The L&D Blog

Overcoming the challenges for L&D in 2018

Learning & Development Managers and Directors within UK businesses have answered 5 key questions that get to the heart of the challenges for L&D in 2018.

We received 132 responses from L&D Managers and Directors within UK businesses. We asked 5 key questions:

  1. What are your top 3 L&D priorities for 2018?
  2. What’s the biggest challenge you’ll face in 2018?
  3. How do your staff learn?
  4. How do employees find external training?
  5. What subject areas are your priority for the first half of the year?

Our full report reveals the answers, the 3 main themes and our advice on overcoming the challenge.

To access the full report complete your details below



Learning technologies – the key question

“Are technology providers driving L&D or are L&D driving the need for learning technologies?”

This was the question I had after a day at Learning Technology, reviewing supplier offerings and chatting with L&D professionals.

I shared this on LinkedIn and received the following responses – more food for thought:

Its about the learning experience

Learning technology

Learning technology will never replace an actual experience…..or will VR develop so we can replicate the experience with the physical sensation but without the actual physical impact e.g. feeling burnt but no blisters.

Learning technologies  – whats the “Why?”

Why technology in learning


Do people adopt learning technologies as its new/shiny thing?

Shiny learning tech

L&D fashionistas

Shiny L&D again

Or is the profession lacking the skills and need their eyes opening to learning technologies?

L&D not mature

Learning technology big company

But ultimately it’s about the learners

All about the learners


My view is that learning technology is useful but we need to avoid feeling like we must adopt it unless it truly helps our employee population.  It’s hard to avoid herd mentality and FOMO but you need to isolate your organisation and consider the current culture.

Change takes time to make sure any technology or learning approach will be accepted and embraced within your organisation.

What do you think?  Join the conversation on LinkedIn or email me. 

Blake Henegan – MD

Great training is about exploring the unknown unknowns

If you don’t know that you don’t know something, how can you come to know it?

As we begin the New Year, most thoughts as standard turn to personal growth and renewal. We look back at the past year and think about what we could have done that little bit better. We look at everyone around us and wonder about how we might make that little bit of a bigger impact on their lives. We definitely look inside ourselves and ask what more there is to come. Analysing the known unknowns is always a great first step.

However, the biggest insights can come when we look outside of our frame of reference.

Given the limitless potential of the human spirit, training (and learning per se) is one of those areas where utterly unexpected changes in performance are always possible. However, because they are not expected (we know how challenging measuring the ROI on all training can be), organisations tend to focus on what they know that they don’t know. This will take them from good to better, but will it take them from good to great and truly improve employee productivity. Unlikely.

In our work sourcing training programmes for various large corporates, our most successful clients have given us creative licence to suggest solutions that they may not be aware of. We work with lots of similar companies, so why not explore a few solutions which they may not be thinking of themselves. This openness to explore what was previously unknown requires a large amount of trust, but the feedback is unanimously positive.

Searching your feelings to find out what you don’t know takes determination. Taking a deep dive to plug that gap in your life takes resolve. Admitting that you should be doing things a little differently takes courage.

Effecting change is hard, but it only happens after a voyage of discovery.

I suppose that is what I enjoy so much about January musings. Not only am I looking at what I might do better in my life, the majority of the people that I talk to are at the same point. Companies are pondering how to spend their personal development budgets – they are open to doing something different, but somehow many end up spending money on the same old things, every year.

Being content knowing what you don’t know won’t bring new insights.

Exploring your unknown unknowns will.

However, because you don’t know what you don’t know, external guidance is essential. Managers will be having chats with their people about their goals from the year and L&D and HR departments will be having chats with their training providers. However, even this brings potential problems…. They may have been working with a certain provider for years, but they simply don’t know who else is out there and where they can make a difference.

For me, that is where our training sourcing service comes in.

We open up a world of possibilities for companies wishing to explore their development needs. All this language might be a bit silly, but when you genuinely don’t know what you don’t know, working with an external partner can often be hugely rewarding.

Our initial conversations usually end along the lines of: “Wow, that sounds amazing. I didn’t know that this sort of training existed. Or could be delivered in this way. Let’s book it in.”

With this attitude and new found knowledge, step changes in employee productivity are sure to be just around the corner.

