Business leaders can take inspiration from teachers’ innovative approach in recent months, says Kuoni head of communications Rachel O’Reilly

Back in March my social media feeds were full of children on their first day of home school.  Bright smiling faces, with neat piles of books and pens poised as they smiled for the camera from their bedroom desks and kitchen tables.   Like many of us in travel, we anxiously set out to do our best as makeshift teachers whilst managing work through the most challenging time we’ve ever known.

This week though we’ve finally done it; we’ve reached the end of term. Home school is officially out and the summer term of 2020 is one none of us is ever likely to forget; a living history lesson, bound to be discussed and analysed in classrooms throughout the land in the years to come.

As the weeks of home school went by and initial enthusiasm had worn off, I noticed a few clever and creative tactics used by the real teachers in an attempt to maintain motivation and learning momentum, which it struck me would work equally well in the workplace and there could be a few lessons to learn for all of us in business.

The first initiative I am likely to borrow is the herogram.   One day out of the blue, an email appeared in my inbox.   It was from the head of year about our daughter and she had, apparently, come to the attention of her maths teacher for her diligent approach to home-learning.

Her work was submitted on time, the tasks completed thoroughly and her efforts had been noticed.   A few weeks later a letter appeared – from the head teacher this time – congratulating her on her achievements in French.   I say this not as a gloating parent, but to highlight the sheer joy and confidence boost it gave her.   Next up my son was hailed a kitchen wonder for his inventive creations in food tech, the teacher wowed by his salads, cakes and muffins.

The herogram is simple, highly effective and costs nothing.  It has the potential to create huge surges of pride and propel an individual to reach new heights. It’s about a leader taking the time to put pen to paper to notice the efforts an individual is making to achieve success and, as such, feels authentic rather than routine or obligatory.   As a parallel in the world of work, it’s not about sales targets, formal awards schemes or waiting until a job appraisal.   The whole point with a herogram is that it’s not a scheduled event, it’s an impromptu surprise that has the power to delight.

The second thing I noticed was a constant flow of new challenges.   A photography competition with the theme of green brought out a competitive streak in my children.  Determined to win, my daughter turned the bathroom into a photo shoot location with bags of foliage from the garden floating in a milk bath.

It worked, my daughter won and was hailed in the weekly newsletter.  There wasn’t a prize for the winner, it was just a spontaneous event which cost nothing other than a good idea, communicated well, which succeeded in sparking their imaginations and encouraging the kids to learn new skills.

Throughout the pandemic we’ve all had to reskill and do things we never thought we’d have to do.  I’ve been so impressed in recent weeks by stories of people setting up candle companies inspired by the scents of travel around the world or creating businesses from the kitchen table supplying safe and snazzy face masks.

As we move forward, setting challenges which people can rise to might be just the thing to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit as we need all hands on deck to recover business and move forward.

But most of all, the yearbook of 2020 will highlight how collectively resilient we are.   Change was forced on us by the pandemic, our children have adapted brilliantly and all of them deserve huge credit for their achievements.   The teachers, too, are heroes of the day, working tirelessly to keep our young people on track in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Last but not least, to all the parents out there in the travel industry who’ve managed school-age children behind the scenes, whether furloughed, working or just trying to get by in dire circumstances – you are brilliant and this is your herogram.