Teambuilding while walking for charity
When I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for the TJ Awards 2014 – L&D Professional of the Year category, I was asked “What would you give back to the profession if you won?” I replied that I would want to identify and share good practices for working with HR business partners, but at the time I never would have thought that ‘good practice’ would include walking across the South Downs in the middle of the night.
Our 30-hour charity walk, from London to Brighton proved to be an extreme team building experience. We needed to rely on each other to support, influence, encourage and motivate each other to reach the finish line. It highlighted the importance and significance of trust: being vulnerable and truly understanding each other is the bedrock of a strong relationship.
I am an L&D specialist, but being connected to my HR business partners is critical to the success of everything I deliver. Embedded in a business function, I face a daily challenge of navigating the multiplicity of learning across Barclays and ensuring I am identifying the right opportunities from the abundance available. For example, just recently my team was planning a training programme to be held in Asia. We didn’t know the local community, so we could have spent weeks trying to find the right person to talk to, identifying the right training partner to use. However, one quick phone call provided me with the information I needed and allowed us to organise our programme with the right provider effortlessly.
Sitting in HR, as an L&D specialist, has shown me that you benefit from being at the heart of the people agenda and understanding how the people puzzle fits together, but it also means you can lose touch with what is happening in the business, not really understanding the challenges faced by your stakeholders. Sitting outside HR, in a larger L&D function, brings the benefit of all L&D experience being together in a specialist centre and having access to the right knowledge at the right time. However, the downside can be that you miss out on what is happening in HR and with your stakeholders.
In my current role, as Head of Learning and Development for Barclays Internal Audit, I have the best of both worlds: being at the centre of understanding what my stakeholders need and having strong connections into my HR business partners.
My role allows me to connect with auditors who are on the front line every day, assessing risk and giving assurance over how we run our business. This helps me to tailor learning to their real and challenging development needs.
I get the opportunity to work with the global leadership team and listen to their challenges and aspirations for the future. This helps me build sustainable learning strategies to deliver the knowledge and skills that are needed now and for years to come.
The team I lead come from a mixture of backgrounds, some L&D lifers and others seasoned Audit professionals. This gives us the advantage of years of experience of knowing what works in the L&D space, whilst being empathetic to our learner audience. The team is based across our major global locations. This brings the benefit of ensuring our learning offering not only meets local needs, but also fits the local culture. I stress the importance of having strong relationships with HR colleagues, so all regional team members have built lasting and durable relationships with their own local HR counterparts.
I am fortunate to work with a great HR business partner team and OD business partner, aligned to my function, and sitting in the central HR team in London. Together we have worked hard to align our individual strategies so that we can execute a seamless People Plan which looks holistically at the colleague journey from attraction, through engagement to ongoing retention. There are numerous touch points on a colleague’s journey and it’s only with seamless execution that we know our people have a great experience with Barclays.
It is crucial to ensure you have the right contacts across both HR and L&D teams; that you network and connect with people you can build trusting relationships with and above all people you can call on when you are having a tough time and need to ask for help.
Walking through suburbs, past sewage treatment works, across fields and through water tunnels I learned that my HR colleagues are very much like me: we’ve had similar experiences in our personal and professional lives, we all have baggage that we try our best to deal with and we face the same daily challenges. I think we all learned that while blisters and painful toes are for the present, trust is enduring and will last the long haul. I have also come to realise by building sustainable relationships with HR, your stakeholders buy one, they then get one for free!