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ViewPoint: Navigating Careers in the Never Normal
October 13, 2020
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This article by Julie Winkle Giulioni was published in SmartBrief.

Shortly after the global pandemic changed the face of the workplace, writers and leaders began contemplating the new normal — how the world would be once things settled down. Months in, as reality took hold, the language shifted from “new” to “next” – as “normal” became a moving target.

After more than six months, millions of lost jobs and countless pivots in service of evolving conditions and customer needs, we must again adjust how we talk about what’s to come. We might need to let go of what we used to know and acknowledge that the kind of stability and predictability we enjoyed in the past won’t return.

We’re not going back

By all accounts, we’re not going back to normal or new or next. And a range of factors — many established long before COVID-19 — are contributing to today’s never-normal-again environment.

  • Organizations were already under productivity and profit pressure. They were already leveraging assets and optimizing resources, doing exponentially more with less.
  • Competition was coming from new and varied sources. (Who would have imagined Amazon getting into the real estate business?) As a result, organizations were becoming more attuned, alert and anxious about protecting market share and expanding their pieces of the pie.
  • Disruption was the name of the game in early 2020. Now the combination of a global pandemic, economic downturn and racial inequity has left individuals and organizations feeling insecure and on unstable ground.
  • Workforce dynamics are in flux as working from home becomes the standard rather than the exception, which shifts power dynamics and democratizes opportunity. Whether one works as a vice president at corporate headquarters or as a supervisor out of a garage in Topeka, Kan., everyone occupies the same size tile and has the same volume voice in the new online workspace.

With so many forces and factors conspiring to reshape the business landscape, we should not expect a return to normal. To the contrary, we should expect a kaleidoscope of change coming at an unprecedented pace.

Savvy leaders and employees who recognize this new reality also recognize the implications, as well as the powerful opportunities for growth and career development within our never-normal environment. 

Never normal means more informal

The opportunities for growth are plentiful, but only for leaders and employees who embrace new approaches to learning and development. We can no longer rely upon old, formal, programmatic formulas. What’s needed are more organic, self-driven and informal means to mine the richness that the workplace has to offer.

Four shifts can introduce infinitely more opportunities for growth.

  1. Continuous learning must give way to creative learning through an ever-growing circle of resources. It’s been said that information is power. But given the nearly unlimited volume of data at our fingertips and speed with which things change, we can’t always wait for insights to be formally documented and chronicled, even if we could find it all. We need to go to the source: the people around us. That’s why the freshest and most necessary learning now happens in real time, in informal person-to-person interactions. As a result, tapping an always-growing network of resources is a powerful development and success strategy. 
  2. Agility equals ability. Seeing what’s next and pivoting gracefully will not only protect careers, it also will grow them in new, interesting and meaningful ways. Invest effort into becoming more flexible and nimbler in your thinking and actions. It’s one of today’s most highly valued competencies and will likely remain so.
  3. DIY development no longer only means “do it yourself.” In recent years, it’s become increasingly evident that employees must own their careers, taking the lead as they work with their leaders to craft plans to support their goals. While that philosophy remains valid, DIY today also stands for “develop individual yardsticks.” The days of the predictable progression up the corporate ladder are long gone. Continuing to hold those expectations as the measure of career success will only lead to disappointment and disengagement.As a result, everyone at every level of the organization must redefine success in ways that align with today’s realities. We must stop focusing on what we want to be. Instead of obsessing over promotions and position, we must begin defining career success in terms of the kind of work we want to do, the problems we want to solve and the challenges we want to embrace. This, then, becomes a unique and personal yardstick for success.
  4. Ad hoc feedback is the new individual development plan. The speed at which the workplace is changing and the uncertainty that accompanies it has rendered the idea of annual anything useless. Think about your development plans instituted last year. Much has likely been rendered null and void. The infrequent, formal conversations of the past simply don’t operate at the speed of business today. But, do you know what does? The day-in and day-out feedback we get from colleagues, customers, suppliers, contractors and others with whom we regularly interact. This informal feedback offers the insight, redirection and focus required for relevant growth and career success, especially during times of uncertainty and change.

There’s little that we can predict about the months and years ahead. Still, one thing is for sure. It won’t be the normal that we’d all come to know and love. Holding on to a new or next version of that will likely only leave us disappointed and unprepared.

Letting go of these expectations and embracing reality may not be easy. But it’s definitely the first step toward preparing for the growth and development required of a never-normal future.

Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations worldwide to improve performance through leadership and learning.  Named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers, Giulioni is the co-author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want,” You can learn more about her speaking, training and blog at JulieWinkleGiulioni.com.

CREATING A LEARNING CULTURE, WHERE INDIVIDUALS CAN PERFORM THEIR BEST
December 30, 2019
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ARTICLE BY Kirstin Furber

Why is it important we keep learning?  Whether we like it or not, we are learning every day:  it might be a new way of buying a product or using a phone that has updated technology. All this change and innovation means we need to embrace learning.  

