Employers back day of learning

Employer participation in Learning at Work Day is close becoming the norm,
according to the organiser Campaign for Learning.

An estimated 2,500 employers and 500,000 employees took part in last year’s
Learning at Work Day and there are hopes that participation will double,
following the trend of the past two years.

"We’re keen for businesses of all sizes to participate. We think we’re
one year away from it being pretty odd for an organisation not to be
involved," said Campaign For Learning chief executive Bill Lucas.

This year’s Learning at Work Day is on 16 May. Co-ordinated by the Campaign
for Learning as part of Adult Learners Week, the aim of the day is to make
learning a part of everyday life and highlight the benefits of providing
learning opportunities to all staff. Sponsors of the event are DfES, DTI, the
Get On Campaign, Unison, learndirect, MaST and The Mind Gym.

Lucas said: "Learning at Work Day is an excellent way of raising the
profile of learning of all kinds in the organisation. There are two key
strands. One is the learning of the individual, which can be personal at one
end and job-related at the other. The second strand is improving the performance
of the organisation. It’s not just about the obvious business benefits that
learning can deliver, it’s also about the kind of place it is to work."
With the recruitment and retention of good people a number one issue for many
businesses at present, the learning environment can have a huge impact – either
positive or negative – on existing and potential employees, Lucas suggests.

One of the themes of this year’s day is the importance of coaching skills.
Managers can visit www.campaign-for-learning now to take an on-line coaching
quiz to help them identify their coaching style. A coaching surgery with Kaizen
Training is also on offer. Organisers want coaching to become as normal and
widespread in the workplace as it is in sport.

"The campaign’s position is that everyone needs a ‘learning
friend’," said Lucas. "The learning reps. initiative which the trades
union movement has been leading on is a good example. If we could have a
culture of genuine giving and receiving of continuous feedback, we think it
could increase the happiness of people at work and improve performance."

Another theme is basic skills. Recent focus groups have revealed that
employers are in denial that their employees lack basic skills. "Many
employers maintain they don’t have a problem so there’s a real push in getting
people to be honest about the skills levels of their workforce," said
Lucas. Free advice on spotting basic skill needs will be available from the Get
On Campaign.

The Campaign for Learning is also hoping to encourage more informal learning
in the workplace. Last year, construction services company, Carrillion, set up
a ‘learning pledge line’, staffed by senior managers which employees rang to
share their learning experiences.

Learning adviser, Naomi Clift, told Training Magazine: "Calls ranged
from people saying ‘when we did X, Y and Z on a project it worked really well’
to something very simple like ‘if you press shift-2 on your keyboard it does
such and such, which saves you X amount of time’. We recorded everything and
put it on the intranet for everybody to share." Carrillion organised
activities at corporate level as well as in its five business groups. In
addition to finding out how the organisation could learn from the individual,
it used the day to focus on how individuals could learn about the company.
Employees were encouraged to visit the company’s intranet to find out
information and answer questions. Completed entries were put into a draw for a
prize.

"We’re a fairly new company and one of our main aims is to move towards
being a learning organisation," said Clift. "Learning at Work Day was
a great way to get across the idea that learning is a normal, everyday
activity. One of the lessons we learned was that we want to have more people on
our sites involved in activities so we’re planning ways in which we can do that
this year."

Halfords invited its head office staff to share in a range of activities.
"The way we positioned it to people was that they could do anything they
wanted to," said Development Consultant, Sean Miller. "One of the
values of our organisation is about sharing a passion, so it fitted for people
to come to work and share something they were really interested in and help
others engage with it."

Employees put on activities ranging from Tai Chi to sessions in sign
language. People could learn to manoeuvre an articulated vehicle, find out more
about the company’s products and the MD held open sessions to share his
learning experiences. "We even had ‘learning loos’ filled with trivial
facts," said Miller.

"As well as being great fun, it delivered organisational benefits in
getting people mixing and building cross-boundary relationships. We’ll
definitely participate again." Learning at Work Day was also a good
opportunity to experiment with experiential learning which Halfords is keen on.
"It was received so well it inspired us to do something similar in
engaging people with our strategy," said Miller.

Employers can request free planning and publicity materials to help them
run and promote their own Learning at Work Day events by calling 0117 966 7755.

www.campaign-for-learning.org.uk

By Elaine Essery

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