The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted businesses all over the world and organisations such as The Welding Institute (TWI) have had to shift to a new way of working to bolster their resilience and adaptive capacity.
Knowledge-sharing is essential to building resilience, and, at The Resilience Shift, we are always pleased to highlight examples of best practice from other organisations.
We work closely with our major partner, the Lloyd’s Register Foundation and this often leads to collaboration with other grantees of the Foundation. In 2020/21 we invited a number of their grantees to participate in the initiative Engineering a Safer Future, part of the Learning from Crisis series of projects. This initiative included The Welding Institute’s Dr Shervin Maleki, Director of Global Development, who contributed to the Education focused round table, report, and podcast.
Dr Maleki recently shared with us TWI’s approach to building resilience into their global operations, through remote methodologies and other solutions, as a response to Covid and other challenges.
In our own work, we have had to adjust grassroots projects, such as the City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) initiative, to be delivered online in an effective way throughout the pandemic, without impacting the quality of the work. Remote working was integral to adapting the methodology to work in lower income countries as part of a partnership with the World Resources Institute, Arup, and the Resilient Cities Network. Through online workshops, and in collaboration with local partners, we were able to support the development of an action plan and an urban water resilience agenda in three African cities as part of a longer-term plan to build local capacity to implement the CWRA further across Africa.
As the Covid pandemic hit, TWI boosted its own organizational resilience to navigate an inclusive and fair learning environment throughout the pandemic.
TWI is an international training and examination business with students across the globe. For the students, obtaining a CSWIP certificate can be life changing. TWI recognised the need to shift its training online without compromising on quality, as well as the need to ensure that the emotional needs of its students – many of whom come from low-income and marginalised communities – are supported throughout the pandemic.
Professor David Denyer defines organizational resilience as “the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper”. In the below image, the four quadrants of the model should be in equilibrium under normal circumstances. With a sudden disruption like the pandemic, organizational leadership is required to disturb the equilibrium and shift efforts towards the quadrants where they are most needed.
Mindful action: Noticing and Responding – In TWI’s case, all learning and teaching had to become remote. TWI leadership had to develop a method of delivery that came as close as possible to a real classroom experience, so that the students did not just pass the exam but finished the course as competent and confident as possible.
Adaptive innovation: Imagining and Creating – TWI then had to come up with practical solutions that would benefit all parties and achieve tangible results. Two major innovations came out of these efforts:
- Management accelerated the development of remote online courses, using Zoom and various other technical aids such as virtual drawing boards. This allowed students to work remotely or attend a scheduled in-person, socially distanced class, where the lecturer can interact with the students virtually. Many students, particularly those with a lower standard of education, prefer face-to-face classes so that they can engage with the lecturer in their native language.
- Navigating remote exams was considerably more difficult than delivering courses online, because an invigilator must be physically present to ensure the integrity of the exam. To overcome this, TWI worked closely with the certification body (CSWIP) to develop a remote exam system that included remotely-operated cameras to oversee the exam room from different angles, remotely-operated padlocks to ensure that the exam material can only be accessed under supervision, and iPads instead of paper exams.
Performance optimization: improvising and exploiting – once the system was developed, TWI was ready to roll it out. With some tweaks along the way, a method of course and exam delivery was developed. TWI has since seen an increase in pass rates, possibly due to the convenience for the students and the relaxed atmosphere of the delivery.
Preventative control: monitoring and complying – TWI experts are constantly monitoring and aiming to improve the new system. Consistency in courses delivery globally and the integrity of exams are of the utmost importance. TWI needs to ensure that exams are never compromised so that employers can be assured that a candidate with a CSWIP certificate is competent and employable. Candidates often use their savings or even take loans to afford the course fees in pursuit of a well-paid job and a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities. Considering this, TWI has a responsibility to look after its candidates and deliver the best value for money, even under trying circumstances.
In recent months, TWI has encountered new challenges that highlight the need for flexibility and creative thinking. In very remote locations, some candidates do not have access to a stable internet connection or even a laptop. Some courses are also not suitable for remote delivery as they involve expensive equipment, heavy training and practical activities. As the pandemic persists, TWI is building on its organizational resilience and seeking solutions for these challenges in order to help and support potential candidates, knowing the huge impact that CSWIP certification can have on their lives and livelihoods.
Organisations must also consider the impact of the pandemic on the wellbeing and mental health of their employees. Our strategic partner, Resilience First, is embarking on a project that explores emotional resilience in the workplace in more depth, alongside trauma specialists KRTS International. But emotional resilience extends beyond the workplace too. The Welding Institute’s approach to resilience included considering its students’ wellbeing and recognising individual challenges, resulting in a supportive environment for learning and better grades.
With thanks to Dr Shervin Maleki and his colleagues at TWI.