When I thought of the subject of this article –Learning – I could not avoid connecting it to what I personally, and what Telenor, have learned from the last 15 months of the Covid-19 pandemic. If I focus on work impact, we at Telenor have seen most of our 18000+ employees in Nordic and Asia having to work from home. At the beginning, we asked ourselves what impact this would have on employees and Telenor as an employer. In this article, I will focus on the following topics:

  • Ensure continued engagement in up- and reskilling employees
  • Give leaders tools to lead even when not being able to physically meet their teams
  • Maintain employees’ motivation

Ensure continued engagement in up- and reskilling employees

Telenor is in the connectivity business, and we strongly believe that we can really EmpowerSocieties and connect YOU to what matters most. To do this, we need to be at the forefront of technological development, constantly innovate and explore for the benefit of customers and societies. Therefore, it is so important for us to make sure all our employees can continue develop, up-skill and re-skill themselves despite working from home.

Through what we call the 40-hour challenge, we encourage all our employees to each spend at least 40 hours per year in learning and developing themselves. This is a way for Telenor to shape tomorrow’s workforce. The initiative, which we rolled out globally back in 2018, is both driven and strongly supported by Telenor Executive Management Team and is also a KPI for leaders. Together with an external partner, we have launched an online Telenor Academy with a broad portfolio of opportunities to both upskill and reskill ourselves. Employees are encouraged to choose from the Telenor Academy online learning platform themselves.

What we have seen as a learning from implementing the 40-hour challenge is that the focus has shifted in a very positive way; from having this is a pure number KPI of reaching 40 hours of learning in the very early stage of implementation, to organizations and leaders now focusing on creating a real learning culture.  For example, creating a culture of daring to fail and learn from mistakes, creating psychology safety so that everyone feels safe to speak up, and challenge.  It is only then we can learn…for real!

Give leaders tools to lead even when not being able to physically meet their teams

One of the biggest learnings for Telenor, when so many of our employees have to work from home, was that we were lacking a simple way of clarifying what is expected from our leaders, particularly when they are not physically able to meet their teams. We needed a leadership story!

We rolled out the concept Tight-Loose-Tight (TLT) to all leaders. The first tight is about being clear on purpose, strategy, and goals, and how each employee can contribute to reaching the required results. Thus, leaders need to break down company strategy into a more granular strategy for their area of responsibility. We saw from workshops with leaders that there was a need to develop leaders further in strategic thinking, communication, and storytelling.

The loose is about giving employees full autonomy and trust so they can perform their work without micro management. The leader should ensure the employees have the required tools, and rather be a good coach. Leadership is not about telling employees what to do. It is about being a great coach empowering the employees to come up with their own solutions, thus allowing them to grow.

Absolute key is for the leader to create psychological safety in the team. This means creating an environment where everyone feels safe to speak up about challenges, mistakes, and learnings from those mistakes, and to be open on how to mitigate and possibly change the course of action. I personally believe that an environment with psychological safety is crucial to allow a learning culture. And, I have during the last year seen many brave Telenor leaders that have allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to be open, and say that they are on a learning journey together with their team.

The last tight is where the leader is following up and reflecting with their team on agreed targets. This is where, once again, psychological safety becomes important.  In this phase, it is important to reflect on learnings from successes and failures. Thus, there needs to be a culture of learning in place, avoiding only reporting back numbers. A culture where an open dialogue takes place, feedback is given, and where a coaching environment and continuous learning are created.

Maintain employees’ motivation

The pandemic has meant a big change for me personally in terms of my way of work.  Before the pandemic, I travelled between Sweden and Norway every week, and I visited our five Asian Business Units about twice per year. Since March 2020, I have not travelled, and I have been working from my home in Sweden. My biggest personal learning from this is: Thanks to good video tools and a positive mindset from all, it works well enough for me!  Yes, of course, I miss meeting my colleagues, the chit chats at the coffee machine, and the travelling. We as a company have learned that a flexible way of work is the new standard. 

However, not all employees have the luxury of having space in a house where kids no longer live at home, as I do. There are, of course, employees with small kids that need to be nurtured when kinder gardens have been closed. There are employees that live in smaller homes where family and their parents all live together. Where do you then find space to get work done from home?

Therefore, we have regular “pulse surveys” asking employees to give us feedback on motivation, care & concerns, and productivity.  Our learnings from these are:

  • We have launched digital tools like Microsoft Teams so employees can stay connected and collaborate
  • We have given employees access to links for advice on exercises that can be done at home, and ergonomic recommendations when working from home; this to encourage well being
  • We encourage leaders to have frequent catchups with all employees

We are all in this together. It is a continuous learning journey. It is about trusting each other, listening, daring to try new things, daring to fail, learning from that, and trying again!

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