First Bus (winner in the large employer category) is one of the largest bus operators in the UK. Their staff are mainly bus drivers and engineers, but also include managers as well. Many work shifts, which means they have little time to learn during normal working hours and cannot easily access the environments or tools that allow them the freedom to learn. Until recently many had not engaged in learning of any kind for over 10 years. The activities offered were based on a staff survey to find out what employees wanted. They included IT, languages, learning to learn and management, as well as leisure activities. We were impressed with the range of activities, the way that the company broke down barriers and a very thorough evaluation of impact. Examples of imaginative approaches were job swaps, with the HR director learning how to drive a bus for a day and one depot learning a dance routine as a fun way to engage colleagues in learning. All the activities were carefully planned, executed and evaluated. Before Learning at Work Week 61 per cent of staff said they didn’t believe the company provided learning opportunities; this fell to 39 per cent after the Week.
The Tinder Foundation (winner in the small/medium employer category) is a charity which supports digitally and socially excluded people through a nation-wide network of 5000 community partners. The charity set out to engage their community partners, most of whom are spread right across the UK, but as they are hard to bring together as a group, face-to-face sessions were not feasible. Other barriers to learning were the lack of access to up-to-date hardware and software, plus lack of time and a perception that learning has to be strictly work-related and formal. Their approach included webinars on subjects such as ‘Planning your digital profile’ and ‘Supporting carers online’, lunch and learn sessions, experiments using gamification and use of social media such as Twitter to promote activities. The objectives were clear – to encourage people to learn something new and develop capacity by upskilling subject matter experts.
Runners up were Hampshire County Council and Sheffield Combined Court Centre Hampshire County Council focused on connecting, collaborating and team building through imaginative approaches that included asking agents and business partners to act as mystery shoppers and getting staff to create customer journey maps using paper, technology (video, sound) or other media. Sheffield Combined Court Centre focused on reaching people for whom technology and learning presented a barrier, by creating face-to-face learning. They achieved an impressive 589 episodes of face-to-face learning within a tight budget that clearly had an impact on staff morale and engagement.
OCN London’s chief executive Jacquie Mutter says: “Removing barriers so that people from all backgrounds can benefit from learning is at the heart of our mission as an awarding organisation. Both winners had very different audiences they needed to engage with. Some of the barriers were geographical, others included unsociable work schedules and accessibility. What impressed us about the two winning entries - and the runners up - was the way they reached people in the workplace who had not participated in learning for a number of years, with imaginative approaches that produced real opportunities and real change. We loved the way that the Tinder Foundation used webinars to communicate with their 5000 community partners remotely, together with the job swaps and dance routine that First Bus created. These are innovative approaches that others can adopt to break down barriers to learning.”
The Learning at Work Week Impact awards are organised by the Campaign for Learning. OCN London sponsored the ‘Inspiring Learning for All’ category. The aim is to recognise organisations (one large employer and one SME) that best demonstrate how they used Learning at Work Week to engage colleagues who would not normally be involved in learning and learning at work.