COVID-19: The new normal – working and upskilling from home

StratumFive moved to working from home (WFH) well in advance of lockdown in all the countries it operates and with some minor adjustments, service provision has suffered no real disruption. Prior to lockdown the acquisition of FleetWeather in the US and the launch of Podium, StratumFive’s unique collaborative data workspace, resulted in significant recruitment and training demands across the business and what were already globally distributed teams. With core recruited competences focussed around innovation, solution development, sales and service delivery, the need for maritime industry input is seen as essential to StratumFive’s success. 

The Subject Matter Expert (SME) team were tasked with developing content, delivery and assessment tools adapted to the new WFH environment. Many organisations have moved to online delivery of information and discussion and through webinars, e-learning, virtual classrooms and so forth and a Learning Management System (LMS) was already in use and readily adaptable. In common with many technology businesses in the sector we have some general shipping business knowledge to develop, combined with niche areas such as performance mechanics. Importantly we also have a values based culture which is reflected in all we do. This latter area poses particular challenges in a distributed team environment, especially when WFH and will be a “work in progress” for some time.

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LMS have a number of well established advantages over less flexible environments; the learning of each trainee is at their own time and pace and fits around their own needs and circumstances and topics can be tackled at the trainees preference on any connected device. Whilst every learner will cover all subjects during the set period, the LMS drives the trainees to investigate further through logical threads in much the same way as a set of entries in Wikipedia.

Each learning goal is divided into modules supported by reading material, pictures, or videos. The LMS includes tests of 4-6 questions for each module, which examine the trainee’s understanding. The benefit to the trainer is substantial, as following up is simple, with, for example, results and how much time spent on each module, providing valuable data on the effectiveness of the learning material and difficulty of the test.  

COVID-19 and WFH resulted in the adoption of a second stage of training involving discussion of questions between all trainees. These web hosted, trainer led, meetings were intended to promote common understanding of the materials, provide insight into the learning process and, not least, contribute to a sense of community and joint endeavour within the business.  

A final assessment is undertaken some weeks after completion to establish the extent to which the material has been embedded in the long-term memory and deep understanding of the trainees. The examination tests the ability of the trainee to recollect all topics and retrieve the important information for their contribution to the business whilst working remotely.

The commitment and availability of the StratumFive management and SME teams during the full training process is essential whether in the physical delivery of the subject material or in mentoring the participants and supporting the collaborative culture the company and its solutions are designed to support. Using the LMS as a tool the talent and business culture can be developed and supported on an individual and group level.

COVID-19 has been in no way a welcome distraction, but it cannot be denied the rethinking of business functions and delivery it has generated will have a long lasting impact on the way we conduct business going forward.

Stay safe.

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