#cipdldshow: Influencing Business Leaders to Enbrace the Modern Learning Agenda

Session 2 of #cipdldshow with Tim Hallatt, L&D Business Partner of ATS Euromaster, James Mitchell, Snr Director of Global Talent Develoment of Rackspace and Warren Howlett of the CIPD is hosting.

Going for thought provoking and practical in this session with space for joint Q&A at the end.

First of all it’s Tim and context around ATS Euromaster. UK arm of a European business, Europe’s largest tyre repair company with about 30k people in 18 countries in Europe. Owned by the Michelin group which provides internal challenges because a retail & distribution org owned by a manufacturing org & the two people processes don’t always match. Operate in both B2C and B2B markets from wheelbarrows up to quarry machinery. 7 people in the L&D team. Challenge of 340 sites, 3-16 people in each location, presents a challenge of geographical spread rather than volume of employees.

The team are responsible for Leadership Development, Sales Development, Induction, Culture Change, Performance management, High Potential Programmes, Talent & Succession, Brand Values, 1:1 coaching & team development, Competency Framework Development. Nothing new here but more to come in terms of the modern learning agenda.

They won Talent Mgmt of the Year Award from Personnel Today last year – a great achievement & shortlisted for two other awards.

Pretty much done with zero external spend. The small budget they have is usually spent on CIMA for Finance team.

The need for change: acknowledgement that we can’t keep doing the same and expect different results. At the same time the board were planning to release a new strategy and a 2020 vision. This required achieving significant growth. Tim going to share last 12 months of the journey and how continuing to do that.

Modern learning agenda: what does it mean? Different ways of learning, using technology, adapting to different generations, delivering more for less, linking into the business. Three words can mean so much – and different to different people.

Noticing that downstairs the people in the exhibition hall are selling products that you need to stay ahead of the curve but we can’t have it all. What’s really down there and how can we use it?

Starting from where they were –


management structure been based on a model where you get promoted based on time served. Someone leaves and you’re next whether you want it or not. Those who were succeeding were committed but muddling through to do that so a lot of time & energy wasted by them & L&D team. L&D spent time being Dr – diagnosing problems & prescribing solutions then running to be Expert with people looking for an answer to a problem. Right thing in the past. Not in a place where could coach – they were management equivalent of toddlers.

Changed to consultancy model – What’s the agreed issue? What’s the agreed measure of success? What are our shared commitment and next steps? What’s the joint evaluation of this?

July 2015 went away to talk about 2020 Vision – what do we need to do to be fit for 2020. High double digit growth in profits. Asked leaders to go and understand different workstreams. They all came back to people. All came back to a lack of capability to do this. Perfect for an L&D to hear. How do we increase commercial acumen, improve communications and improve performance of people?

Journey involved constantly connecting to the business, using their language, answering the problems they want to solve to get to that future.

Started out in traditional space of workshops, workbooks, PowerPoint slides, coaching, sign-off, held in a central location.

Moved to on-demand learning. How 2 Guides, Video support, External links, Line manager guides, Expert network, FAQs, Remote coaching, Reading lists, etc.

Limited tech capability but do have an intranet so use that as platform for all this content. Stop thinking about what you can’t do. Start thinking about what you can. 80% of the business are using these tools to fill the small gaps they have. The 20% are then given more time and attention to fill bigger gaps. Less headless chicken for the L&D team.

Tim’s Top Tips! –

  1. Approach the year with this year’s thinking
  2. Partner with the business
  3. Keep stakeholders on what they’ll gain, not what they’ll lose
  4. Invest time in your team
  5. Communicate constantly with the business
  6. Be agile and flexible to adapt your plan – things change

If you gave me a blank cheque I could spend £100k’s downstairs but apply learning that’s right for your context – meet your learners where they are. Don’t run before you can walk. Stay alongside the business. Anything else won’t stick and in fact might be actively resisted.

So what does Modern Learning Agenda mean – it’s the modern agenda that’s right for YOUR business.


Next James feeling the need to up his game after Tim’s session. He’s decided he’s going to put the focus on ROI, building on what Tim’s already hared and connecting to the need to make relevant to your context.

In terms of ROI his experience includes: the challenge of “yes you can have £3m budget when we’ve felt that it’s different”. Then more recently “There’s no way we’ll adopt e-learning in this organisation. Why? Because that’s not how we learnt”. And highest accolade from anyone from Tax, “Your function is so significant it’s going to affect our tax.”

The business context; $2bn revenue, based in Texas, 130 countries, 350k customers, data centres around the world, 6k employees (Rackers), serve 69% of Fortune 500.

L&D look after technical training, profl dvlpmt, l’ship dvlpmt, induction (on-boarding), talent pipelines, team facilitation. 54 people across the globe in L&D but only 4 training delivery folk.

Adapted 70:20:10, because 10 is tough to break. His entire function is spent in the 70% because that stuff which L&D can’t control is where most value and learning comes from and gives them an agile edge in the market.

They focus as an org on being fanatical about customer service and on how people bring their best to the org every day.

James is checking about holiday booking and whether people get frustrated by slow search engines. Rackspace is moving to online. Holiday companies need to sell 1000’s of holidays to make pennies of profit. Need pace of internet. We won’t even wait 3 seconds without getting frustrated. Part of the Modern Learning Agenda is about meeting learners’ needs in terms of them having no patience! I want this and I want it now!

We need to make access to learning quick.

Life is not a box of chocolates. We don’t get everything we want. Learning isn’t about selecting your favourite chocolate. People want to customise solutions. L&D are a mixing studio.

Rackspace are using free stuff as much as they’re using bought stuff. We need to facilitate learning using LinkedIn, Pintrest, Vine, Skype, Facetime, Twitter…..they’re free and easy and everyone’s got them. Use what’s available.

Business strategy vs Learning strategy – key difference – more words in L&D! Make friends with Finance. They understand the business. Learn with and from them. They can then also give context to others about why L&D need the budget they need because they are known to have the context of the overall business needs.

They were spending millions on e-learning but blindly so not adding value. With their finance partner they did a calculation to show it could be done cheaper, better and faster. Martin Buckman’s strengths finder. James is self-assured and can sound like he knows everything even though he doesn’t. He wasn’t sure he could do it cheaper but he thought he could. And he had the finance person backing him up. If you don’t get the fundamental, commercial language of your business then you won’t be able to influence. It’s not about budget – it’s about “if you want this, this needs to happen”. Use equations with words, use %’s not numbers, describe what was different.

As well as Finance, make friends with the key HR person in the org. You can learn and support each other, advocate for each other.

Harvard Business Review shared insights about most effective learning orgs –


Be aware of the L&D team. If you say you want to drop or reduce face to face learning rime, people believe there’ll be redundancies & it’s time to move on. Not true – it’s about doing things differently, not doing less. In his team James has a curator of content, business partners – leaders in business who know learning, not learning professionals – Systems Architects, User Experience experts.

Use free stuff – Cosera, Alison.com, Future Learn, Latitude Learning, TED Talks, ….

Let go of what we’re used to, let go of “we can’t because we haven’t got…” – you’ll never have everything you want. Get a vision, share your passion, build relationships with key people and shift your mindset to being a business leader.


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 & #B2

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