Learning as part of the bigger picture

I am currently undertaking the Exploring Social Learning MOOC thanks to Martin Couzins and Sam Burrough. It is all about looking at the realities of social learning and how we can get the approach really working in the context of organisations today. What I expected about this topic was that it would draw on lots of ‘learning’ related content I had either read or seen referred to in the past. What I didn’t expect was for it to draw on some of the broader organisational challenges I am seeing more widely debated beyond the L&D space in HR and talent circles.

Two of the videos featured in the first week of the course were by speakers who keynoted at HR Tech Europe in the Autumn and I discuss their frankly brilliant sessions in a previous post here. Aside from the fact that the evolution of organisational structure and hierarchy is anthropologically interesting, the bit about this type of content that intrigues me most is where L&D fits into the bigger picture.


There seems to be agreement amongst today’s leading thinkers that we are going about our everyday lives in a very uncertain and volatile world (VUCA – to coin the phrase – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). And that social change, technological advances, world wide networks and instant connectivity have apparently altered everything forever. Although, in a tweet chat last week for #exploresocial there was indeed a bit of consensus that things have probably always been uncertain throughout the ages, but it is the way in which we are now interconnected and ‘always on’ that has accelerated the pace of change and added to the overall volatility we seem to be feeling today.

Why is this relevant to learning? Well prior to embarking on the MOOC I am not sure I would have drawn immediate parallels. But myself and fellow MOOCers were challenged from the beginning to consider if traditional learning and development approaches are well suited to helping people deal with the challenges our uncertain world presents. Or could social learning hold the key to success? If L&D becomes more agile in its approach, does that help our people do the same, thanks to learning that is easily found at the point of need and up to date information always available as a result of more collaborative approaches to working and learning, peer to peer sharing and interconnected networks of like minded people?

The MOOC and the debate is still ongoing and I will keep you updated on how that continues. But as I look ahead to the next edition of HR Tech Europe which touches down in London next month, the same debate is being played out across the agenda to a much broader audience which includes not just L&D folk but HR generalists, payroll specialists, recruiters and more. The opening keynote will explore how organisations can adopt network thinking to stay ahead of the game in an uncertain world. And sessions throughout the event are delving into the impact of social collaboration and prepping us for ‘tomorrow’s world’. It’s pleasing that the Future of Workforce Learning has a stream in its own right. But it is the inclusion of learning in these wider debates that is even more exciting. Could it hold the key to organisations’ ability to adapt, survive and thrive in a VUCA world?

I’m looking forward to once again be part of the blog squad for this event and bringing you some insights on all of this. I’ll also be interviewing some of the speakers and learning experts between now and kick off on 24 March 2015. And I’ll have finished the MOOC by then too. Stay tuned for updates… Unless the world turns upside down in the meantime and someone pulls the plug. In which case I’m pretty certain even more volatility would kick in, but maybe that’s for another post :)

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On awards

learning awardsI’m lucky enough to have been invited along as a guest to tomorrow night’s Learning Awards hosted by the Learning and Performance Institute. I feel incredibly privileged as I love awards night, not because of the glamour of the posh frocks and dinner jackets (although I do love all that of course) it’s the joy and recognition of good work that tickles me pink.

I have been an entrant, a winner, a loser and a judge of industry awards in my time and when you win (or nowadays when a client wins) it is such a high and such an honour that it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. But it’s not about getting up on stage, collecting a trophy and having your photo taken (although again, obviously that’s all great). It’s about the culmination of months or years of work, it’s about taking something back to your colleagues that gives everyone a pat on the back and makes them feel proud of their work. And as time goes on, it’s about hopefully sharing your story so others can learn from what you’ve done and make a success of what they’re doing.

LEARNING AWARDS 2011 (3)Some might not be so keen on awards as a concept, and indeed as the parent of a one year old I have been doing a lot of reading about the benefits of praising effort rather than achievement. And there is doubtless a lot of great work out there that goes unsung. Probably because when learning projects start, I don’t know of anyone that says ‘Right, this is going to be an award winning project’. But what most people *do* do at the outset is set out to deliver something that makes a difference. And if retrospectively when something has been a success, what better way of thanking everyone involved and acknowledging the contribution of your colleagues, partners, suppliers and stakeholders than gaining industry-wide recognition?

