Access Interview: Anna Aslanova, AccessHolding’s L&D Manager
Anna Aslanova, AccessHolding Senior Expert in Learning and Development and Manager of Access Campus has joined us almost two years ago, after more than 10 years in Credo Bank where she worked in different leadership positions in HR department. Her last project was establishing Learning and Development unit within the company. Anna has a Master’s degree in Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Caucasus School of Business. She is a strong human resource professional with more than 12 years of experience. Anna has moved to Berlin from Tbilisi 2 years ago with her family – husband and two sons.
For two years, you have been leading Access Campus, AccessHolding’s international training center in Berlin, established in 2014. Since the inception till now, 116 middle managers from Access Holding Network Financial Institutions have already graduated from the Campus. This year new generation was scheduled to graduate, when COVID-19 outbreak happened in Germany. How has that impacted planned activities and AccessCampus participants?
During the first days of COVID-19 outbreak, the Access Campus programme was at its peak. 12 employees from 6 African countries arrived in Berlin and started the first days of the programme. We monitored the situation daily, and as global situation worsened, the decision was made to send the colleagues back home and put on hold all 70 working days of planned activities for the rest of the year. For me that was a difficult decision to make, and I can only compare the feeling of cancelation of the programme with going back to the start point once you are very close to the finish line. However, health and wellbeing of our colleagues was imperative at that moment and although difficult, that was the only right decision.
That was indeed difficult decision to make, however that didn’t deter you. You have started working on alternative ways to continue with the AccessCampus. What has happened next?
One thing I was very confident about was, that there should be a way to continue, I just needed to find out ‘how’. The support from the Management of AH to explore new approaches and a “green light” to experiment was the key motivator for me. I started reading articles sharing best practices and knowledge of other successful companies in the field, and while doing so I have learnt new approaches and gained confidence to implement them within AccessHolding. I am very thankful to every single person who gave me an advice, shared knowledge or just listened to my “crazy” ideas at that time. One lesson learnt for myself:
Every crisis brings an opportunity, the important thing is to stay focused, calm and confident, believe in what you do and notice the opportunities on time
As a result of your bold actions, Access Campus changed the form from full classroom learnings in Berlin to full virtual learning in a very short period of time. How did you manage to do this?
Collaboration with my team, risking more than usually, using trials and errors, receiving and implementing feedback for further improvement, support and readiness of external trainers to experiment in a new virtual world, were the key components for moving forward. Once we estimated that we are ready, we commenced with virtual trainings. Each session was a better version than the previous one, and we were improving the quality continuously, changing approach and (or) content almost daily. However, I have to say, all the credit goes to our colleagues from the network banks – the participants. Despite the technical difficulties, infrastructure and internet bandwidth limitations at the beginning, they remained motivated, eager to learn and dedicated to the programme. Later on we have managed to ensure high quality internet connection for all our participants, which facilitate their engagement and focus on the programme.
AccessCampus was not your only focus during the last few months. Recently AccessGroup staff was given a chance to participate to webinar “Developing Resilience & Coping with Stress in turbulent times”. Can you tell us more about the reasons for the webinar and its outcomes?
In the current pandemic situation, I couldn’t find any single person who wasn’t affected by the consequences of the crisis in one way or another. We all experienced an increased level of stress, which automatically affected our productivity and our well-being, as we were trying to adapt to the new realities.
While organizing the webinar one thing became clear, we must reach out to as many people as possible and create an awareness of resilience and coping with stress. The webinar was aimed to provide a better understanding of dynamic and impact of stress and to offer recommendations for building and strengthening personal resilience. We wanted to share tips for implementing a resilient leadership, based on research and best-practices from organizations around the world. The webinar was an unprecedented event, our 180 employees from 8 different countries on 3 different continents came together at the same time to experience the start of an amazing learning journey.
What was your personal learning from this period? Did something change in the way you organize your work and approach new challenges?
The current situation is a proof of the unlimited capacity and creativity of human beings. At the same time, it shows how mobilised and goal oriented can a person be in the time of crisis. I personally developed new skills, crisis management and risk-taking ability, that pushed me forward, out of my comfort zone. Suddenly, I have realised that everything doesn’t have to be perfect! I can stop trying to be stronger! I just need to be myself, and always loyal to my values and beliefs.