Skilling Up in an Upside-Down World

By , Director of Enablement & Engagement

The quest for higher learning and greater knowledge is a never-ending journey—even during a pandemic.

If you’d asked me in January how 2020 was going to play out, you’d have heard me tell you about my monthly travel plans to conduct or observe training, my children’s recitals and events this spring, and my commitments as a Master Gardener Volunteer Educator in my community.

Now it’s May, and unless you are just waking from a coma, you and I both know all that (and more) is off the table this year.

Instead, our house is trying virtual karate practice, Scout meetings via Zoom, and Monday-night yoga courtesy of Instagram Live. Like most of us, I’d wager, this was bizarre and uncomfortable. For a few weeks, anyway. But as we started to navigate through this new normal, I found myself (shh, don’t tell anyone else) actually enjoying some of these events. Is it possible? Can we survive, and maybe even thrive, as life as we know it shifts to a virtual world? Can we continue to improve ourselves in a world that seems upside-down at times?

After a few months of this great experiment, I’d say a resounding “yes.” Here’s a round-up of a few trends we’re tracking at IDeaS—and a handful of reasons I’m so bullish on how we’re going to come out of COVID-19 a stronger, better, more talented human race.

Downturns and quiet periods are ideal times to health-check the basics.

Are you current on the latest and greatest basics in your industry? Let’s be real, all of us get busy with business as usual, and we rely on what’s worked for us the last year, several years, or decades. We all have ruts—adapting best practices to the realities of our business, simply getting the job done day after day, or doing something that was best in class 10 years ago, not realizing there now might be a better way.

So whether business has slowed or you find yourself looking for the next big thing, the time is right to get back to basics. What are the foundational concepts your industry finds most relevant today? How will you apply those once we move into recovery? Those questions were top of mind for us, which is a big reasons we at IDeaS chose to offer our Revenue Management Foundations content free of charge to anyone who wants to brush up or start a new journey.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

As experts in our fields, we’re used to having the answers. In this unpredictable world, you might not have those answers anymore. That’s okay—in fact, it’s really good! You don’t need to have all the answers. You don’t have to be right. In a world where things shift weekly, daily, sometimes hourly—we’ve seen transparency and openness win every time versus having the right answer.

Perhaps you’ve tuned in for some of IDeaS’ recent COVID-19-focused webinars or podcasts. Reality check: typically, companies have dedicated teams carefully prepare content and put a polish on these types of presentations. That’s great, and it looks awesome—but it takes a lot of time. In this rapidly changing environment, we needed to adapt and find answers quickly to support our clients and the industries we serve. So we pivoted—asked the experts for their candid advice and guidance, got comfortable with a potentially lower production value—and the resulting content (along with the response and interaction the industry provided) were exponentially better than if we’d waited for weeks to make sure it was “perfect.”

Bottom line: there’s no time like a time of high uncertainty to try something new, something innovative, something a little higher risk. You might just find necessity is the mother of invention after all.

A global pandemic has a lot to teach us—let’s be good students.

Over the last couple of months, many of us at IDeaS have adjusted to working from home for the first time. We’re navigating how it works when our spouses, pets, and children share our working space and time. Many of us act as substitute educators for children who are now distance learning.

There are so many valuable things we can take away from this. We’re tuning in to what time of day you find yourself most productive. We’re gaining a deeper sense of understanding and empathy as we get glimpses into our colleagues’ full lives. Most importantly, for my area of expertise, we’re finding that through technology, online learning has its advantages.

It’s incredible to watch my children—ages 7, 11, and 16—adjust with minimal friction to online teacher meetups and virtual work uploads. The silver lining in learning—in a world where we’ve spent the last century focused on how human behavior changes when we’re face to face—is that we’re quickly, and successfully, adapting. And not only is it working (yay!), we’re also learning how to make learning, upskilling, and reskilling more efficient. We’re tracking early trends indicating professional development courses take about 50% less time online. We have fewer distractions, can focus on specific tasks, and assign self-paced learning before and after to build a foundation and reinforce what we’ve learned.

Yes, it’s a weird time to inhabit planet Earth. The loss of human life and economic impact are truly devastating, and I won’t miss these days of face masks, curbside pickups, and drive-by birthday parties.

But this pandemic has also provided some uniquely positive opportunities. Time to pause and ensure we’re at our professional best. A chance to rethink business as usual. And the openness to reimagine learning as connected and valuable on your laptop as it is around a conference room table. It’s my hope our world takes the time to take advantage of the weeks ahead—if we do, I’m confident this crisis has the power to make us a smarter, more collaborative, and more efficient workforce.

Director of Enablement & Engagement

Sarah joined IDeaS in 2017, adding her lifelong curiosity about motivating others and deep passion for software to the team. As Director of Enablement & Engagement at IDeaS, Sarah leads the thinkers and innovators who relentlessly advocate for and build a better user and client experience—from the moment you first set up software onward.

Sarah brings nearly two decades of learning, development, and change management experience to IDeaS—in software companies large and small, as well as corporate settings. Her diverse background allows her to draw from a wide range of case studies and apply best practices from an array of experiences.

Sarah holds a Masters degree in Human Resource Change Leadership from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. She also holds a certificate in Human Organization Development from the Adler Graduate School in Minneapolis, MN. She lives in her native Northeast Minneapolis with her husband, three children, and two corgis.

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