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We’re so excited to have been invited to talk about BRAVE and the power of having difficult conversations by the London Institute of Banking & Finance. 👍🏻

It was a brilliant experience and we hope you love it. You can listen by clicking here.

We’ve also created a BRAVE Podcast Download that you can download & keep giving you an insight into what a BRAVE programme can do for you.

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Bringing Reward into 2022, one baby step at a time. 

A Reward department often covers more than you think, and it’s the department everyone benefits from, even if sometimes they don’t realise it.

What I’ve seen is that the reward options can usually be pretty standard and similar across many organisations. You know the usuals! Competitive pay – check! Pension – check! Holidays – check! Healthcare check! You get the point.  

While this is fantastic, and all of these are great benefits for your team, the approach to reward can often be slowed down by process, implementation, and a little red tape.  

So, how do you modernise and simplify the approach? 

In an ‘ideal world,’ where unlimited budgets, innovative technology and workforce devices are the norm you can do a lot. Some start-ups and cash rich businesses are now issuing credits for reward, so you flexibly create your package, choosing what matters for you. Bike for Work Scheme…but not interested? Then don’t choose that option! Sadly, we don’t live in the ‘ideal world’ and this approach is still new, but some evidence is showing very few schemes can truly be that flexible as it’s difficult to make every benefit optional, so core benefits have to be included. That said, we’re keeping our eyes peeled on how that works out and storing ideas for the future. 

For now, we need to work with what we have, and some smart baby steps is enough to get our ball rolling. 

Some steps to get your reward ball rolling. 

  • You must ensure you have a real, in depth understanding of the business from all perspectives.  
  • Rewards and benefits look vastly different from an office to a sales floor and it’s essential to talk to your people, in whichever way works best, to get to the real insight. 
  • Taking the time to understand what is important to colleagues and the profile of your workforce is also really important.  
  • Make sure you have considered diversity, age profiles and generations when considering reward solutions.  

Considering Multi-Generational Workforces 

As we enter 2022, we will see more of the five generations in the workplace than ever before. 

If you’re unsure where you fit, I’ve included the years of birth.  

  • Traditionalists – born 1927–to-1946 
  • Baby Boomers – born 1947-to-1964 
  • Generation X – born 1965-to-1980 
  • Generation Y (Millennials) – born 1981-to-2000 
  • Generation Z – born 2001-to-2020 

The amount of technological advancement that has occurred between the birth of the very first traditionalists and Gen Z is so vast it’s created two completely different life experiences. When a Baby Boomer got their first job, arriving to see a computer at each desk wasn’t the norm, whereas a Millennial and Gen Z have never known a world without a computer, a phone, mobile and probably a laptop. 

In our business, 59% of our workforce is currently either Generation “Y” and “Z”, 23% Generation X and 18% Boomers. 

Imagine the implications on reward when you are trying to engage five different generations at once?  

Another crucial factor to consider is your colleague profile mix.  

Here’s what I mean in real terms. If we did bite the bullet and jumped straight to a credit scheme where you pick your own benefits the colleague mix can cause issues. 

If your business has a substantial number of colleagues who are part time this means that they might not have enough credits to choose anything over and above the basic, expected reward benefits and this could mean that they miss out on some of the benefits that they would ordinarily have been available to all. It’s something that we have to consider with a workforce of our size. It must be fair.  

Based on my experience I totally agree that one size certainly does not fit all anymore but using the data available to support key decisions will certainly help!  

What did we do at The Midcounties Co-operative to modernise and simplify? 

Our first steps were to look to modernise how we issue colleague thank you vouchers. A fantastic way to reward our teams, loved by everyone, but they had a historic flaw.  

Previously the vouchers were printed on paper, posted out to stores and often had to be replaced when colleagues misplaced them, damaged them or they fell subject to many other mysterious fates! 

