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Thursday, 26 November 2020

CHARITY TODAY AWARDS

Learning fast in the face of coronavirus

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Martin Baker explains how an agile approach to learning has considerable benefits in a crisis.

CHARITIES are continually having to adapt to change. Whether that’s due to coronavirus, funding cuts, restructures, the pace of technological change, a rocky political and economic climate, or all of the above.

Deloitte’s Human Capital 2017 report shows that successful organisations are those that can pivot quickly, learn rapidly and help their people adapt to new ways of working.

These are the principles which underpin ‘agile’ – an approach that can positively impact charities. Agile principles can also be applied to the way we work.

Agile working principles

Agile working involves empowering staff to work flexibly and remotely, with the aim of helping them to be more motivated, productive and efficient. As the saying goes, ‘work is an activity, not a place.’

This is especially relevant for charities at the moment. Getting bang for your buck from ever-tighter budgets and helping your team maximise their performance is vital in any organisation where your main asset is your people.

Using agile principles can help you thrive in a volatile climate. So why don’t more people apply agile principles to the way they learn?

How charities can apply agile principles to learning

1. Flexibility is key

Staff currently working from home will face all sorts of distractions, so it’s best to have a really flexible approach to learning. Never has it been more evident that learning isn’t about taking a day out of your diary to go on a course. Video learning and eLearning come into their own in these situations, but even 15 minutes of reading useful articles can help you get up to speed with new developments. Here’s a free resource to help learning professionals get greater value from those 15 minutes!

Our top tip: Use an app like Evernote or Pocket to collate links to useful articles and videos to catch up with when you have time.  

2. Focus on quality, not quantity

In the same way that a short, high-intensity workout can be as effective as a longer exercise session, go for the burn with learning and development.

It’s all about identifying the problem you’re trying to solve and then finding quick-fire learning resources that deliver results. And as an added bonus, it’ll be quicker to build this into your day too.

Our top tip: Identify the problem you’re trying to solve and then find good learning resources that will help you upskill quickly. For example, there are some fantastic free resources for responding to coronavirus on the CIPD’s website.  

3. Collaboration counts

Collaboration is particularly crucial while everyone is working remotely. Think about all the fantastic insights your charity colleagues could share. Similarly, if your team is to be the best they can be, they need to take every opportunity for peer learning.  

An approach I’ve seen work well is to build this into meetings. Rather than going around the table to just share information on a Monday morning call, make meetings short and regular. One of the hallmarks of agile is daily stand-up meetings, this may be a challenge at the moment, but keep video meetings focused on quick updates, what we have learned, and what we could do even better.

Our top tip: Change the emphasis of phone and video meetings to focus on rapid updates, next steps, and what everyone can learn from developments. There are lots of free resources to help teams transition to working remotely. Have a look at the links to the free webinars on our website

4. Fail fast and move on

Testing, learning and improving – or failing fast and moving on – is the way that most tech companies work. And I expect your organisation is working more like this in the current situation. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to create and run webinars or use virtual classrooms, now is the time to learn those skills, and fail and learn fast.

Our top tip: Look out for free webinars run by people like Donald H Taylor, Jo Cook and the CIPD. It’s easier than you think to get to grips with running webinars and virtual classrooms and their advice can help. We also have some tips that may help on our website. 

The future

The world charities work in is changing fast. An agile approach will help us keep our skills sharp to tackle the many challenges that the future will throw at us.

I’d love to see a point when charity workers feel empowered to take the time to learn something new every day in an easy, accessible way.

In the meantime, stay safe.


Martin Baker is the CEO of The Charity Learning Consortium, a group of over 190 charities collaborating to make eLearning more affordable and effective.

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