The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the coronavirus as SARS-COV-19, better known as Covid-19, as a worldwide pandemic, prompting governments, corporations, and businesses around the world to install various measures in their respective countries and territories to respond the growing threat. Their response falls into two broad categories: to help keep people safe from the coronavirus and to help mitigate the impact of a volatile economy facing multiple pressures from adverse market conditions.
Singapore, which has been praised for its response to Covid-19 by netizens around the world, is planning for a sudden spike in cases, particularly those imported from neighboring countries and other badly affected regions.
“Our economy is taking a big hit. That is why we did the $4bn Support and Stabilisation Package in the Budget last month to help businesses, workers and households tide over the immediate period. This has helped. But with things still unfolding, we knew we might have to do more,” said Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a televised address to the city state on 12 March 2020. He later added, “We will help our workers keep their jobs, and retrain during their downtime, so that when things return to normal, our workers will be the first out of the gate, and immediately productive.”
As corporations navigate a volatile business environment, it is imperative for them to ready themselves for the upswing when markets stabilise and demand recovers. This is only possible by responding to this crisis with T.L.C; training, learning, and coaching for their employees.
The Basics of T.L.C
This often involves imparting and sharpening specific skills or the use of specific tools in areas related to an employee’s routine work. Training often comes in the form of hand-on workshops or small-group seminars, often with specific training objectives or takeaways as the goal. For example, our Personal Efficiency Program (PEP) aims to impart specific skills, tools, and techniques that enable its beneficiaries to raise their daily productivity while our SalesPEP courses aims to empower sales executives with skills and tools that will enable them to set and hit their sales targets while also maximising their productivity by focusing on high-impact activities. Majority of our programs have the option to be delivered in person, through a webinar or through an integrated mix of online and offline delivery methods depending on unique workplace situations.
Learning often comes hand in hand in hand with training and is sometimes used interchangeably. Learning, however, is much more all-encompassing and may involve imparting information that enriches an employee’s general knowledge rather than a specific area of expertise. While learning happens in many different formats, they are maximised when targeting a larger audience, and may come in the form of a large-group seminar, a keynote presentation, a panel discussion or a talk. The areas covered are often applicable to employees across different functions, with examples such as financial planning seminars, career planning keynotes, or physical and mental health workshops, which PEPWorldwide Asia delivers through our HealthPEP sessions.
Coaching usually seeks to address individual or team development and often involves a more personalised and tailored approach by experienced executive coaches. Professional executive coaching is usually reserved for high-potential executives being groomed for a senior position or for senior leaders to further hone their leadership and management skills. Many companies also employ group coaching to further develop their top executive or management teams as a single unit. The goals of a partnership between a coach and a coachee usually depends on the terms of engagement between the coaches and the party paying for their services.
Companies with the best human development models often employ a mix of all three methods within a strategic framework that considers the current and future needs of both the company and its employees. This includes running training programs, learning sessions or coaching interventions at every level of the corporate hierarchy in every business function. These programs and solutions must add value to employees’ personal development and ensure positive business outcomes for the company.
In an article about retaining high-value employees during a downturn, the Harvard Business Review reported that, “High on the list for leaders who want to retain high-impact performers is training and on-going education, both of which ensure that people can 1) do their jobs properly, and 2) can improve on existing systems.”. This echoes Prime Minister Lee’s suggestion for Singaporean companies to invest more in their workers.
There are very good reasons why retaining, training, and developing employees during an economic crisis is the preferred response for many top corporations currently in business.
Firstly, this will allow companies to maximise their employees’ time on the clock, particularly those that now have gaps in their schedules as a result of the current economic climate. This may include sales and business teams, project managers, or junior executives, among others. So instead of leaving them with a lightened load—which may sometimes cause unintentional anxiety over job security—send them for courses or training sessions where they can spend their time more productively.
Another good reason for focusing on TLC sessions at this point of time is that employees will be better prepared both psychologically and skills-wise for future crises; by giving employees the opportunity to see the company through a crisis, they will be much more invested and empowered to see the company through future crises which will inevitably come. This in turn build organizational resilience. A prime example would be to compare the COVID-19 response from Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, all of which experienced the full brunt of SARS, with those of countries that were relatively safe from the 2003 outbreak, such as some European countries. In Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, institutions and government bodies put in place organizational measures based on what they learnt during SARS, but it is the officials and healthcare workers who experienced SARS who also made a huge difference by stepping up and leading the response to COVID-19, using their past experience to guide their younger counterparts.
Finally, COVID-19 may persist for a while, with some worst-case predictions in some countries claiming that it might take until the last quarter of 2020 for the pandemic to abate. Most experts also expect a vaccine to only be available after a year. What is certain is that COVID-19 will not last forever and businesses must also plan for recovery in order to recoup their losses quickly. This would only be possible if employees and workers are ready and prepared with upgraded capabilities and up-to-date knowledge that they can use effectively by the time the economic rebound comes.
It is also important to note that companies and corporations that are able to respond promptly and nimby to COVID-19 have been those that prioritised employee development and skills upgrading; employees who have maintained a digital edge were able to transition to a work-from-home arrangement much more quickly than their less savvy competitors while those that have invested considerable amounts of time and resources into devising contingency plans were able to immediately shift gears towards prioritising employee health and welfare while minimising damage to their bottom-line.
This is now the best time to conduct a thorough analysis of your company’s training and development strategy. Are there enough TLCs in your strategy? Have your business been able to cope with the sudden changes? Use the current situation to observe the gaps and inadequacies that the current crisis is unearthing within the organisation, compile the necessary data, and prepare your employees accordingly so that the company can emerge stronger, wiser, and better prepared to take on the future.
About the Contributor:
Hidhir Razak is the Corporate Relations Manager of PEPWorldwide Asia. An ardent believer of the power of storytelling and its unique ability to bring people and communities together, Hidhir is a reader, writer, and researcher by training. His articles have appeared on The Middle Ground, Yahoo Singapore, and Poetry.sg while his creative works have appeared in numerous anthologies and collections in Singapore. He holds a Master of Arts degree from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where he specialised in English and Creative Writing
Angeline V. Teo is the President and Chief Consultant of PEPWorldwide (Asia) Pte. Ltd. She is also an International Speaker, certified Master PEP Consultant, Executive Coach and Author. Above all, she is a caring Mother of two, a loving Wife, filial Daughter and avid Spa and Vacation addict!