Social Learning Gets the Guernsey at Team Day

As the last two weeks of my current contract draws to a close, I’m trying to wrap things up and hand over the last bits and pieces to my colleagues.

After 15 months as an instructional designer on this major transformation project, I’m leaving with a tinge of sadness.

But this role has defined me in many ways.

It’s the first time I was involved in an agile transformational project and to see the business first hand.  Being up, close and personal to the operations really made me think about the services I provided to my clients all of which had to be quick and immediately effective.

The ADDIE model failed to ‘cut the mustard’ in an agile project environment and I had to let go of long-held perceptions around how learning must or should be done.  They all flew out the window because in all honesty, the business wasn’t listening – they wanted action.

The role challenged my perception of Learning and Development and for the first time I realised just how wide the gap was between us and the business.

With no budget or resources, it’s amazing how creative one can get when you remove the shackles of how you would have done things in the past and be open to new ideas and possibilities.

There was a lot of nail biting, sleepless nights (and yes, some panicky tears squeezed out in the quiet hours under the bed covers…only kidding) in the early days but I got there in the end thanks to my Albert Park knitting group.

The idea of how to cross specialise the customer servicing teams across Australia came to me as I sat there with a turbulent mind, knitting in my hands just staring at my fellow knitters one Sunday afternoon all teaching and learning from each other.  The room stood still for me  and I only snapped out of it when they prodded me with a knitting needle and asked, “Helen, are you alright?”

This was my answer.

So the next day, I got to work.  I developed the Instructional Coaching framework – a blended learning program that gives the skills to subject matter experts to teach their work processes on the job, with real live files, under workplace conditions.  Through online performance support tools, the SMEs provide the context, the coaching, skills practice, feedback and ongoing support of their team members. It’s a perpetual cycle of coaching on the job that has resulted in all team members being cross-specialised in all work processes of their team; increased collaboration and team work; reduced customer wait times for file processing and an overall satisfaction in the team member who has a broader role function.

My intention was to create a peer-to-peer coaching model and this was the start of it at a project level.  It was a successful program that now my colleagues are rolling it out across the Lending Service business and is in progress to be rolled out across the enterprise.

I’m really pleased that a program of mine has gone out across an organisation!

As the transformation project winded down, I looked at other contract opportunities outside the bank but nothing really excited me out in the job market.

In all honesty, I felt there was ‘unfinished business’ here.  I enjoy working at the bank and in many ways, they are ahead of their competition when it comes to innovation (especially in learning) and I felt that I hadn’t explored other roles within this company that would take my development to the next level.

It wasn’t my time to leave just yet as deep down, I wanted to see where this peer-to-peer learning would go.  I wanted to see it evolve, become accepted and just part of the way people work and learn from each other.

But the universe was giving me signs.

Two colleagues came to me on two separate occasions with a print out of an internal job ad, exclaiming, “THIS JOB IS YOU!”  One scan of the job role revealed that this was my answer and I immediately applied.

After the necessary interviews, I was accepted into the role and let’s just say, I was ecstatic.  I feel that this is where I’m meant to be at this point in my life.


It culminates in everything I’m passionate about and that is helping our fellow team members with their own professional development around these skill sets.   In effect,  I’m responsible for “futureproofing” the skills of our staff in an ever-changing workplace by helping them create content through podcasting, virtual classrooms, webinars and mobile learning and to open up avenues where they can be more self directed in their learning. 

Certainly this team is the best fit for me especially if I want to see peer-to-peer learning take on a new direction by adding a social learning platform to the mix and opening the door for any person with any expertise to teach others in our organisation.  I’m excited to see this taken to a completely new level.  Social learning at its best!

Of course, I must role model that behaviour by also sharing my knowledge and expertise with others.  

Already, I have people interested in my Social Media for Learning Professionals workshops and webinars both inside and outside the bank; and I regularly get asked to support others create profiles on LinkedIn and Yammer.  These are on top of my regular job but I don’t see these as additional work – I see them as supplementing it.  

Besides, it’s a lot of fun to meet people and I get a kick of helping others learn more about how they can be more self-directed in their learning.  

My kicks are seeing people also have their own ‘A Ha’ moments and know that I played a part in that.   Where they take it is their prerogative but once they get it, they’re changed for good and I have a willing and supportive colleague who is on my side. 

