Empowering employee development during COVID

Photo of IPF employee accessing elevateU resources on a laptop computer

June 29, 2020

IPF was recently faced with a difficult challenge. With most MSU students and personnel obeying the Michigan “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order in response to COVID-19, university activity was drastically reduced. With this came a significant drop in the demand for some of our services, which resulted in many of our front-line staff, most of whom could not perform their normal jobs remotely, facing the possibility of lost time and income.

I took classes in SQL and Power Automate. I’ve already used Power Automate to establish an automated workflow for our commissioning project managers when they need work orders created.
Steve Pavlik, Building Services Business Office 

IPF and union leadership understood the negative consequences this could have on our employees and wanted to ease the burden of unpaid time and/or depletion of hard-earned benefit time. They recognized that this could be the perfect time for those affected staff members to take advantage of personal, professional development opportunities that the university offers — time which is not always easy to come by during their normal working hours. 

I took classes in personal improvement; goals, time and stress management; and in dealing better with conflict in the workplace. They will help me better communicate with co-workers, listen better and learn from others. I also learned how to better think about problem solutions – not just short-term “band-aid” fixes, but long-term results.
Michael Chapman, Surplus Store and Recycling Center 

What those team members who chose to take advantage of these opportunities found was a wealth of trainings, courses and reference materials that could help them get one step closer to their career goals. The learning tools are user-friendly, available on a multitude of platforms (desktop, mobile, etc.) and offer the opportunity to review and test staff learning at the end. 

Not only do employees benefit from this development, IPF benefits as well. Improvements to an employee’s specific trade skillset, as well as interpersonal relationship skills, ultimately has a positive effect on the work we do for our campus partners. They see IPF employees who are more confident, talented and have better communication skills – skills which can often make the difference between a satisfactory experience and an exceptional one. 

I took landscaping-focused and OSHA 30-hour trainings on safety in the workplace, potential work hazards, customer and pedestrian safety and safe equipment operations. The Greenius equipment-operation trainings were also great knowledge-refreshment opportunities.
Derek Proulx, Landscape Services 

From March through mid-May, IPF employees accessed through elevateU and LinkedIn Learning alone: 

  • 8,727 videos 
  • 2,792 courses 
  • 298 books 
  • And 40 reference documents 

In addition, many IPF employees also participated in OSHA 30-hour online trainings, Greenius online trainings (for landscaping staff) and MSU EHS online trainings. They also used YouTube, user forums, Zoom and MS Teams as development tools. 

I took two classes for professional development and in learning how to use remote meeting platforms such as Zoom and Teams. I have used these tools since for numerous meetings with my colleagues. After the initial learning curve, I found them quite simple to use and actually enjoyable. As these platforms become more relevant, I can see options evolving that make it easier for everyone to engage regardless of location.
Tim Stokes, Landscape Services 

The opportunities that were taken to improve IPF employee’s lives had wide and varied outcomes. But one thing is clear – those who participated, have found ways to incorporate what they learned into their daily lives, and have the opportunity to pay it forward by sharing what they learned with their colleagues.