Online Learning Specialist ELK Online
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Overcoming the fear of reskilling

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Reskilling is inevitable. It is also a challenge that exposes the gaps in your current abilities and makes you feel vulnerable, uncertain and afraid of failure. By taking a coaching approach to help someone develop skills in a new area you can build their confidence and help them overcome their fears. 

27th Apr 2021
Online Learning Specialist ELK Online
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“Are we off air?” Molly (not her real name) asked me, with her headset still on. I paused for a second contemplating the comedic value of the webinar host sitting across the table from me whispering loudly down her microphone to see if I’d switched the audio off yet.

I removed my headset, “Yep, we’re off air.”

“Oh my word!” Molly exclaimed, beaming from ear to ear “well that was a rush wasn’t it? I can’t believe we’ve just done that, and there were so many people. Oh would you look at us! And there was so much engagement, and oh I lost the chat box at one point, I think I minimised it, but I just kept going and carried on as normal until you found it for me…” Molly chatted away excitedly. For the last three months she had been working her way up to presenting not only her first live interactive webinar, but the organisation’s first live interactive webinar. 

“Oh and I could’ve just died when the head of HR joined, but it was too late, you’d already started the session,” Molly continued. I smiled at the odd implication that it’s ok to “die” once you’ve started a webinar, bad etiquette if you ask me, you’d better get all that nonsense out of the way before you go live.

“It was a fantastic webinar,” I agreed, “I’m so impressed with how much engagement we got and how you managed all the questions and chat. Let’s celebrate! Cake?”

The above exchange reveals a little bit about the kind of person Molly is; she’s bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic and a little scatty at times. She’s always up for a challenge and is happy to step outside her comfort zone, but webinars terrified her. 

The fear

“It’s ok for you young’uns, getting to grips with new technology it’s just what you do. You know, I was in my first real job when you were still in primary school.” Molly said this to me at our very first meeting. At roughly 25 years her junior she was probably right about me, I probably was just starting school when she started work, but what did that matter really? 

She was worried that her skills were obsolete and that she would be overtaken by people that had grown up more familiar with technology.

“It’s just too difficult, how will I know if people understand what I’m talking about if I can’t see them, and how do I ask them questions and how do they answer? I don’t even know where to start.”

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter was that this webinar HAD to happen and she was the one that HAD to make it happen. It was the direction the head of HR wanted us to take, and there was no choice. No matter how uncomfortable the idea of new technology and designing learning in a different way made her, Molly HAD to get with the programme.

So, this is how we went from that starting point to a position where Molly would later propose, initiate, design and deliver an award-nominated, cross-departmental, organisation-wide training solution delivered entirely via webinar.  

1. Acknowledge the concerns

Firstly, Molly needed to know that I heard her concerns and could work with her to overcome them. She was worried that her skills were obsolete and that she would be overtaken by people that had grown up more familiar with technology, hence why she kept highlighting the age difference.

She was also worried that her abilities as a trainer were under threat because she could only train in a very specific setting – namely the classroom. But the biggest concern? There had been no attempt to hide the fact that anyone who couldn’t get with the new way of working may struggle to find their place in the new, digitally diverse team. 

2. Compare the new skills to existing skills

Molly had been designing and delivering face-to-face training materials for longer than I’d been in work. She was an exceptional trainer, and the person people went to when they needed to improve their delivery.

She already had many comparable skills, she just needed to apply them in a slightly different way. By showing her how much she could already do, I started to bridge the gap between where she believed her competencies were and where they needed to be. Her confidence bloomed after we did this comparison exercise.  

3. Work at their pace

I have never run so many practice webinars with someone in my life, but it was what Molly needed. The first time I just created a short demonstration of the software and the functionality. We logged in on two separate computers side by side so she could see the presenter view and the participant view and understand how they worked. Next, we asked a couple of our team to join a practice run through, there were a couple of hiccups, so we ran another one a week later.

Finally, for the real webinar I was sat in the same room, the human safety net in case anything went wrong. A few more webinars down the line and Molly started presenting live from Manchester whilst I joined from Birmingham.  

4. Praise and build on success

Every practice attempt completed, every piece of positive feedback from the team and every small win was acknowledged, praised and celebrated. Molly needed to know that she was doing a good job in spite of how uneasy she felt. 

5. Be the swan!

I’ll be honest, I did notice when the Head of HR joined our first ever webinar and my heart jumped in my throat. But Molly didn’t need to know that. She needed a calm and collected co-pilot she could rely on. My little legs may have been paddling for dear life, but above the water I was gliding gracefully. 

It may have taken a several months and quite a bit of one-to-one coaching, but in the end Molly did what she had to do, and she felt great about it. She introduced live, interactive webinars to the organisation and went on to encourage more people to get involved too. 

Interested in this topic? Read Now is the time to upskill for the post-Covid market

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