Friday, November 17, 2017

Learning Technologies: What Managers Really Think

Rachel Burnham: Yesterday GoodPractice launched the third in its annual pieces of research into how managers actually approach learning to address the challenges they face in their work.   This year’s report focused on the perceptions of managers in relation to learning and technology.  This is distinct from how effective the learning solution actually is.  As the report says ‘Perception is part of the context we work within: how managers feel about their workplace learning technologies will inevitably have an impact on their use.’

The research was conducted in association with ComRes and involved an online survey of a sample of 521 managers working in businesses with more than 500 people, carried out in the summer of 2017. 

The research focused on two overall questions:
  • ·       What do managers think about the typical learning technologies that might be provided by their organisations?
  • ·       How do they the learning technology provided by the organisations compares with technology they access in their personal life?

Here is my Sketchnote recorded live at the launch event on 16 November 2017:

Rachel Burnham

17 November 2017

Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Time for a health check-up for L&D?

Rachel Burnham writes: I had the pleasure this Thursday of doing my first Ignite presentation at CIPD’s Annual Conference & Exhibition.  An Ignite presentation is that tricky format, in which you deliver a five minute presentation, with 15 slides each on a timer, so that each slide is only visible for 20 seconds.  It is rather nerve-wracking!! We were asked to present on the theme of the conference ‘Embracing the New World of Work’ in relation to L&D.   I was one of 5 L&Ders presenting in this session and what a lovely mix of presentations, topics and styles we ended up with. Here is a blog version of what I said:

In my work, I help L&D professionals to be even more effective in what they do.  This conference has presented us with lots of challenges for our work as L&D professionals, if we want to enable our organisations to embrace this new world of work.   Through the conference we have been hearing about many changes that are affecting the world of work, from those that are well established such as digitalization and automation, to those that are only just beginning to make an impact, such as artificial intelligence, through the use of algorithms and chatbots.  We experience the use of alogorithms when buying online, when well known retailers make suggestions about what other purchases we might find of interest.  And increasingly we are coming into contact with chatbots who tackle our customer service queries, when interacting with banks and other online service providers.   But this is barely scratching the surface of all the very many different ways that AI can be used in the workplace.  

For example, in L&D itself organisations are beginning to use algorithms to personalize the suggestions for future learning for individual staff.  And chatbots can be used to support learning by answering learners questions and providing individual support to learners.  
But the changes and challenges organisations face are of course not limited to those coming from technology.  Social changes are also making an impact –  for example, Brexit is bringing us lots to get our head around in terms of workforce planning, skills development and recruitment, trading arrangements, implications for social inclusion and so. 

Sometimes, at conferences of this sort, I do confess to getting a bit fed up at continually being exhorted to ‘disrupt HR’ or at the never-ending references to working in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.  It almost makes me want to scream!  I think this language, this ‘conference-jargon’ can be rather off-putting for many people and actually distance us, from the real challenges that these changes are bringing to the workplace.   I think my favourite of all these off-quoted sound-bites, is that the ‘future is un-evenly distributed’.    This feels much more true to me.

I work with lots of people in L&D, from lots of different sectors and sizes of organisations.   Some of whose organisations are in the midst of these kinds of changes and are working with digitalization or automation or using chatbots and social media for customer interactions and many other changes, but I also work with lots of organisations that have continued to operate with comparatively little change.  And of course the question is how long they can continue to do that?  

Some organisations choose strategies that require investment in skills and adoption of new technologies and new ways of working that lead to high productivity to produce high value in the products and services they offer.  And some chose or drift into strategies that produce low productivity and instead require cost cutting and wringing work out of stressed, long hours working, low paid, vulnerable staff or workers or ‘self-employed’ folk.

I work with L&D people and here too these differences can be found, with some working in teams that are embracing change and working out how to make change work for their organisations and others, whose approach to L&D feels very out-dated –  work primarily face to face, often knowledge-dumping, perhaps just beginning to introduce e-learning.  

But whatever our starting point is in L&D, we need to be reviewing our practice and looking at how we can better work with our organisations to enable them to ‘Embrace this New World of Work’.   So, I have come up with an 8-point checklist to help us review how ‘Fit for Purpose’ our L&D practice is.

