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The benefits of virtual training

July 21, 2022

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Maura Bookter

Director of Learning
International Medical Corps


Sarah Le Pape

Senior Manager, Communications & Content, France

A global nonprofit organization, International Medical Corps, provides emergency health services to people affected by conflict, disaster, and disease. In addition to disaster-relief efforts, International Medical Corps delivers long-term medical support and training to communities in 31 countries worldwide.

In 2020, International Medical Corps HR business partners were working to determine learning needs across country programs. The assessment that followed emphasized a need for instructor-led people management training for mid-level managers. They reached out to Maura Bookter on the HR Learning team to work on a course offering. However, due to competing priorities and the pandemic, development of an instructor-led course was delayed after the initial needs-analysis phase.

International Medical Corps partnered with Humentum a year later to deliver a virtual Management Skills for NGOs course across multiple cohorts. Maura details below what they set out to achieve and why virtual learning in structured groups is a great option.

Addressing the need

Maura’s team manages internal staff learning and performance management, focusing on required trainings for new staff. International Medical Corps works to maintain the highest ethical standards and takes safeguarding and ethical work practices training very seriously. It is essential to ensure new hires and the current 7,000+ staff receive annual training in these areas. Although International Medical Corps does have an online management skills course offered through the learning management system, there has not been a pattern of delivering it to staff as part of a program. Furthermore, International Medical Corps’ HR team recognizes that people appreciate a live experience instead of solely asynchronous learning.

The HR team decided to consider alternative modes of learning to provide a live management skills experience for their learners. Through regular email alerts, Maura came across Humentum’s course, a practical offering that sharpens essential competencies, including relationship and team-dynamic building, communication, and effective management techniques. This virtual management skills course matched most of the learning objectives that had been identified during a needs analysis. Additionally, more staff from multiple countries could participate.

In 2021, Maura and an HR business partner colleague decided to attend the course, which follows a blended learning approach with webinars and self-led activities. They vetted the course in advance, led by Andrea Moffat, to ensure it would be a valuable experience for all.

We found out that Humentum was offering a course with many of the same objectives, and that it is virtual. We also knew we needed a highly experienced instructor who understood our industry—Andrea Moffat met that need. – Maura Bookter

International Medical Corps identified the need to improve skills and knowledge in the following areas:

  • Roles and responsibilities of management
  • Setting and aligning objectives
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Coaching
  • Handling difficult conversations
  • Addressing performance issues
  • Delegating
  • Managing through change

After assessing the course, Maura and the HR team decided to embark on the virtual learning approach. They requested some changes to best align with the International Medical Corps’ needs. For example, a greater emphasis on longer breakout sessions afforded more time to practice exercises on giving and receiving feedback and handling performance-based issues, areas that managers struggled with most. Although intended for mid-level managers, International Medical Corps requested that its country directors take the course first to understand the content staff would be learning as they progressed through the cohorts. So far, there have been three cohorts.

A positive interactive experience

The virtual approach was a success. Similar to an instructor-led course, there were portions of lecture, as well as breakout groups for additional discussion and practice. Staff appreciated the opportunity to practice the skills they were learning on the job in between the virtual sessions, and the longer breakout sessions ensured everyone could practice the skills and learn from each other. Maura suggests finding a virtual course that includes these interactive elements, including an instructor comfortable with this type of facilitation and supportive facilitators.

The course we selected was led by Andrea Moffat, an instructor with extensive experience and comfort in the virtual environment. She was supported by technical facilitators for a smooth experience with the breakout groups, etc. This is vital to an interactive experience. – Maura Bookter

Learning across regions

Participants also enjoyed the interactive aspect of the virtual sessions and engaging with leaders across the organization on these topics. They found the course useful for their day-to-day work, which equipped them with valuable skills to lead their teams well. Although they have regular meetings and opportunities to interact with each other regionally, through this experience, staff were able to share and talk through some of the leadership challenges they face and practice new skills with worldwide colleagues—a vital opportunity for all.

Overall, group management skills training has been a beneficial approach for International Medical Corps. It directly relates to one of the current strategic operational priorities: “Invest in Our People,” which focuses on building the skills and competencies of International Medical Corps staff. Moving forward, Maura’s team plans to follow up with senior directors to learn about changes they have observed on their teams. They also intend to check in with participants from 2021 to hear how applying their newly acquired skills is helping them in their current roles.

[One of the biggest takeaways] has been the value of learning groups that are from multiple regions. We often just meet within regions and this sharing across regions was welcomed. – Maura Bookter

Advice to other organizations on this learning path

So, as you embark on this journey you should be asking yourself several questions. What is it your staff want to learn? Have you completed a needs analysis ahead of time? Does the virtual course fit your team’s learning objectives? Is it interactive with sufficient facilitation? Has your learning team vetted the course to decide whether it ticks all the boxes or not? Once you have the answers to these, Maura emphasizes that outsourcing some of your learning and development needs removes the risk of delays or cancellations due to emerging projects or deadlines, allowing you and your staff to fully commit to your learning goals.

Virtual learning can be a positive interactive experience. Do your analysis, research the right provider, then go for it! – Maura Bookter

** Humentum’s online courses cover learning needs across HR & Learning, Financial Management, Compliance & Risk and Project Management. Check out our upcoming dates and book your seat today.

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