For managers, upper management, and HR teams from all sectors, the coronavirus crisis is an enormous challenge. For many, the focus is mostly on keeping business running and dealing with the daily difficulties. As we don’t know when things will be getting back to normal, it’s all the more important not to lose sight of long-term projects and goals. That certainly also includes training for your team members.
No question: In times of great uncertainty, long-term goals quickly disappear from view. When immediate developments consume so many resources, meticulously established habits are quickly sidelined. However, especially now, fostering communication and therefore encouraging language learning is more important than ever to maintain your company culture, effective collaboration, and motivation. That’s why meaningful learning routines that were developed over a long period of time shouldn’t fall victim to the crisis. Did training not have a fixed place in your team members’ daily routine? Then maybe now is exactly the right time to establish new learning habits, when so much has to be rearranged anyways.
These tips will help you keep an eye on your employees’ learning goals, even under difficult circumstances. And maybe there’s even potential for trying out new ideas for language learning?
1. Provide for clarity and motivation
Crises can truly dampen motivation. Normal everyday life already provides enough excuses to avoid learning. That’s why management teams are called to provide for unity and clear goals. Make space for anxiety and worry and create regular opportunities for your team members to reflect on goals and spark new motivation.
Despite the crisis atmosphere, one thing is certain: Sensible goals don’t lose their value from one day to the next, even if the surrounding conditions change. That’s why it makes sense, as a team, to take another look at individual learning goals. Concretely, that means visualizing learning goals together with your team — on Post-Its, posters, or lists that people can see in their home office. The Babbel motivation posters can be helpful — you can find them to download and print out here. Record jointly which learning goals should be put on hold and which ones can be reactivated later. That way important topics don’t get lost while other things are more immediately critical for crisis management.
2. Don’t let established habits disappear
In times of crisis, established learning habits can quickly go haywire. Sure, at first the focus is on reorganizing many aspects of daily work: Roles and responsibilities have to be clarified quickly, and priorities have to be discussed every day and the team needs to get used to remote working. Despite all of these changes, you shouldn’t let carefully built routines be forgotten.
Try to return to established habits as soon as possible. Were specific times previously reserved for learning? Then that should remain the case, as far as possible. Do your team members like to learn together? Then make sure that learning groups can meet up digitally, if personal meetings aren’t possible anymore. Or set up a Babbel chat room where tips, tricks, and videos about language learning can be shared. Especially in times of uncertainty, it’s worthwhile to ensure learning habits because they retain some of the previous normality, are fun and can keep team spirit alive.
3. Use the potential of remote working
When possible, companies are asking their employees to work from home. That comes with many challenges, even when some are already used to working from their desk at home. Working from home in the long term is certainly different from doing it every now and then on Fridays. But let’s not kid ourselves: That’s exactly what many people will be doing in the next days, weeks, and even months. Give your team support to prepare as well as possible for this new normal. That includes considering possibilities for training at home.
Once the home workplace is set up and the new situation is clarified with the others at home, the potential of remote working becomes apparent. One particularly valuable advantage is the extra time gained from not having to commute to work. What would you do if your day suddenly gained an extra hour that you could use freely? Pull out your yoga mat to finally start meditating or use some of the time for personal learning? Encourage your team members to try out a new routine, and lead by example. Fifteen minutes a day can already have a decisive effect for language learning. As always, the key is to develop habits. And that might work even better at home than in the office.
4. Create time for social interaction and “deep work”
Working at home can be a lonely experience for some. For slowing down a pandemic, social distancing can be appropriate, but it’s not ideal for a satisfying work life. The longer the current situation lasts, the more important it is to guarantee the social aspects of work remotely as well. Why should digital tools only be used for meetings and not also for having a coffee together? Learning times can also be organized jointly, for example as a video learning group or one-on-one language practice. And it’s a good opportunity to get used to the new normal of digital meetings without any pressure.
Especially in the home office, it’s just as important to reserve time for deep work. As communication is more necessary for organizing work, communication-free time is also needed for focused work or learning. Set apart fixed times with your team where they can work or learn without interruption. In those times, it should be okay if messages aren’t answered right away. For training, the motto is: Learning time is focused time. That applies even more so when everyone’s eyes are on the news feeds so as not to miss the latest developments.
5. Time for bold experiments!
In the recent days of crisis, it’s often apparent that many people are dealing with the current challenges in creative ways. Things that, until recently, seemed impossible are now being tried out. And as it turns out, a lot of things aren’t as difficult as previously imagined. Get inspiration from others’ experiences and be open to new suggestions from your team. Try out new formats and let go of old ones if they don’t work digitally. In a crisis like the one we’re experiencing, it’s often unclear anyways what’s right and what’s wrong. So be bold and let yourself make mistakes and learn from them. And most of all: Stay healthy!
Want to find out more about digital learning in companies?
Take advantage of the extensive experience of our experts and download our free booklet on digital language learning in companies.
Joachim Haupt, communications researcher
As consultant, lecturer, and researcher, Joachim is currently focusing on the challenges of organizational communication. He’s particularly interested in how people and organizations can learn from each other — and especially the role communication plays.