“I am not a number”: Training and developing the whole learner

Whilst the conditions experienced by the original “number six” in The Prisoner TV series were somewhat exaggerated – with lethal white balloons chasing down anyone trying to escape from the village – modern workplaces have become much more focused on tracking the behaviours and progress of employees.  As training teams, we are able to access increasing amounts of data about individual learners, from the number of attempts people are making at assessments to the amount of CPD being recorded.  Not to mention being able to benchmark learner performance against others in the team, firm, or even the wider Development Zone cohort. 

It can sometimes be tempting to focus solely on the numbers and colours – turning the last yellow block in a progress chart to green, without actually considering that it reflects the progress of a real person.  A red block in a progress chart can often be treated as failure or just laziness rather than provoking a conversation with learners or managers to identify and address problems.

The last year in particular has seen some significant changes in the way that we work, with many people working from home for an extended period – possibly for the first time in their career.  Hopefully by now, the majority of your learners will have adapted to the situation and will be effective and productive.  However, there will also be some individuals that have not adapted so well, or may be finding work a real challenge – some may have communicated this to their line managers, some may be easily identified by their performance, but others may be slipping “under the radar” showing no obvious signs of problems.

In several blogs, I’ve referred to red blocks on Progress Monitor reports and T&C Plans as being potential signs that individuals need help and support – this doesn’t just refer to their technical competence.  The Development Zone is an excellent tool for developing technical knowledge and providing evidence of competence but is also a great resource to support wider well-being of learners. 

One of the main negative effects of working from home can be the sense of isolation or remoteness from others in the company or team – using the Webinar feature to host a discussion about a topic can be both a great way of addressing a technical training need, but also a way of keeping in touch and maintaining the sense of camaraderie that would normally be found within a successful office-based team.

The course catalogue on the platform contains a range of excellent activities looking at aspects of mental health and well-being, as well as courses looking at some of the softer skills required when working from home, such as time management and preparing for (video) meetings. 

As part of regular appraisal meetings, supervisors and line managers may find it helpful to assign specific courses to learners to give them the time and validation needed to look at mental health or business skills as part of their ongoing training. 

Many of the activities on the Development Zone will trigger Badges as rewards for successful completion – these appear on the Achievement Wall of individual learners.  Why not challenge your team to include a proportion of badges for wider skills alongside their technical skills each month, and encourage them to share their achievements with others during team meetings and appraisals?

By including wider topics in the training programmes for your firm, the stigma of learning about mental health, or about “softer” topics can be overcome.  Over time, this will mean that your firm will benefit from staff that are able to identify problems more effectively both within their teams and when dealing with your clients.

About the author

After gaining a degree in Computer Science, Tim spent nine years teaching in a number of secondary schools (11-19 year olds) in Wales.  For the majority of his time teaching, Tim led a highly successful team of teachers delivering vocational ICT qualifications and reached the level of Associate Assistant Headteacher before leaving teaching.  He has also been a senior examiner and moderator for one of the UK's largest awarding bodies.  Since 2013 he has been the senior developer for the Development Zone.

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