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“Human:

The future, and a core value in everything we do.”

As the global pandemic COVID-19 spread through 2020 and 2021, it transformed organisations, their culture and the way we all work. Many companies are understandably still navigating the uncertainty of the future. Some are now returning to the status quo. Some are carving a new path. Some organisations thrived through the disruption, and others struggled. Whichever category your organisation is in, there is one area that continues to remain in our control; and that is how we communicate, engage and interact with our employees.

 At Development Beyond Learning (DBL), our business is to create experiences and change lives by supporting organisations and their people to develop soft and human skills. We do this by applying behavioural science methodologies. DBL is all about making real change in organisations, and this is measured by the positive impact we have on individuals’ lives and where they can go in their careers.

After all, the future is human.

At the start of 2020, organisations located in South East Asia had already started to feel the impact of Covid-19. DBL immediately had to adjust the way we worked with these stakeholders, which included virtualising 100% of our product. The leadership team felt it was inevitable that the pandemic was going to disrupt the rest of the world and in ways that we could not yet determine or fully comprehend.

 

We quickly realised we had to think critically and act now to ensure we properly supported our people.

The opportunity: With the level of uncertainty that the pandemic was creating, what we could be certain of, and what was in our control, was how DBL would respond.

Being Human is a core value of DBL and we placed this at the heart of our approach towards our people. We established quickly that whatever business decisions were needed, we first wanted to ensure this terrible situation didn’t negatively impact our culture. We wanted to continue to strengthen how our teams supported each other and reinforce our value of caring for each other and our own wellbeing. This was placed front and centre of everything.

Our approach: At the time we took insights from our stakeholders in South East Asia who were in the midst of experiencing their ‘first wave’ of the pandemic. In addition, we engaged with our internal and external networks in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and India to identify and understand the very real psychological and human challenges that they were facing. We used this information to map out a comprehensive ‘Business Contingency Plan’ clearly outlining our priorities as People, Customer Service / Product, Delivery and Financial.

The aim was to prepare ourselves and our teams prior to enforcing any contingency plans.

Our advantage:

We Acted Early. With offices in United Kingdom and Australia, along with employees based all over the world, we listened to our people and maintained focus on what we could control, and the health and wellbeing of our people.

Our first move was to enforce work from home (WFH) early – at least a week prior to when both the Australia the UK government enforced mandatory lock down.

In addition, we supported the move to WFH by providing every employee with an allowance to spend on whatever office equipment and furnishings they needed to support a safe and comfortable work from home environment.

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We Connected. With the move to work from home, and wellbeing remaining our top priority, our leadership team took a strong position to strengthen internal communication and to facilitate psychologically safe working environments.

Adjusting from our more traditional form of connecting face-to-face in the office and at quarterly global virtual sessions, we used this as an opportunity to positively drive our culture and explore ways that our employees can engage, feel safe and openly communicate using various methods and new techniques.

Through this adjustment, we wanted to promote positive habit formation and utilised the following approach to support this:

In addition, as CEO I also recognised the importance of informal connections and the ‘water cooler’ type of conversation that were no longer available. I therefore scheduled informal ‘Catch up and Chat’ sessions with every employee globally, with no agenda but an opportunity to hear how individuals were coping and to share any personal challenges and/or wins.

We Gave Back:

Our company purpose is to create experiences and change lives and this drives our internal culture. As time went on, we became aware of the impact this pandemic was having on our external network.

Using our internal resources, we supported our network. Our niche and specialist expertise is supporting the transition of young professionals (interns, graduates, apprentices) into their first career. Research shows that the transition from education to employment is one of the most difficult that we face in our lifetime, and this was being exacerbated by the pandemic.

We quickly identified a need for us to support this young talent and launched two campaigns:

  • Live and free sessions – Utilising our internal resources of trainers and product we ran live virtual sessions on how to have an impact in your career during COVID-19. These were delivered in the UK, Asia and Australia for any student or young professional.

  • Work-readiness virtual learning program – in partnership with industry partners, we designed and launched a completely virtual work-readiness program exclusively for young professionals.

What we’ve learnt:

By placing our company value of being Human at the heart of our response, alongside our focus on communication, engagement and use of technology, we were able to address the social and psychological needs of our people. In the first quarter of the pandemic we achieved our biggest quarter in the history of the business. We are also very proud that through our efforts, we supported over 25,000 young professionals across 32 countries in 2021. In addition to this we have supported over 10,000 young people globally through pro bono digital programmes since the start of the pandemic.

We know that when we have uncertainty in the market, we can drive certainty through our culture. We have learnt that with an agile and inclusive approach to communication and engagement, this resulted in increased agility in our business. We also learnt that by empowering and supporting the psychological needs of our people as a top priority, we achieved an even greater output to our operations and business success then we ever thought possible.

 

The future really is human.

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Angela Hands

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