After plenty of research, looking at data, and of course, talking to the very people who were due to be in receipt of them we hatched a digital revolution plan. We launched a new digital solution via our app where colleagues would instantly see their reward vouchers on a mobile or desktop device. This is one step for Claire Foster and the Reward Team, and a giant leap for the Midcounties Co-opeartive teams! 

We of course considered our colleague mix and spotted that some people might struggle because they don’t have a smart phone or laptop at home.  

We made sure we supported those colleagues by allowing access via the store computer and if nothing else worked, we could still arrange for a paper voucher to be sent to them and are working with our Utilities team to think about how we can provide affordable smart phones and tech support for our colleagues who do not currently have a device. 

Interestingly, several months after a successful and well received launch, only 1.9% of eligible colleagues have requested paper vouchers. Result! 

Is this solution I’m sharing with you perfect? Of course not!  

But what is important is that we have already held a lesson learned session for improvements/changes we want to make. We’re talking to our people. We’re reviewing what we have done and how we could improve it. And that’s real progress towards modernising and simplifying the reward offer we have right now. 

So, in summary.  

Work with what you have got.  

Look at the data.  

Talk to all the people.  

Take an educated risk.  

Make a reward baby step.  

Keep an eye on the rest of the world as they change reward and learn from their lessons.


Claire Foster​ | Head of HR and Reward | The Midcounties Co-operative

So, we’ve changed, and we’d love to tell you why.

Well Prepared Training was born 6 years ago and over that time has successfully designed and delivered incredible learning & development, coaching and bespoke solutions for our clients. Our ethos has always been BRAVE and to ensure people feel that way after working with us.

Everything we did helped us realise we had something really unique when it came to our BRAVE programme. We knew that the beating heart of our business was bringing back the ‘art of disagreement’.

We spent the last couple of years paying close attention to the shifting dynamics in the wider world including social, economical, cultural and political changes. We started to see recurring themes and patterns which reinforced our belief. Now was the time to change.

We listened closely to our clients & our delegates for their feedback and they also told us loud & clear that it was increasingly hard to get people to discuss different opinions, without falling out. Our offer couldn’t just be about resolving conflict, it had to offer more, be wider, be broader and all encompassing for a business.

We evolved. We embraced our core principles and reinvented our mission, vision and values.

We have become We Are BRAVE

What was always our ethos has quite simply become our company name, influencing everything that we do.

We’ve reshaped our business around the 4 key principles of BRAVE. Our offer is enhanced, refocused and ready to help you and your people say ‘we can do the hard things’. You’ll learn about THINK, SPEAK, DECIDE and DISAGREE along with BRAVE and KIND.

We hope you love what we’ve worked on, we’re very proud to invite you to learn more at www.wearebrave.co.uk

Sara & Rhi.

What does a post pandemic L&D landscape look like?

The last 18 months has impacted L&D in many ways with likely more positives than negatives but the one shining light is that learning has finally become a major focus.  People have had to adapt to situations and events they weren’t ready for and that’s helped shaped the post pandemic landscape for the future of L&D.

What we’re starting to see now, as we begin to live and work with COVID, is some distinct changes in L&D that don’t look like they’re going anywhere fast. The three areas we’re highlighting in this post are the long-awaited Digital L&D Evolution, Hybrid Working and the re-emergence of Life Skills.

The digital L&D revolution…is it still coming…or is it already here?

Depending on the business you were in a digital L&D revolution was already starting or it may have been a long talked about promise that had stayed on the horizon for too long. The pandemic brought it forward for almost everyone as to survive, they had to adapt and embrace a new way to talk to their teams.

For many organisations, this meant throwing up in the air L&D materials, trainers’ skills & styles, and learning design principles. Most businesses, to varying degrees of success, transitioned to webinars using Skype, Zoom and Teams. Content had to change and be reduced, trainers delivery style and skills had to move with the times and the user experience was suddenly brought to the forefront.

From a commercial perspective, something big happened. Travel costs disappeared, hotel stays evaporated, petrol expenses dwindled and long travel days with people sat on motorways came to a halt. The reams of paper were replaced with PDFs and tons more efficiencies started appearing from every corner.  Added to all this is the very real fact that when delivered properly, the impact of a webinar is easily as effective as that of a full day of 9-5 training. 

