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Heads up vs heads down – the importance of learning and development in the workplace

16th May 2022 By Victoria Starkey
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How’s your week going?

Are you in heads-down mode trying to get through that to-do list? Desperately trying to catch up on emails or get started with those new business ideas?

Perhaps somewhere in the mix, there is a reminder that this week is “Learning at Work Week” – your chance to lift your head for a moment and focus on your own L&D?

And if there isn’t, maybe this is a good time to remind yourself of why it’s so important to make some time for your own development.

The Learning at Work Week annual event, led by the Campaign for Learning to champion and embrace the culture of learning within the workplace, provides a welcome opportunity to bring the benefits of learning in the workplace back into the spotlight.

This year, the theme is “Learning Uncovered”, which focuses on three key areas:

  • Why it’s important to be lifelong learners and support lifelong learning
  • How we can initiate and support lifelong learning as individuals and in our work communities
  • The opportunities and benefits that lifelong learning offers for work and life.

Alongside my day-to-day role at Social leading campaigns and communications activity on behalf of our clients, I am also fortunate to run Social’s very own learning and development programme – ‘Social Learning’.

Through this, I’ve learned some invaluable lessons about learning in the workplace. So, I thought this was an opportune moment to share my four key takeaways:

First, look around you.

I’m one of those people that is constantly in awe of my peers when I see them excel in their jobs and demonstrate their skills and talent in front of clients and other colleagues. It was in part for this reason that we established the Social Learning programme. Too often we were seeking external training when the skills, talent and experience we wanted to impart were all right in front of us.

Over the past year, we’ve been able to run a broad range of training sessions for our team members from a “BD Bootcamp” covering bid writing; the art of networking; and the importance of research and insights, through to social media masterclasses and sessions on creating effective communication strategies. All delivered in-house and online, these sessions are now hosted on our intranet for colleagues to revert back to or for new starters to access.

Know when to bring in external resource

Having extolled the virtues of in-house learning, of course there is also huge value and merit in seeking external experience, particularly when looking for specialist industry insights. Social encourages everyone in the business to prioritise their own development and come forward with training ideas. From CIPR and PRCA courses, to specialist drone training and consultation expertise, colleagues have been fortunate to participate in some of the very best industry training. And we’ve also brought in external speakers to participate in our Social Learning programme – a particular highlight saw Mark Casci, Business Editor at the Yorkshire Post join us for a Q & A and Sean Sankey, business growth and sprint expert and co-founder of consultancy, Form, ran a “Sprints 101” session.

Encourage self-learning

When putting together our Social Learning programme, we ran our own internal survey to understand how team members like and prefer to learn at work. Peer-to-peer learning and group training came out on top, but the value of online libraries and books for people to access in their own time also came through strongly.

This paved the way for the Social Book Club. Sadly, not the cheese and wine type of book club, but still a way for like-minded people to come together and share their thoughts and interpretations on some key industry opinions. To date we’ve looked at Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway and Truth Be Told: How Authentic Marketing and Communications Wins in the Purposeful Age by John O’Brien and David Gallagher.

Find time to support others

When I think back to the start of my career over a decade ago, I was fortunate to have some really inspiring role models to look up to. I was even more fortunate that these individuals took the time to share their knowledge, experience and expertise to help me learn and grow. The value of this informal learning and development is often overlooked, but it is one of the reasons Social supports and encourages work placements.

We are thrilled to be partnering with Channel 4 on their newly-created talent development programme “Content Creatives”, launched by social enterprise SharpFutures with the support of Channel 4 and their Leeds-based digital content production team, 4Studio. Later this summer we’ll be welcoming two young people from West Yorkshire for a two-month placement to try and inspire and encourage more people into a career in the industry. Since Social was set-up, we’ve tried to offer as many work experience opportunities as possible to support those at the start of their careers.

So, whilst our Social Learning programme is still in its infancy, we’ve already come a long way. In the last year alone, colleagues have clocked up almost 1,200 hours of learning and development in work time. We’ve had some great feedback and we are now building on our programme of training to benefit and support even more people in the team.

When things get busy, understandably, we all put our heads down to deliver a great service for clients. But this Learning at Work Week, I will be taking the opportunity to switch from ‘heads down’ to ‘heads up’ mode, take a step back, and carve out time for my own learning and development, as well as looking at ways that I might be able to support my colleagues.

I’d love to hear about what you’re doing to support learning and development in the workplace. Please do drop me a line on LinkedIn (2) Victoria Starkey | LinkedIn