Five minutes with Mike Leavy, Learning Technology Lead, Virgin Media

Virgin Media
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Mike Leavy is the Learning Technology Lead for Virgin Media. In this brief interview he talks about what type of employee he wants in the L&D function and how his team help the business identify capability gaps. Mike will be speaking at the CIPD L&D Show in London on May 11th and 12th.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, TrainingZone: Tell us about your learning strategy and how you work with the wider business?

Mike Leavy, Virgin MediaMike Leavy, Learning Technology Lead, Virgin Media: People talk to us about our elearning strategy or mobile learning or gamification strategy or similar and it’s a tough question because we don’t really work like that. We’re performance consultants i.e. we understand performance support and performance consulting.

How does this work in practice? We have a partnering element to the L&D function. So we work together with our stakeholders out in the business and our subject matter experts. Our partners in the business will come with a particular performance issue e.g. this particular thing isn’t working - can you go and fix it please?

One of the things we drive though is that we go and get the person with the matches, rather than putting out the fire. This translates into really asking what the problem is and understanding the business issue. There’s no point putting a plaster on a problem.

So overall our mindset is pushing this transition from training to learning to performance consulting and our embedded L&D managers are truly trying to understand the business problems at play and the processes around the business and, really, validate whether there’s a confirmed performance gap in the business and, if there is, what the next steps are.

We then do a kind of Dragon’s Den piece where that person will come back into the learning team and we’ll discuss the business issue with them. Does it need support? What type of budgets are available? How much time our learning design team can spend on learning design? And so on.

If timeframes slips, you’ve often lost your window to make a real difference.

Then we talk about how we as a leadership team can go back to that person with timeframes, money, resource etc. that they can use to solve the problem. Project management is very important in this regard, because if timeframes slips, you’ve often lost your window to make a real difference.

Ultimately it’s about embedding learning into the daily workflow of individuals.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, TrainingZone: What’s the relationship like between L&D and HR at Virgin Media?

Mike Leavy, Learning Technology Lead, Virgin Media: We have our Head of People, who’s one step removed from the CEO and Board. They hold the relationship at senior level. We also have our HR business partners at each business level.

Our people in the L&D function will support a number of business partners depending on the area of the business they work in and the level of complexity.

On a day-to-day basis, this involves our team working closely with their designated business partners to work out what they capability needs and gaps are over the short-term and long-term.

These relationships are very agile, for good reason: all the markets we operated in (mobile phones, broadband, cable television) are extremely competitive and we must be able to act quickly to fix capability gaps.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, TrainingZone: What type of people do you want in your L&D team?

Mike Leavy, Learning Technology Lead, Virgin Media: We don’t want people to leave their personalities at the door. Now I can give you a bog standard answer – we want hard-working, dedicated people – and of course we do, but we also need creativity and innovation in our business.

People have to give a monkey’s about what the Virgin brand truly stands for. We want people with a sense of humour, people who will roll their sleeves up.

We want people to have fun and that doesn’t mean pulling pranks – it means knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and having a good time when you’re doing it, and having the freedom in your role to influence the important decisions.

Our people in the L&D function will support a number of business partners depending on the area of the business they work in and the level of complexity.

We like people who can come into a blank canvas – we don’t want people to just repeat what we’ve done before. We need to be innovative: the principle of the organisation is “take care of our employees first, and they will take care of our customers”

Ultimately we are not a brick factory. We don’t come in and do the same thing every day and pump the same thing out. We’re looking  for real human beings who have good days and bad days.

Another thing – a lot of people say they thrive in dynamic, fast-paced environments and you think ‘really? So you’ve spent six months pouring your heart and soul into a project and now the market’s changed and the idea that was great now isn’t great?’

People have to give a monkey’s about what the Virgin brand truly stands for.

That is not an easy environment to work in. That could potentially happen three or four times a year. Do you really enjoy that? It’s not for everyone.

About Jamie Lawrence

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12th May 2016 07:54

Great article and some thought provoking comments from Mike!

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13th Jun 2017 07:04

really nice article ....

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15th Oct 2017 06:07

Hi
Why you all taking a monkey in your company take people like who have new ideas. Who wants to do some new types in work like customers always wants changes in any products and their who is working as a supervise or team leaders are they good motivators for your company are they taking a ideas also from your workers are they friendly if all are doing good i dont think you have any problem to run your business properly.

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