So the question is, where next?  Do businesses stay virtual and keep going, or is there a very real, well-considered need to bring people together in real life? 

What we’re spotting right now is a split, across different organisation types. There are those who are never going back to face to face unless it’s really needed and are fully embracing this new, more cost effective and engaging way of learning. There are some industries where the change is being embraced but at a speed that is right for their teams and their technology needs.  What we do know is that you can no longer default to saying virtual ‘just doesn’t work’.

In our world of sharing everyone knows that the jobs market, learning, perks that hybrid is coming.

Our take?

We think that unless the digital evolution is embraced, even if it’s just initial baby steps, that an organisation may be left behind and the team will move on. More than ever, we’re hearing that people want development and if you can’t offer it in a way that feels modern, quick, and effective, and impactful, you might just lose your talent.

Hybrid working means Hybrid L&D

Let’s face it, we all worked at home whether we liked it or not for the most part and now as we adapt and find our way from fully remote to hybrid, we need to accept that the L&D landscape needs to move with us. Once again, L&D needs to consider how those with hybrid working roles can access training and development. Of course, this only really works if you are embracing the digital evolution but it’s more complicated than that.

We’re currently training existing trainers who have 50/50 splits between real life delegates and those on screen; helping them understand how that impacts learning, retention & recall, and engagement.   

Most businesses are hurriedly upgrading training and meeting rooms with Wi-Fi and speakers to try and enable the best fit for all. For those with planning teams training calendars are being furiously revisited as businesses work out how to make access to L&D fair and consistent, and available to everyone in the same way.  Improvements in technology keep coming:  Microsoft’s new ‘content from camera’ feature for example (other platforms are available ?).

This means many businesses are looking at the way training is delivered, by who, who to and the best and most effective ways to do it. This is a level of detail some will never have considered before and is an important addition when planning your L&D strategy. We urge those in the L&D teams to be part of these discussions now, as they often drift quickly back to costs, which always needs to be balanced with effectiveness of the learning.

Our take?

We think that just like how we work, a hybrid learning shift is coming. Not everyone might be taught the same way or in the same style but blended solutions, which suit the learner’s style and working arrangements, will be able to provide what people need and in turn change the way they receive it. It’s complicated and in some cases will mean similar content being created and repeated in a variety of diverse ways to ensure fair access but the scope of this means the breadth and availability of the learning offer will be maximised too.  Plus it all needs to live somewhere that can be accessed by everyone in a hybrid team; and that’s no small request.  Get on good terms with your IT team to figure out what’s possible.

The re-emergence of Life Skills

One thing the pandemic taught us was that while we’ve been busy delivering qualifications with strict curriculums, management, and leadership programmes to our future leaders and factual ‘how to do this’ type training we might have missed a trick.  When our managers needed empathy, compassion, listening skills, wellbeing conversations and how to just deal with some life situations, for many, those hadn’t been covered.

Requests for remote team management went through the roof, mental health first aid courses were booked solid for months, how to have a great conversation skills and listening with empathy became hot topics.  For some businesses these had always been part of the story but for many, especially those who had made the tough decision on budgets between life skills and qualifications, they came up short.

We’ve always known the importance of life skills and have embedded these into all levels of our content, so that they become essentials and not nice to haves but the landscape is now shifting further.  Businesses are still restructuring, adapting, and reshaping due to COVID and need those skills more than ever.  It might have once been assumed that those life skills were a little bit fluffy and surely everyone knew how to do them anyway but what we saw during a pandemic was that for many these skills were very much needed.

Our take?

We think that the landscape has changed enough for life skills to finally become as important as induction, management and ‘how to do your day job’ programmes. By focusing on skills like empathy, listening, emotional intelligence and resilience (there’s so many to choose from) we might find we are growing a whole new breed of all-rounders who can cope with more, engage more and truly nurture their teams.

