Staying Fresh – putting Learning at the heart of everything we do

Author: Ceri Hughes, Head of Knowledge Centre of Excellence at KPMG in the UK

(Please note this post contains the personal views of the author)

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to review my role and responsibilities at work. We’ve aligned our Learning and Knowledge functions into one group with the aim of protecting and enhancing quality, improving the retention of our knowledge and enabling the continuous process of acquiring knowledge, skills and confidence to improve current and future business performance.  Our new Learning function reflects the traditional elements of a learning value chain: we have Business Learning Partners; a Learning Design team; we deploy Learning Programmes and measure success through our Analytics team. But our structure is underpinned by three centres of excellence: a centre for professional qualifications and accreditation; a Coaching centre of excellence; and one for Knowledge, which includes all activities in support of knowledge management, research, competitive intelligence and collaborative working.  We’ve ramped up the focus of our knowledge strategy on how we assist with accelerating time to competence – learning on the job – and providing immediacy of knowledge, such as access to the latest insights and intelligence to ensure our colleagues have the most informed conversations with our clients.

It’s been a timely reminder for me to review my own learning and development needs and think about the technical and enabling skills that will benefit me in my role and in my new organisational home. I am guilty of neglecting my personal development somewhat. It’s ironic that I diligently review personal development plans for my team members and try to help them find the time and space to be able to learn on the job and accommodate more formal learning interventions, but I don’t prioritise this for myself at all! Stopping to take stock of this has been an eye-opener. It’s been a few years since I last attended a formal training course. Making time for networking events – which I eagerly fitted into my schedule earlier in my career – has now fallen way down my to-do list; and even though I keep a close eye on the professional press and blogosphere, and bookmark all of the articles and posts that I think sound interesting, relevant or thought-provoking, my reading pile (virtual and that teetering on the side of my desk) isn’t getting any smaller.

So, inspired by an increased workplace focus on the world of learning and professional development, I am actively seeking opportunities to learn. Signing up for a few well-chosen networking events has been an easy way to find out what issues are on the radar of other organisations and learn how they are approaching challenges that we share. It’s also been really rewarding to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. I find myself inspired and motivated on hearing how they are thinking about the challenge and opportunity of increased automation and AI; thinking about the importance of legitimacy and authenticity of information and knowledge in a world of fake news; ensuring robust information protection and governance; and the most tactical issue on my mind at the moment – a SharePoint upgrade.

Interestingly, as I’ve chatted to peers in the information industry, it seems that my neglect of my development resonated with others too! Perhaps it’s true that the longer we stay in our profession the less time we spend on developing ourselves. The real truth is, of course, that since we are constantly bombarded by technological advancements, new legislation and regulation, an increasingly sophisticated and demanding customer base and other external and internal influences or pressures (such as the need to stay ahead of the competition or constantly reduce cost and increase efficiency) developing ourselves as individuals is critical for our own success. It’s also vital for the development of the disciplines of the information profession to which we belong. We can learn from each other, sharing innovations and ideas.  If you’re in the same place that I found myself recently, please see this as a call to action to consider your personal learning and development plan. I’d love to inspire each other with ideas on how to do this, so please share your experiences in your comments.