Careerfile: Karen Hynes, head of L&D, National Autistic Society

Karen Hynes fell into training after one event led to another. These days, her main challenge is meeting high demand for training on limited means.

 

What particular challenges does your job pose?

We are a large and very diverse organisation, which means people have plenty of different learning needs. Our main challenge is trying to meet as many of them as possible within our limited resources.

What area of staff development are you currently addressing?

Everything. We are in the enviable position of being able to step back and conduct several projects to analyse our current position and consider alternatives for the future. We are contacting other organisations to benchmark and looking at best practice. It’s very exciting.

How and why did you get into training?

My management post was made redundant and I was redeployed into a job that I hated. There was a temporary job (covering maternity leave) in training and I was able to take that up and subsequently become permanent. I found my niche and it was the best move I ever made.

What’s the best or most memorable training event you’ve attended?

I’m glad to say that I am spoiled for choice as I have attended some really good courses over the years. The best was probably ‘Realising the Manager Within’, which covered all the soft skills of management and intense personal development. It was very challenging and came at just the right time when I was ready to take best advantage of the content.

And the worst?

I don’t bother remembering those.

What’s key to putting on a successful course?

Make sure the content is correct and pitched at the right level for the participants’ needs. Also include lots of different delivery techniques to suit different learners and make it interesting – including humour. I know that sounds basic but the core principles should never be forgotten.

How do you measure the impact of training?

Not as well as we would like to. That will be part of our projects – to improve our systems and the quality of our management information.

Where do you see yourself (career-wise) in five years’ time?

Head of learning and organisation development. I’m really keen to build my involvement in the wider development role.

When you were younger, what did you want to be?

I was really aimless for a long time and then wanted to be a social worker, but I never was. I’ve encouraged my children to find a realistic goal early on so that they have something to motivate them.

What, in life generally, really annoys you?

Squandered opportunities – both for myself and people around me.

What was the first record you bought?

Those Were the Days, by Mary Hopkins

What book are you currently reading?

I’m reading a whole variety of HR books as I’m studying for a masters in personnel and development.

Who’s your hero?

I don’t really have just one. There have been lots of people who have been positive role models and influencers and I am eternally grateful to every one of them.

What’s the best piece of training/L&D advice you’ve been given?

Always remember that the participants don’t know what you planned to say so they won’t know if you miss a bit or get it wrong – unless you tell them.

How do you relax?

I like gardening and the outdoors and, on rainy days, I’m a bit of a Sudoku addict.

 

Karen Hynes is head of learning and development at the National Autistic Society. She works from home but her job takes her frequently around the UK.

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