How are you using what you're learning?

Hello PPMA members and friends,

Here’s a question for you: Can you think of something significant that you have learned in the last 6-12 months?  Take a moment or two to reflect on that, what you learned, how it happened and what you have done since with that learning.

Sometimes it might be a light bulb moment. On other occasions it might be a build up of several experiences that gradually come together into a coherent thought. Sometimes it will be something you have read, sometimes an event you have attended, or simply a conversation with different people who help you to see things in a new way.

Talking to a group of senior managers recently, we were reflecting on the challenges ahead and what we would need to equip us to meet those challenges. We were unanimous that we would need fresh insights but we also reflected that looking back over the last 12 months it has been difficult to find the time and opportunity to pay attention to our own learning.

Why? Well, in many ways the “age of austerity” has been a wake-up call for the public sector. It has reminded us of the fundamental importance of the need to get the best out of the resources available to us and it has caused us to re-think how we do that. But there is a danger that we are now throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Caught up in the back wash of justifiable criticism of unnecessary public sector spending, are many of the valuable learning opportunities we need to ensure the fresh thinking and new insights that are so important to improving public services.

This is a “must address” issue for those of us working in HR in the public sector. We must continue to champion learning as an essential part of improvement and change.

The public sector holds a huge amount of talent, but to thrive, it must be nurtured and given the confidence to do things differently. So think hard about the learning that is going on (or not) in your own organisation right now, for your leaders, managers, teams and individuals. Has the pendulum swung too far to a place where learning is being neglected or is there investment in the right things and at the right level?  There is an art and a science to this. The data is important but so too is talking to your people to understand if and how new learning is getting into the organisation. Try asking my first question in a few places and reflect on the answers you get.

And finally, don’t neglect your own learning! PPMA is committed to supporting our members’ with new thinking and fresh insights. The latest opportunity to do that will be at our PPMA private members’ event at the CIPD conference in Manchester on 10th November, when we will be debating the most appropriate responses to the challenges we all currently face. You will also be able to access the extensive CIPD exhibition and explore new ideas and thinking about HR issues and activities. For details see PPMA’s website.

Until next week,


By | 2011-10-31T16:09:15+01:00 October 31st, 2011|Categories: Anne Gibson|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Leatham 8th November 2011 at 10:37 am - Reply

    I always enjoy reading Anne’s blog however this one is brilliant. Learning something new, improving knowldge, skills and outlook on life is something we can do without necessarily having to spend shed loads of cash. Fortunately being involved in people issues provides us all with a daily source of learning…I never cease to be amazed by the stories I hear of the incredible things people achieve.

    This year I set myself the task of learning how to roller blade – living in Brighton I always loved the idea of skating along the prom with the sun shining above – the wind in my thinning hair – and feeling like a free spirit. Reality has proven a little different as I spend most of the time clinging to the railings, or falling down and lots of laughter as I stagger rather than glide from bench to bench. I have alot to learn and the biggest thing I have to learn is to do with the fear of letting go and believing I am not going to fall….

    This is something I have been working on in a business context – encouraging myself and the leaders of the organisation to trust and let go (skating rather than falling) rather than attempting to lead by rules, regulation and a closed fist. If we are expecting our workforce to be leaner in coming years, this will mean more autonomy for employees to make decisions and this can only succeed in a culture where trust is a given and not just talked about (fine words butter no parsnips!)- including allowing people to make and learn from mistakes (falling down and getting back up). Behavioural change of this type doesn’t just happen – it has to be worked on relentlessly. Recently we held our annual HR Conference in the Council where we have our lead customer contacts, Council Members and Directors present alongside all HR colleagues and we wanted to show that ‘letting go’ and giving coleagues the opportunity to innovate can pay off. We decided to stage our own version of Dragons Den… Innitially it did raise a few eye brows and the expected layer of cynicism, however….HR colleagues were invited to volunteer to participate and 28 colleagues stepped forward for the challenge. They were split into three teams and their task was…imagine you are not constrained by rules or resources, develop a business idea that would help transform the HR service offer over the next five years…. Teams were given a mentor, and training in creative thinking. As in the real world, any idea had to have a return on innvestment. I had no opportunity to see what would be pitched to the Dragon’s – Assistant Chief Executive, Regional Steward for the National Teacher Union and a departmental Director….I had to trust and let go and how delighted I was….the ideas were all brilliant and will be used to support the future development of a corporate project we are about to launch after Christmas in connection with agile working as well as influencing the ICT improvement programme….the skills and abilities of the HR team were amazingly show cased in front of the Dragons and lead customer contacts and a real buz and excitement about the future of HR echoed throughout the room amd more importantly back in the work place. The event cost less than £500 – however time and effort was given freely by colleagues who were prepared to get involved in the event for the benefit of the service at a time when the headlines are about loss of morale and engagement was priceless. It was a great learning point for me….it could have gone badly wrong (as many people told me) however it didn’t and just as easily, with a bit of trust and the sense of real belief, it was a success…..something I will take forward and share across the rest of the organisation.

    As for my skating….more practice required…however dreaming is free and in my mind I am skating freely in the breeze….thanks for the article Anne and I look forward to more of your inspirational blogs

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