Self managed learning – Why you should create a learning plan?

Self-managed learning (aka self-directed learning) is a phrase that is being used more and more within the field of L&D. You may have heard your L&D department talking about it.

So what is self-managed learning and what does this mean for you?

It’s everywhere. It’s when you read a book, watch a video, ask someone how to do something, it’s when you learn from your mistakes. With so much opportunity online and the constant introduction of new technologies, you are learning all the time.

Because of this L&D departments are evolving to be more responsible for the governance of learning rather than the management of learning, resulting in a shift change whereby employees and individuals are becoming more responsible for their learning.

Continue reading “Self managed learning – Why you should create a learning plan?”

L&D Global Sentiment Survey 2017 – the key messages

A recognised commentator and organiser in the fields of workplace learning and learning technologies, Donald Taylor is passionately committed to helping develop the learning and development profession.

For the past 4 years Donald Taylor has surveyed L&D professionals globally to develop a richer perspective on trends within L&D and his latest survey has one golden question we all want to know:

‘What do you think will be hot in L&D this year?’

The results:

The report considers the overall results, the split of votes across different regions, and trends that have developed since the report began in 2014. It goes on to reach these three conclusions:

  1. Social goes mainstream
    For the first time,personalization/adaptive delivery topped the table, pushing collaborative/social learning into second place. This is a continuation of a trend that began in 2015, and is most likely the result of the L&D function growing convinced that collaborative learning is an essential part of L&D’s role. This makes it less ‘hot’ than personalization, which is probably hotter than ever thanks to the possibilities offered by algorithms and artificial intelligence.
  2. Technological controversy
    Micro learning is more popular, and more widely recognised, this year than last. That does not mean it is well defined, understood or implemented, so expect both more talk and controversy about micro learning. VR, AR and AI all featured highly. None of these are mature enough yet to impact mainstream enterprise L&D in 2017, but they will continue to be the subject of intense speculation.
  3. L&D aims to be business-focused
    The Other option attracted a number of business-focused answers, while consulting more deeply with the business and showing value both featured well on the survey results. This might suggest that L&D wants a greater involvement with the business. The catch: no evidence that L&D departments have the necessary skills for this, and developing the L&D function has slumped from 7th position in 2015 to 13th position in 2017. Perhaps the L&D profession has ambitions it is unable to fulfil.

Take the challenge to be more business-focused

For me the interesting results are numbers 5 – consulting more deeply with the business and 6 – showing more value.

Without a deeper understanding of the business how can L&D be confident that any solutions, technology or delivery approaches are right for their business. How can you personalise delivery without knowing the business personality?

The challenge then for L&D is how do they achieve this when this requires a different skill set than typically used to. L&D need to develop a broader scope of thinking, considering operational and communication elements to identify and develop solutions.

Furthermore, the conversations with the business may become challenging to discover the real issue. Something the business may not be expecting or accepting off.

All of this is required whilst learning professionals develop and maintain the L&D brand within the business, wrestle with learning technologies, understand 70/20/10 implications, support employees with self-directed learning and comprehend the impact of the Apprenticeship Levy – a lot to juggle.

Reduce the overwhelm and be a successful L&D juggler?

Take some time, breathe.

Map out your priorities, review your workload and resources. Outsource any appropriate tasks if you can and bring your focus and clarity back to being more business focussed.

Identify any gaps to upskill yourself as an L&D professional and go forth and engage more deeply with your business.

Ready to consult more with the business

See your learners as internal customers and get to know them more:

  • Understand your business – products, services, major markets, significant events.
  • Know your key demographics – what’s the split with Baby Boomers, Millennials and the Centennials
  • Map your people – who are the key people in your business; the roles they plan, their adaptability to change (laggards to innovators), how L&D are positioned (individually and/or as a department) and the level of contact you have with them
  • Create a contact strategy – with objectives, alignments and key messages

Acting as an L&D consultant, creating customer plans and regularly reviewing is a key step to knowing your customer, to gain the deeper understanding that you require.

