The L&D Blog

Learning from Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017

Attending industry events such as the Learning Technologies Summer Forum are a great opportunity to review where the industry has got to but also where your company L&D plans are at too, especially as we have hit mid-way through 2017 already!  

The learning programme at this event was jam packed as always with such a great range of L&D topics, we thought we would share our thoughts from the show and answer some key questions our clients have been asking:

What comes after the LMS Learning Systems?

We all know that “digital learning” is no longer the new kid on the block however there are still questions regarding the measures of success, the impact of it and where it has the most impact.

The Fosway Group have put together some excellent research notably their Digital Learning Realities Research 2017 report, a summary of which can be seen below.


So to answer the questions of what comes after the LMS, the Fosway Group highlighted that both the traditional LMS and the next generation learning platforms can exist together. Neither is better as it depends on what your organisation’s requirements are.

If you are in a heavy regulated industry then it’s likely you’ll have a strong demand for compliant training. Therefore a LMS would work perfectly.

For those of you not in this position and you have both the culture and resources – a next generation platform, which promotes social learning, would be right for you.

As with everything, context is key. Consider your organisation, where it’s at now and where it might be in 5 years. Then decide on what software or system is right for you.


Micro learning – how it really works and who’s using it successfully?

Micro learning has become a major talking point in learning and development for the past few years.

Is it something new or just a new label?

We think it’s the former. A re-labelling of an approach that many of already us use but perhaps don’t realise it.

In simple terms, it’s a way of organising self-directed learning and performance support into small chunks. This can be spaced across a period of time (breaking down larger chunks, being a resource in between larger chunks for new, or used to reinforce learning).

Remember, micro learning can be used across all delivery approaches and media – it’s not just e-learning so mix up the digital and analogue resources and ask for feedback from your employees to establish their preferences.

And finally ‘Putting it all into practice:  L&D professionals taking a 21st Century approach’

This session was what we were looking to the most. Hearing from Charles Jennings as well as examples from two senior L&D professionals; Jeff Kortenbosch senior eLearning specialist Akzo Nobel and Anca Lordache, Head of Social Learning and Collaboration Citi.

Jeff spoke about the journey to the 70:20:10 culture.  He had some inspiring advice for anyone interested in adopting this approach:

  • Ask yourself “what change can you make today that will impact tomorrow?
  • Follow thought leaders
  • Learn more about the model
  • Do something – get started

We agree. There will always be lots, perhaps too much to do, but get going on something. Momentum builds motivation and the same applies to your employees.

Anca gave us a greater understanding of the process and how they achieved it with Citi:

It all started in 2014 when their CEO said “employees need to learn how to take control of their own development”. Since then they’ve had to go through stages – the Align/Equip which covered raising awareness, aligning the business, equipping employee and raising interest, before moving on to the Engage/Sustain stage, focused on engaging and equipping stakeholders and sustaining the approach.

Remember, you need to ensure your organisation’s culture will accept the concept of 70:20:10.

We say don’t be perturbed by adopting 70:20:10. It’s an approach, the numbers aren’t fixed in stone. So if your employees are focused on obtaining certifications through formal training or a business need for certified staff then your numbers might look more 40:30:30. And that’s good enough.

We’ve said for a while now that L&D needs evolution, with incremental steps rather than trying to change everything overnight and this is further proof. Even with massive resources (which we know many of you don’t) it will take a few years for your organisation to adopt.

In the words of Jeff Kortenbosch – “Think long term but don’t let it stop you from starting”

And in the words of Blake Henegan – “Keep asking questions. You never know what you’ll receive”.  I was kindly given a copy of the ‘702010 Towards 100% Performance’ co-authored by Charles Jennings.

Will let you know my book review in due course – its looking good so far.

So whether you are implementing systems, new learning approaches or trying to work out the best way to actually do it all – good luck!

Excel training for employees to improve their skills

We have seen an exceptional increase in demand for Excel training over the past 6 months. It surely is also the significantly most popular Microsoft Office application for training that we arrange. Could now be the time for your employees to improve their Excel skills?

Range of modules

Excel has traditionally been one of those pieces of software that people would pick up and learn themselves. Very few though would go beyond the basic level of knowledge.

