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Learning in the age of Covid-19

This week I decided to look back to our first ever blog post and how things have or have not changed since October. If you didn’t read that fear not as I wanted to use this week for something of an update.

Like businesses of all shapes and sizes we’ve had to reassess and make sure we are still positioned to best serve our clients.

We’ve also had to go back and question if our ethos still holds true and if not, how we adapt.

Our original thoughts:

Most people have an interest in learning. Either they have a natural curiosity to be exposed to new and different ideas. Or, they have a strong desire to be better at what they do and recognize learning as the conduit to achieving those outcomes.


Arguably this holds truer than ever before. Many more are working from home and whether conscious or not have had to learn new things quickly.

Video conferencing technology; Zoom, Teams, Skype, Adobe <insert your choice of platforms>, sure you may have used it before but never to this extent.

As someone who has been delivering webinars for 10+ years I had to learn quickly how to use Zoom. Whilst I may have had my own preferences on platform, I needed to adapt to client demands.

There is a wealth of learning materials out there like, Zoom’s own repository of online content as well as courses on LinkedIn Learning and of course our old friend google.

I had both a curiosity to learn and a desire to be better.

I had always been a little hesitant to use breakout rooms on Abode but now I realise that was party down to me. I had not spent enough time learning to equip myself with the confidence to deliver. Once bitten, twice shy? With my foray to zoom I made sure this was top of my list to learn, understand and try.

As our original post stated I had a strong desire to be better and recognised learning as the conduit to achieving those outcomes.

But remember this is not a solo quest. Speak to others, I learnt a lot from chatting to others and asking questions; do you know how I can spotlight a speaker, or switch off another video to make it more of a two-way q&a.

Review features like chat, mute, and background replacement to make sure you can quickly turn these options on and off as needed during an important meeting.

Be efficient, ask questions and learn.

Communication – intrinsically linked to video calls/meetings/webinars is our ability to change our communication style.

With team members collaborating predominantly from home it increases the need for and value of clear communications. But at the same time, so much more work is being conducted from an expanding number of locations which can make communications more challenging than ever before.

But let’s get back to communication basics (the 3 I’s) and put the medium to one side for a moment. By doing that we will realise nothing much has really changed.

How to have presence when communicating (the 3 i’s)

Be Intentional

  • Set intention at start
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • What do you want people to know, think or feel?

Be Individual

  • Does what you’re communicating speak to who you are?
  • Do people know your personal brand and what you stand for?
  • Does it set you apart?

Be Inspirational

  • How does what you are communicating inspire others to want to connect with you?
  • Tell a story …..

Now if we take that and plug it back to a video from of communication

How does this impact our ability to connect and have presence?

  • Physical distance = emotional distance
  • Successful teams make an effort to engage with one another outside of formal meetings (group chat, spontaneous 1:1 conversations, etc.)
  • Virtual presence requires more communication. Yes, being on a video call with the camera on does require more effort, more concentration and at times a more forced

Virtual presence requires…

  • Energy – connecting within virtual teams requires the will to make connections and the effort to do it on a consistent basis
  • Learn and use the tools available 
  • Use less or no slides when possible!
  • Humanize interactions (Use video as much as possible, decrease formality, ask questions, etc.)
  • Articulate the unsaid – the Yoda Factor – “Everyone is awfully quiet today and I’m picking up on frustration around this topic….let’s discuss it.”

The Information Age

In the ‘information age’ we are inundated with a constant barrage of new information. The news cycle changes within milliseconds. Social media demands our undivided attention. Covid-19 is awash with at times conflicting data.

And our work is complicated with less resources to deliver.

Often, we have no choice but to turn a blind eye to some of it and focus on what needs to be done vs. what we could learn to do things better. We survive instead of thrive. 

But let’s start to look forward.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in a paradigm-shifting, COVID-19-inspired move, informed his employees that they can continue working from home “forever.” 

Other firms are busy planning what a new office norm could look like.

We are slowly starting to move from reactive to proactive, from survive to thrive.