Exciting times for L&D – Good luck!

Have a read of the full report – L&D Global Sentiment Survey 2017



Managed learning services: The importance of fabulous customer service

Managed learning services are ideal solutions for when L&D want to focus on strategic governance of learning, improve learning efficiency and lower the overall costs of learning for their employees.

But what’s the most important thing to consider when choosing a managed learning services partner or indeed any outsourced service partner?

We think it just simply has to be the people.

Your people, their people and most importantly their approach to delivering great customer service to create the best of working relationships to help and develop your people.

How will they engage with you or your staff; at all levels, their response times, how accessible they will be? Their values, their style of interactions, ability to meet your needs, support you in your strategy and most essentially be on the same page to help you deliver that strategy.

So let’s start with some practical considerations when thinking about the level of customer service you want to receive from your managed learning services partner:

Experience of key personnel

How experienced are their personnel? How much experience does the account manager have within L&D? How about the customer support team? Do they have an understanding of the principles of modern learning? Do they understand your industry, or be willing to invest time with you to understand it?


  • How responsive is the managed learning services partner? Measure this from initial engagement, test how flexible they are to your ways of working, how they respond and are they meeting the service level agreements?
  • How do they manage with non-standard requests? Do they stick to the contract terms or are they willing to go beyond that when necessary?


  • Some managed learning service contracts include personnel working full time at a client’s site, however, it’s more common for the support to be remote. Where this support is based is crucial.
  • What understanding of the marketplace do they have? Will you have an opportunity to meet the support, team?

Retention of staff

  • In order to build relationships, trust and truly partner both the client and the managed learning service provider have to have consistent staff numbers. So ask the provider about their staff turnover and retention. Remember, it’s a two-way street though and sharing information with your provider about internal changes in staff is important.

Strategic v transactional value

  • What value will you gain from the partner? Will they be purely reactive and operate only a transactional level, or will their approach to managed learning services focus on helping with your strategy, improving your L&D offering and providing you with useful information, resources and partner updates?

So this neatly leads us to…why should fabulous customer services be the primary focus for your managed learning service partner on a strategic level?

They are working with you to build reputation internally

  • They are part of your team, they are there to help you build the reputation for your L&D brand in your business and the way they interact with your business strengthens everything that you are trying to do, the reputation of your L&D team is at stake. The managed learning service partner that you choose to work with will be representing L&D. Ensuring that the organisation buys into your approach is vital for long-term success. Therefore, any partner you work with must enhance your reputation, mirror your values and act in your best interests.

To develop business buy-in to increase efficiencies

Working with the whole business for consistency and efficiency

Managed learning services work best when the partner is working with the whole business, in a mandated approach, which is supported by L&D and accepted by the business. This only comes about because of building great relationships within the business and delivering exceptional customer service.

If the business is receiving the support that L&D are promising and adds value, then they will continue to use the services. If they aren’t then they will proactively find ways to bypass using the managed learning service as a route for learning.

Lowering the cost of learning

Working with a managed learning service who places the utmost importance on customer service will have the additional benefit of reducing the overall spend on learning.

Procurement consolidation and training cost passed through from the managed learning service partner results in savings on the direct costs of training and learning.

Receiving the best quality recommendations for your learning

Greater buy from your employees, through having good relationships with your managed learning services partner, will ensure that any recommendations are well received.

The better the relationship between the employee and the managed learning services partner, the more detailed the requirement for the learning can be understood, sourced and delivered.

Your partner can also make your employees aware of any more effective learning resources such as e-learning, videos, podcasts, communities of practices that you have created within your organisation. This happens when the provider’s customer service team truly understand your company’s learning culture. 