More than that though, I believe it’s important to share best practice and understand what leads to the success of certain projects, initiatives and individuals. I have learned so much over the years from listening to and reading about award winning projects and what has made them fly. It is inspiring. And what I love is that a small organisation can look at the achievements of a larger one and think ‘Well I don’t have their budget, but I could replicate X, Y or Z part of what they did’. Then go on to break through their own performance barriers. Also one of the nice aspects of the awards in recent years has been more new categories that recognise the changing face of L&D and the learning professional to encompass areas like live online learning and social learning. And it is in sharing best practice that we can continue to evolve and improve.

New winners and new stories will emerge at The Dorchester this week and I for one, can’t wait to hear all about them.


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Another year over at Learning Technologies #LT15UK

IMG_20150129_171540932Some people feel the blues when Christmas is over but for me that feeling is always a month later when Learning Technologies has finished. Maybe I need to get out more but there’s little doubt that this is learning’s Glastonbury and to see how it has grown and grown over the years is pretty astonishing. In recent years there are more and more ‘space only’ stands and we’ve seen some of the established players grow bigger and bigger (City & Guilds Kineo, Brightwave and MindClick for example), mergers and acquisitions (LINE and Epic as one at LEO as a prominent instance) and excitingly lots of up and coming players coming to the party (Netex and eLearning Brothers stood out on the floor). And whilst the exhibition continues to expand, the conference continues to go from strength to strength too.

This was my fourth year heading up the social media team for the event, a role it is my privilege to take on every year, working with Don Taylor and his excellent team to share as much as we can of the content and insight over the two days. Many event organisers are scared of social media – some even still ask attendees to switch their phones off before the start of a session! But the team at Closer Still have to be commended in their openness and willingness to share.


IMG_20150129_144042673_HDRContent wise there were a few highlights for me. I enjoyed the mobile learning session from Geoff Stead of Qualcomm who had a good story to tell complete with interesting examples driven by the interests of the audience. Their internal app store looks like a great resource and they have specifically avoided squishing elearning modules onto a smaller screen and focused more on creating performance support resources which is always good to see. He also showed some of the games they have created to drive employee engagement with the app store. Their spin on Angry Birds increased traffic significantly after its launch – a nice example of some creativity to help make their vision for mobile learning fly (see what I did there?)

The case studies in the mandatory training session might not have sounded sexy at the outset, but these three examples from Channel 4, BT and Getty Images (brilliant to see my ex-colleague Kim George presenting) really demonstrated the common challenges that organisations are up against and how with different techniques, they have managed to make some seriously dry topics engaging. I am going to Storify that session to share the details.

Paul Morgan from O2 (who it turns out is the ex boss of one of my best friends – small world) delivered some no-messing insights on developing an L&D team for the future, in a session spearheaded by Don Taylor. This session really drove the point home that performance consultancy skills are *critical* to L&D but they are often in short supply. Morgan said that in recent times, digital skills such as using Storyline have been in demand but it is the ability to talk to the business and align L&D goals with those of the organisation that are what we need right now.

It was also useful to hear about the new Elearnity 9-Grid reports straight from the horses’ mouth in a session with David Wilson and David Perring. These reports provide an independent analysis of the solutions available across four key areas – Learning Management Systems (LMS), Talent Management, Authoring Tools and Bespoke elearning. For ANYONE who was ‘shopping’ at the exhibition, these reports are a must-read and act like a Which? guide to learning technologies.

Room of Reflection

Nigel Paine interviewed by Kate Graham

Photo credit: Donald H Taylor

One of the aspects of learning we have been conscious of whilst organising the backchannel is that of reflection. The nature of the social media coverage is instantaneous and the event itself acts like a formal learning intervention, which present the challenge that we all go back to work on Monday and carry on as we were. We’ve been keen to create space for exploring some of the conference sessions further – and to also bring more content to those not able to actually be at Olympia. And so with the modern miracle of Google Hangouts, the Room of Reflection was born. I was delighted to interview Nigel Paine about his new book and his earlier session on effective workplace learning. It was a fantastic opportunity to delve into some of the key aspects of his presentation and ask questions from far and wide too. You can see the video here. A massive thanks needs to go to Alex Watson and Barbara Thompson for hosting these sessions and working with the brilliant tech guys at Dreamtek who managed the streaming. Hopefully it will be back next year.