1.  We need to understand our organisation and its business

If we want to be effective in L&D we need to really understand our organisation, how it works, how it adds value, the sector it works in and what the competition or other organisations in its field are doing.   The reason we need to understand this, is because there isn’t one right way of doing L&D - what we do in L&D needs to fit with our organisation.  This isn’t a new insight by any stretch of the imagination, but it is key to being effective in L&D and so is worth restating.  

2.  We need to be focusing not just on learning, but learning and performance

I think we need to have big eyes in L&D and by that I mean, we need to be more ambitious.  We need to focus on more than just learning, to have learning and performance as our focus.  This means taking performance consultancy seriously and looking at all the things that get in the way of people being able to do their jobs effectively.   I have written about this before most recently in my blog ‘Learning and Performance Together’.

3.  We need to understand how people learn

This is at the heart of what we have to offer our organisations, a deep understanding of how people learn and of how to help people learn more effectively and change behaviours & habits.  But too often we haven’t kept up-to-date with the research into learning, have been side-tracked by learning myths or held on to old models and theories that have long-been discredited.   We need to make sure that the models, theories and approaches we are using are evidence-based and that we really understand their implications and then we need to build that into our working practices.   

For example, much of what passes as insights from neuroscience for learning at the present time is either neuromyth or very limited in value for practical purposes or actually from cognitive psychology. We often give insufficient attention to the time needed for practice to develop skills and fail to use the insights of spaced practice.  We need to be much clearer about what we are using and why.
We also really, really need to stop using learning styles and other models that have been discredited.   Let’s chuck out that chintz!

4.  We need to have strategies for keeping ourselves up-to-date

With all this change around, we need to make sure that we are really good learners ourselves and have strategies in place for keeping ourselves up-to-date. 

This means that we need to make full use of Continuous Professional Development and reflective working practices as a starting point.  I also think we need to be develop our skills in managing information and Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) or personal curation practice – but that is another blog!

A good stepping stone is to make sure you have a really effective network, both in person and online, that can help you learn and stay in touch with new developments – this is often referred to as a Personal Learning Network.  I have blogged about the value of this before ‘Networking: What is aPersonal Learning Network?’
I like the image of a spider in their web - if anything touches that web, it transmits through vibrations in the web directly to the spider and immediately alerts them to what is happening.  And that is what our networks should do for us too!   But we also need to contribute to our networks and share our experiences, so that we add to the collective wisdom available. We need to contribute our small piece and not just take.

5.  We need to sift out what is relevant in developments for our own organisation

In the context of all this change, with the continuous development of new technologies and approaches, it is easy for us in L&D to feel a bit over-whelmed.  And even to feel that if we aren’t making use of all of these developments, then we must be falling down on the job! Sometimes we can hear the message that we ‘ought’ to be trying this or doing that in the output from conferences, exhibitions and social media.

We don’t need to try everything – and there is so much going on that we can’t try out everything!  What we do need to do is be alert and aware and sift out what in new developments might be relevant and useful to our own organisation.  This is where having that deep understanding of our own organisation combines with having a great network, so that we can focus on those developments that can potential might add value to our own organisation and improve performance.

The image I have been using this year, is that we need in L&D to be neither an ostrich with our head in the sand, ignoring developments, nor a magpie, chasing after all that is new and shiny!  Instead we need to find a third way and sift out those few things that may have particular relevance to our own organisation.

6.  We need to make use of pilots to test out developments and learn from them

Once we have identified a development that is worth pursuing for our organisation and done our initial fact finding and research, if it looks relevant, why not run a small pilot?   It is often worth testing out new developments in a small, fast pilot to see how they work in practice and to learn in a relatively low risk way.   A starting point, might be trialing it within the L&D team or with a supportive line manager and their team. 

7.  We need to invest in managers

Effective managers are key to effective organisations.   If we want to raise productivity in our organisations this means tackling the development of managers and particularly first-line managers.    Raising productivity is a key issue in the UK and we need to be paying much more attention to developing confident and effective line managers.   As well as developing skills in people management, we also need to develop effective relationships between L&D and line managers, if we, in L&D want to really make an impact.    For example, line managers are key to the effective transfer of learning or to building learning into work. 

8.  We need to make good use of the Apprenticeship Levy

Finally, when resources are tight in organisations and particularly for L&D, we need to make sure that we make full use of the opportunities provided by the Apprenticeship Levy.  And this is whether we are working in a large organisation contributing to the Levy or in a small organisation, who isn’t required to contribute but who can draw from it. 

