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Embedding elearning at Hanover Housing Association

20th Jul 2012
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Hanover Housing Association built a standalone L&D team from scratch and successfully embedding elearning into an organisation with a dispersed workforce, and in only three years. Martin Couzins reports.

 

 

It all started in 2008 when feedback from a staff consultation at Hanover showed that staff training was a priority. In March 2009, Andy Lancaster was brought in to create a new team to deliver the desired step change in L&D provision. His aim was to provide a strategic approach to L&D and to build an effective team to deliver it. And he had the full backing from senior managers to make it happen.

As well as developing a range of management, leadership and professional qualifications, it became clear early on that technology was going to be an important part of the mix. Hanover has five regional offices and 950 staff widely dispersed across the UK.

Hanover had previously dipped its toe in elearning but there had been no real focus on it. So Lancaster brought together the IT and L&D teams to develop a learning platform for all staff. 

"We use our own images and pictures of our own building.  Branding shows it is our product and it is something we value."

After a tendering process, the Charity Learning Consortium won the bid. Lancaster says the CLC gave Hanover the ability to develop its own content and learning, which would be key for elearning to take off.

Once the system was up and running, looked to see where it could compliment organisational aspirations and goals. The main drivers for developing eLearning capability:

  1. To transforming the learning team.
  2. To align elearning with organisational goals.
  3. To integrate elearning into existing management training programmes.
  4. To support multiple in-house systems.
  5. To develop content around policies and procedures.
Members of the L&D team attended Training Foundation programmes to build their theoretical knowledge of e-learning in order to understand the how and the why as well as the what of elearning.

The how and the why have helped build a coherent argument to get buy-in from the senior management team as well as helping to create more effective elearning content.

Lancaster then looked at where L&D could offer some real business support. Customer service was a key area for the organisation so the team focused on those modules.

Initially, two units of the training were recommended to all teams, and with regular communication to managers and teams nearly half of the organisation engaged with that learning in a seven-month period.

Branding

Good branding and clear communication have played a major part in embedding elearning into the wider business.

The elearning platform is called HELO - Hanover Elearning Opportunities - and it is branded with images of Hanover people.  The programmes are marketed direct to colleagues’ desktops via bespoke e-adverts.

Retaining the look and feel of the Hanover brand in HELO makes its elearning feel like an integral part of the Hanover website, which is important for engaging users. "We use our own images and pictures of our own building. Branding shows it is our product and it is something we value," Lancaster says.

Communication

Communication was also a key part of the initial roll out of HELO. There were roadshows to regional offices as well as personal invitations to colleagues inviting them to use the service. All communications were planned with the PR team. People knew it was coming thanks to clear communication.

There was significant engagement in the first few months as colleagues were encouraged to do a course in first two weeks of getting on to the system.

Regular communication with line managers also really helped get people started, Lancaster says. This included team briefings and ebulletin updates as well as sharing success data, such as how many people taking courses and passing them.

Content innovation

A major theme in building organisation-wide engagement with elearning content at Hanover has been to link it to the wider aims of the organisation wherever possible.
Lancaster has led the way by looking through all learning content and signposting to it from elearning modules wherever relevant. He has developed new content to support multiple in-house systems and he has turned to colleagues to create bespoke elearning content.

Calling on subject matter experts to create content is in its infancy at Hanover but it is working well.

For example, the company secretary wrote Hanover's policy on the Bribery Act. This was the first time subject matter experts had worked with the L&D to produce elearning content.

They were trained on Adobe Captivate and provided with templates created by the L&D team.

Lancaster says this is an ambitious approach but it provides L&D with a deeper understanding of business needs. He says the knowledge experts are energised and feel integral to the creation of the content.

"Many people in the organization are very IT literate and this is just another step – to putting elearning content together."

A benefit is that the L&D team then doesn’t become the content owners for a particular module.  Andy says there is a problem if L&D are the custodians of the policy in that they might not be the first ones to know if the policy changes.

"It is really positive for individual learning departments to own their own leaning content."

Challenges

As with any technical projects, there have been many hurdles to overcome:
  • Keeping momentum up with lone, remote workers is difficult when day-to-day operational pressures make it difficult to engage with elearning.
  • If L&D is the only content provider it would become the bottleneck so get good technology and get more people involved.
  • If it is a success you will have to manage workload so manage expectations around timelines and use workplans for elearning development.
  • It takes time to get a new system to work. Both you and your subject specialists will go through a steep learning curve with the technology.
  • You have to go through self-learning – find out what the technology can do for you and how you would like it to work for you.
It is easy for L&D to abdicate technical knowledge to an IT team, Lancaster says. So take professional responsibility for the tools you are using, work closely with your IS team and engage your teams.

You have to know the right questions to ask and be confident when talking about technology because when it comes to talking with senior managers you will have to have a good answer to the question: why should the organisation spend thousands of pounds on an elearning system?

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