There are a lot of factors that come along with the new reality of the pandemic. For employees with children, the infusion of distant learning, working from home, child care and everything that entails, into your daily life is a challenge many never encountered.
However, the situation isn’t easy on the children either. Many of them miss the daily interaction with their classmates or friends at school and their need for activity, curiosity and variety is in many ways unmet. Stoneridge Software, a local company and Microsoft Partner, is working to alleviate some of those issues with their Stoneridge School for Tiny Humans program. The program is a 30-minute interactive session each Tuesday and Thursday during the quarantine held using the Microsoft Teams application. All ages are welcome. One of the sessions is focused more on physical education and movement, while the second is geared toward a STEM-related activity. We sat down with Chief People Officer, Briana Scearcy, and Learning and Development Coordinator, Jenine Killian, to learn more.
How did the idea for the learning program come about?
Jenine Killian: It was at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we decided to have all our team members work from home. About half our team members had already been working from a remote environment, but for many of us it was a big change.
At Stoneridge Software, we have always been really passionate about our core values and our culture – especially creating opportunities for connection. One of the biggest changes of this situation is that connection looks a lot different in this new normal. We’ve always been proactive in providing a variety of options for our team to engage with one another. This spurred us into action in creating new types of opportunities. We took a lot of our current events, like our weekly Noon lunches and made those virtual events. We also introduced virtual yoga, walking one-on-one meetings and really tried to appeal to all the different situations of our team. Something that we realized was that many people who were working from home were also supervising distant learning within the same space. So the idea for a Stoneridge School for Tiny Humans is a way to provide optional distance learning opportunities, and engage team members’ children while inspiring a future generation that “work” can be fun. We wanted to think creatively about how we can expose kids to careers that involve remote engagement, STEM-related topics and provide the opportunity for kids to “work” alongside their parents. Any time children can be involved in their parents’ work, it sets a tone of connection that may not exist in our non-COVID world.
Each session was built out to include the following components:
-An optional opportunity for team members to take a break and connect
– Introduce future career ideas and allow kids a glimpse into a day in the life of working at Stoneridge Software
-Inclusion for all – it’s worth noting even various team members without children have joined the sessions to see and experience the unique opportunity to come together!
Was the idea to be a parent/child school or can children attend individually?
Jenine: It’s definitely optional, we have both scenarios. I have families that come together and they all participate in everything together. It’s designed with different family situations in mind and we left it open to the team members to decide how much they wanted to be part of it. The childrens’ age has a big effect on it too, some of the older kids can join on their own, but the younger ones need a little more assistance.
Briana Scearcy: One of my favorite parts has been to create something that is so unique and positive in a time of complete uncertainty. It has also been rewarding to get to know and see the family interactions that happen during the school sessions.
Where I really saw the Stoneridge School for Tiny Humans being impactful was in a personal way. Growing up, my parents did not look forward to going to work each day. They didn’t have a personal connection to their employer. So my passion has always been, especially since becoming a parent, “how can I create an environment that sends the opposite signal?” I want kids to know that work can be fun and that having a job can be a rewarding and engaging experience. Someday we will reflect on this time and see how this experience has shaped this generation and how we work. I don’t think it’s a stretch to view the participants in the School for Tiny Humans as a potential future workforce. Our goal is to instill a sense of enjoyment and excitement for all learners as they grow, and start to explore what their career paths might look like. This program is a result of the importance that Stoneridge Software places on a growth mindset mentality and continuous learning. In life and our careers, we should never stop learning. This was one way we could extend that philosophy to the real-life situations of our team at this time.
“Bring your child to work day” has had an entirely new meaning these past several weeks as I’ve suddenly found my workplace, which is typically a home office, infiltrated by my children who are now being homeschooled due to COVID-19. The extra noise, stress, and distraction of kids underfoot when they are typically at school can be frustrating at times. I’ve loved that Stoneridge understands this added complexity and embraced it with open arms by conducting School for Tiny Humans classes. I’ve appreciated how thoughtful they are about not just me, but my entire family during these unprecedented times. My friends, family and former colleagues are experiencing furloughs, layoffs, reduced hours and even pay cuts – it’s hard to watch the impact. Instead of doing these things, Stoneridge steps up and helps in any way they know how, and engaging my kids, helping them learn, grow, interact with other kids their age and with my coworker’s kids is just one of those things they are doing to help ease the stress for my family. It’s exemplified true caring and compassion which makes me realize they see me as a human being, and not just a number like I’ve felt at other organizations.Darin Rich, Senior Project Manager, Stoneridge Software