To give L&D the comfort and confidence to work more closely with the business

To increase engagement

A common complaint by L&D is the lack of or late involvement in organisation projects and a view that L&D is simply “training”. Changing this approach takes time. Working with a managed learning service partner can assist with the immediate benefit of freeing up of resources, allowing your team to have more time to engage and educate your business. However, this can only happen if you are confident that the relationship between your staff and managed learning services partner is appropriate, strong, happy and the level of customer service is a quality you would expect to receive from an internal resource; in line with your corporate values and expectations.

Managed learning services that are delivered with great customer service will also help to build trust in the ability of L&D to meet the learning needs of individuals across the organisation. The business will then be more likely to welcome you with open arms and acceptance when it comes to employee engagement with L&D going forward.

To help reinforce self-directed learning

Embracing this and the 70/20/10 model for learning is vital, yet it comes with challenges and even the most proactive employee will need L&D support at some stage. Therefore, having a managed learning service partner that focuses on your people and delivers great customer service will give you the confidence to develop and promote self-directed learning, knowing that there is support for employees whenever they require it.

To help you deliver exceptional L&D strategy

Providing great customer service so that employees are using the managed learning service because they want to, rather than because they have to, must be a key driver. Capturing all activity from the management of enquiries, bookings and events is crucial for intelligent analysis of learning data. This information can then influence and steer the L&D strategy forward.  


To conclude, having the confidence in your managed learning services partner to have great customer interactions with your employees is crucial to L&D.Poor customer service reflects badly on the L&D department at a time when positive business engagement and employee experience is needed to drive change. 

Outstanding customer service from your managed learning service should be seen as the gateway to allow you focus your resources on aligning business objectives with your L&D strategy – helping you to promote corporate strategy, measure L&D effectively, identify and overcome current and future challenges, improve ROI and benchmarks, and improve your employee value propositions.

Learn more about our packages or contact us to discuss how our services will help you achieve your L&D goals and objectives.

Pre-paid training credits

Optimus Training Credits

Working with a managed learning services partner can bring substantial financial benefits; lowering the overall cost of your learning, reducing external training cost and maximising the value of your training budgets.

But we all know that budgets are only safe once they’ve been spent but how can you be certain they won’t be cut?

Thankfully there is a solution to help protect your training budget through purchasing Optimus training credits.

With our training credits you can safeguard your budget, ensuring that your plans for your employee’s learning and development can be implemented as planned.

The process is simple

Purchase training credits through Optimus Learning Services and then draw down against these credits whenever you need to.

You can use these against suppliers you already work with as well as with other suppliers that we can recommend to you when sourcing your training.

How does it work

  • One point of contact – simplify your purchasing when it comes to training – contact your nominated customer advisor who will handle the sourcing and bookings for you
  • One single invoice – no need to handle multiple invoices throughout the year
  • Up to 18 months usage – ensuring your budgets lasts longer
  • Improved pricing – consolidate your spend with our spend for better prices
  • Guaranteed quality – any training we organise is covered by our money back guarantee
  • Finally….focus your time on the content – use your expertise to implement L&D solutions which make a difference

So if you want to guarantee all your L&D plans can come to fruition and avoid budget cuts then get in touch today. Our client care team will be delighted to answer any questions you have and help you to give your employees the learning they deserve.

Purchase your pre-paid credits

For more information and to purchase your credits, call us on 0845 519 7408 or email

Terms and conditions
• All credits are valid for 18 months from date of purchase
• Money back guarantees only apply to suppliers that Optimus Learning Services recommends or approves.
• We will use your existing suppliers and put them through our supplier selection process

CIPD Leaders in Learning Feb 2017: Time for L&D to take action


CIPD Leaders in Learning is a free to attend network for L&D leaders and I am lucky enough to attend their events, learning from and networking from L&D peers and thought leaders.

At the most recent meeting on the last day of February the agenda was focused on two areas; L&D as a brand, and Data driven learning improvement: The 2016 Towards Maturity Benchmark

The L&D Brand

Paul Matthews, a regular speaker at L&D events on topics such as harnessing the power of informal learning and workplace performance, had been interviewed by the CIPD about the importance of the L&D brand. He appeared before our eyes in video format and we had the pleasure of him physically being in the room as well to add further context. A true 4D experience one could say.