Organised chaos?


Regular readers might be aware that I’m not a massive fan of keynote sessions. I generally prefer the practical insight and advice provided by case study type sessions, but the headliners were both very interesting this year. Both are – I think it’s fair to say – household names with a certain amount of fame attached to them, particularly Professor Robert Winston and his various series on the BBC. But it was Professor Sugata Mitra discussing the learning of the future and his notorious ‘Hole in the wall’ experiment that grabbed my attention. Given the coverage that particular story has had, I expected more dissent on the backchannel, but not so. Most were simply fascinated to hear his experiences first hand. He talked about ‘Self Organised Learning Environments’ which you may or may not agree with, but he believes that this type of eco system ‘exists on the edge of chaos’. This resonated with me in terms of the corporate world’s current love/hate battle with informal learning. Chaos is scary, order is good. That’s what we’re brought up to believe right? So putting the keys to knowledge and learning in the hands of the learners is like letting the lunatics out the asylum and letting go of law and order? I think this point shows the sorts of mental barriers organisations still have to overcome to let go of some what has traditionally been seen as L&D’s turf.


In terms of trends emerging from the event, there was no one central theme as we’ve had in previous years. There was still a sense that L&D is in a period of consolidation and trying to leverage recent trends in the most effective way rather than needing anything ‘new’ to distract them. Neuroscience is a topic that has emerged strongly in the last couple of years and this was emphasised right from the top with Professor Robert Winston’s keynote exploring synapses and neurons pretty closely. Attempts to properly utilise xAPI (or TinCan as it was once better known) dominated a lot of the technical conversations and discussions around an embedded social approach were lively and in abundance. Machine, or intelligent, learning is a trend that has bubbled up in the last 12 months, with more predictive analytics and big data style understanding and recommendations creating a more tailored learning experience. And informal learning continues to pose a challenge to L&D teams that feel they ought to be managing this as a process. David Wilson made the point that we don’t need to be scared of it ‘just because L&D doesn’t have its arms wrapped around it’. New platforms like Fuse and Tessello are popular for supporting a more social approach, whilst LMS’s like Saba have evolved to take on 70:20:10 style learning. But as experts like Paul Matthews and Charles Jennings say, succeeding with informal learning depends a lot on an organisation’s mindset. The technology needs to come later.


IMG_20150129_133444533-SMILEThis year, all the members of the social media team will be sharing their key takeaways from the event. I am looking forward to reading them and then passing on some real gems. All of the team did an amazing job of tweeting throughout the event and there are some really useful summaries and Storifies floating around. For the definitive set of curated resources, check out the awesome David Kelly’s blog. Curation at its finest!

And as ever, it’s the conversations that take place in the corridors, at lunch and over a glass of wine that make this event so special. There are so many fantastic L&D professionals achieving astonishing results and it is just a privilege to hear their stories first hand. Ascot Communications was also thrilled to host an evening get together to support Learn Appeal which is an exciting charity using learning technology to make a real difference to people’s lives.

As for me, I will be reflecting on how we can continue to evolve the backchannel for 2016 and hoping my feet recover in time to don some killer heels for the Learning Awards on Thursday. But if you have any thoughts or comments please do share them here.

Thanks for coming on yet another learning journey with me. Until the next one…


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Learning Technologies 2015 Backchannel #LT15UK

LT logoAhead of this week’s Learning Technologies event, here are the details on how to make the most of the backchannel from near or far. This is being published a little later than usual because Don Taylor and I have been cooking up some new ideas to help share as much of the action as possible. But things will run along the same lines as in previous years to make it as easy as possible to tune into the sessions or speakers you most want to hear from.