However, organisations are increasingly expecting their employees to have a higher level of competency with Excel. We’ve been helping companies train their staff in Excel in the following areas:

  • Excel for finance management
  • Data modelling using Excel
  • Introduction to Excel formulas
  • VBA for Excel

Range of training formats

We’ve delivered in a range of formats as well focussing on always sourcing the best quality training and ensuring companies avoid overpaying on such courses. Where there is a group demand we’ve been organising in-house Excel training including modular sessions, bitesize, lunch and learn, floorwalking to compliment half and full day sessions.

We always recommend in-house training to our clients wherever possible. This allows learners to more easily bring company work for practice and overall is a much better use of time for all employees involved, reducing costs and travel time to external venues.

As well as face to face training for company-wide Excel training requirements, we’ve also identified excellent e-learning and digital learning solutions too.

Time for an upgrade?

Whichever way you want to help your employees learn we can help you create a programme that has the greatest impact on performance for your organisation.

To find out more about the Excel training programmes we can help with or indeed any training on the Microsoft Office suite, drop us an email at or give us a call on 0845 519 7408.

Apprenticeship Levy help is here

Here at Optimus Learning Services we believe the Apprenticeship levy is a real opportunity for L&D to build on their relationship with the organisation and want to help L&D maximise the Apprenticeship Levy.

We’ve been asked by a number of clients our thoughts and advice about the strategic and operational approach to the Apprenticeship Levy.

We also know that some of the key areas that organisations are trying to get their head round include reimbursement, standards mapping, recruitment and provider selection.

Strategic considerations

Organisations will need to start thinking about some of these strategic areas:

  • Assessing existing capability
  • Mapping internal programmes to new standards
  • Reviewing operating models e.g. single provider, multi-provider
  • Progression route for existing employees into apprenticeships
  • Creating engagement and communication plans
  • Developing thorough training plans

Operational considerations

Organisations will need also to consider:

  • Digital Apprenticeship system
  • Provider management
  • Process management
  • Administration

Apprenticeship Levy advice and resources

We will soon be launching a series of advice guides so do keep an eye out for these.

In the meantime, whether you just want some independent advice or to bounce your ideas around, drop us an email at and we’ll arrange a time to chat.

The Apprenticeship Levy – it’s a fantastic opportunity

The Apprenticeship Levy represents a wonderful opportunity for organisations,  L&D and employees alike.

It’s transcending traditional L&D. For example, finance wants to know how the money’s being recouped, operations are wondering what the “off the job” learning time means to productivity levels. HR need to know how they recruit apprentices if they need to. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Conversation starters

It means that L&D can now have access to and have truly meaningful conversations with parts of the business that previously may have been disengaged with L&D. Therefore, having a great understanding of the Apprenticeship Levy and what it means is crucial.

Over the next few months, we are going to help you clarify and demystify the Apprenticeship Levy, what it means and how you and your business can use it in the best way possible.

Keeping you updated

We’ll keep you updated with any changes in legislation. We are going to try and get a definite answer from the Government about the manifesto pledges for using the Levy to pay for wages and passing it down the supply chain. We’ll also bring you case studies, interviews and hints & tips from those companies who have alreday embraced the Apprenticeship Levy.

Free expert levy consultations

If you are struggling to determine how you can turn your Apprenticeship Levy into a fantastic opportunity for your business and employees you’ll be pleased to know we are offering free consultations. You can use this time to discuss your strategy, approach and any other aspects of the Levy you may be unsure of.

To book your free consultation with our levy experts please email or call Blake on 0845 519 7408.


Reducing L&D overwhelm – the Ignite Presentation

” I wonder if you would like to deliver an Ignite presentation at the L&D Show in May?” asked Giorgia Gamba, Content Manager from CIPD back in April.  I checked the date, it was April 4th.  Too late for April fools so this was genuine.

I’d never delivered an Ignite Presentation nor had I spoken in public at an event like this.

So ignoring the voice of doubt I said yes.


When Giorgia said I could talk about whatever topic I wanted two sprang to mind.  The skills shortage or reducing the overwhelm that L&D currently face.

I chose the latter.  L&D have so much change happening now feelings of overwhelm lead to stress, reduced creativity and turn opportunities into challenges.

I hate seeing great L&D professionals stifled (its one of the reason I launched the business in the first place) and as a business owner, I can relate to overwhelm.   I’ve spent the past few years developing habits,  making time for myself and doing what I can to stay focused.

