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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Interview: Helen Jackson, Learning & Capability Development Manager at Vodafone


Helen Jackson, Learning & Capability Development Manager at Vodafone, will be taking part in a webinar in association with HRZone and Saba Software, ‘How Vodafone uses global LMS to transform learning,’ on May 16 at 1pm GMT.

Should learning always be integrated, and come under the umbrella of, the HR department?

In Vodafone we believe that learning should be managed by learning professionals, in the same way that finance is managed by finance professionals in the finance department.

Most organisations invest a significant budget in the development of their people and the simplest way to ensure you get the best value from this investment is to manage it centrally, ensure it is targeted at the areas of the business that need it the most i.e. those that are aligned with the strategy of the company and where it has the biggest impact on the bottom line.

Saying that, we don’t go it alone – we stay very close to the business and we partner very closely with key business areas in the development of the plan and the design and delivery of any initiatives. Local L&D managers are teamed up with the different functional areas e.g. technology and commercial to ensure that learning is able to help deliver on the business strategy

What are the most important future trends in learning and development?

I wouldn’t say any of these themes are new, more that now technology has caught up with our intentions it is really time to move these out of idea, pilot and small scale test and into the mainstream.

  • Any device learning – as more people have laptops, tablets and smart phones with a mixture of company owned and personal (BYOD) people expect things to just work. If your LMS and online content can’t keep up then you will be missing a trick. At Vodafone our LMS is in the cloud accessible anywhere even over 3G and in conjunction with our content authoring tool partner all global learning we create this year will be any-device compatible.
  • Really embracing social and community as a form of organisational memory and knowledge. Companies need to rethink how and why people share. If you look at the internet you can find people blogging and sharing on all manner of topics from the latest digital camera to the trends in their industry. Now the trick will be how to encourage and incentivise employees to do the same inside the organisation about what they are doing at work, allowing their colleagues to benefit from those experiences (good and bad). That said, finding a way to get a head of sales willing to post about how NOT to do something from their experience might be another matter! The large consultancies do this very well as knowledge is their core business and we need to learn from them.
  • Re-learning how to learn on the job – we still have too many people coming to us asking for a training course on a particular subject. We really believe that most of learning needs to happen through work. In knowledge industries this is now much harder and I think we need to take the time to teach our employees and our managers how to look at what they are doing, reflect and build on experiences as an integral way of meeting development needs not just looking for the training course with the closest fit. This is key role of Learning and Development at the organisational level, to be business partners and create ways of developing people to meet the strategy in ways far beyond training.
  • ‘Just-in-time’ learning – as work becomes more complex people need to know where to look for information instead of how. The corporate learning system has a wealth of knowledge ready to access if only the employee could find it. Integrate search of learning with your intranet so learning results appear as part of the mix. Very few people in a hurry will think to look for training, remember where the LMS is, navigate to that page and then search for what they need. However, when presented with a 10 minute online course as part of an intranet search they are much more likely to click on the link and take a look.

What advice do you have for HR directors looking to gain buy-in on LMS in the board-room?

Don’t focus on the system as after all the system is just a tool, focus on what you will do with the tool!

Take the opportunity to roll in other changes to maximise the value of the investment, for example automation of administration tasks, simplification of processes, movement to a consolidated administration, drive to deliver more learning online.

Identity business priorities that the roll out could support or improve – this could be reduced cost and increased quality on monitoring of compliance learning or global product roll outs.

Five biggest mistakes HR make when trying to engage employees with learning and training?

I think context and environment play a really large part in this. Common mistakes include:

  • Not explaining why – make sure people are clear how this fits into the bigger picture, not just the objectives of what they will learn
  • Not enough room for reflection and follow up back in the workplace – is the manager supportive, are there check-ins at two, four and six months afterwards?
  • Not changing the organisation to support the objectives – for example, delivering training on a new decision-making methodology but not enforcing that decisions are then made in that way.

This is again where learning and development’s role as a strategic business partner really needs to come to the fore as it is our job to ensure the organisation is ready.

Finally a personal reflection is that many people still see learning online as the poor relation to face-to-face, but online is here to stay. Learning professionals need to have online as part of their tool kit and not just leave online to the tecchies or online learning experts otherwise online will always be an add-on and we will never be able to move forwards.

What are the biggest drivers of employee engagement with learning and development?

Line managers are the biggest single driver. The organisation needs to have a culture of learning, not just training but learning from others, learning from what has been done, learning from other companies and line managers (at all levels). There’s a distinct need to role model, promote and make space for employees to do this.

Second is relevance and context – how does this relate to what I do? Will it help me do things differently and achieve my objectives?

Finally, ease of access. Do I even know the information is out there, do I have to work to find it, if I’m new to the organisation where do I start, or is information in silos that are restricting both learner and organisational development?

To what extent is self-service learning becoming the norm?

This builds on my earlier point on just-in-time learning. Firstly I’d like to draw your attention to your life outside of work. When was the last time you needed to know anything and you actually went on a course, or even asked someone? Examples from my own experience include reminding myself how to play saxophone using YouTube, downloading books on a train to swot up on NLP, gaining a Master’s degree without ever setting foot in a school or sitting in the same room as a tutor or finally working out how to change a headlight bulb on a car in a petrol station forecourt using a mix of YouTube, a helpful car enthusiast’s blog posts and the 3G network.

In our personal lives we are used to being able to find all the information and knowledge we need, when we need it and we are willing to work for it, search through the web, try out various options, add comments to the recipe we have just tried but at work it seems a little bit harder. Information is not as easy to find, and people seem a little less willing to try. Maybe this is because there is a smaller pool of people contributing. Maybe people are less able to share. I don’t know, but it’s just not as easy.

If you are running a classroom program then put all the notes online, video the sessions so people who can’t attend can watch and make your face-to-face interactions with your learners so impactful that they really count even if someone has seen the video before.

To make self-service learning really a reality we need to let go a little bit, get more content out there and enable people to find what they need when they need it.

One Response

  1. Learning

     Great article and summary of a brain-savvy approach to learning, even if that isn’t what Vodafone call it. This animated video summarises similar points.

    Taking the findings of neuroscience and applying them to learning and behavioural change produces good results and a better return on investment it also points to designing better virtual learning programmes and social learning.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

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