The key message…. your L&D brand is vital. This applies if you are the sole practitioner in your company or representing a department. This brand will reflect the work you do, how you are perceived by the business and influence their experience.  Invest time in understanding your brand, reach out to the business and your external supply chain for their feedback, your perceptions may differ. Branding which is reflected in your actions, and vice versa, should result in greater buy-in from your organisation, crucial for driving forward with the L&D changes that you wish to make.

Time for practical actions

Since 2003 Towards Maturity have been tracking the outcomes that organisations really care about and investigating what learning-related activities are most likely to deliver those outcomes.

Their most recent benchmark report, titled ‘Unlocking Potential’ is a must read for any L&D practitioner that wants to cultivate a continuous learning mindset.

We heard from Laura Overton, CEO of Towards Maturity, who highlighted some of the key facts and facilitated group discussions around the 5 key practical action areas to unlock the potential in L&D. These are:

  • Improve efficiency
  • Fine tune process
  • Boost performance
  • Cultivate agility
  • Influence culture

Group discussions led to a consensus that we need to invest in our development, be technology and digitally savvy, there is no silver bullet – combine old and trusted approaches with new ideas, and approach a ‘do it and see’ approach. Sure, you’ll make mistakes but you’ll be taking action and continuously improving your approach.

‘What is preventing us from being the L&D department we want to be?’ was asked……we had some excellent answers about business restrictions, budgets, access to technology and more until a voice said ‘Nothing’. (The voice belonged to Amanda Price, Associate Director of Education Training and Development at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust).

And she’s right. It’s challenging to drive through change, to turn theory into practical action but nothing is stopping L&D at all.

In my opinion, L&D need to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day – so take incremental steps.  Focus on a single issue completely until it is resolved, for example, upskilling managers to better coach employees.   This applies for lone practitioners, heads of large departments and all those in between.    Remember, the peers you meet at events like the CIPD’s Leaders in Learning are there to support and encourage you.

The managed learning services we provide support L&D by freeing up valuable time & resource and providing strategic support and L&D consultancy. If you feel you’d benefit from this then please email or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Good luck,

Blake Henegan


Learning Technologies 2017 Day 1 review

Optimus Learning Services had the pleasure of attending both days at Learning Technologies this year. Here’s a quick round-up from Managing Director Blake Henegan from Day 1. Day 2 is covered by Les Heath.

Mind was blown. Sensory overload. Lively debate. The future of learning has arrived.

AI and Jill the chatbot
Away from the main exhibition, I had the pleasure of listening to Donald Clark, one of the experts in Artificial Intelligence (AI). A very informative seminar, with a balanced view of what AI can do compared to us humans and what it lacks. What was very clear was how much AI is all around us, and perhaps we don’t even realise.

It’s already impacted on learning and is going to continue to do so. Donald recalled a great story of when a US Tech professor built a chatbot to be his teaching assistant to a class studying AI. He named it Jill Watson and was that good the students nominated ‘Jill’ for the tutor of the year!

VR and embracing technology
I had the pleasure after hours of attending the Learn Patch bar camp with my fellow peers. Time spent discussing ways of engaging employees, pushing back when being asked for ‘training’ and a very level headed discussion around the pros and cons of VR with Immerse Learning.

So how can L&D use technology?
The use of learning technology will only grow, the key challenge is to know when and how to use it. Remember, consider your organisation’s culture and how it embraces (or doesn’t) technology. If it struggles to embrace new technology then perhaps this is the first thing to be fixed, before introducing any new tool.

For our review of Learning Technologies Day 2 read more.

Learning Technologies 2017 Day 2 review

Wow, this year was the best so far.

