Another update on me

I have some exciting news! After my update earlier this year I am delighted to share that I am taking up new role as head of content and communications with Fosway Group, formerly Elearnity.

The role is a really interesting one for me. The analysts at Fosway are focused on research into next generation HR and learning, with topics and themes covering everything from HR transformation to gamification. My remit is to work with them to share this content in a variety of formats and across a number of different channels. I’ll also be working with organisations using HR and learning technology ‘in anger’ to feed into the research agenda and extend Fosway’s Corporate Research Network. And to close the loop, I’ll be working with vendors too, helping share their latest innovations and how their solutions are helping organisations in practice.

It’s an opportunity for me to pull together the different threads of my experience in a collaborative role that ultimately aims to share research and best practice across the industry. David Wilson and his team have been analysing the market for more than 19 years now and I can’t wait to start sharing their work. The role also enables me to remain involved in my broader collaborations with events including Learning Technologies and HR Tech World Congress, and should give me a new dimension to my contributions on the TrainingZone podcast and a judge of the Elearning Awards. I’ll still be available via the usual social channels and my new email address is Drop me a line if you’d like to discuss the new role – or just fancy a catch up :)

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Highlights from day one at HR Tech World Congress

After a jam packed first day at HR Tech World Congress, I haven’t had time to fully reflect on everything I saw and heard. But whilst I do that (and get stuck into day two) I thought I’d do a quick round up of highlights from day one.

‘It’s not the boxes on the org chart but the way the boxes work together’

20151027_082911As I expected, Yves Morieux delivered another cracking keynote, evolving his session from last year with sharp insights and a practical outlook. His focus was on simplifying how we work in an increasingly complex world. I will go into what he said in more detail in a separate post, but he made the point that whilst technology has evolved rapidly in the last 40 years, the shape and structure of most organisations have not. And we have effectively now just digitised a whole lot of complexity and ‘mess’. He made an impassioned plea for us to stop thinking about the skeleton of the organisation i.e. the org chart and start thinking about the nervous system i.e. how the boxes work together. This he believes, will start to foster greater cooperation which is the key to real success. HR could unlock this potential and have the ability to make this happen and ‘save the world’. Sounds flippant but could it be true?! Read some more insights in Euan Semple’s excellent post here.

20151027_122353In the morning I attended the learning stream. HRN, the organisers of the event, had asked me to interview Mary Moloney of Coderdojo at lunchtime so I was keen to get to her session. Coderdojo is a not-for-profit organisation that organises free clubs for kids to learn how to code. It is an awesome initiative and I hope to be able to share the video of the interview at some point. But as well as being worthy, there were some great points that could be extrapolated for corporate learning. Moloney never uses the word training as they feel this is something that is ‘done to’ people. They don’t start with the kids by asking them what they want/need to learn. They begin by asking what they’re interested in, what they like, what they want to achieve (as someone else termed it later in the day – they use ‘appreciative inquiry’). And Coderdojo very deliberately don’t use a traditional classroom set up and try to make their physical environment relaxed and open in order to foster creativity. More organisations are trying things like hackathons now to generate ideas and solve problems. Maybe internal dojos should be something we could embrace too. I think the idea could work really well for many.

Collaboration and innovation
After lunch I specifically wanted to watch Matt Anderson’s session on fostering collaboration and innovation at Jaguar Landrover. From a HR standpoint, Matt has begun positively disrupting a very traditional engineering/manufacturing organisation. It’s a command and control type culture where things usually have to be perfect before they are launched, thanks to the precision involved in the production side of the business. Anderson urged us to be unafraid of ‘dancing in a field’. He posits that at a festival nobody tells the audience when to start dancing or indeed, how to dance. So he started ‘dancing’ by just doing the things he wanted and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. He implemented new tools and tech such as Google Docs and Gmail without explicit authorisation for example. He set up an ideation group with no senior level buy-in to start exploring how to meet certain business challenges. And whilst the change hasn’t happened over night, it is happening.

Anderson believes perseverance is the key but being a pioneer can be lonely. Try and find some heroes to support your vision. This is something you hear a lot about finding ‘champions’ internally, but Anderson went out and got in contact with someone at Google. That person then came in to talk to senior folk at Jaguar Landrover and influenced them in a way that Anderson probably couldn’t. I like this idea of external credibility and influence to help support change. When you’re in an organisation it is easy to accept the status quo but when someone from outside comes in, it can put a new perspective on things. His final words of advice were to take any opportunity to share and foster collaboration internally…oh and don’t be afraid to fail. None of us are scared of that though right?

