Endings and Beginnings – Owning 2021 and Looking Ahead to 2022
As we close out the year and say goodbye to 2021, we asked our team for their reflections of the past year. Throughout the last 12 months we were in the unique position of supporting our client community whilst also manifesting significant change ourselves. It has been a turbulent year with the constant need to adapt, learn and support one another. We are delighted with the feedback we have received from our client groups, knowing that we’ve enabled them to lead their teams and organisation through this challenging period.
The experiences of our team across the UK, Europe and Asia Pacific have all been different. What have they learned from the last twelve months and what do they look forward to in 2022? Here they share their perspectives.
Dr Robert Coles, Chief Executive Officer
Tell us what you have learnt about clients over the past year
That quite often they are as in the dark, just as we are, and they have been confronted by things that they have had to resolve very, very quickly, which is not easy. Organisational cultures have not been designed to succeed in an environment like the one we’ve been through and that’s been the biggest struggle for our clients. I think the characterisation of absolute uncertainty becoming the norm is the best way to understand it.
How has Roffey Park Institute supported their clients during the last 12 months?
A lot of ‘just come in and talk’ and that invitation was taken up by people all over the world, via the Navigator Programme. It was amazing how many people booked into those initial free conversations of you know, ‘help!’. We have had many people comment on how quick we were in opening up through the Navigator Programme to give support, offer spaces to express feelings, fears and seek comfort. Also upping our blogging and vlogging rate for a while gave lots of reassurance and lots of positive messages to people.
What has Roffey Park Institute learnt during this period?
The thing you learn in all situations like this, is that there’s no such thing as never. You learn that your untouchable ‘facts’ are touchable. You also learn the importance of your values and how they are expressed in practice. I think, in terms of our organisation, we realised we are a lot more together, resilient and agile than we thought we were, which is great.
From the last year, what has been your proudest achievement?
I think the thing that has impressed me the most is the sheer commitment and teamwork that went on at Roffey Park Institute. Like everybody else, we were having to fail rapidly, to learn quickly, and grow in challenging circumstances. The commitment from our staff was astonishing.
There’s no such thing as individual heroes in communities; I don’t believe in those. We were and are a great team and I’m so proud to be part of it.
Dr Arlene Egan, Director – Learning and Thought Leadership
Tell us about the last 12 months at Roffey Park Institute
The last year caused Roffey Park to really go back and visit its mission – to break down barriers in the workplace. It’s a phrase that I’ve heard over and over again in the last year and we were very cognizant that we were able to reach out to people and not exclude people.
So how did Roffey Park Institute help support clients throughout the last year?
The most telling story for me throughout the pandemic was delivering online and we had clients from India join us. They had one computer in the village that everybody had to go and sit around. So, what we tried to do was to make sure that what we brought to the marketplace could be accessible to everyone so that we could level the playing field when it came to helping them develop the skills that they needed.
So, looking forward, how do you see the next 12 months shaping up?
This time last year the business world was talking about exhaustion, right? This year, it talking about the great resignation because people are on the move. People are rethinking their purpose. I think that people will need tolerance. I think that they will need patience. I think that they will need some open mindedness and creativity and I would hope that they don’t lose the focus that they’ve had. Ultimately, they’re going to just need to stay resilient and they’re going to need to stay talking to each other. They’re going to need to keep working on their teamwork.
Tell us about our new learning journey?
I’m really excited about our new learning journey because we’re focusing on learning that’s sustained and has impact – and that’s what people want. We ask you what impact you want to have at the beginning, we stay with you while you practice new skills and behaviours and the impact and value that this adds to not just the learner, but also to the organisation. So, in terms of that journey it’s active and it’s interesting. I think lots of us are looking for a bit of that too in our lives.
What are you excited about for 2022?
I’m looking forward to a refreshed way of working. We’ve made some very strategic changes here in Roffey Park and particularly in the team that I am responsible for. There’s great energy and we’re dying to get going, so I’m definitely looking forward that. I’m looking forward to meeting some new clients this year as well, people who want to make a real difference in the workplace and who want us to come on their journey with them.
Jackie Brown, Director – Roffey Park Institute
How has Roffey Park created significant client impact in 2021?
We enabled clients to make sense of what was happening. We established a regular series of online events – HR Matters – and I think that’s been really successful. The aim was to address topics that were of interest and to give people a space to come together. Because of this space we helped leaders to think and reflect. Things were transforming and changing because of the space we gave them in our practice and how we helped them open up through conversation. We really helped people with getting a language, or a command of their language and helping them make sense so that they could find the path that they needed to go on themselves. We were with them; they had a partner and they weren’t on their own.
What have you learnt about Roffey Park over the past year?
I learnt a lot about the foundations of Roffey Park. The past year we saw that we went back to what we did every day with clients, and we did it ourselves from the inside out. Now I feel like I really understand the essence of who we are, understanding our place as a educational trust, why we are a for-purpose organisation and what our purpose is.
One of our clients said our difference is that some providers come in, demanding they know the right answer and they tell you what needs to be done. Others come in and do as they’re told. They said you guys don’t do either. You partner and meet us in the middle and you pull on your expertise. Our leadership team really worked hard on this and to partner with our clients. That takes more time and is more difficult to do, but it’s about treating people with respect and so we’re really living our values and I think that went right through the organisation.
Finally, a few words on how you see the next 12 months?
There’s a lot of reorganising and rejuvenating going on, so I think there will be an awful lot of activity. In terms of people development, I think there will be reflections on skills that need to be re-learnt, or perhaps re-trained. For the next year I believe we will see a lot of upskilling managers to leaders and a rethink around what leadership is for some organisations. I’m curious to know, is there a rise in social type of CSR corporate social responsibility programmes? Is that reflecting that people are recognising that social ties need to be tightened? This is an interesting one.
Melinda Yon, Senior Consultant
What have you learnt from our clients over the last year?
I’ve learnt from our course participants that everyone is resilient. The last 18 months we have seen our resilience tested like never before by the impact of the pandemic. Although it can be very easy to look at the world in a pessimistic way and feel defeated with everything that’s been going on, there is still optimism and a desire to continue to learn and flourish and it is very encouraging.
How have client demands changed in the last 12 months?
Leaders and managers are looking at different ways to engage with employees particularly with the challenges of a virtual and hybrid work environment. There’s no easy solution to this as they need to balance the need to be supportive against the need to manage performance. With the various challenges people have been facing from the pandemic and work/life balance, there has also been more emphasis on having empathy and compassion as part of a management toolkit. Plus, we’ve noticed an increase in learning solutions for how to build employee, team and organisational resilience.
How has Roffey Park Asia Pacific supported its clients during 2021?
Giving people a voice. What I’ve noticed is that people miss having conversations and so during the programmes they enjoy being able to share and discuss ideas and challenges with their colleagues or a group of peers. By creating a “safe space” to share, and especially when they realise they are not alone, has been a powerful support and development tool. I also think we’ve been able to quickly create customised, impactful programmes to help our clients re-connect their people, and keep them motivated and engaged in their work.