Thursday, 15 May 2014

Notebook's back, alright!

A recurring theme for me in writing this blog has been about taking responsibility for development and how we can take control of how we learn and adapt what we do as a result of this learning. I think I've reached a point where I need to change, in order to make sure I am performing at a level that I am happy with.

I've been committed for a long time to working in a paper light way. I take a tablet to meetings and my desk is clear of paper. I started doing this in a previous role as I felt I was getting swamped with paper, and was finding that I was losing track of things. My role required me to take notes in meetings, and write letters based in those notes, so it made sense to do this on a laptop so I could copy and paste as appropriate.

I continued this in my current role in Staff Development, but I have become more frustrated with this more recently. I've felt that my tablet is getting in the way of being able to take the notes I want to. Partly it's to do with my tablet getting a bit old and slow, partly it's my typing speed, but the thing that really bothers me is that I can't get it to capture my thoughts in the way I want to.

I find myself thinking more visually than I used to, and wanting to draw more pictures and diagrams to show connections between ideas. I've not been able to find an app that will achieve what I want, so I'm going to pick up pen and paper again.

It was surprisingly difficult to write that sentence, as it can be hard to commit to change how you are going to work, but I think I will be able to perform more effectively by making this change. I will be using the function within Evernote to take pictures of my notebook so that my notes are accessible from wherever I am, which is an aspect of online note taking that has been a real benefit. I may have to use my tablet or my phone to read meeting papers, but that's OK.

Despite this change, my desk will still remain clear of paper! After all, HR has won a gold Green Impact award.

So what have I learnt in doing this? I have learnt that it is within my power to both anticipate areas for personal improvement, and to act on making these changes. I have also learnt that we don't have to always do things in the same way, and that what was once the right way for you, can become the wrong way. Again, it is within my power to make necessary changes to how I do things.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Where have I been?

It's been a long time, since I've blogged, but there has been so much happening that I should have been blogging about.

There have been four big things that I have been working on since I last posted in January. The biggest has been preparing the SRDS participation data reports for departments. Although this takes quite a long time, SRDS participation is still at a high level (88%).

The second big piece of work is to help make sure that SRDS conversations are as useful and productive as possible. As a team, we have revised the content of the SRDS skills for reviewers learning event, to focus more closely on key skills for reviews. I have also put together a set of webpages, for reviewers and reviewees to use, providing links to web resources and top tips to help get the best out of SRDS.

I have also been working on the Learning Management System replacement project, with colleagues from around the University, and we are in the process of putting together proposals. There will be more to report soon.

The final big thing we have been working on is a presentation for the Staff Development Forum spring conference. We were fortunate enough to be invited to deliver a presentation on Development Everywhere, and the story of how we came up with it. This was a great opportunity to share what we have learnt and ideas with colleagues from universities across the University. Here's an action shot, and hopefully we will have our presentation recorded so we can share it on the Staff development at the University of Sheffield Google+ community.

 So what have I learnt from all this? There has been a lot of bits of learning along the way associated with all these activities (such as how many times my computer will crash whilst generating reports from Access using visual basic - four. I must be doing something wrong!), but the key thing has been around how to capture all this learning. I had intended this blog to be a way to do this, but as I've already said, I haven't done very well at this. But, I have been using Twitter and Google+ to share things that I have learnt, both widely and within smaller networks I am part of. It has reinforced the importance of sharing learning, not only to spread knowledge, but also to consolidate my own learning.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Development everywhere is here

After a very hectic couple of weeks to get all our resources together and uploaded onto CMS, our new webpages are now live! Here's a screenshot of the front page;

The website contains a range of resources in each of our four themes, including learning events, videos, books, web resources and useful guides. I would strongly encourage you to have a look at these resources, and also to share the link with colleagues.

There are two key things on the pages that I would like to highlight, firstly the Understanding how you learn page. There is a strong emphasis in Development Everywhere on taking personal responsibility for your own learning. This page gives you help and guidance with how to do this, by considering what it is you want to learn about, and your preferred method for learning. We are also looking to develop this page further by providing templates you can use, if you want, as a way to plan and structure your learning.

Which brings me nicely into the second thing I would like to highlight. Scattered liberally throughout the pages are requests for thoughts and feedback. We want the webpages to change and develop, so feedback is really important to us.