20151027_125016The disruptHR zone here is awesome. It has evolved from last year and the organisers have set up simple, standardised areas for each start-up so there is no difference in their stand/backdrop. It works well because as a visitor you’re drawn in either by the exhibitors themselves or their short bio on their backdrop. I spoke to a few interesting companies including Workometry which is doing some, frankly quite terrifying but incredibly powerful stuff with predictive analytics! And the guys from a company called Klaxoon had a cool idea for making training sessions more interactive. You can read a great round up of the different solutions on show here thanks to fellow Blog Squadder Faye Holland.

Richard Branson’s arrival caused much excitement and I don’t think I have ever seen so many attendees in one session before! He initially shared some insights on how he establishes organisational culture and the importance of making sure ‘people look forward to going to work on a Monday morning’. Clearly building a brand that engages staff as well as customers is something that has helped build Virgin’s success. And in a world where ‘attention is the new currency’ as I heard someone say yesterday, this holds massive intangible value.

I am currently waiting for the day two keynote to come on stage so that’s all for now folks but I will be back some more in-depth reflection and highlights from some of the other sessions I attended later.

Au revoir for now!

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Preview: HR Tech World Congress

HR Tech WorldI have just arrived in Paris ahead of HR Tech World Congress. Having been swept onto a motorbike outside the Gare du Nord (complete with not so chic hairnet and helmet, ahem) I arrived at the Palais de Congres buzzing with excitement at the opportunities that await at this rapidly expanding event, in this most beautiful of cities.

Last year’s Amsterdam event got me thinking about what the organisation of the future will look like. This year’s agenda promises to continue pushing boundaries and challenging HR professionals across a broad remit from talent and recruitment, to learning, social and data and analytics. I am going to challenge myself to depart more from my learning heartland to hear more about the broader organisational view of people development and understand some of the other hot topics across HR.

Branson quoteThe keynote is Sir Richard Branson who I am looking forward to hearing from. How such an entrepreneurial mind approaches some of the processes and systems that surround (transactional) HR is interesting to me. He has also learnt a lot of what he knows on-the-job and as someone who often learns as they go (deliberate link to blog name) I am hoping for some real pearls of wisdom. Interestingly though not everyone feels the same and quite a few attendees I have spoken to prior to the event are not convinced of the value he will add. This surprised me a little so I await that session with great anticipation and am sure the #HRTechWorld stream will highlight the general reaction from the audience.

Another highlight on the main stage promises to be Yves Morieux who I thought quietly and intelligently blew attendees away in 2014. You can view his TED talk here which is similar to the session I saw in Amsterdam. This year he will be exploring ‘Smart simplicity in a complex world’ and with the (sometimes crazy) layers of bureaucracy and organisational hierarchy that often surround HR initiatives, I am looking forward to hearing some practical insights from him.

I love the concept from the organisers of the disruptHR lounge which showcases new start-ups. This kind of platform can get new entrepreneurs noticed in an arena that most could never afford to exhibit in. I am aiming to pop along to a few and will try and grab some of the founders for quick Periscope interviews.

The influencers panel featuring a number of industry analysts should provide some good – and I imagine impassioned – debate. The team at Fosway, formerly Elearnity, always share great real-world insights so I’ll be going along to David Wilson’s session. The case studies always interest me and I’m particularly keen to hear stories of social and collaborative working within large enterprises like Jaguar Land Rover. Encouragingly, I also think I have only seen one session title that has the word ‘millennial’ in it. Hurrah.

Intriguingly the event will close with a session from Marco Tempest who is an illusionist and Fellow of MIT. Not your everyday speaker at a HR event!

Stay tuned to the backchannel over the next two days and be sure to check out some of the excellent writing from my fellow Blog Squad contributors. There is expertise from every end of the HR spectrum and there will be immediate live reaction plus more considered reflection to absorb, whether you’re there in person or not.

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Why learning is where it’s at

HR Tech WorldI am incredibly excited to be attending the inaugural HR Tech World Congress this month. Partly because having been to the HR Tech Europe events in London and Amsterdam, I know I can expect some great speakers, slick production and interesting conversations over the course of two days. Partly because the big draw is Sir Richard Branson himself. And I won’t lie, partly because it’s in Paris (j’adore).

My background is on the learning and talent side of HR and indeed, learning is the focus of just one of the streams of the conference. But when I look at the big picture at the moment, learning it seems, is where it’s at. In the last couple of years, MOOCs have taken off in an incredible way and the phenomenal investment in so called ed-tech companies like Coursera stands at over $2 billion in 2015 alone. Recent backing of organisations such as Fuse Universal securing $10 million follow this trend. Such levels of speculation would not be happening if learning was not (potentially at least) big business.

