Professional Learning Networks - what do you do?

Written by Hilary Cooke on 30 August 2016

I have had a blissfully sunny and sensible level of work-life balance in the last few weeks (and hope that I am not the only one - August is such a lovely restoring month I think). 

One result is that I have had a chance to catch up on the valuable information ​and various journals that get stuffed through my letterbox and give me a guilt trip as the pile increases in height at an alarming level...

So, a good excuse to "do some reading" that sounds sufficiently enough like work to keep everyone off me and actually is blatant shorthand for a skive whilst sitting in the sun!

In the September (yes, 2016 - I am that up to date!) edition of People Management / CIPD was a rather interesting article on Professional Learning Networks where it is even given its own 3-letter acronym of PLN.

So that got me wondering about my own networking habits (this forum being one of them) and I wondered what you might do in the way of Professional Learning Networks for yourselves?

Any ideas or experiences to share?

What works for you or doesn't?

Is the PLN model being used in  your organisation - I guess a bit like Communities of Practice?

I'd be interested to know - and learn more!

Thanks and best wishes



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Submitted on 1 September, 2016 - 11:48

Hi Hilary, Congrats on getting up to date with your reading pile I am still ploughing through copies of the Economist and haven't got to the latest CIPD mag.  I do read their Work publication which is great.

I'm not a fan of jargon so I won't be thinking the CIPD PLN as I like a bit of plain speaking. 

Anyway, that's not the point.  A great question.

I have worked for clients where we have got a bit of a community going on.  Connecting analysts in one company to get them to share best practice, network.  Connecting people who had all done the same qualification and I guess action learning sets might also fall into this, not having read the article yet I might be off track.  I also worked in one client organisation where someone called people together to watch and discuss Ted Talks, outside of HR and L&D.  I like to think learning professionals can act as catalysts and supporters but it should be relevant to the organisation, culture, needs etc.

I too am always keen to learn more and am looking forward to hearing what others share here. Thank-you for posting.


Submitted on 15 September, 2016 - 11:51

As the life of a freelancer can sometimes be quiet isolated I have been discussing with some other trainers the value of setting up an L&D reading group, has any one set one up or is a member of one? Our aim is to educate and discuss how we can apply the latest thinking. Debbie


Submitted on 7 October, 2016 - 12:43

Bit late to the party, I'm afraid!

Debbie - I'm an occasional attendee of a business book club which was set up by a couple of friends in one of my professional networks. It was prompted by a realisation that most of us never got round to the reading that we really wanted to do.  It's now been running for around 3-4 years and after the initial book choice, the group then chose each subsequent book.  I must admit I don't go along if it's a book that I'm really not interested in!  The group meets in an appropriate location in London in the early evening.

When reading your question, Hilary, it made me reflect on things that make them work. One is a willingness on a part of the members to give more than take.  The other is having a specific theme or common interest that is exciting to the members, rather than a wide remit, for example, executive coaching rather than coaching.  Probably my most useful and enjoyable professional networks comprise valued ex-colleagues and their contacts who have also set up their own businesses where we have those specific interests in common. We use the network to share learning, but also to develop new approaches and collaborative opportunities.  We use things like Slack or Dropbox for sharing stuff - but actually it's the dialogue (phone or face-to-face) that creates the most energy.