Breakfast in the City: Practitioners share success stories at networking event

Flying the flag for L&D can be a lonely and thankless task in some organizations. So, it's all the more inspiring to hear success stories from passionate advocates of corporate learning.

Published 07 December 2018
Breakfast in the City: Practitioners share success stories at networking event
Three of Mind Tools' most respected clients in the U.K., each from a different sector, shared their experiences recently at our Breakfast in the City event in central London. And more than 30 fellow L&D practitioners joined them for a morning of eye-opening presentations and networking.

I'm pleased to share some highlights from the event, as well as some key takeaways and practical tips from each speaker.

The line-up

Taking part in the event were representatives from:
  • Coventry Building Society- founded in 1884 to provide financial services to the local community, the society now has 1.7 million members and 2,300 employees.
  • Newsquest Media Group- one of the U.K's largest regional media companies, employing over 1,000 experienced sales consultants.
  • Metropolitan Police- the U.K's largest police service, serving more than 8 million people in London and employing over 41,000 officers, staff and volunteers. (You can watch this short video to find out more about how Mind Tools has helped the Met to engage and develop its people.)

Success Story 1: The changing role of L&D at Coventry Building Society

Jodie Morse, Leadership Development Manager, and Ian Winterbottom, Learning and Development Manager

Jodie has been in the L&D industry for 16 years. She told us how she and Ian, and their audience of people managers at Coventry Building Society, have shifted from face-to-face training workshops to just-in-time learning.

"Learners can't or won't wait for a course to learn how to do something. They will simply Google it," Jodie pointed out. "We had to get the business to understand that we will never provide a workshop for every need  "we're just not skilled at basket weaving!"

Initially, they built an online learning portal, which now contains more than 30 topics that cover the organization's particular ways of working.

However, as Ian explained, the topics within the portal were limited - and that's where Mind Tools came in. "We were looking for someone that offered the latest research, constant updates, and reflected current thinking," he said.

Planning and implementation

Ian was asked to implement Mind Tools during his first few weeks in the job. Mind Tools' Client Success Managers worked with him to plan and execute a pilot with senior managers, to produce a communications plan, and to deliver demonstrations to 273 people across the business.

He highlighted the success of a campaign in September that was planned to coincide with Learning at Work Week, and which saw the highest engagement with the site so far (32 percent). The campaign included a custom page and a scavenger hunt.

Preparation Is key

Jodie and Ian found that preparation and laying the groundwork for engagement is key when launching a new learning platform. Face-to-face contact was a great way to recruit advocates, they said, but doing this isn't always easy, especially in large organizations.

But, once it's up and running, the benefits are clear: "We have really learned something about independent learning and the types of things people search for," Ian said. "This continues to surprise and inform us every month."

Success Story 2: "Build it and they will come!"

Melanie Cooley, Head of Learning Solutions at Newsquest

Mel discussed the L&D challenges that she has faced since she joined Newsquest two years ago.

The business employs over 1,000 field sales consultants. It lacked a culture of self-development, and was in desperate need of a digital transformation journey, from face-to-face learning in workshops to bite-sized learning that users could digest "on the go."

"Our audience are adrenaline junkies," Mel commented. "They are driven by deadlines and want information in lightning-quick time."

Changing perceptions of learning

Mel focused her efforts on changing the perception of learning within the business, starting with the content. She felt that if the content was good enough, it would change people's attitudes to learning.

The budget was tight, so the resource had to prove its effectiveness right from the start. Mel introduced high-quality Mind Tools content that addressed immediate business needs, such as stress management. The fact that users could access the content easily, at the times that suited them, soon won hearts and minds.

Keeping up the momentum

Mel also told us how she kept up the momentum after launching Mind Tools at Newsquest.

Communication is key, she said. Provide regular updates and keep marketing the benefits of the resources internally, to maintain engagement.

And, learners often ask, "What's in it for me?" So, relate specific resources to the jobs that your learners do and the challenges they face.

"Our sales teams wanted the information readily available, at a time when they needed it most," Mel said. "Mind Tools gives them access whenever they want to learn. Build it and they will come!"

Learn from Your learners

Learning from your users is crucial, too. Use their feedback to provide the resources they really need, and to discover the best times to give them a nudge. "We use emails to notify learners of content. These triggers are key to increasing engagement with the tool," Mel continued.

The results speak for themselves. Now, 65 percent of Newsquest employees access the company's learning resources every month, and 58 percent complete some form of development activity.

What's more, by adopting a blended approach and creating content at pace, Mind Tools has proved to be extremely cost-effective: Newsquest has seen an 80 percent reduction in L&D costs year on year.

Success Story 3: Developing career activism

Zoe Baxter, Strategic HR Manager: People Development at the Metropolitan Police

Zoe spoke candidly of the issues and challenges she has faced in her role at "the Met."

Her key objectives were to increase diversity in their workforce, and to create a more inclusive culture. Zoe's remit also included developing a consumer-led learning culture and stimulating discretionary learning and career activism.

But the Met had suffered from limited investment in development, and in the infrastructure needed to deliver learning. As a result, the workforce had become cynical and disengaged.

Identify the barriers

Zoe's first step toward improving this situation was to gain insight through staff surveys. These identified the barriers to career progression and personal development.

Then, a pilot of the Career Development Service was launched, initially focusing on the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) and female officers at Constable and Chief Superintendent level. This led to the development of a new learning platform- with Mind Tools embedded in it.

Strategic partners

"We chose Mind Tools not only because of their huge choice of resources, but because we really bought into their ethos and values as a company," Zoe said. "They have worked with us as a strategic partner rather than a supplier, which is really important.

"By sharing knowledge and opportunities, and removing barriers, our learners have felt more invested in the process."

Since its launch, 16 months ago, an audience of 3,200 has used the platform. The top skill areas include time management, career skills, and stress management.

Another of the campaign's key successes has been the adoption of technology, with 58 percent of users accessing the Mind Tools resources from their own devices, an increase from 8 percent.

Zoe was delighted to share that the Met's Career Development Service has won a number of industry awards, including the PPMA Excellence HR in Innovation award, and Personnel Today's Diversity and Inclusion and HR Team of the Year awards in 2017.

Thank you - and an Invitation

I'd like to personally thank everyone who attended the event, and especially all of our speakers for sharing their insights and success stories with us. No matter where in the world your business is based, you can benefit from Mind Tools Corporate solutions, too. Subscribe to our free email newsletter or visit the Mind Tools Corporate home page to find out more.

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