Room of reflection
For the first time this year there will be a ‘Room of Reflection’. You might have already joined one of the Google Hangouts that Don has been hosting in the build up to LT. Now at the event itself we are using this model to provide space for reflection (as the name implies!) after some of the conference sessions. We will be bringing speakers in for a live chat that draws on the key points of their session and allows for deeper insight and analysis. This will be streamed online for people following the backchannel and not attending the conference. And conference delegates will also have the chance to be in the room if they’d like to find out more. Each of these sessions will also be covered by the backchannel so do tweet in your questions for the speakers in question, especially if you have followed or attended their main conference session.

20140129_101722Each conference session has an individual hashtag that will be used in addition to the main #LT15UK hashtag. So if you’re following using TweetChat or a similar application, you can search on the specific sessions to keep your focus on a particular topic. Below is a list of these hashtags and which of our tweeters is covering those sessions. Hopefully you can start following them in advance and really hone in on any areas of interest during the event. Note, the keynotes and opening and closing addresses won’t have individual hashtags. For the full conference programme, click here.

Day one: Keynote: A brave new world: how the cloud is revolutionising our learning, Professor Sugata Mitra

The world renowned, TED prize winning speaker – thanks to his Hole In The Wall project which you can find out more about here – will unsurprisingly be focusing on education, but should provide some fascinating insights on how the next generation is learning and the role technology will play in teaching. There are a few detractors out there so the reaction to what he has to say could be interesting!

Day one: 11.10 – 12.20

  • #T1S1 – Future learning: how our learning landscape is all set to change, Gerd Leonhard (Covered by Nic Laycock and Marco Faccini)
  • #T2S1 – Creating high impact blended learning, Clive Shepherd, Sarah Lindsell, Brid Nunn (Covered by Sam Taylor)
  • #T3S1 – Learning strategy, Nigel Paine and Gary Bellamy (Covered by Joan Keevil)
  • <#T4S1 – Creativity and learning, Tony Buzan (Covered by Susie Finch and Julie Drybrough)
  • #T5S1 21st century enterprise learning, David Wilson and David Perring (Covered by Kate Graham)
  • #RRS1 – The first of the new Google Hangout sessions – The future of learning is the future of work, Martin Couzins (Covered by Barbara Thompson)

Day one: 13.50 – 15.00

  • #T1S2 – Does instructional design have a future? Patti Shank (Covered by Sam Taylor)
  • #T2S2 – Making a success of enterprise-wide learning, Jane Daly, Velda Barnes, Jason Simeon (Covered by Susie Finch)
  • #T3S2 – Storytelling and video, Mark Davies and Gemma Critchley (Covered by Barbara Thompson)
  • #T4S2 – Successful working and learning across countries and cultures, Fons Trompenaars (Covered by Nic Laycock and Joan Keevill)
  • #T5S2 – Transforming learning, Andrew Jacobs and Garry Hearn (Covered by Julie Drybrough)
  • #RRS2 – The challenge of effective workplace learning, Nigel Paine (Covered by Ollie Gardner)

Day one: 15.30 – 16.40

Day two: Keynote: The expanding mind, Professor Robert Winston
As a justly famous expert for his work in medicine and numerous television programmes on the BBC, Professor Winston will be talking about the human mind and exploring the hot topic of neuro science. It promises to be a fascinating and thought provoking session.

Day two: 11.30 – 12.30

Day two: 13.50 – 15.00

Day two: 15.30 – 16.40

Meet the team
I am delighted to be joined by a fantastic team of L&D folk who will all bring their unique insights and perspectives to the backchannel. Here are all the Twitter handles of the team covering the sessions:

Me – @kategraham23
Barbara Thompson – @CaribThompson
Nic Laycock – @alc47
Alex Watson – @s0ngb1rd
Joan Keevill – @designs_joank
Susie Finch – @susiefinch
Ollie Gardner – @olliegardener
Sam Taylor – @samt_el
Marco Faccini – @marcoable
Julie Drybrough – @fuchsia_blue
Martin Belton – @martinb66

Also the official event feeds:

Learning Technologies official feed – @LT15UK
Learning and Skills official feed – @LAS15UK

I hope you’ll join in this coming week, whether it’s just reading the Twitter stream or joining in with the tweets or adding further thoughts and reflection through your own blog posts, I’m looking forward to a week of sharing and connecting. Tweet me @kategraham23 or drop me a comment below if you have any suggestions for how we can make this the best Learning Technologies yet.


