Establishing a company culture
Susie Finch looks at the story of a company who help to facilitate change using eLearning
NHS Property Services Limited was formed in April 2013, to look after the buying, selling, management and maintenance of around 4,000 NHS assets across England. Although a brand new business, it was formed from staff from a staggering 161 different organisations! This created numerous challenges, including a number of different IT systems, and at first, no ‘one company’ culture.
According to Hesketh Emden, head of training, development & leadership: “Essentially, we had 161 different ways of doing everything!”
The biggest practical challenge facing the L&D department was IT – especially as they wanted to use learning technologies. As the new organisation launched, some staff lost access overnight to their previous IT systems. So the L&D team negotiated for staff to use existing IT infrastructures - although bandwidth and existing protocols added to the difficulties of using audio and video.
Working with the Corporate eLearning Consortium’s Toolkit for Managers – which could be web-accessed – got around these issues, and staff were encouraged to use the online resources in their own time, and at their own pace.
“Being able to access online resources was a tremendous benefit, as it cut through much of our IT nightmare,” said Emden. “We encouraged staff to access content from home or on the move - from anywhere convenient to them and at a time to suit.”
The online resources he needed had to be more than just ‘good’, as Hesketh explains: “I really wanted to use these resources as a starting point to form the unifying, branded core of our new business.”
Working with the Corporate eLearning Consortium team and the NHS Property Services Communications team, a branded home page for the Toolkit was created. A variety of essential information, including online appraisals and policies, can be accessed from this home page. The organisation’s ‘Putting You First’ branded L&D programme is also available here, with staff surveys, details of training and dates of roadshows.
According to Emden: “This ‘one stop online shop’ has been a major unifying contributor to the organisation. It’s been so much more than just about making online resources available.”
Staff roadshows and research have highlighted that the Toolkit website has been critical for engagement, which in turn has driven performance and efficiency. Uptake – in terms of both the number of new users as well as content used - is rising every week. Trainers are using the Toolkit to support existing programmes, including the business-critical Leadership & Management Development Programme, and the company-wide appraisal system.
The project was commended with a special award from the Corporate eLearning Consortium and its sister organisation the Charity Learning Consortium for ‘Using eLearning to facilitate change’ – which was presented at the recent Charity Learning Awards 2014 dinner.
Martin Baker, managing director of the Corporate eLearning Consortium, said: “The challenge of unifying staff from 161 different organisations might have been overwhelming. Hesketh’s vision, with online learning at its heart, has achieved amazing results – this really is a case of ‘elearning, but not as we know it’! I never cease to be amazed at the benefits that smart use of learning technologies can bring.”
Hesketh Emden gives his top tips for online learning:
Tell everyone what you’re doing: An early staff communications strategy is critical, as is the early involvement of in-house communications experts to support this. We have signposted staff to what’s coming and then pointed them to the tools, provided access to helpline support and local champions. Early on, we engaged subject-matter experts in reviewing content to ensure that it would meet business needs and we actively spread the word, so that staff knew we weren’t just giving them HR’s view. We continued with stakeholder promotional events, staff newsletters and team briefings, with full communications team input.
Make friends with your IT department: While our IT problems associated with being a new business were probably the greatest imaginable for any company, it was clear that technological infrastructure is critical to getting online learning up and running. Partnering with our IT colleagues really smoothed the implementation. Work closely with IT.
Build good relationships with your suppliers – they are subject matter experts: Whoever you choose, make sure you can work with them! My approach tends to be to search out suppliers and explore mutually-beneficial relationships. I want to grow through knowledge transfer and not suffer through not being an ‘intelligent client’. The Corporate eLearning Consortium not only had the best content, but displayed great relationship management and really helped us test infrastructure, engage internally and plan the future.
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