Humbled I found out I was sharing the stage with some amazing L&D minds – Andrew Jacobs, Niall Gavin, Sukh Pabial, Marco Faccini, Krystyna Gadd, Amanda Arrowsmith, Phil Wilcox and Julie Drybrough.

Nerves.  Pre-event nerves.  Overcome by collective encouragement and support.  Not one of us ran, despite several jokes about it.

My turn.   Remember to breathe. Deep breaths, good breaths.  Positive affirmations.

Watch the video and judge for yourself


An exhilarating experience.  The 5 minutes flew by.  I covered all of the content I had prepared and the feedback was positive.

So the lessons I learnt are to say yes to things,  recognise that others feel the way you feel, and preparation is always going to overcome nerves.


The top 3 things to do at the CIPD Learning & Development 2017 show.

The CIPD Learning & Development 2017 show has a plethora of speakers, L&D suppliers and learning sessions. The CIPD predicts that over 3,500 L&D professionals will all be under one roof.

Like with all events of this scale is challenging to fit everything you want to see in. There are times when I wish there was 4 of me. I’m sure you feel the same.

At times like this, it can be easy to swept away in the scale of the event, losing track of why you came and your agenda going astray.

I’m writing this on the assumption that you have already planned your activity for the time you are there.

But have you planned time for a meeting with the most important supplier at the show?


You should do.

Who is it?

It’s you! 

Yes, you. You are attending to achieve something, this might help drive your strategy, to raise your profile, meet new people, meet existing contacts or invest in your learning and CPD.

So my advice is this – take time out on a regular basis throughout the day to meet with yourself.

Block time out to allow you to have a break, absorb, digest and reflect on what you’ve heard and seen.

Do this throughout the day and you’ll notice your energy levels will be higher, avoiding that drained feeling you can get at the end of events.

Don’t be afraid of not having a conversation when grabbing a drink or something to eat.

You may even want to consider “Pranayama Meditation” – a quick and easy technique to calm your mind.

But do not miss the CIPD Leaders in Learning Ignite Lab

The CIPD Leaders In Learning Network brings you 9 Ignite presentations on Wednesday 10th at 4.45pm at the Digital Learning stage.

The Ignite format is simple –  each speaker has 5 minutes 5 minutes per speaker, 20 slides which automatically forward on after 15 seconds. The focus is to inspire and share practical L&D insights for people to take away and help them within their role.

I am honoured to be one of the 9 selected by CIPD for this session I’ve gone with a topic that I believe is a barrier to L&D productivity and that is, overwhelm in the workplace. I’ve also experienced the same feelings of overwhelm and have invested considerable time and effort in learning how to overcome them. Will it be useful?  I believe so. How will it go? Only time will tell. All I hope is that if each person takes away one thing which helps them then it would be a worthwhile investment of their time.

There are 9 of us speaking – see the full list on Twitter. For most of us, myself included, it’s our first time of delivering a presentation in this format.

Please come along and have a listen, I’m confident you’ll hear some interesting L&D insights.

And take advantage of free L&D consultations at the show

Finally, if you do need time to chat through your current L&D issues, I am pleased to be offering 4 x 45 minutes free L&D consultation slots at the CIPD Learning & Development show on Wed 10th May.

I’ll be happy to discuss any L&D problems or challenges you are currently facing and pass on thoughts and advice drawn from my experience within the industry.

If you’d like to book one of the sessions please send me an email.

Hopefully I’ll see you at the CIPD Learning & Development 2017 show.

The skills shortage – what can you do?

I’m sure you’ve seen the many reports coming out from organisations such as the CIPD, British Chamber of Commerce, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Engineering UK and others highlighting that the UK will lack the skills required for the future.

A skills shortage is a worrying concern for business, leading to reduced productivity, organisational competitiveness and the ability to attract and retain talent.  

Yet how is this possible when L&D is passionate and cares about developing the skills of their people.

Are companies not investing in people?  

According to research by the CIPD, XpertHR and Bersin the average spend per employee in 2015/2016 is anywhere from £201 to £,1068.  Dig deeper and the spend per employee changes according to the size of company and industry sector of course. In our experience of working with companies of different sizes, the figure is nearer the bottom end of this scale.

Whilst companies are investing more investment is needed. UK organisations must recognise learning isn’t a stop/start exercise and look to protect and increase budgets for L&D.

