CMI Asks Bill Lucas

CMI: Hello all and welcome to todays live Q&A from CMI. We're honoured to welcome Bill Lucas to CMI today and he'll be available to answer your questions for the next hour.

Colin Good morning

Bill Lucas Hello, glad to be on line.

CMI: Hi Bill and Colin, welcome to the session.

Colin Are you kicking off or just looking for questions

Bill Lucas: Questions would be great

CMI: Hi Colin, both, so if you have a question for Bill fire away.

CMI: Whilst Colin is thinking up a good 'un, we have a question posted in from John.

John What inspired you to create Learning at Work Day and how successful has it been?

Bill Lucas: a lack of real engagement in learning by employers. at its peak , very successful, with high-profile job swaps and job shadowing and major media interest. it seems to unite unions, HR and management in an agreeable way to do something worthwhile...

CMI: I think it's proven a really good idea to focus attention on the importance of learning and development as well. We have a follow up question here from Marjorie.

Marjorie How did you develop the engagement, for instance do you use a specific approach?

Bill Lucas: Hello Marjorie. We did a number of things. 1. Made the case for learning at work (engagement, competitive advantage, employee satisfaction and so on) 2. found champions willing to be role models 3. cerated some really user-friendly ways of running events, especially tasters 4. created an over-arching media campaign

CMI: I think that's a good framework for implementing any major project.

CMI: The next question is one after my own heart from Colin

Colin I'm really interested in how social and on-line media (like this) could be used to help people or businesses understand the importance of upskilling themselves. Any ideas?

Bill Lucas: Twitter and Facebook are a legitimate kind of peer pressure? Raising awareness about a whole range of issues. Do you know UKEDchat on twitter, for eg? It gets people talking about issues and questioning their practice...

CMI: I'm a big fan of things like communities of practice as well, with CMI being an obvious example for people wishing to learn about management from their peers. I'll have to look up UKEDchat on Twitter though, sounds interesting.

Bill Lucas: Yes. Agreed. Cof P also, as a concept, introduces the idea that learning can be very different according to different contexts

CMI: We have a question now from Anastasia

Anastasia Which are the main issues you and the people face during the process of learning whilst working?

Bill Lucas: Hi Anastasia. Time. Space. Managerial approval. Having relevant methods to hand. How are these for starters?

CMI: Sorry to chop and change, but we've had a few follow ups to Colin's initial question. Seems social media is a hot topic today.

Colin How about a multi-site, On-Line, Social Network e-Learning at Work Day, with people from all sorts of organisations sharing their learning

Bill Lucas: Colin. Good idea in principle. But to get people sharing they need to know who they are sharing with and why. They need a common issue (as in action learning for eg) or a theme perhaps

CMI: I think that leads quite nicely into a question from John on that very challenge.

John Following on from Colin's question how do you get organisations to adopt social media to upskill their employees?

Bill Lucas: not my field! Any ideas?

CMI: Don't tempt me Bill, we could be here all day :)

CMI: As with most things though I suspect the root of the issue is cultural. If there is a culture of knowledge sharing and meritocracy then it encourages people both to share ideas and learn from each other safe in the knowledge that doing so won't harm their career prospects. Social media then simply acts as the tool to enable this sharing.

CMI: Anastasia has a follow up question on this issue

Anastasia What I had in mind! Managerial approval, official or unofficial???

CMI: How important is top level buy-in do you think?

Bill Lucas: Agreed. In rEvolution I explore the ways in which social intellgence can be enacted today, Open Space, World Cafe etc

Bill Lucas: Anastasia, managerial buy in is both overt (official) and tacit and local. You need both in a really powerful learning organisation. Top level buy in for anything important is important. And learnign is important.

Bill Lucas: In terms of adaptive expertise, the them of rEvolution, it is often UNLEARNING we are really talking about. Habit change.

CMI: Do you think learning has enough importance at board level Bill? Especially in these difficult times it might appear an intangible benefit.

Bill Lucas: No. Training - a formal expression of learning - is often the first to be cut. Arie de Geus talks of learning as the only form of sustainable competitive advantage. It is the enabler of both quality improvement and cost reducation. It is an intangible benefit but that does not mean that it is not important.