So, this is my 8-point checklist to get us thinking about how fit our organisation’s L&D is for purpose.    Why not use it for your own reflections and identify where you can further improve your practice?  I know I will.

Rachel Burnham

12 November 2017

Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Curation - What's in a name?

Rachel Burnham writes: I have been thinking a lot about curation over the last few months.  This has been partly because I have been reviewing my own personal curation practice, partly because I have been engaged in some collaborative learning around this, with my regular learning partner, Mike Shaw (@MikeShawLD), and partly because of a line of enquiry started by Martin Couzins, which has got me thinking.   Martin asked ‘What is the state of curation in learning?’ in blog post in August. 

Curation is one of those terms that seems to be used in different ways by different people.   As Martin mentions in his piece, curation in learning was all the talk of the conference circuit about four or five years ago, but is less mentioned now. But it has seeped into L&D conversation and I hear it used all over the place.   Sometimes, I get why this term is being used for example in the broader context of ‘resources rather than context’, or when contrasting ‘curation and creation’ in the design of L&D materials, or in Jonathan Marshall’s excellent blog ‘Getting to grips with MOOCs’, but increasingly I feel rather confused about why this term is being used.  It is a bit like what’s happened with the term ‘agile’ in the context of learning and development, where it went from being used in a very specific way to be stretched to encompass a whole range of meanings and situations – in my view unhelpfully.  I think the same is happening with curation. 

So, I notice individuals talking about curating articles, videos, infographics etc in the context of what they share via social media.   Or I hear someone referring to curating a collection of music.  Or recently, I read an otherwise excellent article which referred to L&Ders as ‘helping to curate change’ – I really have no idea what this means! 

I think one of the reasons for this confusion over the term is that ‘curation’ as a term and as a practice has migrated from museums and art galleries over into other fields.  So we have ‘cherry picked’ some aspects of curation from these fields and the rest is emerging practice, which is being interpreted and developed by different people in different ways. 
Another factor is that L&D is only one of the fields that has adopted the use of this term.   Much of what is written about ‘content curation’ or ‘digital curation’ is actually written from a marketing perspective, which is rather different to how we might want to use curation in the context of learning.  There is of course much to learn about curation from its use in marketing, but it is worth highlighting that it is different and so there may be a different emphasis in purpose or in practice. 
In a recent sessionby Stephen Walsh, from Anders Pink at Learning Live 2017, the following definition of curation was offered from Rohit Bhargava ‘A content curator is someone who continually finds, groups and organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.  The most important component of this job is the word continually.’ Most of this definition fits with my understanding of curation for learning, but I don’t place the same emphasis on ‘continually’ nor do I think that it curation has to be around a specific issue – for me some of the most effective curation is done by people who bring together diverse issues and who link and relate topics to bring deeper or fresh understandings to light.   This definition seems to me to relate more to a content curation role in the context of marketing – and that is what Rohit Bhargava’s background is.  

The identification, careful selection and sharing of individual pieces however relevant, interesting and enlightening those pieces are, is also not curation in my view.   I think curation involves bringing together pieces, that build on one another, or perhaps with different perspectives.   This could be done over time in the pattern of materials shared, but I think it is more effective and valuable, when the curator in some way brings together the resources and presents them in a single, more easily accessible place.   This could take many different forms: a Storify of diverse materials produced through the backchannel of a conference (Ian Pettigrew @KingfisherCoach is an exemplar of this aspect of curation); through materials linked in a blog; through materials stored on an accessible platform; or through resources curated to form a learning programme, perhaps held in a VLE.    Even this on its own is not curation, but aggregation – grouping materials together – curation also involves sense-making and sharing this through some narration, editorializing, labelling & sequencing to put the disparate resources into context and to highlight the relevance for the intended users.  

Sketchnote of 'Content Creation: Your New Learning SuperPower' session by Ben Betts

So curating for learning involves - searching out materials, selecting the most relevant, grouping them, making sense of them, narration and sharing.  This can be summed up through Harold Jarche’s ‘Seek, Sense and Share’ model.

