The L&D and Community kaleidoscope

I’m concerned about you my fellow L&Der. I see that you’re listening to things being said out there. I see that you’re interested in what others in the profession are talking about. And there’s plenty of things being talked about of interest. Some of it by internal practitioners, some of it by e-learning specialists, some of it by technology specialists, some of it by external practitioners. And they’re all saying and talking about different and interesting things.

There’s a whole blogging community who are dedicated to promoting their word. Some use social channels to spread their brand, their work, and their good name. For them, social media is a powerful mechanism for a gainful living. For others, social channels allow their voice to be heard, they spread a message, they build a following. And for others social channels are a way of hearing what’s being said out there. There’s a different way of thinking that they want to be exposed to because they recognise things need to be better but don’t know where to start.

When I came across the #connectinghr community, I was captured by the lack of interest in any agenda people may have had. It was (and remains) about bringing professionals together from all walks of HR (and beyond) who want to be able to share knowledge and talk about their work in meaningful spaces. I enjoyed what this released for me, and realised I needed more as an L&D professional. The idea of L&D Connect was born and with the help of others, a community rallied around and we pushed for more to happen as an L&D community. #ldconnect and #ldblogs was created as a result.

I’ve enjoyed that the people who have attended the two unconference sessions have come from all walks of L&D professional – all those mentioned above, and more besides. We come together and respect each other as professionals. Everything else is left at the door. Why does it matter, and who does it matter to? All we expect is that people get involved in the conversation when they’re ready. There’s opportunity for people to take part in the conversations that matter to them, and there’s no pressure to talk if you don’t want to. The social channels help amplify what’s being said in the room to those outside who want to be part of the conversation but can’t attend.

It’s all quite organic and fluid. It’s the most inclusive environment I’ve ever encountered. It’s the most engaged I’ve ever been with a group of other people. It’s focused on people dynamics and trusting people to lead where the conversation takes them.

This is at the heart of L&D. L&D is less about us as professionals and more about the people we’re working with. Communities like L&D Connect help us to see that trusting people dynamics trumps models and theories every time. Yes we may need to guide the conversation to happen in a certain way, but L&D isn’t about that input, it’s about the outcome. That outcome is paramount to a good learning event. That outcome is whatever the person involved decides. We can’t drive that. We can’t make it happen. We can have the discussion to help figure out the goal, and hopefully facilitate the journey to getting there, but that’s not in our control as much as we may want it to be.

Things like social learning, informal learning, e-learning, mobile learning, face to face learning, are all things we need to remain mindful of and aware of. I don’t pretend to know about a lot of these things. Partly because some of them don’t interest me, and partly because I’m trying to strengthen skills I already have. My cognitive load is already quite full. So what I’m aiming to do is lean on this network and listen to what they have to say.

They help me to understand more, and for that I’m grateful. It makes me a better L&Der, and it means I’m better at understanding what spectrum of knowledge I could and should be drawing on.

Does this sound like it works? It does. That’s all I can say. There’s plenty of talk about how social technologies are helping us to create and become part of communities that serve a greater good. I’m all for that, and it jives with my philosophy of life. We all have the ability, capability and capacity for doing good in our lives by helping others. If I can move to help others, I am fulfilled. This is my purpose.

So we come back to L&D Connect. We’re arranging to meet on Tuesday 23rd April. It’d be great to see you there. You can book your ticket here.

When things just work – #AltruisticHR

Some time last year I started thinking about my role in the world. There’s a lot of people who are out there doing good. And they’re doing it because they have good ideas, and those ideas find merit, traction, and a way to become more than an idea, they become a reality. So I was thinking about what can I do for the world? Well, I want to do a lot, and there are several things I should be mindful of in developing an idea. So the idea of Altruistic L&D was first born. Through the #connectinghr community I’ve built a lot of good connections and friendships and threw the idea open to them.

The idea was to use the knowledge and experience we have to help primarily the third sector where organisations may not have resources or capabilities to cater for their L&D needs, do some discrete work with them to enable them to do more, and let them carry on. Commercial gain was not part of the package, and it was only about doing good work, because we can. Also, importantly doing work like this was not to take away from consultants/suppliers who can and do deliver work to some of these organisations. Just to provide something they’d like to have, but can’t make happen. The great thing about a like-minded group of people is that there’s no pressure to get things right. If it sounds like it might work, then it might work, but you won’t know until you start talking about it. We talked and helped develop some thinking about what the next steps might be.