The real prompt to write this post was the announcement at the end of last week about Workday Learning. Workday has grown exponentially but previously they have partnered with the likes of Saba and Cornerstone OnDemand to provide a learning solution. However, they are committed to providing a complete suite for the enterprise and are focused on further growth, particularly in Europe.

Interestingly, Workday’s focus seems to be on supporting video based content and the social elements of learning. As we all know, there has been enormous criticism of learning management systems for focusing too much on administrators and taking a ‘command and control’ approach with learners forgotten about for too long. But I have seen for myself the lengths to which many established LMS providers (and new kids on the block) have gone to really change the way their systems work and make them more learner-centric and user friendly.

So why is Workday investing here, and why are all the other LMS providers trying to keep up with the evolving ways we learn now? Because the learning market is alive and kicking (and I don’t just mean the LMS market when I say that). Because upskilling and developing people needs to be a priority for organisations today. It is costly to lose staff (this figure is from 2014 but astonished me). Retaining and nurturing the talent pipeline and the ‘leaders of tomorrow’ is now seen as business critical.

If learning is really where it’s at though, why aren’t L&D taking a more prominent seat and holding more top level influence in organisations? Recent research still demonstrates a gap between L&D priorities and overall business strategy. But if developing talent and training staff is in itself a business priority, why does this gap still exist? Is something getting lost in translation? I am not pretending to have the answers but surely we can bridge this gap more effectively?

As an event that spans the whole spectrum of HR, I am intrigued to see how much focus is on learning and performance at HR Tech World Congress in some of the plenary and keynote sessions. Those outside L&D perhaps need to understand more about the positive impact learning could have on their organisation. And those inside might benefit from a broader view of their business context. I will be aiming to share as much insight as I can. And there are some great writers already contributing content via #HRTechWorld in the build up to the event. So tune in if you can and I’ll keep you posted. Au revoir!

Disclaimer: I have no links to Workday or any vested interest in writing about their recent announcement.

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A day in the life of an E-learning Awards judge

As part of my role with the eLearning Network, I am fortunate enough to have been a judge on the panel for the annual E-learning Awards for the past three years. When Chair of the Judges, Tony Frascina, asked if I’d like to participate again this year, I didn’t hesitate in accepting. And why would you hesitate you might ask? Well actually, it’s not a task to be taken on lightly. This post aims to show a little of what goes into judging just one category and highlight the rigour and challenges that come with being given this great responsibility.

I thought it would be fun to bring a flavour of the judging experience via Periscope and have saved the videos here to share with you and give you a little of the inside track.

Disclaimer: Due to the sensitive nature of the judging process, I have deliberately omitted the specifics of which category I was judging and of course any details of the entries involved. This post is written with the intention of telling a story of the overall process, not the particulars of the submissions I have judged.

At the beginning of August, every judge is assigned a category and receives copies of all the submissions entered within that category by the deadline of 31st July. Last year I judged two smaller categories, this year I had one larger one. Each panel consists of three judges with one chair who co-ordinates the shortlisting process. I was nominated as chair this year, so early on in the process set a date with the other two judges in my category to run through the submissions and aim to create our shortlist.

As someone who has written a *lot* of award entries, I really appreciate how much effort goes into writing them. So I always set aside plenty of time during my evenings and weekends to read the submissions and go through the scoring process against the set criteria. All judges give up their time for nothing and have to fit in their duties around their day jobs and it can be quite labour intensive. After making my own judgements, each entry was discussed in turn during conference calls with my fellow judges. We then submitted our shortlist towards the end of August and wrote (hopefully constructive) feedback for each of the unsuccessful submissions. There is then a gap of three weeks until the judging presentations.

It’s not all glamour…
Judging can involve early starts and for many, a fair distance to travel into London for the presentations.

An appropriate venue
Regular readers will be aware of my love of cricket, so arriving at The Oval where the judging presentations were held was no hardship. They even organised a little match for us between Surrey and Northants where the legendary Sangakkara scored a century. Upon arrival, each panel sets up camp in their own room and is given their schedule (run with military precision by the excellent Kate Vose) and fresh scoring sheets complete with all the criteria and scoring guidelines.

We then spent an intense two days hearing from some of the brightest and best in L&D. More of which later. During the breaks, the judges get a chance to mingle with those involved in other categories although there’s an unspoken code that the contents of the presentations are never discussed. I managed to catch eLN Chairman, John Curran, at lunch for his insights as a judge of many years.

After an intense two days…
I arrived home on Thursday evening exhausted! The travelling and early starts aside (5.30am on day two) it is the sheer ongoing concentration and focus required to give every presentation its due that is frankly, extremely tiring. But as well as being tired, I know was not the only judge to come away buzzing with excitement about some of the stories and innovation I had seen and heard. I tried to reflect on all of this when I got home.