If you need any help sourcing training for your organisation please do get in touch and we can help you explore your unknown unknowns on 0845 519 7408 or email

Save 50% on Microsoft Training this December.

We’ve partnered with two award-winning Microsoft training providers to bring you an amazing deal on Microsoft training.

Save 50% on the cost of all Microsoft training booked in December.

This pricing applies to both classroom and virtual/remote training options.

If you aren’t near one of the UK training centres or wish to save money on travel and accommodation costs virtual training is the answer.  Virtual training will ensure you receive award-winning Microsoft training remotely, from the comfort of your office or home.

Microsoft training subjects include:

  • Azure
  • Exchange Service
  • PowerShell
  • SharePoint
  • SQL Server
  • System Center
  • Windows Server

Save even more with Microsoft Training Credits

Make your training budget go even further with our specialist Microsoft Training Credits.   Buy in December and use for 18 months.

See the volume discounts available for Microsoft Training

No of daysPrice
5 days£1,375
10 days£2,500
20 days£4,500
30 days£6,000
40 days£7,400
50 days and moreSpeak to us about unique pricing

Call 0845 519 7408 or email
to take advantage of this limited offer.

If you are worried about losing your budget and have other training needs the perfect solution would to be to buy our generic Training Credits – you can use these for any training requirements that we source for you.

We are confident that the training providers we recommend will meet your training needs we offer a money back guarantee.

Popular Microsoft training subjects include:

If you are interested in obtaining Microsoft Certifications to take your IT skills and your career to the next level contact us and we’ll advise on what will be best for you. Call on 0845 519 7408 or email

Chocolate and yoga workshops

Chocolate and yoga.  In the same workshop.  Who can resist this.

Brought to you by The Wellness Designer, this has proved to be an excellent choice for departmental team building events and work socials.

What’s included?

This healthy wellness workshop starts with the light and humorous history of chocolate and cacao, its nutritional benefits, and moves onto to making it with a cheeky glass of antioxidants rich red in hand!

While the chocolate is cooling, there is time for gentle, fun, metabolism boosting yoga or any Q & As regarding health, wellness and nutrition in an informal environment.

This workshop provides the perfect opportunity for employees to get together and have some festive fun in a relaxing way with a ‘no pressure feel’, improving relationships within teams and departments. You can even wear your Christmas jumpers if you wish!

All workshops can be provided on or off-site at a venue of your choice, and run for approximately 3-4 hours. Workshops can also be customised in content and duration on request.

Price is just £150 + VAT per person.

Find out more about this special offer for your festive teambuilding event. Call us on 0845 519 7408 or email

P.S Need to book something in January to motivate and rejuvenate employees after the Christmas break?  This offer will be available until 31 Jan 2018.


L&D influencing a culture of productivity in the workplace

Research by the Office for National Statistics reveals that output per hour of British workers has declined again in the second quarter of 2017, leaving it 0.3% lower than the previous year.

Furthermore, last year UK workers produced 15.1% less per hour than works in other G7 countries.

Since the 2008/2009 recession productivity has stagnated – the level of labour productivity in Q2 2017 was 0.5% below what is was back in Q4 2007 (pre-recession peak level).

Why does it matter?

Productivity is directly linked to living standards. Productivity growth, or lack of, impacts the ability for a country to improve its standard of living. It also determines long-term growth rates. So, stronger productivity figures should lead to stronger GDP growth, resulting in increased tax revenues and lowering budget deficits – or for low productivity figures the opposite.

What can businesses do about it?

After reading some useful information from business schools such as Harvard,  Ashridge, London Business School, INSEAD and others there was one common answer – improve the culture.

Stanford University’s research on ‘Effects of Positive Practices on Organisational Effectiveness’ boiled this down to six essential characteristics:

  • Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends
  • Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling
  • Avoiding blame and forgive mistakes
  • Inspiring one another at work
  • Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work
  • Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity

We know that culture isn’t built overnight and requires constant reinforcing of values and seeing these carried out in action from employees and the senior team.

What can you do as an L&D professional to help influence a culture of productivity?

Firstly, boosting performance will have a positive impact on productivity.  ‘Towards Maturity’s Unlocking Potential report’ shared five high-level tactics used by the L&D teams achieving their goals when it comes to boosting performance.

