It’s March 2020. You know that COVID-19 is hitting the United States and businesses are closing their doors across the country, asking their employees to work from home. You’re going to have to do the same with thousands of staff members at shelters nationwide, including direct care staff who provide treatment for youth in person daily. So how do you make it happen?
Well, if you’re Kristyn Deraffele, AVP of Human Resources at Southwest Key, you know the answer already. It’s going to be hard, but worthwhile. Due to seasonal lows in the shelter population, plenty of employees could work from home, but what would they work on? As it turns out, remote training was the perfect fit.
Kristyn recalls: “At the onset of COVID-19 and while considering the ongoing requirements of training for staff, we stepped back and asked ourselves… ’Could we launch a remote training program that could allow us to keep employees safely at home and train them so they stay in compliance with necessary guidelines?’”
For Southwest Key direct care staff, continuing the mission of serving children and families in our programs was important. As caregivers, their best work is caring for the children, but in a moment where physical distancing was key, the ability to continue learning about the best practices for their jobs was a great solution.
Preparation and careful consideration of the logistics were key. “Planning and logistics were a huge challenge. You have to step back, be tactical and be careful with this. When you only have a week and a half to implement it, time was a major factor. Our trainers had very little time to prep and remote work was not something we’d ever used in this unaccompanied minor program.”
That meant not just informing everyone about the upcoming changes, but also evaluating the software that would be used for the training, all within an incredibly tight timeframe, launching with 2000 employees ready to train while sheltering at home. Over 3300 employees now participate in the Emergency Distance Learning Program (EDLP), learning from trainers who are all given curriculum and lesson modules from the Learning and Development team. And the team is on track to expand that to 4000 employees in a matter of weeks.
“The Learning & Development team has been instrumental to the process. Wellness, Learning & Development, and our trainers on staff have been crucial to the success of the program. Each individual is a star player.”
“It’s been extremely busy,” says trainer Francisco Herrera. “We have been reacting to extreme times that require an equally extreme and immediate response. Our planning and organizational training leaders have done an outstanding job by creating numerous training plans based on each program’s needs, ORR requirements, and state distancing requirements.”
Employees have been learning through live, guided sessions overseen by trainers as well as independent self-paced training programs. “Putting people in cohorts was a real success for us. We’ve gone through so many training materials that we’ve been able to expand into new content. Going beyond just compliance and into best practices for everyone.”
Employee surveys have been very positive, and both Kristyn and Francisco would call it a success, especially as the program expands.
“There are two major successes: First, we’ve increased the safety of our youth and staff during the pandemic,” Kristyn says. “Second, just the fact that we’ve been able to develop and implement a successful remote learning program like this will have long term implications. This will change how we approach training permanently.”
“Virtual training is the immediate future of our team development,” Francisco says. “It’s an incredible tool for company growth.”
Every organization is different, but as more and more of them look for a way to help more employees stay safe and work from home, Kristyn has a word of advice:
“Be strategic. Step back and identify all the different components to pull this off. Identify deliverables. Planning and logistics were our biggest challenge.”
“Look at your communication. Ask yourself ‘How are we going to effectively communicate this, what are the channels that we can use? Know your options, whether it’s email, live scripts for shift meetings, or orientations.”
Someday soon, these employees will return to the Southwest Key shelters where they can provide direct care for the youth who need it. But until the day we can bring them back, we’re glad that a program like the EDLP can keep employees safe at home during such an uncertain time.