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Veronica Cabedo: “there's an opportunity to create a new normal”
Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2020
Veronica Cabedo: “there's an opportunity to create a new normal”

In the third in our series of interviews with HR and training professionals about the impact of the coronavirus crisis, Brussels-based Veronica Cabedo shares her enthusiasm for change, agility and how to make real-time distance learning more fun.

There was a before, and now there is an after. We know pretty much what the first represents but are wondering about what the after will actually bring us. Veronica Cabedo of Samskara has been working in change management, leadership, team development and coaching for over 20 years. The last few months have obviously seen the nature and goal of her work change. She notes that although online training was part of her activity before, moving to a totally virtual scenario offers challenges for both her and her customers.

“The way I facilitate is to give a short capsule of content, people do some practice on this and then we debrief and anchor the learnings,” she explains. “That format has remained, but with shorter cycles. But I also sometimes like to play with cards or with accessories or with metaphors. How do you transpose that into a virtual setting? It is possible, it just takes a little bit of thinking.”

Reviewing the design of the sessions was essential. How does she keep things running? “Just using different things. Chunking things up and using different scenarios,” she explains. “It includes having a bit of fun and the technology allows us to do that. That’s where the design part comes in: it could be working with the chat, with breakout rooms, using polls and surveys, using images, videos or asking people to draw something and share what they've drawn on the screen.”

Polls, surveys and whiteboarding: see how they work in a virtual classroom

One of the great fears with remote learning is the perceived loss of human contact. An important aspect of in-class training is the possibilities for networking. Virtually, this is possible – if you plan for it. “The informal interaction is harder to create. One way is to invite people to come into the virtual training room 15, 20 minutes beforehand,” she explains. “Just to check that everything's okay. When they are connected, I pop them into a breakout room and they can have a little chat with each other. So you can create the networking opportunity, just have to be more intentional about it.”

Preparing to be agile

Although Cabedo has seen several projects put on hold or postponed, other clients are forging ahead. “One of the things I specialize in is change management and change agility. And you see the companies and teams that have built that agility to manage change are riding through this, because for them change is more normal. They kind of take it and go with it. Other companies are not really used to being in an earthquake, as it were. How do we adapt to that? There's something in terms of developing that kind of flexibility, agility in your everyday work context that prepares you for the next change.”

She points to companies working with, for example LinkedIn, encouraging employees to listen to TED Talks and providing small capsules of learning. “There are different ways of managing it,” she notes.

Rebuilding a new normal

Cabedo admits to being “amazed” at how people have adapted overall. “I think we should look at how we could leverage these crisis situations. It has also given us opportunities; being able to do things remotely, to blend, to connect, to have different formats, maybe new ideas in terms of continued learning.

There is an opportunity to create a new normal. How do we leverage that knowledge, that innovation, that agility to create innovative developments?”

Having worked with hundreds of people from the same company on a regular basis over the last couple of months has given Cabedo faith. “I really believe in the form of a blended learning,” she says. “For example, on one leadership course I'm delivering there's one module on empowerment and another on innovation. We have developed a remote version because that is the reality people are in now. They have to empower their teams without being with them. So it makes sense to adapt the training. There is great technology out there and lots of things you can use and integrate into training sessions that enable people to collaborate together in an innovative way.”

“We've been forced into this situation - there was no kind of opt out,” she concludes. “At one point there is a mindset shift, people say ‘Okay, let’s go for it! There has been a disruption and many preconceived ideas of what was possible or not have disappeared. I just love this! We can rebuild this new normal with a better foundation.”