CMI: Which maybe why social means of learning appear to be so popular amongst our readers today, as they are often more self-organising, not to mention cheaper. We have a question here from Gratton.

Gratton (At a recent CMI event a presenter gave some stats on social media e.g. YouTube is the second biggest search engine etc etc. I knew in an instant that it was time to get engaged!) Can Bill advise on any way of identifying a true focus for learning? I have an idea of what I need to do to improve my performance but feel that it probably lacks definition. How can I tease this out?

Bill Lucas: I think Gratton's question can be answered at two levels. Generically eg performance, quality, cost reduction, employee satisfaction, absence reduction, ideas etc

Bill Lucas: And the second level is the personal one. Here you need to ask yourself what the issue is and then think how learning can be part of a solution. Here you'll need to think about which methods work best for you

Bill Lucas: So for example if successful performance requires better emotional awareness, then there could be a coaching solution or a read a book soultion or maybe some kind of self-reflection activity or 360 degree type expereince?

CMI: If we can go back to board level for a second, we've had a couple of interesting questions from Marjorie and John that seem to revolve around ROI and proving the value of training and development.

Marjorie So. how do you get Executive Teams to realise this, is just a numbers game?

John My experience is that in tough times the automatic reaction of any company looking to cut costs is to look at training and marketing first. A very short sighted approach in my opinion as you need training to keep your staff at the required skill level and marketing to promote your products and services. I do however think firm should look to move away from traditional training to other more informal methods such as social media. Any comments?

Bill Lucas: Marjorie/John. There are hard nosed arguments about how learning improves performance as earlier rehearsed. This is a numbers game. It will persuade more rational managers. In crazy times we also need softer but equally important methods. Morale. Wellbeing. Attractiveness as a place to work. Customer satisfaction etc

CMI: With employee engagement such a hot topic at the moment, not to mention the war for talent, one would certainly hope organisations see the benefit in having a smart workforce. A follow up from Marjorie on this point.

Marjorie Can you give an example where you have persuased a board of this?

Bill Lucas: Yes. Several of the early sponsors of Learning at Work Day were persuaded by the combination of hard and soft arguments PLUS by the support (even if passive) of the CEO or Chairman (the egs I am thinking of were male!) The trick was to find a nother advocate on the board. Someone leading changte was often the right candidate as effective change is predicated on learning happening

CMI: This leads nicely onto a question from John on the good exemplars of workplace learning

John In your opinion were there any sectors or types of organisations that were more responsive to the campaign or were there any that didn't recognise they had an issue with engagement?

Bill Lucas: Yes.

CMI: Did anyone stand out Bill?

Bill Lucas: Most responsive were those dependent on major publicly funded contracts who wanted to stay close to government. Next were those genuinely trying to change and seeing learning as the method. Then there were those whose business was learning and communication (publishers, training companies, universities, colleges, schools)

Bill Lucas: The trades unions were very pro too and the Union Learning and Learning Reps ideas started out then

Bill Lucas: stand outs were, BA, Centrica, DfEE, BP British Rail for starters

John Thanks Bill.

CMI: That is interesting. Our hour is nearly up so I'm going to sneak in a question of my own to wrap things up.

CMI: How do you see the learning landscape changing over the coming years Bill?

Bill Lucas: Learning Landscape changes = More informal. More collective. More connected to customers. Lifelong issues as well as immediate workplace ones. More social media. Less disputed/contested. Much less formal training. More coachign.

CMI: Sounds like an interesting time ahead.

CMI: I'd like to extend a massive thanks to Bill for giving us an hour of his time today, and of course to all of our readers that have contributed to the discussion.

CMI: I know it's been very interesting personally and I hope you've all enjoyed it too.

CMI: The session will be available for you to view at any time from the CMI website from this url

Bill Lucas: Thanks for the chat everyone. Bye for now! Bill

CMI: I'll be posting up a text transcript as well if that's easy. Thanks again Bill.

CMI: Our next session is with Eugene Sadler-Smith, and will be run on the 7th December at 12noon. Visit here for more information

Until then.