The world we are living in is complex, competitive, fast and busy. In such an environment, it’s critical organisations focus on learning and constantly develop their capability. Many organisations have adapted their learning model from one of traditional classroom teaching to a blended learning approach including face to face presentations, coaching and learning whilst doing. These methods embed learning quickly and fit better in busy work days. There are also some skills we can’t go on a course to learn, especially in digital space, as the work has not been done before and therefore the learning is very much on the job, through trial and error.

With the ability to learn its critical for organisations to remain competitive, adapt and stay ahead of the competition, how do we create a learning environment that supports individuals being their best? With the five characters of a human culture as a foundation, I believe companies need to focus on the following five areas:

1.Purpose: Purpose provides organisations with a direction, a mission to get behind, and the opportunity to communicate how each employee’s role contributes to that purpose.  A clear purpose also provides ‘guard rails’ and focus.  When everyone is learning, creating new ideas, and developing as individuals and as a group, it’s easy to get off track. Having a clear purpose that everyone understands and buys into means that ideas can flourish ‘on strategy’ and be translated into action.

2.Authentic Leaders: We know leaders are important role models, in everything they do and I have blogged before about the importance of authentic leadership.  Leaders have an opportunity to create an environment of learning through ‘bringing the external in’ and by ensuring the organisation does not get too internalised. Reading and sharing, participating at conferences, bringing speakers in to contribute new ideas and perspective, and by creating an environment of curiosity where it is safe to ask questions, is the perfect environment for learning to take place.  Remembering that they should always be open to learning also enables leaders to learn from their teams. After all, one of the best ways to learn is to have your thinking challenged. It’s important to be open to doing things differently and to update your perspective as the world changes. Authentic and vulnerable leaders who admit they don’t know everything, keep learning. 

3.Telling your story: Learning is about sharing and translating lessons learned into every day operational best practice.  Organisations that provide ways for individuals to share their learning with others both informally, e.g. at team meetings, and formally (through films, podcasts, or via company intranets) allow this translation of learning into the organisation to happen in the most organic way possible. This helps learning embed in the organisation.

4.Diversity: We all learn differently, and its critical organisations taken this into account. Some of us like to read about a subject in-depth, form views and then debate, others like a planned learning approach with many different forms of content: video, discussions, face to face sessions. The reflectors among us can get annoyed with a discussion group full of extroverts’ whist the extroverts are feeling very much in their comfort zone. Companies should enable time for reflection and processing as part of learning as well.  Cultures, physical and mental health, and learnings styles all need to be considered alongside how best to use technology to customise learning so it lands well enabling people to engage with it for maximum impact.

5.Workplace: Finally, where do you learn best?  Traditional learning used to always be offsite, but with budget cuts and because of people’s productivity suffering if they’re out of the office for long periods of time, this has changed. Training has moved to ‘bite-sized’ learning with different views on timing, ideally no more than 90 minute learning sessions, for individuals to learn best, as outlined in this article.  Some of us like to learn at home, in the cafe, with others, in the office.  With learning being produced, delivered and customised through a variety of learning platforms, opportunities for where and when employees can learn are expanding. Some of us are better at learning in the morning, others in the evening, we should factor that into our learning approach. What is the best period of time to learn? To brainstorm? To make a decision?  To create an environment where employees can learn, all of these factors need to be considered when developing a curriculum.

A learning environment does a number of things: it builds capability to drive performance and helps attract the best because of an attractive development offering. It also helps retain the best because they grow and develop by utilising new found skills in a number of ways, especially when promotions or pay rises aren’t an option.

Creating an environment where it is easy to learn goes a long way to creating an environment where people can be their best selves at work because an environment where everyone can learn is one where everyone can flourish.

Kirstin Furber – Chief People Director of ClearScore

Meet The MD: David Gallagher Of NCFE
September 23, 2019
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“It doesn’t matter what you want to be, it’s who you want to be that’s important.” David Gallagher of NCFE shares his advice on the importance of being the best version of yourself, but always being yourself. 

What is it the company does?

Meet the MD: David Gallagher of NCFE
David Galagher

NCFE is a national awarding organisation with a strong heritage going back over 170 years. Passionate about designing, developing and certificating diverse, nationally recognised qualifications and awards, NCFE is at the forefront of technical education and has contributed to the success of millions of learners at all levels.

A registered educational charity, NCFE is proud to be recognised for exceptional customer service and sector-leading expertise. NCFE offers an extensive portfolio of NCFE and CACHE branded qualifications covering a wide range of products and services for leaners of all ages across many subject areas and specialisms.

NCFE is also a registered Apprenticeship End-Point Assessment (EPA) Organisation, specialising in health, care, childcare and education programmes. The NCFE family of businesses also includes Skills Forward, which offers online diagnostics to support the successful delivery of Functional Skills, and Peer Tutor, a new platform offering high quality, on-demand, tech-enabled peer-to-peer tutoring support at low cost.

