In this weeks Leading the Way blog, Lian Bills, Bristow & Sutor Assistant Manager Customer Services & Training, and Lisa Bowman, Council Tax Team Leader at Nottingham City Council, share their respective thoughts on adapting training to virtual environments during the coronavirus lockdown.
Over to Lian …
16 years ago, I began my career with Bristow & Sutor as a Client Liaison Officer before becoming a Recovery Officer. In this time, I began learning about the administration side of our business and also engaged with debtors, finding out about their situations and getting used to typical and not so typical circumstances they faced. After some time, I found myself shifting focus and role to Training and Development Officer then eventually, Training and Development Supervisor.
I was initially tasked with providing ongoing development and the delivery of high-quality training to employees, dealing with any and all training related queries. Predominantly classroom based, I ensured staff were supported and understood important core functions of our business and approach, from negotiation tactics to assessing vulnerability. Now, as Assistant Manager in Customer Services & Training, I provide internal training to the entire business and external enforcement professionals on a variety of topics including GDPR, welfare, safeguarding and more.
It is important to remember that topics such as vulnerability and welfare extends to our employees as well as the members of the public they encounter. This was particularly important after the onset of the coronavirus lockdown, where constant changes in situations and circumstances could easily impact mental health. This was one of the fundamental reasons why the decision was made to maintain training and contact for furloughed Enforcement Agents. We have always embraced empathy towards debtors and this has remained a key aspect to our training as it updates to reflect current times.
Online training was not something I had much experience of before this year, but we have become very efficient at offering this digitally. Internally, part of rolling out a new customer contact centre meant supplying learning resources and materials online, before PPE requirements and new enforcement visit regulations presented another non-contact training need. Externally, we have continued to offer councils our usual level of support, albeit virtually. Despite needing to adapt the manner in which a presentation is viewed and how thought-provoking questions are raised, the learning outcomes and knowledge gained from these sessions remains the same.
The reality is that debts still exist and need to be cleared, but in a responsible way by employees who consider topics such as vulnerability in more than broad terms. Nottingham City Council, for example, recognised it needed support during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we devised interactive video training that would still include features such as scenario engagement and question & answer sessions. We ended up running additional sessions beyond the first batch of staff we were tasked with training and received positive feedback from participants who enjoyed the efficiency of learning from home.
Moving forwards, we expect to offer online training alternatives more and more. Many people like the personal and collaborative element of training face-to-face and this will remain the best approach for some; but by combining the benefits of both traditional and modern methods we will offer a service that enables fast and digestible learning, from the comfort of home.
Over to Lisa …
At Nottingham City Council, we have always found Bristow & Sutor to be a supportive and professional company to work with. The new style of remote training implemented recently was very helpful, well-handled and controlled. Each stage and section made sense, was delivered clearly and everyone involved knew what was required in order to apply themselves.
Inevitably, not being able to interact face to face has its downsides, especially when expanding out to large groups who would normally bounce off of each other. But, for smaller groups in particular, we have found this type of online training to be incredibly helpful. It is also positive from an efficiency standpoint, as traveling to and from training is eradicated, meaning no loss of time and the ability to include sessions as part of a working day.
I cannot imagine that we would ever go back now to the way things were previously, with society at large now embracing digital working practices. The quality of training delivered by Bristow & Sutor has remained as strong virtually as it always has been historically, so it is clear this response is suitable for staff working from home now and in the future.
We are very thankful for the continued support of Bristow & Sutor and for the ongoing training they have provided, ensuring our staff maintain the valuable insight, skills and experience needed in order to succeed.