#cipdldshow: From learner control to learner choice

This sessions is with Anne Parker of Booking.com and Peter Kay (no not that one) from Tarmac.

Context being set about choice with a controlled environment – freedom in a framework.

When we have so many coffee shops to choose from it doesn’t drive loyalty and there’s little control for the coffee merchants to get customers to them. Having someone to guide you to a great one or advertising a certain shop will help bring an element of guidance or control to people’s choices.

How do you as an L&D team advertise what you do? How many advocates do you have for what you do? How do you guide people to what will be most helpful to their needs?

What choices do you like to make? What do your learners like? How do you know?

Anne and Peter have obviously spoken before the session about how their content fits together and how they can deliver it collaboratively. Refreshing!


Peter’s first to talk about Tarmac and how they’re facing similar challenges as others about resilience, agility, pace, change.

Research said:

  1. 1 in 5 employees are effective learners – how do we help people to learn?
  2. The knowledge stored in our head is reducing, we rely on just in time learning through you tube, etc – what does this mean for how learners access work-based learning?

Org context – part of CRH, a leading building materials supplier. Acquired in Aug 2015. About 7000 employees (demographic av age 40) & the leading sustainable constructions solutions provider. £2bn turnover. A heritage brand but thinking in a different way.

Now context from Anne: Booking.com – mission to help leisure & business travellers book & enjoy the world’s best places to stay.

Anne been there 5 years and each year the business has doubled in size! Founded 20 years ago, 11k employees (young demographic), 900k properties (increased from 820k in last 6 wks), 1m room nights booked every 24 hours, 24-7 customer service, 30m downloads, most access them via mobile.

Although very different companies between Anne & Peter they do face similar challenges.

Future for Tarmac – looking to solutions for sustainable and low environmental impact buildings. Set guiding principles for L&D about making it easy for learners to access learning in a simple, personalised and stimulating way.

In Leadership development, esp senior leaders, how do you help these people recognise that learning will help them deliver their strategy. Connect learning to the business. Also about developing leaders as learners and helping them build reflective practice into their habits – they use Health & Safety as the hook into this – if we don’t stop to reflect & learn from our mistakes we could make the same mistakes again.

Sharing the reflective learning loop : Experience > Critical Reflection > Make Sense > Make Informed Choice. Too often as orgs we have an Experience and make a Choice (not an informed one as no reflection or sense-making).

Research: 15% of leaders have learning agility – so 85% don’t!

In Booking.com they have specialists and they were receiving linear, vertical, controlled learning. They needed people who could translate their knowledge broader in a collaborative way with the rest of the business. There are 5 learning teams in the company. They’ve gone from 3 to 50 people and have created a learning catalogue. Their next step is to move to a learning culture. Anne was inspired last year by hearing Andrew Jacobs speak in his workshop, and by BBC and Visa who spoke about their coaching culture journeys.

Anne took her learning from that and asked questions about how she could help leaders work with more freedom and less control. Making learning just in time and just for me.

Anne used the Knowledge-Skills-Attitude model. The specialists valued Knowledge but had to ask what they were doing with it, are they self-reflecting when they make mistakes, what attitude are they taking towards learning. Engaged them in the need to move to a place where they could work with others across the business. Also had to work with leaders in how they coach and develop their teams. Both employees and managers need to own their personal development.

Came up with this equation to engage the business in this:


Development Question + Learning Activities = Your Self-Development

Anne’s key learning – adding ‘s’ to ‘activities’ helped broaden peoples’ thinking beyond training courses.

People connected with the simplicity. And they realised they were doing this non-consciously so this gave some people a boost that they were already being effective learners.

One example was where they got different specialists together, gave them a development question about How can you identify localised opportunities for yourselves sand your partners. They worked through it like a case study. It stretched them out of comfort zone so they were exhausted after day 1, and after day 2 they were energised, took the outcomes to their own areas and grew revenue.

Some people couldn’t get to a development question. They helped people to do this by developing managers as coaches so that they can enable the learner’s exploration, to stay quiet and breathe to give the learner space to think, to inquire deeper into the situation to find what the real question is. Big shift from the usual targets, task and performance-based conversations – and very effective.

From this the learner can then:

  • create a 70:20:10 learning plan for themselves
  • review the plan with their manager – a check point for what are you going to do, how will you know it’s working – not as a tick of approval, just as acknowledgement that they’re supported and being seen
  • implement it
  • demonstrate the difference it’s making
  • evaluate results.

Trained managers in the GROW model to be able to have these development conversations with their teams – keeping managers out of the detail or solutions. Taking managers away from control – and they loved it! They were able to have much richer conversations and feel confident doing it.

Anne’s piloting in a control-free way. Watching it in terms of who’s doing what, but not making people do anything.

Tarmac have also used coaching skills for managers to help people go through the critical reflection learning loop – connecting back to their guiding principle of helping others learn.

They run their coaching programmes over a number of months to embed new habits – you can’t do that through one learning intervention.

One of the learnings in both orgs has been about ensuring people stop and think to critically reflect :


You might not be able to learn whether people are doing this but you can measure the results at the other end – what impact is it having on ability to respond to challenges, to make change happen, to collaborate.

Another is about the difference between learning and training – how learning can happen in the moment, on the job. We notice it’s learning when we stop and reflect to notice what we’re doing and what’s changed or changing.

Booking.com are using facebook as an internal comms tool which there was resistance to but which is now giving a richness of conversation that wasn’t there before.


Q from the floor – how do you help people create time for learning?

A. Need buy-in from the top that this stuff is going to help the org progress in the direction they want it to. And also using coaching as a way to help learners think well for themselves means effectiveness improves so much quicker than always telling / solving for people – which then creates more time! Virtuous cycle. Need to start somewhere to start to change.


This has been live blogged from #cipdldshow 10th May 2016.  My intention is to accurately capture what’s being said and show the bits that I add but some mistakes might happen and my bias might show up. For more on this session check out #cipdldshow & #C2

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