Don’t be overwhelmed with information or opportunity:

“Neither comprehension nor learning can take place in an atmosphere of anxiety.”

Rose Kennedy

Back in October we listed out what we called Three Obvious Things

  1. People want to learn
  2. Their time is limited, and
  3. They want results

1). People want to learn

We love learning. Sounds obvious from people who spent much of their careers in L&D. But we also remember feeling stressed by the expectations set to learn. Management sent emails about mandatory learning hours per employee to achieve a departmental goal.

We’d get links to videos, white papers and newsletters and never read or watch any of them. We hadn’t lost the desire to learn. We’d lost focus. 


We are being encouraged to learn more, sent more instructions and guidance on how to work and what to do.

When it comes to learning most organisations already have a suite of online learning modules on demand. Although helpful for those who have clearly defined needs, this is a bit like me telling my 11-year-old daughter to use google to figure out what a fronted adverbial is. Sure, she will get here in the end but it’s not efficient and will she learn anything other than the answer?

Every day I see many new webinars on offer and whilst I am grateful that others are putting out free content I find it hard to curtate which will be useful to me and find whilst I want to learn I can sometimes make poor choices, leading to think after 40 mins, that wasn’t really much use to me.

Continue to want to learn but be smart.

An online library is not a learning plan, we must be the sommeliers for our people. Guide them, help them, think about their needs, directing them to what they need to learn both now and in the future.

2) Their time is limited

As trainers, we remember standing in front of teams of busy people. People who are measured for their output and whose jobs are stressful. We’d talk to them about things like coaching their employees. Positive communication. We’d spend hours and sometimes days practicing models and working through cases. The feedback was always the same. “Interesting concepts but not sure how to apply them.” 


Time remains limited. I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with people telling me they are busy than ever.

For those not used to working from home on a full-time basis it’s quite a change and requires discipline and planning. Throw into the mix a busy household with other competing demands and it can seem like there is never enough time.

So, I think this still holds true, but it comes back to choices.

In fact, more than that it’s learning 101. Go back to the simple question What is your need right now?

  • To be better communicate on video conferences
  • To manage a virtual team
  • To…

Once you are clear then despite limited time you can make the right decisions. Maybe you schedule a few hours a week just for learning, reading or practicing those things you need to get better at.

I’m often making my family jump on a video call so I can test various features; is my mic too loud, can you see this share screen and does my hair look ok?!

And I ask questions, lots of questions. What do you think to this idea for a client, would this be useful, how could we do something differently…?

And if we need a reality check look only to the Health Care Professionals out there working to save lives whilst training new Doctors, Nurses and others whilst on the job. If they can do, then so can we.

3). They want results

We all want change that we can see and feel. We want results we can measure or evidence. When you learn guitar, you learn a chord, go away and practice it. Often times in training, we teach the whole model or theory in a day and expect results! Isn’t it better to teach someone one small, simple technique they can practice over time? Isn’t it better to do one small thing every day than try to achieve ten big things and never get there?


This is the essence of it all, neatly summarised by the META strap line; Transformative learning made simple!​

Small incremental change over time can lead to big results.

So, don’t stress it, distil it down to your learning list. If like me, you love a good list then I am sure you have neatly categorised to-do lists for all sorts of thing in front of you right now.

Is there one for learning? If not STOP right now and jot down a few small bullets and exercise that muscle daily.

Stay safe, stay curious, keep learning!

About this author

Matt Fotherby

Financial Markets, Compliance & Regulations

Matt Fotherby

Matt is our Founder and a passionate trainer.

His interest in education stems from his 10 years as an Account Executive looking after Global Hedge Fund and Asset Management clients. This led Matt to join the coveted Financial Markets Education team at UBS, a unique in-house education team that specialised in running a curriculum of financial market and product classes for both UBS employees and clients. Matt was responsible for building out the client offering; managing programs, creating content and teaching courses.

As financial markets entered a significant period of regulatory change Matt pivoted to take his client experience and market knowledge to focus on Regulations and Compliance topics.

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