Lessons Learned: Peta Heron, L&D Projects

 

Peta Heron runs strategic learning and development projects for Momenta clients. She works mainly with organisations in the financial services sector.

I realised quite early that my approach to learning and development was a bit different.

Much of my work with Momenta has been project managing strategic learning and development (L&D) projects, often in financial services. I was a financial advisor and mortgage broker so have a background in that area.

I was on a contract with a colleague who’d been working with Momenta for a while and they saw that I was, shall we say, quirky…and that I could potentially have something fresh to offer.

 

I always try to keep learner experience at the centre of everything.

We were training in a call centre and my style was noted as being inclusive and enthusiastic – an approach the learners enjoyed.

What I always try to do is lift the material off the page, bringing it to life to really engage people.

For my first project, Momenta put me into an organisation that was undertaking a culture change in terms of its systems, and needed learning and development support.

My role was to help colleagues understand what the new system meant to their role and how they could navigate it with confidence.

 

It’s important to be very mindful of the culture of organisations you work with.

I try to give my very best to help the company to achieve their objectives, and to guide the learners through change while supporting the culture and values.

I have project managed key strategic programmes where I have worked really closely with business change representatives. We all understood the business goals and were able to push the boundaries of learning while driving culture forward through the change process.

 

I always try to do things innovatively.

I project managed five change programmes from a learning perspective, and one of the things I’m most proud of was introducing the first game-based learning to the organisation.

We tried to understand the opportunities that new learning technologies offered, while fully appreciating that many people do not have any digital skills.

In L&D (Learning & Development) assumptions are often made about peoples’ willingness and ability to engage with technology and I feel that can put learners at a disadvantage.

We engaged an external e-learning company and were able to build individual diagnostics tools. No assumptions were made about the learners’ digital ability and the result was that 24,000 people got a learning plan that was tailored especially for them. The learning was entirely structured around their existing skills and knowledge.

 

The learning and development landscape has altered enormously in recent years.

L&D has definitely changed significantly and learning technologies will continue to be the greatest influence on future change. I think the challenge is that, as a group of professionals, we may not be fully conversant with the technologies themselves or we’re afraid of what their adoption could mean to our role.

As learning technologies evolve, people are increasingly seeking information for themselves outside the workplace – and are very willing to share with others in virtual communities of practice. This offers huge potential for organisations, but it requires trusting that learners can do it.

Individuals are often doing their jobs really well, so they can generate relevant material. But that means there’s a tension for us and the business as there is, inevitably, less control over what’s being learned.

But the potential benefits are enormous as people take responsibility and ownership. And the advantage is that businesses can use this ‘community’ discussion as an opportunity to share key messages, and be part of the debate.

The fact is that those conversations will happen in the organisation anyway. I’d much rather that the dialogue was open so that everyone, including leaders can engage with it.
 
It’s a more mature and modern way of doing L&D, and is especially relevant now as there is often great strain on departments to fund L&D. But there is no doubt that it changes our role as L&D consultants.

 

I’ve learned to trust in the skills that I’ve been given and use them well.

For a long time I felt I didn’t fit into what was ‘normal’ for a consultant. And I wish that when I first started as a consultant over 20 years ago I’d trusted my instincts to just be myself.

I think that, increasingly, individuality is valued. Which is important as there is such a huge diversity of styles in learning that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

 

Everyone needs to put something back into their own learning & development.

In the last six years, working on strategic projects, I was doing 14-hour days. And while I was riding the wave and I loved the achievements, I’d not had any time for myself as a person. I realised that I should have been putting something into my own L&D.

I decided, at the beginning of this year, to invest in myself. So I put a PhD proposal together to explore the learning opportunities offered in Virtual Communities of Practice.

This decision was a turning point for me as I realised that if I was developing then I could put some of that thinking back into other peoples’ learning.