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The organisation of the future at HR Tech Europe

HR Tech Europe logoLast week’s inaugural trip was a pretty intense learning experience for me and I’m only now just getting my thoughts in order. Quite a few speakers I’ve seen recently at this and other events have referenced making time for reflection, so instead of firing off a quick summary blog, I’ve tried to really reflect on what I saw and heard at HR Tech Europe.

First impressions are it’s a slick event, well planned and executed by the organisers. There are no exhibition-only attendees, everyone there is a delegate at the conference which I thought might mean it felt a bit less busy and buzzy but that wasn’t the case. The exhibition seemed generally busy with some quite cool tech on offer, more of which in a follow up post. I was really impressed with the speaker line-up and the sessions on offer in the conference. On more than one occasion I had a clash where I had to make hard choices of who to watch.

The outstanding element of the event for me were the keynote speakers. I am not always a real fan of keynotes where high level, conceptual ideas are put out there – which is all well and good but leaves the rest of us with little practical advice on how to take things forward within our organisations. Not so here.

David McCandless Beauty of Data, HR Tech EuropeDavid McCandless presented an interesting view on how to represent data and make it beautiful. For me, it sat outside some of the themes from the other keynotes but was fascinating nonetheless. He expounds that we need to look at data differently and demonstrated how easy it can be to pick up patterns and trends from data when it is not in a spreadsheet. And I’m all for making things pretty!

The sessions from the other headliners had more in common however. Yves Morieux, Ray Wang and Professor Gary Hamel (who were all excellent presenters) all discussed the lack of employee engagement in organisations today. In fact, not only are employees not engaged, they are ‘actively disengaged’. And this, they all seem to concur, is at least partly a reaction to the hierarchy, processes and layers that make up the modern day organisation. Morieux wryly referred to them as ‘labyrinths of complicatedness’ where disengaging is frankly the only sensible option. But disengaged employees don’t make for productive employees which presents business leaders with a challenge that needs to be addressed. However, he posits that the traditional pillars of management, and all the talent and leadership development that gets done these days doesn’t seem to be helping.

Morieux believes if we break down matrix structures and silos and work together that we’ll improve performance. It’s not about the ‘exoskeleton’ of org chart boxes but about focusing on the ‘nervous system’ of connectedness, adaptiveness and intelligence. Basically the different parts of the organisation need to co-operate because when that happens, everything takes less time, less resource and less complexity. He showed a video of a relay race where a team won by the finest margin. When examining what made that millisecond of difference, he found it was lots of little things all coming together at once. It was the athletes’ mental belief, their co-operation with each other, the power that was not just in their legs but rippling throughout their entire bodies…and there’s no measurement for that. The inference is that organisations need to stop being so obsessed with reporting and measuring, foster co-operation, understand what people *really* do in their roles (going beyond the box in the org chart and the typed up job description), nurture their skills and intelligence and encourage them to make a difference.

Wang’s session also looked at shifting business models. He bounced around the stage with great enthusiasm talking about how the advent of the digital era has revolutionised the way we work. A quick show of hands in the audience demonstrated that many of us now work from home for example, we use social media in our working lives as well as our personal lives – but the structures within which we work have not evolved in a way that keeps pace with these changes. Technology has moved the goal posts and we need to change how we hire, onboard, train and develop our people now. No pressure then! One of the parts of his session I loved was his smashing of the millienials myth to talk about segmentation of the workforce not by age but by digital proficiency (apologies for the slightly blurry pic).

Ray Wang Digitial Proficiency, HR Tech Europe

Employees now want to create and manage their own experiences outside prescribed plans and we should allow context to drive activity.

Ray Wang Digital Context, HR Tech Europe

His 5 steps to digital transformation advocate changing organisational structures and nurturing ‘digital artisans’ to create, innovate and thrive rather than be stifled within existing hierarchies. And key to all of this is HR and IT finding a way to work in co-operation with each other :) (Photo credit: Mervyn Dinnen).

