By Sophie Pickup, Learning and Development Manager, at Northumbrian Water

This week is Learning at Work Week, a time when businesses are encouraged to look at the way they support the development of those they employ.

Do you ever take time at the end of your day to consider what you’ve learned or discovered that day?  We all deal with different people, different issues, different challenges, different projects, new locations, new approaches or technology, we might even find something out about ourselves.

Work based learning can often be seen as something formal, something that only takes place in a training course.

Training courses are definitely very valuable in some situations, and there are so many other ways we can, and do, all learn.  Becoming aware that anything that pushes you outside your comfort zone is a learning opportunity and can add continually-increasing value to you as an individual and your team at work is a great way to give yourself permission to grow.

Scientists have proven that we can learn new things throughout our lives, so an emphasis on life long learning makes sense and needs the commitment of us as individuals and the organisations we work in.

In our experience at Northumbrian Water, those people who continue to actively learn become more open and find new experiences and change easier to deal with.  They are more likely to grow and adapt, to keep up with best practice and to achieve their potential throughout their careers.

We encourage people to keep developing. 

Our mid year appraisal review is focused on a developmental discussion to make sure everyone has at least one opportunity to talk about their learning and development needs each year. 

We also do a great deal of training. So, for example, this week, alongside running courses in such areas as health and safety, leadership and management and plant operation, we have people in our business learning about mental health, personal resilience and even planning for retirement.

Last year, more than 1,400 people took part in internally or externally-run courses, either in person or remotely, which represents almost half of our employees. We also extend opportunities to partner companies and their people.

It’s about more than simply raising the bar on performance. Work based learning helps to keep people safe, and hopefully gives them the tools to lead a happier, healthier and more fulfilled life. In turn, we expect to see the benefits reflected in their performance in the work place.

People can own their own learning. There are so many free and easily accessible opportunities to learn with the growth in online resources and social media.  This learning can also be done in small chunks of time to fit around busy lives.

We see many people actively making use of these and would encourage others to discover TED Talks, the free on-line courses developed by universities on an amazing array of subjects, following subject authorities on LinkedIn or Twitter and many more.

Individuals can keep up to date with best practice this way and through more traditional methods such as reading, conferences, networking and from experiences such as external audits, where knowledge and learning can be shared.

At Northumbrian Water we, like many other organisations, take the opportunity to improve our corporate learning, by benchmarking with other organisations both inside and outside the utility sector.  Different approaches and perspectives are great for learning. 

Learning at Work Week is a fantastic opportunity not only to celebrate the great support that many companies give their people, but for us all to consider whether we are still learning at work and if not, why not.

Sophie Pickup is Learning and Development Manager at Northumbrian Water. /

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