One aspect of curation in the context of museums and art galleries, that we in L&D often overlook, is the role of curators in caring for and maintaining the artifacts and works of art in their care.   As we know most museums and art galleries have far more objects in their care, than they have room to display.  So as well as the work of selecting, creating and putting on displays, another aspect of the role of a curator is safely storing all the material not currently in use, ensuring that it can be found when needed for research or display and making sure it is kept in good condition.   A recent article by Helen Blunden on the issue of ‘link-rot’ brought home to me the parallels with this latter aspect of the museum curator’s role.

This is what I think curation for learning is:
‘It involves searching out and selecting credible, relevant content to aid either your own or other’s learning or performance needs.   It involves explaining the thinking behind your choices and putting it into context for your intended recipients.  It involves making your selections available in an easily accessible format and storing material in a safe and searchable way. Relevance of materials includes content, level, type of resource, diversity of viewpoints, accuracy and currency.’

I would be very interested in hearing your views on this.  What does ‘curation for learning’ mean to you?

I plan to return to this topic in future posts to share my experiences of reviewing my personal curation practice and some reflections on my experiences of designing learning programmes using curation. 

Rachel Burnham

30 October 2017

Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Learning and Performance Together

Rachel Burnham writes: I have written before about how important it is to focus on performance in L&D and in my blog post ‘The Performance Paradox’ I even argued that we need to focus a little less on learning to do so.   So I was really looking forward to be at ‘Learning Live 2017’, the conference organised by the ‘Learning and Performance Institute’ where there is a shared emphasis on impacting on performance. I have already written more broadly about my experience of this event in a previous post, so here I want to focus more specifically on my reflections around the relationship between learning and performance, which were challenged during the event.   

The emphasis on performance came strongly through right from this start of the event, with the Learning Live Question Time Panel and particularly the contributions of Charles Jennings such as ‘Be passionate about performance’, ‘The only metrics that count are business metrics’ and an observation by one of his colleagues that he shared, that ‘Learning is the intelligent by-product of continuous improvement in an organisation with a learning culture’. All of these I agree with most strongly.  In other words, for those of us in L&D, learning is not an end in itself, it is a tool to improve the performance of individuals, teams and the organisation and the learning may come from focusing on improving performance.

There was also the comment that we should stop using the term ‘learners’ and instead just refer to employees or staff.   Here I differ – I have heard this challenge before and I know that sometimes in L&D we can use the term ‘learners’ and end up distancing ourselves from those doing the learning or negate the wealth of experience and insight brought by those people we work with and serve.  The term can form part of a false separation of learning from work, when the two are increasingly intimately woven together and learning very frequently occurs through work itself.  However, I still like to use that term – instead I see myself as a ‘fellow-learner’ - I know I always learn so much from the individuals and groups I work and I acknowledge this freely.  I often use the phrase #alwayslearning.

But my taken-for-grantedness of this emphasis on performance was challenged at the event with a couple of comments from the floor.   Not everyone present shared this thinking about the importance of placing performance at the heart of what we do. In fact one person said ‘It sounds as though learning is a dirty word’.  They had understood the emphasis on performance as a devaluing of learning.  I was surprised and went over to talk to one of the people who had raised this challenge.  I am so glad I did, because we had a most interesting conversation as a result and continued talking over lunch. 

As a result I have realised how easy it is to assume that everyone has travelled the same path I have and has seen the link between learning and performance in the way I do.  I realise that I don’t always articulate my thinking clearly that learning and performance are both important.  That I don’t always make clear that I place stress upon performance, not to negate the value of learning, but because too often as L&D professionals we have limited its impact, by not thinking sufficiently about performance ie putting that learning into practice.  And by neglecting to focus on performance we have sometimes tried to apply learning as a solution to a problem it can’t solve or can’t solve on its own, if other factors (resources, communication, organisational design, workflow, etc) are involved.  

I came across a similar challenge earlier in the summer, when I had the opportunity to participate in an eLearning Network event whilst covering this for Learning Now TV – if you haven’t come across the eLearning Network before and have any interest in improving the quality and effectiveness of elearning I can highly recommend it.   Once again, I had been talking about the importance of focusing on performance, rather than learning and my neighbour challenged me on this.   In discussion, what came through was that the term ‘performance’ had different connotations to each of us.  She had previously worked in an organisation that focused on a deficit model of performance management, which was highly target driven and seemed quite exploitative in the way it drove the performance of employees to work harder.  So the term ‘performance’ to my neighbour came with an awful lot of negative baggage.  Whereas ‘performance’ to me, is simply about focusing on the ‘doing of work’ and about the effectiveness and ease of that.   I think that by focusing on effective performance at work more clearly, we will be making it easier to do our jobs and in less time.

