Why train now? The motivational value of investing in staff during the lockdown.

Image: PC Magazine

Your people are sad. They’re frustrated. They’re having trouble getting stuff done. Now is the time to invest in their skills — not just to make them smarter, but to make them feel more confident in a moment filled with fear.

Workshops in lockdown

Let me tell you about an amazing experience I’ve been privileged to be a part of.

In February, I did a writing workshop for a large and innovative entertainment company. There were about 30 people in a room at their US headquarters. A few weeks later, I got an email from one of the company’s managers in Asia. I’ll call him Colin.

Colin had heard about my workshop from the manager who had hired me to do the session in the US. He is based in Singapore and works with staff throughout the Asia Pacific region, including people in India, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia. Our discussion took place by video; he was calling from a small space in his home. It was evening at my home near Boston, and early morning in Singapore. He warned me that a child might wake up soon and interrupt our call.

Colin was eager to line up a series of virtual writing workshops for his staff, to be delivered by interactive videoconference. He felt that improving the way his staff communicate in writing was crucial to their effectiveness, especially now that they were all locked down in their respective countries. I was ready to help. But towards the end of the call, he said something that touched me emotionally.

Colin explained that in Asia, people tend to have very small living spaces. Sometimes multiple generations live in one home — children, parents, and grandparents. Home office spaces are limited. And since the virus has taken hold, it’s very difficult for these people to work effectively. Two working parents may be balancing child care and work in small spaces that make it difficult not to get in each others’ way. Here in America, we are having the same sorts of challenges, but it sounded like things were even more difficult for workers in Asia.

Colin felt a shared training session would be helpful to improving the morale and productivity of his staff. It would give them something to do together that was work, not just a virtual party. It would show them that the company was still investing in their abilities. It could be the beginning of an effort to get everyone feeling better about themselves and their jobs. Because his is an entertainment company without retail locations, at least in theory, it could continue to thrive in a locked-down environment.

I was moved by Colin’s desire to help his staff and his outreach to me in that moment. This was not just about effective writing anymore. I vowed to do anything I could to make the training successful. The only timing that worked with the time zones was to do sessions from 9:30pm to 11:00pm Boston time, which is past my bedtime, but if they needed my help, I would make that work. There was no way I would let them down.

Those workshops are scheduled for mid-May. And based on early signups, there is a lot of enthusiasm from Colin’s staff. I hope I can make a big difference for them.

Invest in virtual training, right now. It will make all the difference.

My recommendation has nothing to do writing. It has to do with people.

Right now, your colleagues are sad. They are frustrated. They are worried. They are sick of being at home and their kids are making work challenging. They are looking to management for ways to rally their work so that it matters.

This is the perfect time to invest in virtual training. Find something that matters to the business — skills training, not remedial training. Find a trainer that has a track record of delivering effectively through video. A workshop is better than a canned speech or online course, since people will be able to interact with each other and solve problems together.

Then set it up and deliver it.

If you invest in your people, they’ll notice. They’ll rally. And they’ll apply themselves to helping you survive the challenges we all face right now.

It’s the right thing to do. So don’t wait. Show you care. Set up some training now. It will pay off in ways that go far beyond what your people are getting trained on.

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One Comment

  1. Great post, Josh. I hope a lot of business leaders will take it to heart.

    Normally I wouldn’t point out a typo, but the one in the “This is the perfect time” paragraph could affect your meaning. I think you intended to write “or remedial training.” But maybe you meant “not remedial training.” Might be worth a quick edit.