  • Integrate learning and work
  • Ensure stakeholders recognise L&D alignment with wider organisational goals
  • Build performance support at the point of need
  • Ensure digitally-enabled programme design supports learning transfer
  • Evaluate progress and performance against business metrics

We’d recommend reversing the order when planning any learning solution – start with the end in mind and how you’ll evaluate the performance changes.

Remember, momentum builds motivation – in short, regardless of where you or your organisation is with the levels of productivity, without action nothing will improve.

Dare to stand out by grasping the responsibility of helping to improve employee productivity within your organisation.

If you would like to chat more about your organisation’s learning needs to help improve productivity levels give us a call for a free consultation on 0845 519 7408 or email

Taking control of your time

If someone was to ask you how well do you think you do managing your time what would you say? Is there still room for improvement?

Today’s world is moving so quickly with constant advances in technology, access to information and communication that we think there will always be room for improvement when it comes to managing our time.

Ironically it must be admitted that such advancements in technology can certainly help with this too, but remember only if the technology is managed correctly and you are the one in control.

Setting your time management boundaries

You’ve got to set the rules and boundaries up for yourself in order to implement and master efficient time management that works for you and your role. Consider these key areas when setting your boundaries:

Take care of yourself
Seem strange to be in this list? Trying to do much, in too little time without clear time management boundaries spells out disaster. Sleep well, eat well, get some exercise. Making time for yourself is your first priority and the rest will fall into place much more easily and happily.

Goals and priorities
Make sure you know what these are for yourself and your business, both the short and the long term. Finally, make sure you spend the time to regularly review these and adjust where needed.

Obvious we know but often we are under so much pressure with deadlines and expectations that we rush full pelt into the ‘doing’ without the planning, only to bite you on the bottom later on in the task/project. Take that time to plan appropriately at the start.

Build trusted process and habits
Whether it’s delete, do, delegate or defer when it comes to email management, setting your default diary or a bit of yoga every Monday morning, create what you need to feel in control to do your job happily and efficiently. You can then re-use processes and develop habits more easily as new tasks and activities come along.

And finally be disciplined
Remember you are allowed to delegate and say no, politely and without justification. Avoid distraction – do not have your mobile phone in a meeting, on your desk when writing that presentation or focusing on the task in hand.

Want to chat through anything in this article or talk about any training related to mastering your time do get in touch, we love talking time management.

CIPD Leaders in Learning – Driving the new learning organisation

CIPD Leaders in Learning events

These are free events for L&D professionals (not just members) to attend, to learn, network and discuss with peers the current real challenges facing the industry.

If you were not lucky enough to make this event, look at the CIPD website for future events.

The topic this time around: Driving the new learning organisation

25 years ago, Peter Senge released his seminal work, The Fifth Discipline:  The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation.

This described five disciplines that must be mastered when introducing learning into an organisation:

  • Systems thinking
  • Personal mastery
  • Mental models
  • Building shared visions
  • Team learning

With advances in technology and systems to connect people (think Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer, Skype for Business etc) the past few years have seen people discuss the possibility that Senge’s vision could be realised in organisations.

This has led Towards Maturity to create a report “Driving the new learning organisation – How to unlock the potential of L&D”

The results are fascinating and should be considered by both L&D but indeed any department or individual within an organisation.

Some of the key stats from the report show that Top Deck Organisations (the top 10% of the result who are embracing the new learning organisation) are:

  • 3 x more likely to achieve growth
  • 4 x more responsive to change and transformation
  • 3 x more productive
  • 3 x more likely to report sustained profitability

How powerful are these figures? Show them to senior leaders and ask them if they’d like to achieve this level of competitive edge?

Impact on people

However, the statistics fail to mention anything about the impact on people, a point raised in the room by Jose Franca, Head of L&D at Edelman.  So, it raises the question, are organisations more focused on the stats and performance figures ahead of people engagement.   This shouldn’t be a problem, it’s on us in L&D to use these results to justify why solid investment is needed in people development.

So, what are the 6 characteristics of the New Learning Organisation

Towards Maturity has used the data to uncover six characteristics that will guide you to unlock potential by driving a future-focused New Learning Organisation.  These are:

Characterisitcs of the new learning organisation

I’d recommend reading the report to drill deeper into each one of these points.

Three further questions were posed during the discussions.   The answers from each session will be collated by the CIPD, I’ve shared the answers from the group I was with.