We’ll be offering our clients access to our wealth of content to update and refresh their materials to help their managers be great managers, leaders, and fantastic life-skillers who embrace their hybrid, digital world. 

Overcoming a creative block.

The infamous creative block.  

That moment when you receive a new client brief with vague information, huge expectations, next-to-no budget and an unrealistic deadline. The time is 9.01. The first coffee hasn’t even scratched the surface of your functioning caffeine threshold. You know it’s time to get creative with your response. But the cogs in that space between your ears just aren’t functioning. You start to feel tense. Your heart starts racing. It’s fight or flight.  

Sound familiar? *Gulp* 

Okay, so I may have exaggerated some of those points, but that’s the creative block in a nutshell. It’s an unpleasant experience, to say the least, and one that as a Creative, you want to avoid at all costs. Working in a fast-paced creative communications agency has helped me pick up a few nifty tips and tricks that give me creative inspiration to prevent such ‘blockage’ (ew), which I’m going to share with you – being the generous person that I am. 
Buckle up, grab a brew and hang in tight. Here’s my four top tips for creative inspiration… 

One: Idols 

Idols. We all have them, but what about idols specifically within the creative industry? That’s a whole new kettle of fish. Having creative idols that produce and create works that amaze you can be hugely inspirational. Artists, sculptors, designers, art directors, photographers, you name it. There are so many inspirational figures out there in the field of creativity that can inspire your next project or proposal with their work. For me personally, it’s Virgil Abloh, the founder of clothing giant Off-White and Creative Director of the Luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton, and Daniel Arsham, sculptor, artist, visionary and Porsche 911 enthusiast, both of whom have a huge social following. But your inspiration could be any creative person, big or small. My challenge to you: pick up to three creatives within the industry that you’re interested in following. Once or twice a week, have a browse of their social handles and websites, or if you know them personally, why not get in contact? Keep track of what new weird and wonderful ideas they’re generating and see if you can unpick any elements of them to inspire the creative idea for your project. 

Two: Exercise 

You may be cursing at me from behind your laptop screen at the fact I’m suggesting you exercise to be more creative. “How will exercise improve my levels of creativity?”, I hear you ask. Well, there’s actually science behind it; just earlier this year, author and health/fitness reporter Gretchen Reynolds reported a scientific discovery that found “active people come up with more and better ideas during tests of their inventiveness than people who are relatively sedentary.”  
In my own experience, I’ve found that taking up running has been hugely beneficial not only to my physical and mental wellbeing, but also great for generating creative ideas too, as my mind isn’t clouded by other thoughts and worries when I’m channelling my focus on exercise. Why don’t you give it a try in your spare time and see what creative ideas come to you? 

Three: Smart scrolling 

It can be easy to lose an hour or more with what was meant to be a ‘5-minute thumb scroll’ on your phone. What I’m proposing is ‘smart scrolling’, which is exactly what it sounds like… be smart with your scrolling. How does it work? Simply swap out the mindless scrolling through photos of your mates out on the weekend for content that will inspire you creatively. Hop onto YouTube and check out the latest film trailers and music videos. What techniques did the film crew apply? What was done in the edit suite that made the content exciting and engaging to watch? How was the thumbnail designed to draw you in? By re-framing the purpose of your social scrolling, you can be smart with your time and be both entertained and creatively inspired simultaneously. The same applies to the Ads that bombard you online. Think about why they were shown to you specifically, what the key call-to-action was, how the copy was laid out and what colours were chosen to grab your attention. Next time you scroll, try this technique and, if you want to go a step further, why not add your findings to a Pinterest boardor scrapbook folder on your desktop to save for a rainy day when those creative cogs aren’t turning? 