But neither this does mean I don’t value or encourage learning for its own sake either.   I love to learn whether about L&D or other topics.   I’ve been learning Greek and I am fascinated by particle physics.  Sometimes, I set out to learn about something or how to do something with a very clear practical performance goal in mind, but very often I don’t.  Earlier in the year, I learnt how to use Snapchat, because a friend suggested it and only later have I worked out some ways of using it to aid learning – it is great for Working Out Loud and reporting on events (for an account of this see Mike Shaw's blog) .   In the Spring I started on a collaborative learning journey with Niall Gavin to find out about the use of VR and AR for learning – initially out of sheer curiosity, which resolved into a decision to share our learning with others in a series of blogs and vlog conversations (and watch out for a forthcoming update).  However, I doubt that I will ever, ever make use of my limited learning around particle physics for any practical purpose – I just want to know and have my mind-boggled.

And in self-development, in personal learning, that is absolutely fine – and in my book to be encouraged.  It taps into what Phil Race describes in his ripples model of learning ‘wanting/needing to learn’. Sometimes we need to learn something, sometimes, as humans we just want to learn something – our curiosity is fired up and that gives that drive to learn something irrespective of any immediate need to use it for any practical purpose.   And it may never lead to any to practical gain, but then again it might at some point down the road. Who knows where it will lead us, what connection it might spark, what path it may lead us on or what pleasure it may bring us.

However, in L&D our focus needs to be on the performance of the organisation both now and in the future and we need to keep that in mind.

When we talk about the relationship between learning and performance, we usually speak as though learning comes first and in the right conditions leads to improved performance.  I have been musing on whether this is always the case.  With the use of performance support tools (such as job aids, video ‘how to’ guides, templates), we can help people to work more effectively immediately, we can enable people to perform here and now.   So performance can be tackled first, before any learning has happened.   But in some circumstances, if you keep on doing that task with the aid of the performance support tool – can the knowledge get embedded, can the skill be built, can a new habit be developed - so that eventually you have learnt through doing?  Or if you use the performance support tool, do the work and then reflect on why that works and how it can be done even better – have you then learnt?   Perhaps in these situations performance comes first and then learning?

Learning and performance are both important for those of us in L&D roles.   If we focus on one to the neglect of the other, we won’t be as effective as we can be, as we need to be.   They are entwined.

Rachel Burnham

Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

'And' Thinking - Thoughts from Learning Live 2017

Rachel Burnham writes: I had the opportunity to participate in last week’s Learning Live event, held in London and organised by the Learning and Peformance Institute (LPI).   

This two day conference brought together Heads of Learning from very many different organisations, predominantly in the UK, but with individuals from other countries participating too.   The programme included a wide range of sessions, an opening Question Time session with a panel and a keynote speech from Jeanne Meister, co-author of ‘The Future Workplace Experience’.  A feature of this event are the many breaks, which provide great opportunities to extend the conversations begun in sessions and I really enjoyed the conversations I had with participants and exhibitors.

It is always challenging to pick out themes from conferences of this sort – everyone will have their own take on the event, will have participated in a different mix of sessions, had different conversations and have applied their own filters to the event – but here is my take on this year’s Learning Live.

When I stand back from the event and review my Sketchnotes and memories, what stands out for me were all the ‘And’ pairings throughout the event.  What I mean by that was the emphasis on pairings such as ‘Learning and Peformance’, ‘Creation and Curation’, and ‘Formal and Informal’,

I like ‘And’ thinking. I like the possibilities in it. The opportunity to value different approaches.  To appreciate what works when and why and in what situation.  I quite like the stretch in it, of holding sometimes seeming opposing views. I much prefer it to ‘Or’ thinking – where often one right way is promoted and the other critiqued or even rubbished.  I find ‘And’ thinking more realistic, more challenging, more fruitful as a broad approach.  (Though I do realise that in writing this, I am setting up ‘And’ thinking in contrast to ‘Or’ thinking, which means I am indulging in some ‘Or’ thinking myself!)

The ‘And’ thinking began early on in the event, when digital transformation was discussed in the Question Time session and one of the panel members talked about how digital learning can now bring both ‘rich’ experiences and also ‘reach’ a wide number of people.  