For those of you without large budgets, we know it can be challenging. But it never needs to be a barrier. L&D can get around this by being creative, use internal resources to share knowledge and best practice and curate free external resources.

Do people not want to learn?

In our experience, people do really want to learn. L&D professionals want to help people learn. Yet there are still ways of thinking within organisations which create barriers to effective learning and knowledge retention.

We believe there are three distinct groups of learners;

  • the self-starters who recognise the importance of developing their own learning plans are life-long learners
  • those who need initial support and guidance to steer them in the right direction at the start with some level of accountability or review
  • and finally, those that need significant support and guidance from others to begin and continue their development

So regardless of the grouping, people want to learn and develop themselves. Some just need more help than others.

Is L&D failing?

In our opinion – no. To start with, Towards Maturity 2016 Benchmark reports that over 50% of training is delivered face to face. This doesn’t surprise us. We doubt face to face will ever stop. What we have seen is L&D improving the effectiveness by creating blended learning programmes, with pre and post event work, e-learning and communities of practice.

The L&D professionals we work with and speak to are proactive, pushing forward the agenda and looking to develop the L&D offering within their companies. They recognise the expertise they have and use it wisely to govern learning and outsource what is appropriate. 

Adopting learning technology continues to be challenging but let’s overcome this. What is clear is that the industry recognises that there isn’t a silver bullet to success. Change takes time.

Look on social media and there are lively discussions between L&D practitioners on how to develop the L&D profession and improve the pace of change. L&D is focused on helping to learn in the best way possible.

What about the line managers?

Line managers have a key role to play. They must combine day-to-day management of people and operations with the implementation of company policy. They have great responsibility for the development of their direct reports. Even more so with the increased adoption of the 70:20:10 model and self-directed learning approach.

However, are they ready for this? Have they learnt or had training on how to develop their direct reports? Do companies judge current and future managers on their ability to develop people or their technical expertise?   In an ideal world, a manager would be capable of both. In the meantime, we need to recognise that continuous investment in the frontline managers is required to help upskill staff.

We can’t ignore the potential skills shortage

One report could be brushed off as scaremongering or lobbying, however several reports, from different industries, including statements from the chief of UK’s cyber security, about the lack of skills tells us we have a real problem.

Let’s, for now, accept that when people enter the workforce they might not have learnt the skills required. It’s not ideal, it’s not right but it’s the situation in front of us and the one that must be addressed. 

What can we do about it?

So, our solutions begin at the point an individual starts working for your company. Day zero.


  • Demand investment in your development and your colleagues
  • Be proactive – push for action, give feedback when leaving, before leaving, don’t work for companies that don’t have a recognised people development approach.


  • Do the same as employees, for them and your behalf
  • Learn how to help employees with their development
  • Develop coaching skills
  • Allocate and allow time for employees to spend on learning. Daily or weekly.

Business leaders

  • Encourage people to learn
  • Or make it compulsory for them to spend time on their development. A performance measurement perhaps?
  • Create a budget that is worthy of your organisation
  • Recognise that all the above is going to help you recruit and retain the best talent work for you
  • Put pressure on the educational system to produce people with hopefully a greater base set of skills or the hunger to learn. Ideally both.

L&D Directors and Managers

  • Support all the three groups in the best way you can
  • Shout about your successes – go on tell your business just how great a job L&D professionals like yourself do
  • Produce reports, show statistics and figures that highlight the need to invest on a continuing basis
  • Demand greater resources
  • Analyse the impact of development – formal or informal
  • Encourage lifelong learning
  • Make yourselves available to the business – daily!

It’s joint responsibility – consider every group a piece of a jigsaw. It can only be completed with all the pieces interlocking.

What next? 

In a couple of years, how will the UK look? We won’t be part of the EU and no one knows what this will really mean. Will we have less access to skilled workers? What impact will it have on trade, exports and imports? And our productivity?

We in L&D need to do everything in our power to turn the tide and support improving the skills our workers. Let’s make ourselves heard, demand better and ensure that reports of this ilk never appear again.

A skills surplus…. now there’s a thought.

Free L&D consultation

If you feel you’d benefit from having a chat about how to resolve the skills shortage and the impact on your organisation please get in touch, we love talking about learning.



Feeling good about change in your workplace

Hopefully you got to read our blog last month on self-managed learning – why you should create a learning plan? Taking ownership and being in control of your learning is key to getting what you want out of your career and life.

