When I became Business Disability Forum’s Head of Consultancy it was in the days of face-to-face meetings, travelling long distances and even going out for a meal or drink. Remember that time? Since then the way we work as individuals and organisations has changed out of all recognition and I wasn’t sure that consultancy could be as effective through lockdown; rather surprisingly, I have found that it is entirely possible to undertake my role without the need for the traditional face-to-face meeting and in reality, remote working can even be more effective. While there are challenges, it has proved to be not only possible, but successful. I thought it might be interesting to explore the upside of lockdown.
One of my major projects has been supporting a Member with a global presence to develop a worldwide strategy to institutionalise accessibility into their organisational culture. This is a long-term and ground-breaking project to which I have contributed through MS Teams, phone and email. This has been an increasingly productive approach with documents being exchanged, discussed and developed through video-conferencing calls. As a result, I have a much closer relationship with the employees engaged on the project and meet with them far more regularly, albeit remotely, than would ever have happened before lockdown. Closer relationships have enabled more open discussions and a deeper understanding of the issues. I have no doubt that the end result will be a ground-breaking approach which will deliver what the Member wants.
We have received a number of requests to amend our current tailored and bespoke face-to-face courses to provide an online learning solution. We have also redesigned our standard course offering in order to meet the needs of our Members and Partners who are keen to support the continuous development of their employees during this time of quarantine.
We have learned that participants are still able to engage with the course content and facilitator during these shortened course offerings and are able to offer a blended learning solution to meet the needs of the learning audience.
We recognise that not all learners welcome the shift to online learning so we remain flexible and will work with each organisation to determine what works best for their teams.
One of the major personal benefits of being a lockdown consultant is now that I don’t have to get up at 5:30am to travel to a face-to-face meeting, I have more time to develop relationships with Members. The time I would have typically spent travelling is now available to talk to Members by phone or video call and mull over issues in a more relaxed and informal way than is often possible in an office environment. Members have also found this more informal process beneficial as it has helped them develop and refine their expectations and objectives.
My experience convinces me that our new ways of working can make consultancy more efficient and more effective. I would certainly say to Business Disability Forum Members, don’t be put off and think that we can’t support you due to lockdown.