So what's next? The next big thing for me is a project to look at what the University might need from a learning management system. You're not rid of me yet!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Personal development

I wasn't sure whether to post this, because I wasn't sure if it was too humblebraggy, but I decided to because I learnt something, and that's part of the point of this blog, to share what I'm learning.

I've been working in HR since 2004, and in 2006 I joined the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, as a student member, then as a Graduate member from 2008. That's enough of a journey through my CV, but since then, the next step has been Chartered membership. To get Chartered membership you need to demonstrate that you are working with an appropriate level of organisational impact, and demonstrating certain behaviours, by filling in a form, updating your CV and getting supporting statements.

Obviously the hard part of this is working at the appropriate level, and demonstrating the behaviours, but this wasn't really the barrier I faced to attaining Chartered membership, as I felt I was working at the right level. It had been something that I had reflected on in my SRDS for the past couple of years, and whilst it hadn't been an official objective, it was something that I felt I should commit to doing, as it would benefit my professional standing and career development.

So why didn't I do it? Time is probably a big factor, as there never seemed to be enough of it. I left my first attempt at that sentence in, because as I was writing it, I realised that it was wrong. It should read, "Time is probably a big factor, as I never made time to work on it". What I perceived initially as me being too busy, is probably on reflection, me not making the effort to put time aside to work on it. For those of you who have been on our time management course, I wasn't making time for an important but not urgent task. (If you aren't familiar with Stephen Covey's time managment matrix, you can find a version of it here).

Therefore the biggest factor in not doing the work was actually about me taking responsibility for my development, and making an effort to achieve the results that I wanted to. Having put in the time over some lunch hours and evenings, I got my submission ready, sent it off to the CIPD, and a few weeks later, I got my Chartered membership confirmed.

What I have learnt from this experience is further confirmation of the importance of personal responsibility in shaping decisions on how we prioritise our development. Nobody was going to do this development activity for me, so the challenge was about matching up the level of priority I placed on actually doing the work to the level of importance I placed on the achievement of it. I am aware this is an easy thing to write down, and it's harder to actually put it in practice, however it is definitely a useful reminder for me.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Who is reading this?

Our planned date to "launch" our new approach is looming. With that in mind, we've been working hard on writing content for our webpages. Here's a sneak peek of a draft of one of the pages:

What has been challenging about this for me is thinking about the voice of the words I use in the webpages, and linked to this, who am I writing for/to? I feel that a lot of the time I write as if I am speaking to an audience, but I think this is ignoring the fact that this is not the case. I am not speaking, and the audience is one person.

Who is reading this blog? You are. (Hello by the way) There may be other people reading it at the same time, so in a sense I am communicating with an audience, but it seems like a different type of audience, because you don't know that you are part of the audience.

Therefore, I need to choose words in the webpages that make it clear to the reader (as opposed to the audience) that the content is directed at them. This isn't going to be straightforward because as individuals we are all different, so will take different things from the content.

Another part of the communication as about who we are. We are making a very conscious decision to make it very clear who is writing the pages. A sneak peak of a very draft about the team page is below

Alongside this will be individual profiles of each of us, and the external trainers we use, so you know a bit more about us. This is important to us, because we want you to talk to us. We don't want to be faceless or unapproachable, because that isn't conducive to a supportive environment for us all to develop. We genuinely want to hear from you, because we don't want our communication to be all one way, through web pages.

A phrase we seem to be using a lot within our communications is "join the conversation". I like this phrase because it makes a clear statement that we want there to be two way dialogue between us and you. It also suggests fluidity, in that the conversation can be shaped by either side and change over time. To reiterate, we really want to hear from you about what we are doing or what is important to you.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Blog matroyshka

At the risk of this getting a bit meta, I thought I would blog about my process of blogging and communication more widely. The reason and inspiration for this post is a request from my manager to talk about Twitter, Google+ communities and blogs at the Organisational Development team meeting. I'm going to present (in some way) this post at the meeting, so I will be communicating to my team about blogs, using a blog as an example, hence blog matroyshka. It made sense in my head anyway!

As a team, we use Twitter and Google+ as part of the way in which we communicate about what we are doing. Due to the low number of followers we have on Twitter, we cannot use this as our sole means of communication, and the Google+ community is supposed to be a place for all University staff to share information on personal and professional development, so it doesn't belong to the Staff Development team. Therefore there are limitations with both of these methods, however they do provide a way for us to share information quickly and informally with people who are interested enough in what we might have to say to follow us on Twitter, or have engaged with development by joining the community.