Four: And breathe… 

This final top tip may seem ridiculously obvious but it’s crucially important. This is all about time; give yourself enough time and breathing space to allow those amazing creative ideas to develop. Brilliant concepts need time and space to flourish, so make sure you budget enough time to allow for this. A great technique is booking ‘focus time’ in your diary: where you don’t have any meetings, don’t accept unimportant incoming calls or emails and can focus solely on developing the creative idea. Another is taking regular breaks throughout the day, where for a short period of time you switch your focus to a completely different activity. It’s an opportunity to recharge and refuel so that you have a clear mind to come back, boss your brief and create something amazing. 
… And that’s it! My top four tips that almost anyone can do in their spare time to keep their creativity ticking along in the background, always on standby for when that challenging brief lands in their inbox, ready to create a wow-worthy response.  
If you stayed to read the whole article, here’s a bonus feature from me to say thank you… 

Extra tips: Useful websites for inspiration 

Ruan Sarris 
Creative at DRPG, creative communications group 

5 REASONS TO GET YOUR TEAMS ON HOLIDAY.

It’s summer, allegedly. The pressure mounts to take a break and books some precious annual leave. And yet, for a lot of people they’re just not doing it.

Of course, there could be reasons for this, outside of their control (red, amber and green ring a bell anyone?) It can also be that teams who love what they do, work hard and are passionate about the mission you’ve created might just feel a little too committed to work.

Your job as a manager or leader? To get them out the door and on a break.

Woah! Surely if they don’t want to go, and they’re happy at work then we should just let them continue to be amazing and help the business, right? Wrong.

Read on to find the 5 reason you really should be making sure everyone gets a decent holiday, and you might be surprised at the payback it gets you.

THEY’LL PERFORM BETTER WHEN THEY GET BACK

When team take regular holidays, they generally come home more motivated about their work and go on to perform better than those who don’t take as much holiday. They’re also less likely to have an accident in the work environment. Who knew? Guess what? They’re also likely to have lower stress levels too which can in turn help levels of sickness and absence.

IT GIVES THEM CHANCE TO REST THEIR BRAINS

A holiday can provide the perfect opportunity to catch up on sleep. We all need a few extra ZZ’s, but the brain needs a time out too. Life is full on, and we forget that our brains are on, almost all the time even when we’re not aware of it. A holiday can lighten the load. A lack of sleep and stressed our brain are big contributing factors to decreased performance at work, and potentially, if not addressed could affect a team members mental health further down the road.

IT’LL PROVIDE A WELCOME BOOST TO WELLBEING

When the team book, and then get their annual leave approved it gives them a sense of achievement that they have worked hard to be given the time off. Yes, we know they’re entitled to it, but there’s that strange satisfaction to knowing you earned that break, and it is yours to take. Anything that helps your team feel valued works in your business’s favour as they will feel motivated to come back to work and perform effectively.

IT SHOWS YOU ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT THEM

When you practically encourage your team to take holiday, perhaps even by doing so yourself, it shows them its ok to do so, and releases the pressure for those most committed to work. It’s important to help show them the benefits of taking a break, and why you want them to do it, in whichever way suits them. Great practice here is ensuring they know a break means a break and no emails on the beach or calls in the hotel room are allowed. Empower them to ‘switch off’ and reap the rewards or working hard.

YOU CAN EASILY RE-ENERGISE YOUR TEAM             

When you create a work environment where your team work hard, and play hard, it means you have the luxury of bringing back that passion, energy and enthusiasm that a refreshed, well rested team member brings back to the workplace. Remember, behaviour is contagious, so having that kind of energy bouncing around is priceless. Happy teams work harder, better and faster so why would you not want to help create that?

SO, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Check those annual leave spreadsheets and see who is holding back. It’s perfect holiday season so see who you can actively encourage to take a break first.

100 Coaching Questions

Whether you’re coaching for performance, to have a brilliant conversation or doing back to the office catch ups using a guide of carefully curated coaching questions will always make life easier.

We’re giving these away for free by simply clicking and downloading the file below.

Enjoy

Well Prepared Training – 100 Coaching Questions

Authenticity in brand and culture

“Be yourself and they’ll love you” is advice that many of us will have received over the years – be it ahead of a job interview, a date or first day of school. And it is fabulous advice, as long as you know what ‘being yourself’ is. 

