’s next in 2021?
We believe remote learning is here to stay. It offers more flexibility, lower cost, is easy to attend. It is also more accessible to teams in diverse locations. Rather than only delivering a face to face training session as we have done traditionally, we believe a hybrid approach with both an in-person component and an instructor-led remote learning component will be the best outcome.
What else? A very exciting project we have been working on in 2020 is a new offering that we believe will revolutionise the way change management is offered on IT projects. It’ll help achieve the ultimate goal of user adoption via an accelerated path. It will be low touch, delivered remotely and will provide an easy way to measure the success of change activities. It’s coming soon, watch this space.