The next #connectinghr unconference came along and we mooted the idea there, and it really gained a lot more attention which was very encouraging, so shortly after, I put a group together on the site, as a place to have these discussions. As there were more than just L&Ders interested, we changed the title to Altruistic HR, with exactly the same values and ideas in mind. And then we waited.

Sarah Durbs sent out a message about some work she wanted help with for her company, Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Natasha Stallard and I threw our hats in the ring and accepted. It was a clear brief that focused on wanting to develop the facilitation skills of people from Breakthrough. From initial conversations, there was a large interest in doing this type of day’s training. Tasha and I came up with a plan of action, sorted dates with Sarah and today was the day we got to actually deliver on this piece of work.

It was a brilliant day. Natasha and I made a great team to deliver the session, and we checked against each other every step of the way. She brought a great sense of energy to the day, which I sometimes don’t allow myself to express so freely. Her notes were a godsend and made sure we both were on track and kept things to plan. The plan was key to the success of the day as we were able to revise and adapt things as appropriate. And we were open with the group about our role in the day, and how this was an abnormal piece of work by us as we both have day jobs. The group we had were a very receptive group, and this always makes the job of an L&Der that much easier as it becomes delightful to actually do the work, and it was a sheer pleasure to be part of this day. The delegates (12 of them in all), all expressed their key take home messages from the day, and they were so clear about how they could try things differently, inspired to do more, be flexible in their approach to meetings and presentations, and even created a charter for what facilitation looks like for them.

I think there were quite a few contributing factors which made for a successful day. The network and community we’ve developed through #connectinghr enables a great place to seed ideas, gain useful feedback and provide the support to make things happen. The volunteering of Tasha and I to Sarah’s request worked very well and we both made good efforts to ensure we weren’t leaving things to chance. We helped deliver a session where the skills and knowlede gained will only help conversations be better and potentially create a shift in the way the organisation thinks about what it wants to achieve throuh good facilitation. A lot of people not even part of the day were very encouraging in their tweets and even some light debate on the truism of altruism was had.

So there you have it. There are a lot of people, and companies who do this kind of thing, and this is the first time we’ve done this through Altruistic HR. It was a joy to be part of, to work with Tasha, and with Sarah, and to have been able to give something to the group from Breakthrough.

>I’m a sharing soul

>Last night I attended an event for folks who use social media, Twitter in particular, to have a tweet-up. Those of you who follow me know of this as #ConnectingHR. It’s odd going to an event like this. You talk to these people on Twitter. You’re kind to each other, and you have an interaction of sorts. You can’t really call it a relationship because there’s no vested interest in the other party. Not really. We might help and we might offer support, but you can’t do much more virtually. But you know, in your mind, that you don’t care if these people listen to you, if you offend them, or if they like you, because they’re not real. Not really. Of course, they’re real, but you know, they’re not to you, because there’s no relationship.

And then you decide you’re going to meet up. Not just one or two of you, but all of you who talk. It’s reminiscent of the old chatroom scenarios. You remember those. Bob lives in England, Karen lives in Fiji. They talk, they think they have a spark, they agree to meet and either they find they really do have a spark, or it was all based on false perceptions. But this was nothing like that. At all.

So the first #ConnectingHR event was last year, another after that, an unconference followed, and then last night the first tweet-up of the year. Right. So I’m off to meet a group of folk who share a hashtag. WTF? Are you fucking serious? Yes. Absolutely. Erm. Why exactly? Because we’re a community. Ok. Now you’re just talking nonsense.

Am I? Twitter is where I am me. I tweet about everything under the sun. I mix personal, with professional with work with food with my children. This a) gives those following me a complete insight into who I am b) fills up timelines because I tweet so damned much. On a night like last night though, that leaves me in an interesting position. I knew there would be folk there who actually read my tweets. They respond – actively – to what I say. For whatever reason they do this, they do this. I’m grateful for that. So going into the pub, the first thought that struck me was – Fuck. This is like going on a blind date where the other person actually knows an awful lot about you already, but they have no idea who you are. And having a Twitter handle such as @LearningGrump (nee @naturalgrump) makes things even more interesting as often folks just have their names as their handles, so mine is a bit more distinctive than most.

And then we say hello. And you look round the room recognising folk. Bob! Billy! Ben! And you connect immediately. Because you already know each other. Because all you’re doing is putting faces and real people to the names. And you find they’re just as wonderful in real life as they are on Twitter. I didn’t need to meet these folk in real life to help me know I have a supportive community. It’s helped, as now I can associate better with all of them. More importantly, though, I can now build relationships with them.