If you don’t it’s a bit like being told to ‘walk naturally’ or ‘stand naturally’ – your brain immediately goes into overdrive. “Is this how I normally move my legs? Do I normally swing my arms this much? When did my hands become such a big part of my body?”

But at the same time, when we’re in safe environments where we can be ourselves and relax into us ‘at our best’ life is so much easier, and we don’t really think about it at all. 

So, what makes for a safe environment – often one in which we have clarity and parameters? 

And how do we do this when we are an organisation rather than an individual? An organisation full of individuals who we want to both be themselves and represent us at the same time? Tricky right?

So we could give everyone a really long list of what to say when they answer the phone, how to dress, and murder their autonomy, creativity and drive with processes and procedures. But don’t forget the twice monthly quiz to fulfil our social needs! 

I jest of course, although for many organisations this is the only way they have entertained a balance between consistency of their brand and a ‘good’ culture, the reason often being that they don’t know what they really are at their best as a whole. And there is no shame in this – many businesses grow and grow fast so what may have started as a really clear founder led definition or ‘sense’ of them is diluted overtime and / or doesn’t take into consideration the new perspectives or market changes. It happens all the time. 

If we define what the organisations is, truly, at its best, embrace it, embed it throughout all we do and endeavour to live it we may just crack it. 

So, let’s pause for a sec – and as L’Oréal cringely used to say – here comes the science bit! 

Why does it matter that this definition of the organisations at its best is authentic – why can’t we just make it up based on what we know our customers want us to be?

Well in a 2017 study 90% of millennials said that authenticity was a key driver in their decision to support a brand. And don’t be fooled that it’s just these youngsters – GenX and Boomers followed closely behind with 85% and 80% respectively saying the same thing. 

A 2019 study also showed that brand authenticity has a substantial effect on perceived value and brand trust.

But no, you can’t fake it – a third of respondents said that they had turned away from brands that they perceived to be inauthentic – to say one thing in their marketing and behave in a different way. 

Think of it as a friend being two faced. You are loyal to them but once they are two faced, you start to question your relationship, the trust is gone and with it your investment in them and your friendship. #over

So, now we’ve established why it needs to be authentic for customer loyalty let’s consider why it’s also a huge engagement and performance driver internally – reducing waste and increasing buy-in from colleagues. It’s back to the point that we started with, it’s much easier to be yourself in a safe space, with clarity and parameters. 

When a company or an individual can easily define what they are like ‘at their best’, it makes it way easier for the people around them to do the same. It helps others know how to act, feel and respond because they get ‘it’. They get the culture and brand they are dealing with. 

A Glib Example:

Sammy’s Gin Company strives to make the best possible Gin. (Ok that’s great, so what?)

So that people really enjoy it and have a great time. (Ok so do we care about great Gin or them having a great time?)

Ok, so maybe actually we want to make great Gin because we take pride in quality but what really matters to us is that people have a great time. And actually, we know that people have a great time in many different ways so we don’t want to stipulate that they can only drink it in certain way – we want them to do whatever they want with it – we are not precious! (Brilliant, getting more of a feel of who you are and what’s important to you now, sounds like my kinda Gin!)

Therefore, externally we are going to talk about “Gin for a great time, whatever a great time looks like to you.”

That’s the marketing sorted but that’s just one segment of our brand, for it to be authentic it needs to be right through us. Our leadership needs to have a conversation about what ‘a great time, without compromising on quality’ means to them. 

If we look at our suppliers – do they have a great time with us, or do we make their lives hell? Are our payment terms outrageous meaning they are always balancing and nudging us?

Do our colleagues produce quality work and have a great time doing it? If not, what’s stopping them? When we delve into it, we may find that they want more freedom, more direction, more clarity, less pressure and stress. Unrealistic targets may be a barrier to a great time which is then a wider conversation to understand why the targets are unrealistic. Our working environment may be a barrier to a great time – tiny offices, bad lighting or uncomfortable chairs. Our holiday allowance may be a barrier, a lack of anything bar statutory sick pay may cause anxiety and be a barrier to a great time.