But using these methods has presented us with challenges. As a team, we share responsibility for tweeting from our account. Something we struggled with was around the 'voice' of our account, and whether this should be consistent.  This was something that was actually quite tricky to achieve, and we asked questions like "what would our voice sound like" or "should we sign each tweet" or "should a person have responsibility for a week". We decided however that we would all have access to the account and tweet when we wanted to.

A challenge with Twitter that I don't think we've resolved yet is tweeting enough. One way to think about Twitter is it's like standing in the centre of Meadowhall and shouting to everyone about what you are going to buy. It sounds embarrassing, and I'm sure you would get funny looks! However, doing it once isn't enough, you need to keep shouting, and shout about different stuff, about what you had for lunch, about how you feel, about what everyone else is buying or eating, asking what other people are thinking of buying, or if they are getting the tram home, and so on. You need to come back day after day, shouting all the time. In Meadowhall, you couldn't keep this up for long without getting kicked out, but let's imagine that people don't come to Meadowhall to shop, they come to listen to people shouting, you need to shout the right things to get people to listen to you. And you're not the only person shouting, there are millions of other people all shouting at the same time, and you're all competing to get people to listen to you and only you, and trying to shout the loudest or the most profound or amusing or interesting or offensive thing.

Except of course, you aren't.

Twitter is a mass of noise, but I don't think that means you have to try and be louder or more overwhelming than the rest of it, you need to try and be a part of it that people will want to listen to. It is up to the listener to tune out what parts of Twitter they don't want to hear by following and unfollowing people. What we need to get better at is being ourselves more, and reflecting who we are as a team in how we tweet, for instance by putting our team photo on there. We also need to tweet more and about things other than just big announcements. In a way we perhaps need to think about how we can be quiet.

I am really pleased with how the Google+ community is developing and growing. Colleagues from around the University are engaging with the content on the community, and contributing items themselves for discussion. This is great because although we set up and moderate the community, it isn't the Staff Development team's community. It would be great if in time the majority of content was generated by community members, and for community members to become moderators. However, I think this will take time, but I don't think this is impossible.

The final communication tool I am going to cover is this blog, although I hesitate to call it a communication tool. This is because I'm not really sure who the audience is. I know one person who reads it, who for all I know may be the only person who reads it, and that's me. There is definitely something solipsistic and self-serving about blogging, but I don't think I can shy away from that. As a reflective exercise, I have found it really useful as a way to think about what I am doing in a new light, and gain insights into why I do things the way I do. I don't write it to share my wisdom with others, because I don't think I have wisdom with which to enlighten others. However, I have done some things, and written about what I learnt, which if other people read and take something from, then great.

I could of course keep a diary, which would help me to reflect on my own experiences, without it being a big public sharing. Sometimes, I also think "Do I need to get my manager, or her manager, or her manager to approve what I'm saying", or worry about what people will think about me if I write about a particular topic (such as I am doing now!). However, something that I have blogged about previously is the idea that development is everywhere, so in some ways this blog is a way to demonstrate that with an actual example of how someone can learn and develop from lots of different experiences that they have. It could also serve as an example of how we can share our experiences with each other. Or I could just be shouting in Meadowhall.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Out with the old...

In the next week or so we will be launching our autumn programme of development courses. This will be the last time we launch a programme in this way, as by January 2014, we will be delivering development in a different way. This is a very big change for us and how we operate, which we knew was coming, but it feels a lot more real now!

Another big change is the launch of the interim Learning Management System. As the previous one has broken, CiCS have worked very hard to develop a temporary replacement for us. Here's a screenshot as a teaser.

It looks really good, and works on smartphones and tablets, so you can access and book onto development activities from wherever you are (sounds familiar somehow!?).

We are in the very early stages of thinking about what system we may need as an organisation to support development activity, so there will hopefully be more changes to come to the LMS.

So what am I going to ask you to think about this time? We want our development offering to be more responsive, both to the needs of the University but also to the needs of individual colleagues. We also think community and sharing ideas is really important as there is a lot we can learn from each other. With this in mind, we put together a poster, including our four themes, asking "how are you going to develop your skills in these four areas?", and this is the question I would like you to answer. Your responses will be really helpful to us, to give us ideas for how development can be supported, but also to your colleagues, to hopefully prompt thoughts like "That's a good idea, I might give that a go as well".

Here's the poster: