How remote working boosts morale & efficiency

Every cloud has a silver lining… and the Covid-19 crisis has just injected a huge shot in the arm to acceptance of remote working.  Before lockdown we had heard about the Gig Economy, which promotes remote working as a key element.   That has now been accelerated hugely and instead of talking about remote working becoming a norm in the future, we are now living in a world where remote working is the norm.

What does this change mean?   Should we embrace it as a benefit, or see it as a necessary evil we are forced to accept?   As someone that enjoys change, let me share my positive thoughts on how remote working really does work:

Trust

It all starts with Trust. We will not embrace any change without Trust.  Do managers and team members trust each other enough to move away from outmoded supervisory methods?  Do managers have the ability to move away from equating ‘presenteeism’ with productivity?  Will team members maintain their work ethic if their manager no longer has the ability to drop by the desk to check what they are doing?  Critically, leaders and team members must listen to each other and refine together their plan to make it do-able. Do-ability is key, so here they should look at it from both a soft side (person/teaming approach) and from a technical side (e.g. provide the tools necessary to work well from home).

Efficiency – I like to call it Gross Domestic* Product!

66% of professionals think they would be more efficient while working remotely than in a traditional solely office-based way.

So what are some of the factors that increase Efficiency?

  • Reduced commuting time.
  • Reduced travel cost.
  • Higher flexibility in hours worked, as when employees see companies being flexible they reciprocate and become more flexible with their time.
  • Less distractions and interruptions, so the employee can switch off from random interruptions more easily by agreeing to go ‘offline’ to get an important task complete.
  • Lower office rent & energy costs, as companies that embrace remote working can have a smaller office footprint.
  • More efficient use of the planet’s resources.

*Pun Intended

Morale – I like to call it Gross Domestic* Happiness!

50% of the global workforce already works remotely; part or full-time. While Covid-19 has seen that number rise dramatically, it has been driven by the fact that the option to work flexibly (including a mix of remote/home and work locations) is more important to millennials than salary.

So what are some of the factors that increase Morale?

  • Productivity/Efficiency is higher, due to the elimination of wasted time.
  • Remove the stress of the commute.
  • Ability to have bespoke/more comfortable working environment.
  • More family friendly; we can pop out of our home office to see our loved ones more easily.
  • Globally dispersed teams or teams in large organisations feel more equalised and close when all/many work remotely. The New York Times reported that employees who spend three to four days working off-site feel the most engaged with their teams.
  • The personal touch. Seeing your colleagues in their home environment can show their personal side more and reduce formal barriers.

In summary, remote working boosts morale & efficiency when both managers and team members embrace the change positively, construct the plan together, put in place the necessary soft and hard (technical) necessities, realise the perceived or real power/accountability shift and be brave so that when things do not work perfectly, the lessons can be learned rather than going backwards to old practices.

So go forth and take the leap together. Move away from the traditional 100% office-based working and instead provide the option for yourself and your team to work remotely where it makes sense for both…. then, see your morale, efficiency and productivity rise.

Please check out our new webinar series here

Author:  Peter Ryan, Managing Director, Aspira, The Netherlands.

“Kick Starting a Project in a Virtual Team”

“Kick Starting a Project in a Virtual Team”

The start of a project will set the tone for its entire duration. Starting up a new project today means starting with a virtual team, working remotely.  To do this successfully will require extra thought, effort, and the ability to leverage technology in order to produce the same results as when working with your team locally.

Here are some suggestions to effectively kick-start a project in a virtual team:

  • Conduct the Remote Project Kick-Start; Use video conferencing to run a formal Kick Start meeting which allows the team to get to know each other and understand the purpose of the project. This enables them to reach a shared understanding of the goals, the scope, the success factors, the key stakeholders, and to brainstorm how best to deliver the project.

 

  • Build a Strong Relationship with the Customer from Day 1; Building a strong relationship with a new customer is challenging in the absence of the non-verbal cues that face-to-face meetings provide. You simply must plan in extra time and effort to get to know your customer

 

In addition to video-conferencing, there are many virtual collaboration tools which enable real time joint-review of key project requirements, milestones, risks and issues. Agree deadlines with your customer and be obsessive about sticking to them. Each commitment you meet means another element of trust is established.  Establish a communication plan that eliminates some of the challenges of remote work. Before deciding on which tools to use, talk with your customer to make sure they are comfortable with your choices.

 

  • Use Interactive Technology to build Project Collateral

The outputs of any successful project kick-start include a scope and schedule baseline within the approved budget. Collaborative technology such as MS Teams and Whiteboard helps the team create the scope statement, Work Breakdown Structure, estimates, project schedule and Risk log.  A collaborative and efficient mechanism to create key project kick-start collateral will enable success later on.  

 In summary, the success of a good project is determined by a productive kick-start. Setting the right tone from the get-go can make or break your project. The absence of face-to-face interactions does not mean we abandon or do less kick-starting, in fact it requires us to do more and to do them better.

This webinar will help you understand the value of kick-starting a project in a virtual team and how to actually:

  • Create a Project Charter
  • Identify Key Stakeholders
  • Create a WBS
  • Estimate using PERT
  • Create a Realistic Schedule
  • Develop a RAID Log

 

To sign up for the webinar this Wednesday, visit www.aspira/events

 

Author:  Gillian Whelan, Senior Consultant and Trainer

Can we be Agile without Architecture?

Yes, I know.

There is huge demand for Agile as many industries are seeking to gain the Agile advantage.  There are lots of ‘Agile’ consultants making money by introducing companies to Agile frameworks. The sales pitch can be overly simplistic and optimistic: simply learn Agile theories; put in place the roles of Scrum master and Product Owner; work in sprints and basically there will no problem at all – life will be nice and easy…

Except it isn’t so easy. 

The consultants may move on but they often leave behind a customer who realizes that something is wrong.  While the technical team may be keen on Agile, the Business team can often feel frustrated that they are losing their grip.  They worry about losing control and being unable to predict the delivery and quality of the new features being developed.

Documentation may never have been a top priority, but some Agile implementations neglect to use any documentation causing a potential increase in auditing issues.

To avoid these negative Agile scenarios, there must be a focus on the Architecture of the Enterprise.

Instead of allowing different departments to work in isolation and create their ‘own’ apps, there needs to be a well-thought out, agreed and consistent approach to the architecture.  This will avoid problems arising where scrum teams behave autonomously across a scattered landscape of apps and interfaces which I call ‘the Spaghetti Architecture’.

In this scenario the company will sooner or later realize that IT costs are increasing instead of  the expected decrease in costs as a result of the introduction of Agile.

So does this mean we shouldn’t adopt Agile?

Of course not!  I am very supportive of Agile when done right.  In my earlier career I worked for many years in large organisations  with the classic waterfall methodology and the, sometimes very bureaucratic, Prince-2 Project Management philosophy.  There are limitations to these  approaches and Agile can make life so much better.  We do not want to return to waterfall days.

Aspira offers Agile consultancy based on our experience of what works.

In order to reap the benefits of Agile, it must be done properly.  I strongly recommend to our customers that they focus as much on the Architecture as they do on the new Agile ways of working.

The general Business and IT department should work closely on the enterprise architecture in parallel with the design of IT solutions. In my experience, this is when you will see the real benefits of Agile – and those benefits can be huge.

For companies which are developing software, put some serious thought in at an early stage of the project. 

  • First, understand the company’s architecture principles,
  • Create a conceptual design that aligns with those principles.
  • Ensure the company’s delivery model will guarantee the generation of a proper Architecture design.

This combination of Architecture and Agile ensures you will create a sustainable and ‘smart’ solution.  No more spaghetti architecture!

In our experience, by taking this approach your IT costs will decrease and your business satisfaction will levels will significantly improve.

Bringing Agile and your Architecture together delivers a real competitive advantage. Apply industry Agile theories that are accepted in the industry and are best suited to YOUR business.   

My last piece of advice – when implementing Agile, take your time!  Only invite Agile consultants who have a proven track record and who will invest the time to help people to get used to a new way of working.  This is what Aspira do all the time and we are there when you need help.

Author:  Jos van Eck, Digital Transformation Consultant, Aspira Europe.

 

“Leveraging Agile in a Virtual Environment”

 

“Leveraging Agile in a Virtual Environment”

Disruption is a constant in today’s world, and never more so than during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The challenges we face keep evolving as we seek to adapt our way of working & thinking.   Our weekly webinar will focus on how to leverage an Agile approach within our new virtual work environment.

Agile is a mind-set that empowers employers and employees by creating high performing teams. The Agile way of working delivers many benefits, such as increased customer satisfaction, faster time to market, greater innovation and increased employee engagement. It was originally focused on software development, but has now been proven as a more general approach that applies to teams across diverse organisations.

Thankfully, we are blessed with the availability of great collaboration tools, allowing us to work anywhere & anytime. Being virtual is not only about video calls. It is more efficient to minimise the number of calls and make use of Kanban boards, chats and file sharing for example. Our own teams in Aspira have optimised our agile collaboration through Microsoft Teams along with Mentimeter to engage our audience during our ongoing Webinar Series and various other client presentations. That form of audience participation and interaction in itself comes about as a result of an Agile mind-set.

Traditionally, a team has a vision, a goal and some initiatives to achieve those goals over a fixed period of time. But this approach may not be responsive enough in these unprecedented and uncertain times, so instead it’s worth embracing an agile mind-set.  This helps us to formulate initiatives in a flexible, iterative way, thanks to continuous feedback and reflection.

Given the current changes & challenges across the traditional world of work towards remote working, we will look at how an Agile approach allows us to be productive & innovative.  We will explore how to embrace new know-how, and add innovative techniques and processes to your routine.

This webinar will help you understand:

  • What is Agile in A Virtual Environment / Working from Home?
  • What are the goals of Agile Working?
  • What are the benefits of Agile Working?
  • Overcoming the challenges of Agile Working

To sign up for the webinar, visit https://aspira.ie/events/

Author:  Thomas McGrath, Senior Project Manager, Advisory & Resource Management, Aspira.                   

 

The future is remote. But the future is here.

 

 

The future is remote. But the future is here.

6 weeks ago I was dusting off my laptop, fishing out my Leap card and squeezing on to a packed train to set off for the office after 9 months on maternity leave. Little did I know that 3 days later I would be setting up my ‘office’ amongst sing-a-long Elmo and other unforgivingly repetitive children’s toys. But necessity is the mother of invention and, as they say, the show must go on!

Even as an experienced project manager, albeit with the remnants of baby brain, it was time to start re-thinking my approach to managing projects. I quickly realised that I had taken for granted the convenience of face to face communications and co-located working.

However, I now find myself in the advantageous position of just starting a project in this ‘new world’, so have the luxury to be able to plan to manage my project in a completely remote environment from the outset.

My key tips for remotely managing a  project include:

Your team:

  • Assemble your project team – have a kick off meeting, using video conferencing if possible
  • Do a round table introduction to ensure everyone gets a chance to meet and people understand their role and the roles of others on the team
  • Ensure everyone is clear on the objective, scope and planned timelines of the project
  • Promote collaborative working amongst team members – remote working will suit some, but not all, and collaboration will go some way to mitigate against team members feeling isolated

Communications:

  • Set the ground rules at the beginning of the project on how & when project communications will take place
  • Make use of the technology available to you such as Microsoft Teams and use innovative approaches to facilitate communications
  • Make your project meetings sacrosanct – it’s often too easy for these to get bumped when projects are in a busy period or firefighting mode
  • Some Dos and Don’ts for effective project meetings:
    • Do make sure all meetings have an agenda and send this out in advance of the meeting
    • Don’t invite the world to all meetings – let potential attendees deicide whether their attendance is necessary based on the agenda
    • Stick to the agreed time, try to keep meetings short and concise
    • Document decision and actions, not minutes

Your role:

  • Be available to your team and lead by example
  • Trust your team members and provide timely, clear communication
  • Listen to what your team are saying and seek regular feedback from them

We have all found ourselves thrust into this new reality, but it is a reality to which we must quickly adapt.

Article by Emma Daly, Business Operations Manager at Aspira. We at Aspira are here to help, For more information on how Aspira can help you with all your project management needs, contact us on info@aspira.ie or call +353 21 235 2550.

Getting to Grips with MS Project

 

Getting to Grips with Microsoft Project

The most widely used tool to manage projects around the world is… the simple spreadsheet.  Most people are comfortable playing with a spreadsheet, using it to create a list of tasks and assigning names and dates against those tasks.  And a spreadsheet works great for a simple list of tasks.

But if you are managing a more complex project, with dependencies and multiple activities happening in parallel, with people in different locations or different companies trying to point fingers at each other in the event of a slip, then you need a better tool to manage your project schedule.

The most commonly used specialist project management tool in use is MS Project, with close to 80% of the market.  It is a powerful tool, allowing users to control large and complex projects.  It will easily allow you to see the critical path of a project and lets you immediately see the impact on the end date if any part of your project slips. In my Advisory role with Aspira, I help companies to setup Project Management Offices, and carry out capability assessments of organizations’ ability to deliver projects on time/budget.  I simply could not manage my team’s workload without using MS Project to keep track of each project and the resources assigned.

So why do some Project Managers prefer to use Excel to MS Project?  We find that there can be a ‘fear factor’.  I have met people who don’t use MS Project because they are intimidated by it, so instead they have developed really complex spreadsheets, with conditional formatting, pivot tables and macros, as an alternative.  It would have been far easier for them to learn to use MS project, as even a very basic user can immediately access a range of functionality that would take an excel guru years to develop.

In an effort to demystify MS Project, I will deliver a live webinar on Weds April 22nd, called ‘Getting to Grips with MS Project’.  It will cover topics such as:

  • Setting up your first project
  • Adding tasks and resources to a project
  • Updating your project plan
  • Creating calculated fields and custom fields
  • Reporting and creating visual reports

Register here for this webinar:  https://aspira.ie/events/getting-to-grips-with-ms-project/

I’ll also look at the roadmap for MS Project, and the exciting enterprise-level capabilities on offer from MS Project Online.   For those interested in a more detailed walk through MS Project, Aspira regularly deliver training courses and I’ll be sharing a special offer to attend our virtual classroom 2-day course on MS Project.

Author:  Damien Kearns,  Senior Consultant, Aspira

 

Working Remotely – Made easier with Microsoft Teams

Working Remotely – Made easier with Microsoft Teams

Each day, I think about all of the people that continue to work through the current risks with Covid-19, to ensure the sustained provision of healthcare and essential services.  These are the “invisible hero’s” whom we all depend on so much and whose efforts humble us.

My small contribution to the effort is to work from home.  This presents a series of challenges on a daily basis. There are many technology items that I previously took for granted – such as Power, Phone, Broadband and Wi-Fi – that I now appreciate as absolutely necessary to be able to work from home.

The next challenge comes in the form of the family battle for bandwidth.  With the whole family at home, including two teenagers, the bandwidth is quickly consumed. As I look at my schedule of meetings for the day, I need to negotiate with the kids to avoid their PlayStation Network and Netflix hogging our internet connection.

After completing my negotiations I can turn my focus to work, finally!

When I do, I am relieved that my company had the foresight to invest in the right tools to enable me to work remotely – it has certainly made my life much easier over the last few weeks. One of those tools – Microsoft Teams – enables remote working to be much easier than I recall on previous experiences.

What is MS Teams?

Teams is a collaboration workspace that brings together chat, meetings, calling, and Office 365 into all-in-one application. You can use Teams for informal 1:1 or group chats – directly on your phone if you’re on the go, or you can have an open conversation in a channel. Teams also has deep collaboration with Office 365 applications that are frequently used in the workplace.  All Teams are unique, and the MS Teams application can be customised to integrate with business processes, enabling your business teams to continue to perform highly, even when they are remote!

Teams enables people to share information in a transparent way to accelerate decision making.

If you would like to learn more, please listen to the webinar I recorded live where I explain how to use Teams and walk through a demo of some of the most useful functionality.

The Webinar can be accessed by clicking on this link:  https://aspira.ie/webinarseries/

As a Gold Certified Microsoft partner, we want to help you to realise the full benefits of the Office 365, so we have created a selection of Enablement Solutions that leverages our broad range of skills across Office 365 to enhance your productivity.

We would like to offer you a 12 month Office 365 subscription for the price of 6.  We will also assist you to be more productive with 5 Key Enablement Solutions composed of activities related to Teams and features found across Office 365 applications.

Full offer includes:

  • 12-month subscription for the price of 6 In conjunction with the Microsoft Office 365 E1 Trial License offer
  • 5 key Enablement Solutions at no charge

Subject to

  • Existing Office 365 tenant required
  • One-year minimum term
  • Annual billing

For further information on this offer, please contact me at bizapps@aspira.ie

Stay Safe.

Author:  Stephen McCluskey, Head of Business Applications, Aspira.

Aspira launches free webinar series to support businesses during Covid-19 crisis

 

8 April 2020: Aspira, the leading Irish consulting and enterprise IT services company, has today launched a series of free live webinars to support businesses in light of the current Covid-19 public health situation. You can sign up for the webinars at www.aspira.ie/events

The webinars will run for five weeks, with a new one every Wednesday from 8th April to 6th May. Each Wednesday Webinar will last for an hour and will focus on developing and improving skills to help business leaders and their teams work effectively in the ‘new normal’.

The series will cover topics such as kickstarting projects across virtual teams and getting the most out of project management software such as Microsoft Teams. The first webinar, which took place today, looked at leading and managing project teams from a distance, run by Aspira Global Head of Project Training Norma Lynch.

Speaking on the webinars, Aspira’s CEO Pat Lucey said: “Many businesses are currently faced with uncertainty and new working environments. At Aspira, we wanted to share some positivity and useful insights during this difficult time. Running this webinar series gives us the opportunity to share our team’s expertise in the areas of project management and remote working software and supports.”

Aspira is a specialist Project Management and Technology consultancy, focusing on Enterprise IT Solutions, with offices in Dublin, Cork and the Netherlands. Offering Managed IT, Software Development, Testing and Training services internationally, Aspira has been named as one of Deloitte’s Fast 50 for the past six years and was twice listed in the Financial Times Top Thousand companies in Europe.

 

Full list of upcoming Wednesday Webinar Series

Date: Wednesday 15th April

Time: 11.00am – 12.00pm (12.00 – 13.00 CET)

Topic: Working remotely made easier with MS Teams – Stephen McCluskey

Register here: https://aspira.ie/events/working-with-ms-teams/

 

Date: Wednesday 22nd April

Time: 11.00am – 12.00pm (12.00 – 13.00 CET)

Topic: Getting to grips with MS Project – Damien Kearns

Register here: https://aspira.ie/events/getting-to-grips-with-ms-project/

 

Date: Wednesday 29th April

Time: 11.00am – 12.00pm (12.00 – 13.00 CET)

Topic: Leveraging Agile in a Virtual Environment – Thomas McGrath

Register here: https://aspira.ie/events/leveraging-agile-in-a-virtual-environment/

 

Date: Wednesday 6th May

Time: 11.00am – 12.00pm (12.00 – 13.00 CET)

Topic: Kickstarting a Project in a Virtual Team – Gillian Whelan

Register here: https://aspira.ie/events/kick-starting-a-project-in-a-virtual-team/

 

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Pat Lucey please contact

Ciara Flaherty, Springboard PR & Marketing,

ciara@springboardpr.ie

086 061 1012, + 353 21 496 9000

 

Leading & Managing your Project Team from a Distance

Globally we have embarked on a grand experiment with remote work and technology. Teams have been dispersed, plans have changed and managers are striving to adapt to the ‘new normal’.

Businesses must continue but how we do business must change.  Greeting, meeting, seating, communicating, deciding, and executing have all changed. Managers need to reimagine how they are going to manage and lead from a distance.

This can be challenging because there are no visible cues to the team’s level of engagement or energy. The established routines, that were comfortable and steady, have now vanished.  New norms need to be established in order to lead and manage from a distance.  All communication and collaboration has to be more deliberate and disciplined:

  • Team goals must be crystal-clear and progress made visible.
  • Team members must be encouraged to speak up from a distance and feel comfortable doing so.
  • We must all consider how we frame our remote communications to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

The rules of the game have changed, and managers have to adapt.

Learn how, at our free webinar this Wednesday from 11-12pm.

Register here:  https://aspira.ie/events/leading-and-managing-your-project-team-from-a-distance/

This webinar is part of a Weekly Wednesday Webinar series from Aspira to support businesses during the Covid-19 crisis. The webinars will run each Wednesday at 11am, starting 8th April.

Each Webinar will last for an hour max and will focus on developing and improving skills to help business leaders and their teams work effectively in the ‘new normal’.

You can sign up for any (or all) of these webinars here: www.aspira.ie/events

Author:  Norma Lynch, Head of Training, Aspira.

Our CEO Pat Lucey shares his perspective on remote working and facing the challenges ahead

 

I am lucky enough to have a job I really enjoy. As CEO of Aspira I get to meet with many different customers in a variety of sectors. I get to travel to different locations to work directly with colleagues. I get asked to speak at conventions and conferences all over the world.  And then Covid-19 happens and suddenly I’m doing none of those things.

I realise that I am one of the fortunate people who has not been struck down by the virus and who still has a job. I have good internet allowing me to work remotely and have commandeered the room formerly used as the kids’ playroom.  So in the greater scheme of things I am aware that my struggles with remote working are at the very minor end of the scale. I would categorize them under three headings:

People

My primary concern as CEO is the health and safety of our team.  Because most of our roles can be done remotely, we made the decision early on to test our remote working capability, to ensure everyone could connect and work remotely, and then to execute that plan proactively.  Because some of our clients provide essential services, we must also be ready to support those clients should they need on-site emergency work.  We quickly put in place practices and policies to prioritise the safety of our team and the people we deal with, and we are monitoring this on a daily basis.  We needed to setup regular communication with each employee to understand if they had any specific issues or concerns and to ensure we kept communication lines open.  My monthly email to all staff became a weekly email to reflect the fast-pace of change going on around us and let people know how the company is responding to that change.  We set up a weekly “pointless meeting” open to all staff at lunchtime on Fridays, with no agenda, and where no ‘work talk’ is allowed – the idea is to let people stay connected through regular informal chit-chat.

Business Continuity

The next step was to do some contingency planning – for each key role, we needed to line up a backup person and a backup to that backup, and get those people trained up in the event that anyone should become unavailable to work.  Our strategy has been that all our IT systems are based in the cloud, so that makes us very portable and not tied to our physical buildings.  We diverted our office phones and ensured everybody could access their business phone via their laptop.  We also had to look at our international operations and see how local authorities were responding to the pandemic, as each country is taking a subtly different approach.

Looking forward – surviving and sustaining 

We are lucky in that Aspira delivers services across a broad range of industry sectors.  Some of those have taken a big hit – for example our clients in the airline sector are obviously heavily impacted and that quickly feeds through to us.  Clients in the banking, food production and medical device sectors are under extreme pressure and if anything, demand has increased.  But overall we expect a significant hit on companies and economies over the next six months so we must be innovative in transforming our services and developing new services that will be of value to clients.

Through all this time the key thing is to communicate, communicate, communicate – to employees, to suppliers, to clients.  Lack of communication causes anxiety and fear – by communicating honestly and regularly, people will know where they stand and what they can expect.

Here’s to collectively standing together and embracing whatever positives may come from our ‘new normal’.

Author:  Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira.

How to run a project team meeting online

 

More than ever within the unsettled and remote world we find ourselves living in today, face-to-face meetings are fast becoming the exception rather than the norm.

At Aspira, we have embraced “project team meetings” or “virtual meetings” as I’ll refer to them, as a means to maintain the status quo with our clients as well as with each other. As with everything in life, there are pros & cons to the methods of our interactions.

  • Virtual meetings offer the ability to invite more people; potentially happier people, since attending meetings remotely is usually more convenient than doing so in person; and there is no travel time, which breeds efficiency and helps the environment.
  • Of course, these virtual meetings also pose challenges: distracting noises; side-tracked participants who multitask or tune out; and technology glitches.

As such, meeting facilitators really need to be organised to overcome these challenges and keep people engaged. Here are some tips for overcoming these hurdles and keeping virtual meetings running smoothly based on my own learnings more recently…

  1. Early Login. Make it a habit to dial-in a few minutes early when facilitating the meeting, so you can be ready and welcome your colleagues as they arrive …it’s also professional in my opinion for the facilitator to be present before everyone else, as it would be for a face-to-face meeting…or maybe that’s just me!
  2. Ground Rules / Distractions. Participants should agree on the ground rules, especially if the group meets regularly. For example: Everyone must attend, be on time, stick to a timeline, read the agenda, stay on task. Remind participants to use their mute button, if necessary. Distractions can really ruin a call whether it’s a vibrating mobile phone or a kango hammer outside your window!
  3. The Invitees. It’s difficult to hold a virtual meeting with a very large number of participants, due sometimes to the capabilities of the technology and everyone’s ability to contribute to the conversation. If a participant has nothing to gain or contribute you should really consider why they are involved in the first place?
  4. Socialise. Don’t miss a chance to connect with your colleagues (before starting the meeting or at the end) now more than ever. We are all under stresses due to the current unprecedented situation that is COVID-19, so simply connecting on a personal level can do more than you might realise for some people. I find the pre-meeting chit-chat helps me stay connected and sharing our observations, funny stories or woes can also be very therapeutic!
  5. Face-time. I feel way more engaged when I can see you! Encourage participants to show their faces online (if only when speaking) and by association get them out of their PJ’s and into their casuals!
  6. Objective & Agenda. Always prepare a clear meeting objective and associated agenda. If appropriate, distribute the agenda and other materials to attendees in advance, and explain if/why they need to review them prior to meeting. Be as conscious about people’s time for virtual meetings as you would for face-to face meetings.
  7. Encourage Participation. Asking directly for input really helps team members feel engaged. Seek out those who may not be as vocal but avoid putting them on the spot.
  8. Avoid Back-to-Back Meetings. It is important that you give yourself sometime between meetings…a chance to catch breath, consider the outcomes and actions and to reset your mind for the next virtual meeting. Meeting burn-out is as probable for virtual meetings as it is for face-to-face meetings.
  9. Try to be engaging. This does not mean attempting a stand-up comedy routine, but simply try to make it interesting with lively interaction and even to be conscious of your tone…again, the use of your video will help here as suggested earlier.
  10. Check out action items are in progress. It’s vital in virtual meeting forums that we get clear and actionable outcomes for participants. Remind those who participated the main points of the meeting and the follow-up actions, owners and due dates agreed etc. Everyone needs to know that commitments are being tracked to completion.

The biggest challenge of virtual meetings is to keep people interested and engaged. The suggestions listed are not all encompassing…employ what works for your own team situation and dynamic and adapt as you proceed. Take feedback from your colleagues and make it everyone’s meeting. On look back, many of the suggestions outlined apply to traditional face-to-face meetings also, so the adoption of a virtual working world should not be so difficult, in theory!

Work smart, Stay safe.

Author:  Thomas McGrath, Senior Project Manager, Aspira

Guest blog: Developing an Organisation’s Training Strategy

In any business, the need for a robust company-wide training strategy is an integral part of improving the knowledge and skills of all employees.

In the knowledge economy, the skills and experience of our employees are central to our organizational success. Focused training programmes are key to employees’ development.  By developing a training process that is targeted at meeting the needs of both the individual and of the business, we ensure that standards are maintained and targeted growth is achieved.

Establishing a clear vision of where your company wants to be is a pre-requisite step in order to then identify the training needs and implement a strategy to meet those needs and achieve those longer-term goals.  Well thought-out training programmes will ensure that individual skills are continually improved in areas that align with the company’s strategy. Investment in training increases the employee’s value and productivity and will also be a major contributor to employee motivation, career development and professional satisfaction.

Periodic management reviews should include a Training review, where specific KPIs are monitored to ensure that relevant training is identified, being made available to staff, and actions taken when required.  Staff who understand the on-the-job behaviours and have the knowledge base to succeed are far more motivated and more likely to remain loyal.  This drives greater productivity, efficiency and shorter-ramp-up time for new hires.

Like any educational initiative, training is a long-term investment, and the benefits are sometimes not immediately obvious.  Change will seldom occur overnight, so it’s important that you take time to build and develop a robust flexible training process that can be modified to meet the future needs of the company.

In Hovione, a key aspect of our future growth, encapsulated in our “Strategic Plan FY2020 to FY2024” is our continued investment in Project Management.  PMI Statistics show that while 98% of organizations believe Project Management is crucial to their business success, not everybody invests in a programme to improve the PM capability of their staff.  Not surprisingly, only 34% of low performing organizations make an ongoing investment in PM training.  Conversely, 82% of High Performing organizations make that investment.

Hovione has developed a very positive partnership with Aspira training services, who have put a tailored program in place that allows our staff to gain internationally certified training but also uses case studies and examples directly from our experience.

Aspira helps Hovione by bringing international best practice coupled with local insights – it’s a powerful combination.

Author:  Donnacha Ryan, Training Co-ordinator, Hovione.

Aspira offer a range of training options, which can be found here. If you would like more information on any of our capabilities, get in touch with us at info@aspira.ie