The exhibition was enormous with what appeared to be more exhibitors than ever. This year I attended with a mission; to find out what is new in Learning Management. Alongside this I chose 3 seminars that best related to our clients’ challenges:

  • How to prove ROI and gain organisational support for L&D
  • How L&D becomes a trusted business partner
  • The science of motivation: Why workplace motivation is so hard and how to overcome resistance.

Learning technologies seminar takeaways

Return on Investment: It’s not rocket science!

The first seminar, delivered by Steve Finch, Head of Business Development for CDSM Interactive Solutions Ltd, we were given thought provoking insight into measuring and maximising ROI, covering topics such as Kirkpatrick and Blooms Taxonomy.

The most important thing is to know what the purpose of the learning is and how it is expected to impact the business and develop the evaluation model from there.

We are not just TRAINING

Paul Matthews, Managing Director, People Alchemy Ltd led the 2nd seminar, posing the question – How as L&D practitioners do we become trusted business partners?

I think that this can most easily be expressed as ‘We are not just TRAINING’. Challenge the business when they approach you for training. Put on a new hat, become a performance consultant and clearly identify the ‘issue’ to be resolved. Focus on performance and that training might not always be the answer. There may be a need for a process, system or environmental change to resolve the issue.

For L&D practitioners it’s all about demonstrating your value. By giving good advice early on the business will see us for what we really are, a business-critical resource.

Motivation, it’s not about the money

Lastly, from David Meade, Saba, the message was clear: Motivation; It’s not about the money!

In companies where staff are most highly motivated it is because they are engaged in the business, they are involved, appreciate and treated as individuals. How has this been achieved? Enable employees to, at speed, access people and information they need to do their jobs – and to acknowledge their contribution with a heartfelt ‘Thanks, we couldn’t do it without you.’

LMS or LEP’s?

For my second objective of the day I was keen to see what’s new in the world of LMS systems. The first thing I came across was that the emphasis is not on ‘Management’ so much. Management implies control. In the past L&D were the owners of learning and controlled the application of learning. Now, people can learn in so many ways much of which is not managed; YouTube, Google, Yammer and a myriad of other platforms.

All the stands I visited on the day still included an element of learning management but were clearly adopting a new approach as ‘Learning Engagement Platforms’ (LEP’s: You saw it here first folks!)

It’s all about providing the access to, capturing and sharing of information. Systems that allow you to be key contributors to you companies learning.

The impact on L&D

Making sure I had time to consider the information I was absorbing, I considered the impact of these learning technologies. They are supporting learners in a way that L&D have always wanted – easy access and reinforcing learning for example – and making it easy for people to learn.

Embrace these technologies and learning and development will begin moving away from managing training to the valuable governance of learning.

For our review of Learning Technologies Day 1 read more.


Hello Optimus Learning Services

New name, same committed and thriving managed learning services team.

We’ve been working across all aspects of L&D since 2009 so we thought it’s about time we changed our name to show exactly how much we love learning and show off what we know!

It may seem like a small difference but our change to Optimus Learning Services is significant and fully reflects the wide range of L&D support and expertise we are providing to our clients.

Whether you’ve worked with us for years, or you’re taking a look around to find the right managed learning services partner for you, you’ll soon find we do business through excellent relationships and delivering exceptional service.

People work with people they like, trust and who deliver – which is why we’re chuffed that all of our clients stay with us for the long term.

We’re on a mission

To help the world of L&D showcase what they can do, Continue reading “Hello Optimus Learning Services”

5 metrics to measure for effective learning & development management

Measuring the learning metrics that matter

There was a time when the Learning & Development department was only accountable for the number of people that were put through training and the cost, in other words, basic effectiveness and efficiency.  Continue reading “5 metrics to measure for effective learning & development management”

The 5 keys to successful learning and development planning

When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people. -Old Chinese Proverb

Working in learning and development can be a challenging role.  The company looks to you to understand the business, the people and then create solutions to the problems that arise.  Often this is in a reactive manner, fixing a problem after the event.

Continue reading “The 5 keys to successful learning and development planning”