Learning and development: How I made a difference

When I was appointed just over a year ago, I knew that I needed to change and modernise things. Although there was already a lot of training in place, particularly in areas relating to the firm’s specialist insurance markets, there was no cohesive strategy or structure.

Departments were doing their own thing, so clearly I had to put in place a strategy for learning and organisational development, ensuring that it fitted with the firm’s growth strategy.

My approach has been around a number of convictions. One of these is that the development of people’s knowledge and skills is key to any kind of effective change, and that learning interventions, if they’re geared correctly, should lubricate the change process.

Businesses change faster with appropriate learning programmes in place. We are using learning and development interventions very much as a vehicle to reaffirm core messages, such as brand strategy, how to meet clients’ needs, and how to work effectively with colleagues.

I have professionalised the learning function, and built a team with the right skills and experience to allow us to design and deliver learning in-house. For a medium-sized firm, that’s quite unusual. We now use external suppliers only when they bring skills and experience that add value – and because we’re a rich team, we don’t have to buy in very much. I was able to do this by persuading the partners, who own the business, to increase their investment in the learning function.

As well as growing the team, I’ve designed a range of curricula. We now have programmes geared towards functions, levels of experience and around certain themes. These include personal skills, leadership and management, business development, communications, training (for lawyers), and a secretarial curriculum, which we are still working on.

I’ve built budgets based on specific programmes for departments – allied to that is the core purchasing system. We’ve moved from a situation where departments had budgets and could go out and buy whatever training they wanted, to one where we do all of that. There is a clear cost saving, but the main drivers were quality and ensuring that we were in a position of authority with regards to learning and development.

We are experiencing a huge demand for training – there has been a lot of pent-up demand, and we’re producing such high-quality training that we’re already getting repeat business.

Carolann Edwards, director of learning and organisational development, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert

How learning can help the business…

  • By reaffirming core messages
  • By encouraging staff to stay
  • By creating consistency in quality

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