Learning at Work Week – Shaping the Future
LawNet's Learning & Quality Director, Pete Riddleston, with some thoughts prompted by Learning at Work Week.
Learning at Work Week, with its focus on shaping the future, provides a catalyst for employers to look at their learning and development strategy and see whether it is delivering value for employees and the wider business.
Investing in high quality, focussed learning and development has numerous benefits. It improves employee engagement and helps staff develop new and existing skills to make them, and the organisation, more effective. An investment in learning and development is a genuine investment in the future of the business and companies that do this best build learning and development into their culture so that it becomes a mindset rather than something that you do when you get the chance to go on a course or take part in a webinar. Saying that, we all have different learning styles and face to face and online learning still play a vital part in most learning and development strategies.
In November 2016, the SRA completed the introduction of its new Continuing Competence system which replaced the previous hours based approach to continuing professional development. Having an hours based approach to learning worked well for many solicitors but could be seen as a tick box system. Continuing Competence encourages a very different approach which requires reflection and planning to decide where an individual’s learning needs lie and how these can best be met. There is flexibility as to how learning can happen, and an important aspect of the new system, and good learning and development generally is that learners evaluate the impact of the learning they have done to see if it has addressed the intended outcomes.
At LawNet, we deliver a face to face learning programme that helps our members meet their obligations under the Continuing Competence system and go much further. Members help us develop our programme through their comments and feedback and this input is used to create new courses and content. We deliver courses in the main areas of law practised by our firms and provide a whole host of additional courses looking at issues such as business development, marketing, finance and risk management. We also focus on key legal skills such as negotiation, legal writing and drafting and issues such as time management, client service, leadership and strategy and change management.
The ability to shape the future through learning starts with how you perceive it and the value that an organisation places on learning. Each working day presents us with numerous learning opportunities. It doesn’t just have to be about formal learning. Every failure or problem presents us with a learning opportunity by identifying what went wrong and why and looking at how something can be done in a different way next time. Having a supportive culture that encourages sharing of experience and knowledge is crucial to making the most of those opportunities as and when they present themselves.
When we approach problems, complaints or failures from a negative, blame focussed point of view, the chance to learn can often be lost. Staff are more likely to hide issues and the opportunity to learn and use this to shape the future is gone.
Our experience of running our learning programme helps us recognise that many of our members value the opportunity to interact and share knowledge and information with their peers. We try to design our courses and work with trainers who understand and facilitate this. This sharing of knowledge and willingness to interact is a very important of developing a strong learning mindset and we actively encourage this.
Learning underpins the development and sharing of good practice across a wide range of legal and business areas. This supports a strategy for firms that want to shape their own future and that of their staff.