You get the picture. 

And, if we look at our environmental impact, do we deliver a great time for people now and in the future? Are our bottles recyclable or will they stand in the way of future generations having a great time? Are our corks actual cork or are they a plastic look-a-like?

Once we as an organisation start to demonstrate the meaning of ‘a great time, without compromising on quality’ our people will begin to understand it and use it as the filter through which they too make decisions. It allows people to experiment and innovate within parameters that we have all agreed to and in doing so gives them accountability and responsibility – and a shared focus. 

In this case this isn’t a great time doing whatever you fancy, quality is in the mix too which helps to keep our team realistic as well as idealistic.

In defining ‘quality’ and our belief of what constitutes or is a barrier to ‘a great time’ we can rethink our internal strategies and the drivers of the business. 

Some might call this a vision, a purpose, a mission or a brand promise – in all honesty call it what you like and frame it as you like – as long as when something tough comes along you stand by it, through thick and thin. Because the moment you make a decision that contradicts it you’ve lost. You’ve lost your integrity; you’ve lost your people and you may lose your customers too.

But don’t focus on the risk – focus on the potential! 

Unearth what you are at your best or what it is you are truly trying to do. 

Embrace it, Embed it and Live it. Simple as that! 

You can learn more about our Guest Blog writer, Sammy Burt and what she does by clicking here. https://www.yourbackpack.co.uk/

Taking the leap in pandemic times.

Who would have thought starting a new job in the middle of a global pandemic would have been a good idea? For many people it made sense to just stay put. Well, I’m not many people and it turns out, in my case it was totally the right decision for me. I have zero regrets.

Back in March 2021 I took the leap and started in a new learning & development role at the global phenomenon that is Gymshark.

I’d luckily had a great head start in L&D, and I had already started to fall in love with helping others learn and develop. But this time, a new job, in a pandemic, in a completely new environment, and a new company, and a new sector with a very new style and most terrifying of all. New people. You’re probably starting to get my drift!

Tackling the nerves.

My biggest nerves before starting my new role were not being able to forge those all-important connections which set you up for success in the organisation. How on earth was this going to work when I was at home, and they were on a screen?

By the end of my first day, these thoughts didn’t even cross my mind. You quickly begin to forget how you’re working & building relationships with people you’ve never met in real life. Virtual communications saved the day and helped me go from nerves to excitement and engagement.

Onboarding in a virtual world.

The key message of the onboarding process was to take your time, understand the business & get to know your team. This, along with plenty of introductions, catch-ups & virtual tea-breaks created a platform for these connections to grow. Now, with me being nearly 5 months into the role, I can say with 100% confidence that the rapport that has developed is some of the strongest I’ve ever had in a work environment, and for me, is quite literally priceless.

The best bits about starting a job during lockdown are all the perks that come along with working from home. No commute, flexible hours and all that jazz. What I found added the greatest value in my induction period was having more time to digest all the information that is heading your way when you’re the new boy. It really helped me to ensure that I had time to really ‘get it’.

Unexpected benefits.

An unexpected (yet golden benefit) was meeting people with one added extra. Their names were in the bottom corner of each screen making it easy for me…and meant no awkward forgotten name moments.

However, I wasn’t complaining when URL transitioned into IRL. I was amazed by Gym Shark HQ. The building, the workspaces…and don’t even get me started on REFUEL the amazing in-house food and drink hub. The first day in the office really solidified my comfort in my decision & my role.

Culture makes it work.

The culture at Gymshark is just as you expect; authentic, honest & ever evolving. For me, the most monumental part of the Gymshark culture is ‘fail fast’. Feel safe in the environment which you’re in, so much so that you’re happy to make mistakes. This helps us learn and evolve. This one has been key ?.

My advice?

In summary, and not to steal some other sporting companies’ strapline, just do it.