Ray Wang 5 Steps, HR Tech Europe

And then as if to bring it all together, Professor Gary Hamel burst onto the stage as the closing keynote, loud, impassioned and incredibly engaging despite it being the end of a full on two days. All my devices (phone, iPad *and* laptop) had run out of juice by this point so I don’t have tweets to refer back to (I always use them as notes after live tweeting from events) but what he said had a real impact (Photo credits below to David D’Souza).

Professor Gary Hamel, HR Tech Europe

He told us he wasn’t there to reveal the management practices of the future because the right practices simply haven’t been invented yet. But what was clear from his perspective is that current organisational hierarchies are broken (bet you’re surprised about that by now) and that the only way to sustain competitive advantage is by constantly innovating, not just products, services and technology but the structures and direction of a company itself. The old ‘incumbents’ like Walmart are now struggling against the ‘insurgents’ like Amazon thanks to their inability to change and embrace new ideas from their employees (again, there was a reference to employee disengagement here). Hamel believes organisations need to invest more in the creative capital that employees represent whilst also handing them more power.

His view on existing management structures is pretty scathing and he referenced some organisations like Morning Star where there are NO managers, NO bosses, just peer review. Pretty powerful stuff and pretty wonderful in its way, but for the likes of Vodafone or BP or any of the other large companies in the audience, this must also seem pretty impossible. What I liked about Hamel’s session was that he had some practical tips for starting to make change in small areas. He was involved with the CIPD last year in creating a HR hack and I love the idea that incremental changes can start to happen thanks to one or two brave individuals.

Professor Gary Hamel, CIPD HR Hack, HR Tech Europe

He acknowledged that real change takes time and iteration. And also that the likes of Facebook and Amazon are now becoming the new incumbents so the pressure is now on them to keep innovating too. He closed with some thoughts on what some are already putting into action to create the organisations of the future, today.

Professor Gary Hamel, closing, HR Tech Europe

Ultimately I doubt any of the attendees at HR Tech Europe are going to be able to go back to their organisations and completely overhaul their company structure. But the fact that employee engagement is so high on the agenda and the root causes of this are now being explored can only be a good thing. If small but sometimes painful processes like expenses or holiday requests *can* be changed and improved whilst employees also potentially being given more time and space to be creative then that seems like a reasonable but achievable goal which is worth chasing. Incidentally, one provider I spoke to at the event told me that all of their staff are given creative time when they want it to experiment and develop new ideas. Two of their staff have now independently developed a new piece of software which has been such a hit it’s been taken to market and is delighting their customers. Good to see some of this theory can work in practice. It will be interesting to go back next year and see what progress has been made and whether the organisations of the future are becoming a reality, even if it’s just bit by bit.

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The night before…HR Tech Europe

I should be packing right now but instead I thought I’d share a few things I’m looking forward to at this week’s HR Tech Europe event. I’ll be tweeting and blogging on Thursday and Friday this week and hope to bring a flavour of what’s happening, what’s new and what’s exciting to those not there (or those in different sessions to me).

A brand new event
It’s my first time at this event and I genuinely have no preconceptions about it other than the fact the line-up is great (more below). I’m excited to see a new exhibition and some vendors who are breaking down barriers with their technology. The disruptHR zone is a cool concept as well and great to see smaller start-ups being given an opportunity to show their wares alongside the established providers. I’m also intrigued to see the difference that having just conference attendees makes. At most big UK events, the expo can be attended for free so there are lots of exhibition only attendees mixed in with those attending the conference. Not so at HR Tech Europe, but there are 2,000 people registered so it should still be busy and buzzy!

Making new connections
Happily there are a few people going that I already know (hat tip David D’Souza who’s a fellow newbie to this event) and am planning to meet up with, but there are going to be a lot of faces I’ve never seen before. I’m looking forward to meeting new people, hearing new stories and forging new connections.

New insights
I’m attending streams on the ‘Future of Workforce Learning’ and ‘HR Technology’ as well as the opening keynote and one or two other general sessions. Some speakers I’ve heard before but am eagerly anticipating new insights from the likes of David Wilson, Charles Jennings and the lesser spotted David Havis (who I haven’t seen for ages!) It will also be good to hear new insights from speakers who are new to me from the likes of the Boston Consulting Group, Travelex and Etihad Airways. Having the chance to hear current case studies and sessions from a broader European perspective will be interesting too.

