The end of a year is always a good time for reflection, to think and be thankful. Here is our look back, in no particular order, on a tough but rewarding year, with sincere thanks to all our clients, supporters and #PLN. It is a little long for a blog, so grab yourself a mulled wine and mince pie. Season’s greetings to you all.

Expanding the team

A year ago I realised I really had too much work for one person. When you are doing your invoices whilst cooking the dinner, you need to wake up to the idea that self-employment should enhance your lifestyle, not be your lifestyle. With three children, two dogs and a husband I rarely saw, something had to change. I often find the best answers are staring you in the face if only you’d bother to look. I looked, I saw and it took me three months to persuade her it would be great. Enter Sam, my PA (and also my big sister). Many of you would freak out before working with family, but here’s what we’ve learnt.

  • Be honest. It’s the only way to ensure we both know what is what. Kind transparency helps oil the workings and create an effective machine.
  • Be realistic. Samantha had never worked in L&D so we had to be real in what she could learn and what role she would play.
  • Communication is key. We use Slack to stay in touch as we’re only together about once a week. Slack also helps us separate work from family, giving us a channel for work stuff and leaving other channels as they’ve always been.
  • Contracting was useful. After years of 9-5, it took Sam ages to get out of that indoctrination to work more flexibly. Clarity on what work was needed was important, so Sam knows what she needs to do. I really don’t mind when she does it! Flexible working has been a real benefit.

I have really enjoyed working with my sister. She’s watched the business grow over the years and is ‘bought into the brand’ like no outsider could be. I know it’s not for everyone to have family so involved, but it really works for us.

Working with CIPD

Another year working with Andy Lancaster and his talented team is another year of being in a very lucky position. I learn so much and truly enjoy the work. We started the year having won a silver Learning Technologies award and a gold TJ award for our work on the Level 5 L&D qualification, and from there we didn’t rest. We continue to challenge the profession to become a more effective, engaging space, focusing on practical support, evidence based research and exposure to the best in the business. Projects this year have included a Future Focused Learning programme, developing and delivering a practical programme about developing and delivering successful webinars (love working with Andy on that!), plus there are other things up our sleeves. Exciting plans for 2018 make me glad to be working a few days a month in such a fab team.

Not forgetting our other fabulous clients

We did an interesting project with LHH Penna in the spring, one of their first blended programmes offering a genuine mix of online and face to face. It was great to upskill the team and see them shine. Empowering people to do digital for themselves is what we are all about.

We shared a particularly enjoyable and impactful piece of work with SportsCoachUK this year. It took my breath away how those folks embraced a move to digital.
We have done bits and pieces of work with a variety of other wonderful clients, though generally, we scaled back a little this year. Sadly we have had a number of family members needing support due to a variety of cancers. We’ve learnt that life needs to be family first, every time. For 2018 we have new client projects already waiting in the wings. There are still organisations keen to learn how to do their workplace learning more effectively, efficiently, enjoyable and engaging.

#LnDcowork

This year has been tough personally for our family, with impactful loss and pain. It is funny how grief and stress manifests, and also how it is supported. Twitter has been a great support. Dipping in and out of people’s lives and thinking about their shared ideas gives respite from thinking about more difficult things. #LnDcowork has also been a source of unending support too, in particular from Fiona McBride, fellow co-founder and underpinner of brilliant things at #LnDcowork. To be honest this year I nearly walked away from this gathering we founded in 2015. When things get tough it is those people close to you who often get it in the neck. Discussing #LnDcowork with Fi ended up as the outlet for my grief, stress and sadness. But like the true friend and kind heart that she is, she supported me and we remain strong in our commitment to our co-work community. It is fantastic that around 70 people have been to #LnDcowork this year. That is quite the community. I am grateful for each and every one of you.

Learning Now TV

This year’s #NoPlasters series on LNTV has been very encouraging. In our quest to share practical insights on how to do workplace learning better we stepped out of the L&D bubble to interview a variety of non-corporate professionals. We wondered what could we learn from how they learn to do their jobs. What an interesting road to travel. We spoke to a headteacher, a vicar, an actress, a premiership rugby player, a firefighter, an RAF Officer, a fellow Tweep and a local authority on their use of AI. It was an eclectic, electric mix! You can see the summary video here learningnow.tv , as well as all the individual interviews (just search Michelle Parry-Slater or no plasters).

Shedquarters

We built new offices and moved this year. Only down the bottom of the garden, but that distance gives head space and peace to ensure more productive work. I feel quite passionate about where people work, the environment in which we expect productivity. We have tried to create an oasis of calm, an orderly, inspiring space, filled with my favourite things, particularly glass, which I love. Perhaps in 2018 you could look at where you are expecting people to work and learn. If you want inspiration, feel free to come visit SHQ. We love it!

 

 

Volunteer role with Girlguiding

One of the most fulfilling parts of 2017 has been organising Kairos Modern Learning work to enable me to expand my voluntary role with Girlguiding, from unit leader and county trainer to a national role as volunteer lead for L&D. On seeing the ad, I was surprised the job spec had more in it than my last global head of L&D job; which nutter would they get to fill that!? Enter stage left, the nutter, me. Girlguiding has the perfect storm of need and appetite to do some seriously good work in the L&D arena for their adult volunteers. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the movement which empowers young women and girls to be their best? I have a fantastic volunteer team from all areas of the country, each with strengths and energy to work seamlessly alongside a talented and tireless staff team based in Victoria. Although the pace of the work is much slower than corporate life, I am loving seeing the blossoming of something special. Watch this space! In fact, don’t just watch, get involved. Volunteering is good for you!