It’s hard to believe the first day of fall is less than a week away. It is also hard to believe we’re over six months into the pandemic and the stresses and unexpected twists and turns that have come with it. In the move from face-to-face learning to virtual these past months, we have had to adapt and learn and grow. I personally have added “virtual program designer and producer” to my resume and skill set. I could have never imagined this would be a large portion of my future job when I was completing my degree in organizational psychology. Much of this learning has been beneficial, and there are, of course, some losses.
One of the hallmarks of our programs is the cohort model which provides opportunities for vicarious learning and friendship building, as well as social support and peer pressure to practice and grow. We are keenly aware of the lack of informal relationship-building time we have in this new virtual space, the loss of casual conversations during the lunches or over breaks. While we always felt this was an important element of our programs, now that people are working from home, this informal social interaction and exploration is even more precious. Not only are employees and participants experiencing this loss of casual interactions, so are our teachers and facilitators. Faculty are often not in the same physical space, so they will have less time together to discuss ways to be agile and adapt to the energy of the group. And perhaps the most significant problem or risk we see is the increased expectation and reliance on participants to take responsibility for their own engagement, learning and completion of activity when many of them are busier than ever, and more socially isolated.
As we are stabilizing and trying to get our footing around what the “new normal” is, we are recognizing and acknowledging that virtual programs have gained popularity among clients and systems and will likely be sticking around for the foreseeable future. Therefore, we are striving to be intentional about reflecting on our learnings and insights from this journey into the virtual world. It’s been exhausting for sure, but we have learned so much along the way about what it takes to create a successful virtual engagement.
What follows are some of our thoughts about accommodations to address the elements we think are most important if we want to retain some of the particular powers of very relational programs. We have worked and continue to work hard to get creative in the ways that we can foster relationships and support the personal and professional development of leaders and coaches.
Elements of an Impactful Virtual Organizational Intervention:
These elements taken together create a dynamic experience with lots of contact points and opportunities to practice. We are optimistically engaged in the challenges and opportunities that come with taking our programs and offerings virtual. We always want to co-create these programs with our associates, our client systems, and our community, and we want to hear your ideas and reflections on this major societal shift. How have you made the shift professionally and personally to teaching and learning in this virtual world? How have you been successful and what have you learned from this new experience?
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