Many sessions discussed ‘content creation & curation’ – in her keynote, Jeanne Meister shared the example of GE’s digital curated platform ‘BrilliantYOU’ – a learning marketplace including all sorts of different kinds of learning support – micro-learning, courses, and also user generated materials ie created materials.  It was interesting to hear that GE offer help to employees on how to contribute your knowledge and create resources to share that knowledge eg how to write for other people. Kelly Palmer, also discussed curating content in her session ‘Learning Disrupted’.  She identified three different approaches to curating content: a) to jobs/roles/projects; b) using AI to aid curation and enable personalisation; and c) by letting Subject Matter Experts curate content.

In the session, ‘The Social Aspects of Learning’ Lucy Standing, from The Association of Business Psychology, began by warning us that she had nothing new to say, as social learning is the oldest kind of learning, though she gave us plenty to think about.  She explored some of the key ways that social learning occurs through observing others and through talking together.   She closed her session by sharing a range of research findings exploring the value of social learning as part of formal learning experiences – social learning – time to question, discuss and explore can add depth of learning.  It was interesting to see her referring to Julian Stodd’s Scaffolded Social Learning Model which brings out the value of combining formal learning with social learning opportunities. Definitely ‘And’ thinking.

In ‘Finding the Right Blend’ from Paul Cooper and Rebecca White, the emphasis was definitely on ‘And’ thinking.   The session explored how Rebecca’s organisation had begun to make use of blended learning, from a position of L&D being very face to face.  This has involved far more than simply introducing elearning. They found that digital enhances face to face, rather than replacing it, but also that there is no one right blend, what works will depend on staff, customers and the broader context.

In Julian Stodd’s own session exploring ‘Social Communities in the Workplace’, he spoke about how communities can filter and help to make sense of the huge amount of information individuals are experiencing, but the value of this will depend upon the diversity of that community.  He talked about the ‘dynamic tension’ that occurs between formal structures and social structures, each bringing value, scaling differently, but both being needed.  ‘And’ thinking.

But the biggest area of ‘And’ thinking for me was around the area of ‘learning and performance’.  Not surprisingly, it being the LPI’s event there was quite an emphasis on the importance of ‘performance’.   Charles Jennings in the opening ‘Question Time’ session said ‘Be passionate about performance’ and went on to share ‘The only metrics that count are business metrics’.   But no one was arguing that this means learning is unimportant, simply that both learning and performance need to be integrated into everything in the organisation.  For Joseph Richardson, from Lego Group, one element of doing this is to move from topic thinking to identifying what behaviours we want to trigger at different points in the process and designing learning to enable this.  Both Jeanne Meister and Kelly Palmer focused on integrating learning into the everyday.   Jeanne Meister quoted Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft about encouraging ‘Learn-it-alls rather than know-it-alls’ and Palmer spoke about how learning every day is needed and about creating a learning culture in our organisations, where for example it is OK for someone to be watching YouTube at work for learning.  Charles Jennings spoke of the relationship between learning and performance, when he shared a colleague’s take on this ‘Learning is the intelligent by-product of continous improvement in an organisation with a learning culture’.  This turns on its head our usual thought that learning leads to improved performance and recognises that sometimes it is reflecting on improved performance that helps us to see what we have learned.

I have come away from the event, with much to think about and much to action.   Which is just as it should be.

If you were part of Learning Live, I would love to hear about your takeways from the event and what you do as a result. Do share – we need these practical stories and experiences to develop our learning further.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Collection of Sketchnotes from Learning Live 2017

Rachel Burnham writes: I had a very interesting two days, this week, participating in Learning Live, organised by the Learning & Performance Institute, which took place in London on 6 & 7 September. 

There were many topics explored in the plenary and workshop sessions throughout the two days.  Here is the complete collection of my Sketchnotes, from the sessions I participated in. 

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Skills, training and the language we use - the big divide?