Taking this a step further, we thought essential to look at how being in control of your learning can really help you embrace the stormy seas of change in your workplace too. Through creating your learning plans you can use these and your learning to make you more resilient in times of change.

First acknowledge and be prepared for the change

  • What learning do you need for the short to medium term? Where is your company likely to be in 12-18 months and how do you fit into this new world? What skills have you been delaying upgrading or might you need in the not so distant future?
  • Take the time to identify your development needs now and book that training (before potential budgets may be cut).
  • How do you want to develop your learning in the longer term? Where do you want to be in 5 years? There may be new roles to apply for? Potential for contract work? Now may be the time to diversify and pursue some new skillsets.

Continue reading “Feeling good about change in your workplace”

Reducing L&D overwhelm and simplify your workplace

Reducing the overwhelm

Recent studies by Deloitte* on human capital trends have highlighted that over two-thirds of organisations identified issues with the “overwhelmed employee”.

More technology and too much access to employees being the key drivers. So what does this mean for the L&D department? Let’s first think about the overwhelm the L&D team may be experiencing. How can we help our employees if we are just as overwhelmed?

The results aren’t surprising to us and from an L&D perspective, the digital revolution is forcing learning and development to change at a rapid speed. L&D departments are tasked with keeping up with new learning technologies.  Pressured to introduce more blended learning. Governing self-directed learning and managing learning plans. Creating learning cultures whilst trying to engage more with the business. Add in how to maximise the Apprenticeship Levy pot and the L&D mind surely must be full to brim if not overflowing.

It’s enough to leave you wide-eyed and not knowing what to start first. So how we can model good practice to take control of your overwhelm in advance of helping your employees?

Looking after yourself personally

The challenges for L&D aren’t going away. Those companies who don’t update their learning approaches will lose their competitive edge. What can you do personally to reduce the overwhelm?

  • Prioritise and review – obvious we know but when you are in the thick of it, reminders to do this and take this time is essential. Make a list of priorities based on what is important. Not sure what is? Then speak to the business and get their input. Then focus, really focus, on that.  Review regularly to keep on track. 
  • Reach out and connect – make sure you have people who will support you or let you blow off professional steam appropriately. Friends, colleagues, family.
  • Create a PLN (personal learning network) – build up a community of peers who can support you and share their challenges and successes. If you don’t have connections with L&D peers then reach out.  We have our own LinkedIn Group for L&D discussions.  There are groups such as L&D Connect, L&D CoWork, forums on TrainingZone & Training Journal as well as professional membership organisations like the CIPD (who run Leaders in Learning) and LPI and the yearly industry events.   
  • Stay healthy – make time for some physical activity each day. Eat a healthier diet and if you can, enjoy some good sleep. I’m a dad of a 5 and 3-year-old so I know how challenging this is.  But its important to keep on top of looking after yourself.

Simplify your workplace

Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, a leading provider of research in HR, talent and learning, and his team looked at the data about overwhelmed employees. They discovered the need to simplify your workplace.

According to Josh, “the key is to work really hard to declutter work. Stop sending so many emails. Reduce the number of things we ask people to do. Simplify the technologies we have. You can’t just layer more stuff onto people.”

Make changes in your organisation

  • Review rules and processes – are there steps or processes that waste more time than they save? Is the L&D department the central hub for employees booking training and learning activity? Does it need to be?
  • Step back more often – spend time planning and reviewing to ensure you are able to provide the business with regular updates on progress.
  • Spend time with the business – a recent report by Towards Maturity stats that those L&D professionals who communicate successes to managers are twice as likely to influence culture.
  • Reduce meeting times – ok, we’ve just told you to spend more time with the business, so it doesn’t need to be a time-consuming activity unless it needs to be. Make sure there is an agenda, everyone comes prepared and stays on topic and to time.
  • D.O.A – Delegate, automate or outsource – What tasks can you automate? What tasks do you do that could be delegated to people within your business or outsource? Sourcing and booking of training? Training administration? Outsourcing these types of activities to a managed learning services provider could release you from the stress of these tasks, reducing your overwhelm and allowing you to be more strategic.

Be free.

If you would like to have a chat more about anything in this article please do get in touch.  Whether it’s simply to have a sounding board, introductions to learning networks, or perhaps looking to find out more about outsourcing to a managed learning service – we love talking about this stuff.



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?”