Using more words
As the curator of backchannels, my priority at live events is often the immediate 140 characters available on Twitter. I try and reflect on certain sessions afterwards on my blog, but the shorter format of tweets is usually my focus. However on this occasion I am part of the blog squad so will be doing more analysis and providing more in-depth reviews which should be a useful and interesting exercise.

I’m also getting into the swing of things by using the official event app. In addition to the hashtag #HRTechEurope the app provides access to other attendees and is building interest and anticipation in an engaging way. I’m enjoying using it and been really rather impressed with it.

Let me know if there’s anything you want to keep an eye out for and I look forward to sharing as much as I can over the next few days.


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The ‘Amazon of learning’ comes to HR Tech Europe

Springest is one of the exciting companies taking part in this year’s disruptHR Zone at HR Tech Europe. I spoke to Jon Woodruff, director of business development and global partnerships, to uncover what the ‘Amazon of learning’ is all about.

Springest is part of the disruptHR Zone at this year’s event, tell us a bit about the company.
Well, Springest has been around since 2008 and we see ourselves as disruptors of the training market – in a positive way! Springest is an independent comparison website for training courses and educational programmes. So learning and development providers place their offers with us, allowing individuals and organisations to view, compare and evaluate their options and find their ideal course. We’re changing the way people buy training and are excited to share that with the attendees of HR Tech Europe this year.

The site has been described as an ‘Amazon for learning’. Is that a good way for people to understand what Springest offers?
In a way, yes! Springest has over 35,000 courses, from 420 different providers, covering 570 different subjects from IT to legal to software engineering. Users can find training to suit their learning preferences, location and budget. Then once the course is over, they can share their experience by submitting a review. We have a star rating system for different elements of the training to let users evaluate their decisions by seeing feedback on what’s most important to them. So it is in fact an online marketplace for learning and the reviews can place a big factor in the purchasing decisions of our users.

It’s an interesting concept, what were the drivers for setting up a site like Springest?
In 2007, our founder Ruben Timmerman was searching online for some training he needed. It was a web development course and he realised that although there were lots of seemingly good training options out there, he had no way of comparing and contrasting the good ones and the bad ones. He felt this was something that could – and should – be addressed. So the concept was born! Originally the site was called eduhub but was rebranded to Springest in 2012.

We started by focusing on training courses in the Netherlands but have now expanded across Europe into other countries including Germany and the UK. Some of the big training providers grasped the idea straight away which gave us a great number of courses to get going. And it’s snowballed from there with over 200,000 visitors to the site every month. We have a fantastic team of developers that make sure our search engine optimisation is world class. This means the providers get better Google rankings, more visitors and ultimately more learners engaging with their training.

What do you feel are the main benefits of Springest for learners?
Firstly, it’s so easy! All learners need to do is search on a keyword or the subject area they’re interested in and Springest will return a series of results based on their ranking. Once they click onto a course and start reading up on the detail, they can at any time hit the ‘compare’ button to see how it ranks against other similar courses. We take into account key factors including price, location and duration as well as the rankings from the reviews. It’s all displayed in an at-a-glance table to make the decision making process as straightforward as possible for learners.

How can organisations take advantage of Springest?
Organisations can use the main site to suit their needs but if they have a lot of training requirements then they can have their own branded version that we call ‘Go’. We believe that people will be more motivated to learn if they get to choose their own courses. Go lets learners within organisations find and book the training they need to grow and removes the pressure from the HR department to do it for them. The aim is help motivate learners make good decisions about their training and help improve the impact of an organisation’s human capital development.

Given that a lot of learning is moving online these days, do you think that will impact Springest’s offering?

No, in fact we’re embracing it. A lot of the courses we feature are virtual sessions so learners can still find the subject they need, compare and contrast with other courses and learn online from wherever they are. Far from learning technology representing a threat, we are excited about the opportunities it represents for our learners as it will lead to greater choice and greater reach in the future.

For more information visit http://www.springest.co.uk/

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