You will always have nerves, you will always have self-doubt, but for me, I found it the best time to make my leap, supported by strong inductions, an incredible culture, and the benefits of working at home, and then in a hybrid role. Embrace it. Absorb it. Enjoy it.

Is it just me or does time feel strange right now?

Time has been feeling weird for a long time now, but in the last few months, it’s been a whole different kind of weird.

Some days go by so fast they barely register and then some days, you know the ones, they simply drag like time is almost standing still. There are days when I find myself thinking ‘where has this day gone’, but also, why does this day feel so familiar? You’ll all have felt this. It’s the dreaded Groundhog Day effect. 

Before I continue, I know I’m not the only one experiencing time very differently, and I’m acutely aware that millions of others don’t have work at all – in that sense, many of us literally do just have more time on our hands than usual.

The very concept of time doesn’t feel normal anymore…and apparently (after jumping into google and reading up about this) if you feel like I do, then I have some good news. It’s okay to feel like this!

It’s completely normal to feel life right now has warped our perception of how days, week and months pass by. We can all breathe a deep sigh of relief as we realise it’s actually a ‘thing’.

My initial research told me that there are many psychological processes that make up our understanding of time, and this then affects the way we see the world. Here’s one for you. How is it that January this year felt like the longest month ever and then February disappeared before our eyes?

Once again, I googled some more, and found myself spiralling down a rabbit warren of cognitive neuropsychologist science. In essence, what they say is that the things that we tend to use as ‘anchors’, to mark the passing of time or a specific place in your memories, have no longer been occurring, (because our world has changed so dramatically) which then contributes to this altered perception of time that we are all experiencing right now.

Look at it like this. Think of all those events we had to cancel in 2020. The well-earned summer holidays, the summer weddings, the birthdays, the travel, shopping till you drop (maybe that’s just me) going to the office, doing our jobs and all the normalities that changed overnight leaves us feeling lost, because nothing of value or interest really separates one month to the next.

We simply stopped making our anchors.

So, there must be a reason for this disorienting sense that time is malleable and inconsistent. Right?

In my reading and research, those same clever neuroscientists have worked out that there is not a single organ or system in the body responsible for timekeeping. In fact, psychologists have identified many factors that affect our sense of time, some of which explain our heightened awareness of it this year.

It’s been suggested that the way we feel time is passing is connected with our level of focus or our physical state and even our mood.  So, if we’re multitasking, and we’re busy with many different things at once, we have less attentional resources to monitor the passing of time, which means we might feel that it’s passing more swiftly.

Unsurprisingly; it’s been suggested that particularly negative emotional events can change the way in which we remember the timing of them. In fact, negative emotional events may even actually produce a time dilation effect, (which sounds like something from The Matrix) but it means that you perceive the time is passing much more slowly, We have all been through something awful, and we all remember how long it seems to last. So after all that, the weird passing of time in the last year isn’t just a quirk or you losing your mind. It’s more likely that something is going on, deep inside your brain, to alter how you experience the time.

This article just scratches the surface of understanding how we perceive time and it’s relation to our emotions and behaviour, and we haven’t even touched on the impact of Mercury being in retrograde!

So what have I done to help myself? I’ve found focusing on becoming more self-aware has helped me. I’ve been looking at how I perceive time, not only in different moments, but also for different situations and for different things that play on my mind. It takes practice, but I’m starting to spot some of the research I’ve shared with you in my own behaviours.

In summary, whether you’re feeling time is going too fast, too slow or simply too repetitive; you are not alone and you are normal. 

As we all become more self-aware, we develop the process of unlearning and relearning something different in order to survive and thrive in this new normal.  Our usual anchors may be missing at the moment, to help break up our days, so it’s up to us to actively shape our own years and rebalance our perception of time.

My final thought? As you find yourself progressing through 2021, be aware of the ‘illusion of time’. It might just be playing tricks on you.

Aysha Haynes

You can learn more about Aysha here.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/aysha-haynes/

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