Learning that is social, collaborative, innovative, technology-driven and part of people’s workflow. Have we reached L&D Mecca? Maybe not quite yet, but as the cream of the crop, these award entrants can show others how it’s done. I’d like to offer massive congratulations to everyone who entered, was shortlisted and those future winners at the awards evening in November. I can’t wait to share your stories and let the learning continue.

To find out more about judging and the eLearning Network, visit the website, become a member and get involved. I have no vested interest in saying that other than as a committed member and enthusiast.

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Looking ahead to Learning Live 2015

Next week I’m going to be attending the annual conference of the Learning and Performance Institute, Learning Live. There will be a whole team of tweeters there that I’ll be one of but not co-ordinating, so I get a bit more time to do some other things to, which mean I’ll be reprising my use of Periscope at a live event for the second time. More on that in a bit.

20140911_102846I’m fortunate enough to attend quite a lot of events, so it’s always encouraging to see new names on the programme and speakers I haven’t heard before. I love it when I gain new insights, maybe something creative and something inspiring. I love coming back to my desk with lots of new ideas buzzing around in my head. I’m covering the ‘Our Future’ stream which will be using the hashtag #OF1 on Wednesday 9 September and #OF2 throughout Thursday 10 September. That’s in addition to the official conference hashtag #LEARNINGLIVE.

There’s going to be lots of great stuff going on across the event so whether you’re following from afar or there in person, here are some of my predicted highlights:

* This year’s keynote is from Jamil Qureshi and focuses on how we maximise our potential and that of those around us. After last year’s Chimp Management keynote from Dr. Steve Peters, I have high expectations and I’m sure Qureshi will deliver

* An audience with Jerry Maguire – a must see session on ‘the things you want to say in L&D but never do’ with Chief Learning Officer of the Year 2014, Dave Buglass. He’s achieved some fantastic things at Tesco Bank and it will be great to hear more about his approach

* The exhibition is always a good way to see what’s new in the market, I’ll try and bring you some of the stand out solutions on offer

* Checking out Learn Appeal and their exciting new learning capsule on their stand at the exhibition

* Tying in with the keynote’s focus on performance, I always enjoy hearing Paul Matthews’ practical advice. He’ll be sharing his insights on a new approach to performance management

* L&D Question Time with Nigel Paine and a panel of experts debating current issues and trends in learning and development

In fact, I could point out pretty much every session on the agenda as so many of them sound exciting! As always with these events, it is about so much more than the sessions themselves. I am looking forward to catching up with old friends, and hopefully making some new ones at the networking dinner. And this year I’ll be using Periscope to bring you some live insights too.

Tune into the live action
Periscope2Following on from my first foray with Periscope at this year’s Learning Technologies Summer Forum, I’m evolving how I use the app at Learning Live. I’ll be posted between sessions at the LPI stand bringing you interviews with speakers, conference attendees, LPI members and fellows – all to bring you the latest on the action and share hot-off-the-press insights from all the sessions and conversations at the event. There’s no schedule as trying to stick to particular times didn’t work too effectively for me at LTSF. So instead you need to tune into the LPI official Periscope channel. Search YourLPI within Periscope (same handle as their Twitter ID) and follow, then you’ll be alerted live every time we broadcast. Alerts will also be tweeted via #LEARNINGLIVE.

I look forward to seeing you there in person or online and if you have any questions you’d like me to ask people, leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to get them answered by the experts.

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Update on me

So just a quick update on me for regular readers. Four years after co-founding Ascot Communications, I will be stepping down as director at the end of August. I am relocating thanks to my husband’s promotion in the RAF and feel that now is the right time to move onto the next challenge.

Myself and Martin Belton founded Ascot back in 2011 and it has grown from two individual consultants into a thriving agency with a great team and super clients. I have immensely enjoyed building the organisation but now Martin will take the business forwards.

I wanted to thank you so much to everyone who has supported me during the last four years. As an industry, we often reflect on the importance of a personal learning network (PLN) but I have truly felt the value of mine and know that Ascot would not be where it is today without the help of some incredible people and their ongoing support. It really is so much appreciated. I remain a shareholder of mylearningworx and am excited about the potential of the new opportunities that lie ahead.

In the short term, I will be tweeting and Periscoping (is that a verb yet?) from Learning Live next month and am already looking ahead to HR Tech World Congress and Learning Technologies 2016. You can contact me via all the usual social channels or email My phone number remains the same for those that have it ;) And if you’d like to contact Martin, he can be found here on Twitter or via

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