Thriving in adversity – doing more with less

by | Oct 1, 2009 | Articles

The Institute of IT Training’s National Conference and Exhibition attracted nearly 200 learning and development professionals hungry to network and gather ideas to help them thrive in times of adversity and deliver more with less.

This conference round up provides a summary of some of the future directions outlined by industry expert Bob Mosher and some practical hints and tips from the workshops.

The  challenge – from training deliverer to broker & facilitator

‘The economy is rocking a conservative industry [L&D]’  said Bob Mosher, Global Chief of Learning Strategy and Evangelist with Learning Guide solutions  who opened the conference with a challenge – ‘We live in interesting times – Learning and Development professionals are being asked to do more with less and yet businesses need L&D more than ever to remain vital and vibrant’.

Bob has been an active and influential leader in the learning industry for over 25 years and is renowned worldwide for his pioneering and innovative approaches to learning  and e-learning in companies such as Microsoft . He also won the IITT’s prestigious Colin Corder award for Outstanding contribution to the IT training industry.

In the opening keynote, he highlighted the pressures on L&D to respond to cut budgets but increase quality and the need to harness technology more effectively. However more e-learning and standard blended learning approaches were not going to cut it as they often didn’t address actual learner needs.

The concept of creating an holistic learning ecosystem was  discussed with the L&D professional moving into the role of learning brokers – facilitating learning at the moment of need for the learner. I found the 5 points of learner need outlined particularly useful:

1. when learning for 1st time ( formal)
2. when wanting lo learn more (formal)
3. when trying to remember or apply
4. when things change
5. when something goes wrong

These  moments of need recognise that formal learning clearly still has it’s place ( points 1 – 2) but that we need to also support learning at other points of need as well ( points 3 -4). He quoted Alison Rossett’s thoughts  on the need to move on from talking about informal learning and shift to ideas around performance support ( which are more likely to attract budget from decision makers).

Practical advice was given regarding first steps in this new role of broker and facilitator. The audience were urged to review the current performance support assets within the organisation – job aids, communities of practice, help desks etc and align them against the 5 moments of need to make them more accessible. An enabling infrastructure was also recommended.

Finally the group were challenged not to be a ship in safe harbour – the staff that we are supporting are out at sea in difficult times – now is the time for L&D to set sail into the storm and do what we are supposed to do to support performance in rapidly changing times.

This shift in role is becoming a reoccuring theme – Nick Shackleton-Jones at the BBC has shared similar thoughts with Towards Maturity and Training Journal’s L&D 2020 research confirm the shift as well.

Practical ideas from the workshops

The Event provided plenty of practical hints and tips as well – here are just a few of my favorites!

Social Media and Networking – free tools at training fingertips.

Barry Sampson outlined the web 2.0 tools that we need to be aware of if we are to think about offering choice to learners and to learn ourselves. Business networks like LinkedIn are great for research and ideas, social networks such as facebook are better for conversations and relationships (eg to help new graduates feel at home in a new location!). Nich networks such as Ning help you bring together people with common interests to share and reflect. Blogging is also great to encourage reflection and social bookmarks great for sharing, as are tools such as google docs.

Turning classroom trainers into multimedia stars

Julie Wedgwood from Cheshire ICT Trust provided a stellar performance as she shared her journey to help her reluctant training team to embrace the tools that Barry had been highlighting earlier. Her 21 lessons was a programme designed to help trainers try out new things in a safe environment – every lesson was great – but the simple things really worked.

For example each team member was asked to follow 3 RSS feeds of their choice and feedback what they had learned to their team after a week – a practice that not only introduced them to a new technology but a new way of keeping up to date. Other lessons included using free tools for evaluating learning, keeping attention, reflection, sharing, storyboarding and many many others! All were based on exploring and experimenting in a safe environment which resulted in a transformed learning experience for staff.

Career Management

Paul Jagger from IBM highlighted how L&D staff can take practical steps in managing their career in a recession. He had hints and tips such as using LinkedIn, volunteering ( both in work and outside), job shadowing and continual learning.

‘However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at results’

Claire Line from Lovells took us through a session on areas to consider for an effective e-learning strategy – practical ideas included understand what success looks like for your stakeholders and then deliver ( not always about ROI,in Claire’s case it was about billing time), understand your audience and use local champions to encourage change.

Find out more about the IITT’s Trainer 2009 event here.

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