Rachel Burnham writes: I feel incredibly privileged because I love my work - both the paid work I do as an L&D Consultant, working for myself and the work I do as a volunteer, whether for L&D Connect or CIPD Manchester, as a member of the branch committee and their Public Policy Adviser.  I get to do some really interesting things for CIPD Manchester that I wouldn’t get to do otherwise, such as contributing to organising the recent ‘Shape the Future’ event for CIPD.  As Public Policy Adviser I have got involved in facilitating focus groups and meetings around a very diverse range of topics from dispute resolution,  the National Living Wage, the Northern Powerhouse, to new Psychoactive Substances and EU Migration policy – and look out for exciting news in the early autumn on a new venture ‘The Big Conversation on Families, Parents and the Workplace’.

It is fascinating to be working and making things happen both in the L&D field and also in the wider HR Public Policy field.  I get to work on some different topics and also on some areas that are common to both fields.  It has broadened my perspective on the HR field – it helps me to understand more practically the connections between L&D and other aspects of HR – this has been particularly true of the recent work on EU migration policy that has impacts across many aspects of HR from recruitment, to talent management, skills development, job design & use of automation.    I get to work in different sorts of ways and with different networks of people.   And I notice some interesting differences between the L&D agenda and the Public Policy agenda and also the language that is used, even when we are discussing topics we have in common. 

For example, in the L&D world there is a lot of focus on modern workplace learning with emphasis on how we can make effective use of digital technologies and also social learning, so that learning can be much more responsive to the needs of organisations and individuals, with individuals being able to access learning as and when they need it.  And often that learning may be through access to resources, so actually may be more about performance support.  

Of course, in very many organisations face to face learning still plays a huge and important part, whether that is on its own or as part of wider blended learning programmes.   Amongst these programmes will be ones leading to qualifications – some of these qualifications may be quite sector specific eg medical qualifications, qualifications for the financial services sector or job specific eg health and safety qualifications. However, in many organisations, much learning will be uncertified particularly informal learning – without that in any way that limiting its value or effectiveness.  Indeed, it is hard to imagine how much of our learning can be certified given the rate of learning needed to be effective in some roles or the degree of organisation and job-specificity often required.

Yet in the public policy area, when skills are being discussed then the focus is largely on qualifications and the language is mostly that of training.   This feels more limited, dated and also rather confusing – I find myself wondering when a report refers to the amount spent on training or the amount of training being ‘received’ by employees – just what is being included within those figures – qualifications almost certainly, all face to face training probably, e-learning possibly, informal & social learning - it really isn’t clear, but I suspect it isn’t, learner led development – probably not.  

I was delighted to see that the recent CIPD report on skills, which I have previously blogged about, was consciously moving away from just looking at qualifications. Informal learning is mentioned (briefly), but the focus is still on this formal end of learning and the language is still largely that of training.  So there is a gap between what is happening, at least in some organisations, around L&D and the way this is being examined at a national policy level.

But I think that L&D also needs to get more engaged with the whole skills agenda and public policy area too.   It is interesting what is happening with the introduction this year of the Apprenticeship Levy, as this is impacting on so many organisations, some of whom have already got experience of apprenticeships, but there are also many organisations that haven’t previously had experience in this area.  Some people in L&D have been getting their heads around the Levy and have thrown themselves into working with it for the benefit of their organisations.  In many organisations, responsibility for apprenticeships is a niche L&D role or part of talent management role or part of a wider HR responsibility.  It feels like there hasn’t been as much discussion of the Apprenticeship Levy and its implications within the wider L&D community as might have been expected for such a broad initiative with such potentially huge impact.   The recent round of CIPD Leaders in Learning events which focused on the Apprenticeship Levy had a lower turnout than previous sessions.  In previous years I have noticed a very different mix of participants at events with a skills agenda focus, to those events with a broader L&D focus. 

So there are different groups of people engaged in discussion and action in relation to ‘Adult Training’ or the Skills Agenda field to those focusing on L&D within organisations and some different conversations taking place, with different focuses and different language.  Diversity of views can be a source of strength and bring new ideas to the fore, but if there is a lack of dialogue, if there is an absence of challenge around the differences in focus between the fields, if different language grows up and goes unexplored, then there are also big risks.

For example, are we focusing on the right things in our national statistics in this area; to what extent does it matter if the overall amount spent on workforce development is decreasing if we are spending it more effectively (if we are?); if only some aspects of workforce development are being measured, will these be focused on in policy discussions to the neglect of possibly more fruitful areas; and so on.  I worry that we aren’t talking enough together and as a result the national policy agenda is missing out on more recent thinking and practice from L&D. 

But what do you think?

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

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