NCFE is committed to changing the lives of learners and supporting people to progress and achieve. The organisation’s purpose is to ‘advance and promote learning’ – with a particular focus on social mobility; supporting those who need it most to improve their career and life chances through learning.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

I lead NCFE including NCFE Awarding, Apprenticeship Services, Skills Forward and Peer Tutor. My role involves me shaping the strategy and cultivating the culture of the organisation, developing the leadership and management team to be the very best they can be. I also play a leading role in the growth and continuous development of our business, balancing our social purpose and commercial objectives to ensure that we continue to make a significant impact on the lives of learners of all ages.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I joined NCFE in 2018 as managing director of NCFE Apprenticeship Services, leading a new team to deliver End-Point Assessment (EPA) solutions across a range of subject areas. I have since moved into my new role as chief executive at NCFE.

I have enjoyed a successful career in education, apprenticeships and skills for over 15 years. This has included working in the public sector for the Learning and Skills Council (now ESFA), several private sector training providers and also through establishing several successful new business startups within the sector.

In a previous role, I held a board position as group commercial director at Babington, a professional training organisation based in the Midlands. I also led the reshaping of the organisation and its proposition in response to the Apprenticeship Reform Agenda and emerging market opportunities. I successfully oversaw significant growth of the business, primarily though securing a variety of major corporate accounts. I also held board level responsibly for the creation of Babington’s innovative ‘NextGen’ blended delivery apprenticeship programmes which has received hugely positive feedback from customers and key stakeholders.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think it’s so important to be the best version of yourself as much as you can at work and to lead by example. I believe in my actions being aligned to my words and being bold and courageous, whilst also being considered. I also think that great leaders focus on helping those around them to be the best they can be.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

I’m naturally a ‘get things done’ person and prioritising tasks when there is so much to get stuck into is a big challenge. It’s exciting, though, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The pace of our sector really keeps me on my toes!

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Spending time with my family and finding that balance between work and home is what alleviates stress for me. Taking time on an evening to cook and spend time with my wife and my two boys helps me keep a good perspective and value what is most important in life.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An archaeologist – basically because I wanted to be Indiana Jones! Then an architect and a golf course designer; I think I’ve always liked creating things.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

Apathy is the enemy of energy and is something I really can’t stand. I strive to ensure that people are connected to what we’re trying to achieve and inspired to take action. We really believe in the power that learning has to change people’s lives and we’re a key part of powering education and training. So apathy is essentially our enemy because it means that power is sucked out of something that is so important.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I believe that learning will change radically over the next five to 10 years, so I would like to think that NCFE has played a major part in developing new ideas and approaches that will create more opportunities for learning, particularly for those who need it most. I also see us being able to leverage more investment in learning through clearly demonstrating the significant positive impact that we’ve had on the lives of millions of learners in terms of their life and career chances.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

I would say to be yourself. Be the best version of yourself, but always be you. I occasionally see leaders ‘playing the role’ and it shows. Plus, it must be exhausting.

As a leader, you have such an important role in setting the tone, the mood and ultimately the culture within your organisation. So I think it’s hugely important to be optimistic, consistent, balanced and fair.

Finally, I believe that feedback can be the single most important thing that can improve your performance as a leader. So, ask for feedback and ask people to be honest. Take the feedback with openness and humility, even when it stings.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

I wish that someone had have told me that it doesn’t matter what you want to be, it’s who you want to be that’s important. We spend so much time asking children what they want to be when they grow up and that’s the wrong approach. Focusing on the kind of person they want to be should come first.

Apply for Funding: T Level Teacher Regional Improvement Projects (TRIPs)
August 21, 2019
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The Department for Education is working in partnership with the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) to offer high-quality professional development support to teachers, trainers and leaders delivering T Levels from 2020 onwards.

Through the T Level Professional Development offer there is an opportunity for 2020, 2021 and future T Level providers to participate in sector-led, collaborative action research projects, known as Teacher Regional Improvement Projects (TRIPs).

TRIPs should aim to develop teaching practice in preparation for T Levels and ultimately ensure that learners undertaking T Levels develop the knowledge, skills, behaviours and competencies required, and understand how they are applied in the occupation they want to progress into.

50 collaborative TRIPs will be funded across England. 31 TRIPs were commissioned in June 2019. Profiles of the 31 TRIPs are available on the ETF website

This inviation to tender is for the remaining 19 TRIPs, which can be delivered on a national or regional level.

£45,000 will be awarded to each TRIP.

£20,000 is for project funding while the remaining £25,000 will be allocated for TRIP participants to access remission funding to allow them to participate in the wider T Level Professional Development offer.

Further information on available CPD can be found on the ETF websiteOnly providers who participate in TRIPs will be eligible to access remission funds. 

Each TRIP must involve a minimum of four organisations; one of which must be a 2020 T Level provider. One organisation must be appointed as the project lead.  

Each TRIP is managed and supported by one of the three Knowledge Hubs operating in their area:

For further information and to apply to deliver a TRIP, please download the following documents:

TLPD TRIP guidance to applicants – August 2019 .pdf

TLPD TRIP guidance to applicants – August 2019 .docx

The deadline to apply is 12pm Friday 11 October 2019.

Applications should be submitted to the T Level Knowledge Hub in the lead organisation’s region, using the contact details above.

If you are interested in being involved in a TRIP and would like some further guidance on delivery and sourcing project partners, please contact the T Level Knowledge Hub in your region please contact projects@aoc.co.uk