So where to from here?

Last Friday, I was invited to attend the NAB Academy Team Day and it was an opportunity to meet my new colleagues and business.  It was an enjoyable day and the highlights were the various team activities that demonstrated how blinkered we can be between teams and with each other.

The stand out points for me was the presentation by GM Human Resources who was down-to-earth, approachable and lively.  She talked about the people strategy, opportunities and challenges.  Another highlight for me were the individual presentations by the lines of business who outlined their goals for the year and all of them mentioned some form of professional development or capability.

What struck me however was that social learning scored the guernsey on the day (meaning, it was a real winner).  It was mentioned a few times in particularly around learning from others using the tools we already have in place.

One of the team activities we conducted was to brainstorm some ideas for more collaboration across the teams, our colleagues and our customers.  We had to come up with ‘quick wins’ and some of these included getting everyone to use Yammer.

However, this struck me as odd.

Much of the ideas presented could easily have been obtained while in the team day sessions themselves.  That is, I believe that it is too late after the team day when the motivation and inspiration has fizzled out and everyone returns to work.

For example, before the team day, the co-ordinators may have asked people to create a Yammer account and then join the  Yammer group.  They may have invited people to use their phones or tablets on the day to contribute to the conversation online while at the team day.  When the team activities were undertaken, the questions could have been on Yammer so the responses could come in (in real time) from other parts of the bank so that others (our clients and colleagues) could contribute.  In effect, create our own Team Day Back Channel on Yammer.

This demonstrated to me that these collaborative tools (whether it’s Sharepoint or Yammer) are still seen as external to our job itself.  It’s not in the flow of our work, the courses we attend and the team days we participate it.  It’s additional to – and hence seen as a collateral activity over and above what we do in our normal day.

So with this in mind, one of my goals in this new team is to ensure that they get integrated, embedded into our workflow with the result that:

  • No one thinks twice when we whip out our tablets or  phones during a team days, courses or work conferences.  
  • There’s no awkwardness or strange looks from people when we use our mobile technology in our work with others.
  • The way we work is the way we learn – if we use a computer at work and connect with people then we should be doing the same while we’re learning.

So this is my personal goal in the new job which starts in a couple of weeks!  I’m ready for the challenge…

About Helen Blunden

My unique super power is that I see learning experiences in everything I do. #alwayslearning
This entry was posted in Musings, Work Narration and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Social Learning Gets the Guernsey at Team Day

  1. Spot on. It was a real eye opener because I was out on the floor at the time. Phones were ringing, people running around, volumes high, people on leave or sick, Reserve bank had changed interest rates so people had a call to action and team leaders welcoming me to “a normal day for them”. They wanted training, they wanted the capability of their staff increased to handle the call volume and the realisation that what I had in my ‘kit bag’ for them was going to miss the mark hit home for me. However, it was the best experience because the environment allowed me to be more creative in my approach and with team leader support, come up with solutions that were a bit ‘left field’ but where team members were willing to give it a go. Initially, the concept of not going into a classroom for training was hard to grapple with some people – but they quickly saw the benefits of the instructional coaching model I implemented that got people talking, coaching, helping and supporting each other.

  2. Helen, I think you hit on something very important for all L&D Professionals – change or risk being redundant. The writing is on the wall but many are not stopping long enough to read it. This was your moment: “I had to let go of long-held perceptions around how learning must or should be done. They all flew out the window because in all honesty, the business wasn’t listening – they wanted action.” When the business turns a deaf ear to traditional solutions and approaches far too many just yell louder with the same message. Sadly …out of touch.

  3. Hello Bill

    What a lovely reply! I’m really honoured to be on the receiving end of such a positive reply. You’re right. It’s been a wonderful journey that I’ve been on and it’s been fun experimenting and just having an open mind to everything. Thanks again and all the best with your challenges too – really in all honesty, we have nothing to lose!

    Take care


  4. Bill says:

    Helen, what a great read. Very inspiring. I haven’t followed you for too long here but I have gained a sense of this being a significant learning curve for you. But your courage and willingness to explore and play in this arena is fantastic and I applaud you. You’ve certainly challenged me to dig deeper into this. I look forward to reading more. Well done.

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