Project Description

Four questions to Ana Yturriaga Saldanha,
Head of EuSA

In the last year, in a record time, the European School of Administration has translated its offer into an online learning agenda, custom-tailored for the new reality of the working conditions. Moreover, the certification process went also fully online and was successful.

EuSA means a very enthusiastic team of 22 colleagues in Brussels and 4 in Luxembourg divided in a group of course designers and another of course managers, supported by the communication, finance and certification teams.

Agora 85 spoke to the Head of EuSA, Ana Yturriaga Saldanha.

What were the challenges in putting together such offer?

Flashback to 15 March 2020, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic almost 50 000 EU staff were sent home almost overnight to work remotely. It was a high challenge for everyone, but for us in the EUSA, it meant cancelling all our face-to-face courses and find the best way to serve the pressing learning needs of our colleagues. New topics appeared on the agenda: working and leading remotely, building resilience while keeping up productivity. All this in a period when the line between the private and professional life became increasingly blurred. Thanks to the EUSA’s team sense of initiative, innovative ideas and sheer hard work, the School became virtual in 3 weeks. The result is a varied, forward-looking and useful package of almost 40 online courses, as well as more than 100 online lunch time events (40 000 visualisations), really appreciated by our colleagues. We were very proud to receive 2 mentions of the Learning awards for our Leadership Walks (managers learning and connecting in nature) and the EUSA online talks. We also managed to deliver, together with our EPSO colleagues, the first ever fully online certification program.

What are the feedback messages that touched you most?

I was once in the supermarket talking to one of my kids when someone turned around and said: “you are Ana!” I was very surprised and asked how did she know, and she replied «I have been “having lunch with you” for months, I was alone in confinement and connecting with so many colleagues  from around the world and learning together kept me sane». Another colleague told me “EUSA has brought the world to my sitting room”, as we had top internal and external speakers on EU matters and politics, economics, health and other societal issues. Nevertheless, it has not been just EUSA, but all the colleagues in the learning departments across the institutions have shown their great creativity in helping us learn in these complex times. We organised the first ever inter-institutional learning awards to feature all these ideas. You can see all these great projects in the links below.

How did the last year change the way you lead EUSA?

As the new head of the School, I had only 2 months to meet my team, and then we went all home and continued all our work virtually. We have recruited six colleagues during confinement and they have never met the team in person. You can imagine that, in such unusual situation, the way one works in a team or leads it needs to change.  We had to focus on results and trust our staff to get there in the best way they knew. We had to connect more often because we were missing the conversations in the corridors and around a nice cup of coffee. The information did not flow in the same way as before and we missed and still acutely miss the human contact. The team really rallied together, helped each other and managed to deliver a complete new offer in record time. We needed to break silos, support each other and work until we reached our objective. It was a rough ride, but very gratifying as we saw what we were able to achieve together and how much colleagues appreciated our work.

What were the topics that were more successful in your view?

Anything to do with building up resilience: we had talks with Bruno Humbeeck (a well-known Belgian educational psychologist) who helped us all through the confinement to manage our feelings, our self-esteem, our teenagers and the fact of being far away from our loved ones. We also had “compassion breaks” – a place of non-judgement and mutual support, mindfulness sessions and talks on how to recharge our batteries. We tried new learning formats like learning while walking in the forest or learning pills with top speakers from around the world who could enlighten us on “front-page” issues like Brexit or the US elections, but also on the latest EU legislative packages or vaccine production. The best thing is that all this learning jewels are now on our website, which means that all colleagues can consult them whenever they like.

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