The challenges we face in the Learning and Development family

Our first network event of 2017 was member hosted by one of the founder members of the Trainers Network Northamptonshire (TNN) – Serena Dolby. Serena organised what is the largest network event we’ve had to date  – 45 people booked on, with 35 attending on the day, at the Volkswagen National Learning Centre (NLC) in Milton Keynes.

It was also our first time outside the county – next stop, the world! It just shows what can grow from an idea amongst 5 trainers sharing what they had learned at a conference! Let’s face it, learning and development can be a lonely place for employed, and self-employed learning practitioners, and we all benefit from having peers we can reach out to.

We enjoyed a Speed Dating icebreaker, which was huge fun, and a great alternative (when you have a large group) to the People Bingo activity kindly shared by a member on our free resources site. Thanks to Jo Bottwright for the Post It note idea to keep a tally of things you have in common with a stranger. How on earth did someone find 29 things in common? I thought I’d done well getting 15…

Darren Pluckwell gave us a tour of the Volkswagen National Learning Centre – amazing, state of the art facilities, and some of the cleanest workshops I’ve ever seen. The training environment does play its part in event success, and the main training room had natural light, plenty of room,  plus screens the size of a cinema screen. No wonder some TNN members asked if they can hire the rooms! The Conference Café area was as good as many 4 star hotels I have worked in, and in the Restaurant at lunchtime, the freshly made pizza was straight from a stone baked oven, and as good as many Italian restaurants I’ve eaten in. Where do I get the job application from, Serena?

Darren shared some of the problems the L&D team faces – including managing many stakeholders in the process, the industry’s reluctance for blended learning, and the challenges of getting data to show the transfer of learning back at work. There were many ‘Mmms’ and ‘Ahhs’ around the table I was sitting at. It seems we all face similar L&D problems, and being able to share this with our peers is cathartic.

Talking of networking get-togethers. David Smith of Virtual Gurus, and the Advocate for the ATD’s UK Network (Association for Talent Development), co-facilitated a conference café on shaping the ATD member network.

The goal was to enable us all as L&D professionals to voice our dreams and wants from a UK based association for learning professionals. It was another high energy session, and thank you for all our members for taking part. It is weird to think of my little network being part of such a huge and influential global Institute, one which I am proud to be a member of.

The facilitators – David, Adrian, Serena, and me – all agreed that there was enough information there to write enough blogs for a year!

Finally, Paul Matthews, of People Alchemy, posed the question “Should you be in the classroom?”. Training in the classroom should not be the default response to a performance issue, yet it so often is. Doing a thorough gap analysis is worthwhile when we have the time, the co-operation, and the know-how to recognise the right solution to a need.

The group shared tales of gap analysis gone wrong –

  • An internal client who threatened their L&D team that they would go elsewhere if “you don’t deliver exactly what I want”. So what does this say about how L&D is viewed internally; your core values and common aims?
  • An internal client who gives you a title and input only (“Stakeholder Management, a two day course please”) and yet cannot explain what the outcomes of the training need to be. Going back to the problems faced at the NLC, how can we prove learning transfer if we don’t know the starting point, or where we are going?
  • Paul’s example of classroom training not being the need – the people are competent to do the job (i.e. a mechanic who can fix your car) but they are not capable because the parts aren’t in stock.

Lastly. Our founder members in June 2010 wrote the TNN Charter – the vision was to give back as part of our charitable giving. Through our event fees, we covered the restaurant bill, and made a donation of £240 to the Willen Hospice. Serena accepted the cheque on behalf of the Hospice.

I was also delighted to hear that the Volkswagen L&D team would love to host another event in the future.

We look forward to future travels, and taking the TNN on tour. We are open to collaborate with other associations, networks and Institutes, as we believe all L&D people face similar problems. Somehow it just seems better to realise you are not alone facing Learning and Development challenges!

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