What key aspects of L&D strategy are needed to support the new learning organisation?

  • An approach to performance management i.e. appraisals (formal), career chats (informal)
  • A structured approach to L&D – the L&D function knows how people view L&D and its role in the organisation.
  • Continued robust analysis of the organisation and impact of L&D
  • Enablers for culture change and growth mindset – systems as well as people.

What are the implications of the new learning organisations on the focus and capability of the L&D team?

  • More strategic – understanding business needs
  • Enable self-directed learning – provide the motivation and structure for employees
  • Confidence to constructively challenge themselves 
  • New disciplines – data analysis, marketing, technical – to the L&D professional
  • Market their services to their employees – view as customers
  • Involve end users – unleash creativity and have user-generated content
  • Flexible learning options for employees to choose
  • Individual development to be celebrated
  • Dare to make L&D redundant? Can the employee generate, curate and share content?

What are the implications of the new learning organisation for the business?

  • Create culture of knowledge sharing (stepping away from silo learning)
  • Allow people time to both share knowledge and learn
  • Accept you need to keep developing people to maintain competitive edge
  • Accept some people will leave but you’ll be able to recruit well
  • Clarity and transparency about career progression and learning to support this


Upon reflection

The topdeck organisations looking to drive new learning organisations are breaking down cultural walls, offering innovative solutions and engaging with the business, at employee and manager level.They are standing out.

If you are looking to be in that topdeck, improve the culture of L&D within your organisation and make the changes to drive a new learning organisation then now is the time to set the wheels in motion.   Review your strategy, create the tactical plans, get input from the topdeck, use your expertise to make these changes happen and show your value as a L&D professional.

If you want to chat about your situation or bounce ideas off then let me know, I’d be happy to talk L&D with you.  Email me at

Blake – Founder Optimus Learning Services

The Modern Learning Leader masterclass

We are excited to inform you about a new kind of training masterclass for modern learning leaders in the UK delivered by L&D shining light Sukh Pabial.


This two-day masterclass is designed to develop your skills and knowledge as a modern learning leader. As modern learning leaders, there’s a growing expectation that you will understand and know modern learning theories and practice.  That you’ll know how to use these in the design of learning solutions for your organisations. This masterclass will help explore topics such as:

  • modern understanding of the human condition and how this enables us to be better learning leaders
  • instructional design and the importance of good e-content and resources
  • social learning technologies and how to apply them in learning solution design
  • user experience and how this makes a difference for programme design
  • adult learning theories and how to design learning better for adults

You’ll leave the masterclass better able to understand how to design modern learning solutions, and with a practical understanding of how to apply the learning.


Wednesday 13th to 14th September in Farringdon, London.


Over these two days, it’s a showcase of what a modern learning event looks like, feels like, its design and its delivery. It’s been designed in this way to provide a clear pathway and development of your skills and knowledge in being able to take the insights and apply them to your organisations.


Sukh Pabial is over 20 years experience of Learning & Organisational Development Leader, Positive Psychology and can be called a true Modern Learning Leader.  Read more about Sukh on Twitter


You’ll receive pre-recorded webinars free of charge (normally £30 each) in advance of the masterclass.

These will help to establish a baseline of learning content and resources, which we’ll then explore and discuss at the masterclass.

Sukh will also invite you to be part of a Slack group where we’ll share content, resources, and insights to develop our capabilities in using social networks for learning.

The webinars are:

  • The Human Condition
  • Instructional Design
  • User Experience
  • Adult Learning Theories
  • Social Learning Technologies

The webinars will all be hosted by Sukh, and each one will have a special guest to help deliver the content.


To purchase the Masterclass at a special price of £400 + VAT please contact Blake at or call 0845 519 7408.

The 9 step process for mid-year review

Taking time out to carry out your own performance mid-year review is crucial for your own career progression and development. It’s a great way to:

  • Check that you are progressing toward your goals
  • Ensure your goals are still relevant
  • Review your successes so far
  • Reflect on what is and isn’t working.
  • Determine your next 6 months actions
  • Identify skills gaps and relevant training needs

We recommend that you carry out performance reviews at least once every 6 months. Ideally once a month would be good to review progress and development.

Continue reading “The 9 step process for mid-year review”