Sally Pearce explains the lockdown reflection effect and what it means for our profession
I have heard so many stories of heroism, despair, frustration, fear, care and optimism during the past few months. I strongly believe that these stories transcend even the staggering stats. Much like the training I develop, alongside the stats and information, stories bring to life the lessons we all need to learn. They help us look at the human element of the situation, to help us see how people have been impacted and changed by what has occurred.
When Covid-19 hit the UK this year, it threw a lot of businesses out of balance. The usual rhythm and habits of everyday life were paused and the plans we made were undone. For weeks, many of us were home, either working or furloughed.
In recent months, everyone has been busy dealing with the growing number of customers who are trying to get support and claim for plans that have been cancelled. Our time has been pushed and squeezed, to help our customers. The priority has been to spend time on people who have been ill or stranded abroad, those who have lost holidays and owners whose businesses are at risk. Most training has either been cancelled or moved online in the form of webinars, forums, video chats or e-learning.
For many of us, this e-learning has been a way to balance our day around the isolation of homeworking or dealing with unhappy customers, but something else has also been happening. People have had the chance to reflect on their own development and explore new ways of learning and adjusting to ever-changing situations. Whether busy or furloughed, now has never been a better time to make sure we are all well equipped to not just do the job, but to do it well. Sometimes, things have to fall over (or pause), for us to realise we need to change and develop.
The new norm
It looks like homeworking is going to be the norm for our profession for some time. Even when we do return to our offices, social distancing means we are likely to still spend some working time at home. I can't imagine people crammed on public transport or in an open-plan office with others in the near future.
As unsettling as this experience has been, it has been the making of many businesses. Those that made good preparations have embraced the change and put people first, and have popped their heads above the sea of others that remained in pause mode. This is a good time to ask ourselves -- does this work anymore? Is there a better way? Of course, technology has opened up, which has facilitated a more flexible way of working and for some of us this has been less stressful and (depending on homeschooling commitments) more productive.
This has given us time to think and question. Now is the moment to challenge and change. What helps us to challenge and change best? Training and development, alongside a chance to pause. If we know what others did well and not so well, and tales of companies pushing through a challenging time, it can inspire us and give us food for thought. Wouldn't it be good if 2020 was a year of challenging the norm, questioning how things are being done and broadening our minds?
I heard a story once that really brings this questioning concept to life. I have been told it is true. It's one I want to leave you with today, to help you understand what happens after the pause and reflection stage we are going through. What follows is a write-up of the story I found on Businessballs.com-¦
A traditional brewery decided to install a new line, so its products could be marketed through supermarkets. This was a major change for the little company. Local VIPs and past employees were invited to witness the first running of the new canning line, which was followed by a buffet and drinks.
After the new line had been switched on successfully and launched, the guests relaxed in small groups to chat and enjoy the buffet. In a quiet corner stood three men discussing transport and distribution -- one was the present distribution manager and the other two were past holders of the post, having retired many years ago. The three men represented three generations of company distribution management, spanning more than 60 years.
The present distribution manager confessed that his job was becoming more stressful because company policy stated long deliveries should be made on Monday and Tuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all other deliveries midweek.
"It's so difficult to schedule things efficiently -- who knows what we'll do with the tight demands of the supermarkets," he said. The other two men nodded in agreement.
"It was the same back in my day," sympathised the present manager's predecessor. "It always seemed strange to me that trucks returning early on Mondays and Tuesdays couldn't be used for little local runs, because the local deliveries had to be left until Friday."
The third man nodded and was thinking hard, struggling to recall the policy's roots many years ago when he'd have been a junior in the despatch department. After a pause, the third man smiled and then ventured a suggestion.
"I think I remember now," he said. "It was the horses-¦ during the Second World War, fuel rationing was introduced, so we mothballed the trucks and went back to using the horses. On Mondays, the horses were well rested after the weekend so that was the best time of the week to do the long deliveries. By Friday, the horses were so tired, they could only handle the short local drops."
Soon after the opening of the new canning line, the company changed its delivery policy -- and not a moment too soon.
For me, the most exciting thing ahead for learning in the insurance profession is the chance to challenge and change the way we do things. We need to keep learning, questioning and putting people first. Times really are changing and no company or person should be left behind.
Sally Pearce creates e-learning courses for Conduct Matters, which are geared towards insurance firms and professionals. The courses take Financial Conduct Authority regulations and turn them into engaging and memorable learning experiences. There are a variety of course topics to choose from, which are regularly refreshed and updated. For more information about Ms Pearce or Conduct Matters, visit: www.conductmatters.co.uk