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Personal and professional development online: but how?

We can all look back on a turbulent year, a year in which we rapidly switched to working – and learning – online. Because pandemic or not, many staff members have continued to work on their development. Last year the Learning & Development team developed a wide range of online courses and training, and active use has been made of these. How have things been?

It was a happy coincidence, says Jasmijn Mioch from the Learning & Development team at HRM.  ‘The launch of our new e-learning platform, New Heroes, more or less coincided with the first lockdown.’ This platform for professional and personal development allows staff to follow modules at their own pace online. 

‘For some of the staff, working at home proved to be an excellent opportunity to focus on themselves,’ says her colleague Nadia Teunissen. On questions like: What do I need to be able to do (and carry on doing) my job properly? What gives me energy? And what doesn’t? ‘We’ve developed a wide range of workshops to help them.’

Develop at your own pace

Just after the lockdown and the launch of the New Heroes e-learning platform, many staff members used their ‘lost hours’ to follow a course. But many are still finding their way to the platform, say Teunissen and her colleagues. ‘What do you get from online modules like these? What we mainly hear is: a better understanding of your own behaviour, good discussions with colleagues and the ability to choose which steps to take in your development.’

Curious? Take a look at the ‘Time management’ or ‘Assertiveness’ courses!

‘It’s good to work on your personal and professional development, also online. Everything is clearly explained and it’s in small steps, so you can also work in New Heroes if you have a small gap in your diary. It has led to interesting conversations with the colleague that I have nominated as my coach/supporter.’

Leadership from home

All of us, managers too, have had to deal with lots of new things this past year. Mioch explains: ‘Leading and supporting your team is an extra challenge if you aren’t in the office with them. And it hasn’t been as easy to have a quick chat with other managers either.’ Hence the summer and winter webinar series on remote leadership. ‘The series gives managers a chance to swap ideas, learn more and find out how to deal with these challenges.’ Has that been more difficult online than in a classroom? Participants say that there are actually a number of advantages. It’s simple to log in from home and being in your own, familiar environment makes it easier to share your experiences.


‘Online is a great alternative. It actually feels quite relaxed to be able to log in from my own sitting room. I was impressed with the interaction and participation. You really had to focus and concentrate.’

Online training for young researchers

PhD candidates also had to continue their training programme last year, an area that Mioch’s Learning & Development colleague Anita Romijn is responsible for. For some this was a good thing because they were working from another country (because of Covid). But researchers in the Netherlands also found it saved them travel time. Romijn: ‘Although people missed the direct human interaction, the trainers created a pleasant environment with a high level of participation. The participants told us that it felt as though they really were there in person.’ Here too the participants were pleased with the extra safety of being able to take part and open up from your own home. ‘The trainers and organisers did all they could to create a valuable learning experience even in these online times,’ says Romijn. ‘It was a nice compliment to read on the Young Academy Blog that this hadn’t gone unnoticed.’

‘I really enjoyed the online session. It removes the barrier for people who don’t like speaking in a big group. The disadvantage is that you miss the human contact, of course. But as the training required a lot of participation, I felt as though everyone really was there.’


Advantage of online job interviews

The Learning & Development team that Mioch and Teunissen belong to also provides personal coaching and career advice. ‘Coaching people online and not talking to each other in person took a bit of getting used to to begin with. But surprisingly enough the online coaching sessions turned out to be positive and constructive,’ says Mioch. 

They soon discovered that online coaching has advantages other than saving on travel time. ‘Much of the world went online and so too did job interviews or assessments,’ says Teunissen. ‘The colleagues who had already had online coaching had a head start: they had already received feedback from the coach on, for example, their body language, verbal and non-verbal communication and practical matters such as lighting and how to look and sound good.’ 

Coaching with a cat on the keyboard

What Yvonne Dexel-Oudshoorn particularly liked about the online coaching is that you see a bit more of the personal life of the person you are coaching: ‘A child appearing on screen, a cat walking across the keyboard or a musical instrument in the room meant that other, sometimes funny or sometimes personal topics came up.’ Not all of the sessions were replaced by online ones. These were combined with phone, email and walking coaching sessions. Dexel-Oudshoorn concludes: ‘It would be worth using online coaching in the future too, but definitely in combination with face-to-face meetings!’

The quotes in this article come from the participant evaluations of various online courses and coaching programmes.

Photo above: Christine Hume/Unsplash

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