AITD Conference – A Strategic Perspective


The Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) lined up a very full agenda for their national conference (7-8 June).  This, along with attending a pre-conference workshop and my role as Master of Ceremonies on Day 2, kept me very busy.


My key question

The key question I took into this conference was, “What are learning professionals doing to align their work with business strategy and demonstrate their value as business partners?”  While I gained insight from several speakers, some important shifts that need to be made were missing from the agenda altogether.

Alignment of L&D to Business Strategy

Business alignment was one of the themes in the panel discussion I hosted on transforming learning in your organisation.

With Day 1 MC Chemene Sinson, and panellists Marie Daniels, Anne Le Blanc & Tony Dunford

Tony Dunford from Westpac noted that Australian learning professionals are not recognised as valued business partners in the same way as in the United States.  Many US organisations have a Chief Learning Officer and see Learning and Development (L&D) as a key contributor to change across the organisation.  He suggested Australian learning professionals need to deliver more strategic solutions and help business stakeholders to prepare for the future.  Marie Daniels from Bayer recommended using business language and aligning initiatives to business metrics.  Anne Le Blanc from Telstra highlighted the importance of anchoring the work of L&D to business strategy and putting effort into gaining the endorsement of business leaders for your work.

Learning and Agile

Renetta Alexander from Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) presented on their Learning team’s journey to Agile.  Their strategic approach creates high value for the business. Thinking and working differently is necessary to remain relevant in rapidly changing organisations facing increasingly complex problems.  The BNZ team used tools from the business domain to re-examine their role.  One such tool is the business model canvas pictured.  This helped them apply business thinking and language. They adopted Agile work methods, including ‘sprint cycles’, to get closer to their internal customers and create value more rapidly.  More widespread adoption of business models and Agile approaches will build the credibility, impact and value of learning professionals.


Bakers Delight Measures L&D Impact

In a session titled From demonstrating impact to having impact, Justine La Roche presented a case study from Bakers Delight.  The title encapsulated her opening point; evaluating learning initiatives should help leaders make future decisions.  This is well worth incorporating as a criterion for any learning evaluation strategy.

I especially liked her advice to “think evidence not proof” – establish reasonable expectations with decision-makers about evidence that will demonstrate success. In my experience it can be difficult for business stakeholders to clearly state how they will know if a learning initiative has had an impact.  Learning professionals need to be able to guide a discussion or discovery process to determine what success looks like and define indicators, metrics and evidence.

Learning in the Field

Gina Brooks, from Training x Design, tackled the challenge of defining business success in her presentation What business really wants from training. A client was receiving poor customer feedback. They wanted to turn this around by creating a ‘premium’ customer experience. Gina took business leaders on field visits outside of their industry to find out what ‘premium’ meant. She helped them identify the behaviours that would create this experience for their customers.  While not a traditional L&D activity, getting involved early in defining the business solution helps ensure the learning initiatives will impact performance.  It also builds relationships and establishes credibility for L&D within the business.

What was missing?

I would have liked more on how learning professionals can be better business partners. Let’s invite some business leaders to the next AITD conference. I would like to hear about the major challenges they are grappling with and discuss how learning can help address these challenges. It would also be valuable to have a manager co-present a case study and talk about the experience of working with their L&D team.

Learning professionals are starting to adopt a performance mindset.  They need tools and skills to accurately identify issues underlying performance gaps and design appropriate solutions. This could be a full day workshop.

There was a pre-conference workshop on Data Analytics.  However, this was not followed up with a session on the main conference agenda. Kudos to the AITD for introducing this course to their ongoing training calendar.

In her closing address on the future of training and learning, Wendy Perry talked briefly about automation and artificial intelligence. This would make a great conference theme!  I would like to explore how L&D can use them to detect and diagnose performance gaps and learning needs. I’m certain they can also help us deliver solutions, support, continuous learning and efficiency. At the very least, the subject warrants a keynote address.

Continuing the Conversation

Thank you to the AITD for creating a rich learning opportunity for delegates.  Let’s keep the conversation going at the AITD’s ongoing networking events and on LinkedIn.

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Explore Business Problems Before Creating Learning Solutions

There is usually a sense of urgency from business leaders and managers when they bring a request to learning professionals. They often ask for a course to be delivered.   It can be tempting to immediately roll up our sleeves and start designing that solution. However, this quick response can fail to address the real business issue and people’s needs.


Instead of rushing in, I want to identify hidden needs, underlying issues and opportunities.  Then I can design a solution that addresses real needs and creates greater business value. I have been using agile and human-centric design approaches help me to do this.

In Episode 5 of my Learning Uncut podcast, I speak with Renetta Alexander and James Scoggins from the Bank of New Zealand. They have implemented agile and human-centric practices.  They describe how these practices have enabled them to deliver solutions that better meet business needs, and do so in a shorter period.  Listen to the full podcast to learn how they have done this.

I encourage you to look more closely at one tool they mention – The Opportunity Canvas.  This is a tool they use to “unpack the business problem alongside the business.”  It shapes discussion about a problem or solution.  I like how the tool takes both a business and user perspective.  It helps us to apply two shifts reshaping learning in organisations – a performance mindset and human-centred design.  To get started using this tool I recommend this article from business entrepreneur Niklas Stephenson.

Image source: Shutterstock

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Is Your Business Missing Momentum?

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds
the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” (1)

– Jack Welch

As a business leader you are aware of the undeniable shifts in the environment your organisation is operating and competing in.  The fourth industrial revolution is gathering momentum, characterised by automation and the adoption of Artificial Intelligence to augment the work of people.  Ironically, in the same era of massive technological change, there is increased emphasis on human experience.  The high expectation for seamless customer experiences makes customer-centricity an essential core competitive strategy.  Similarly, employee engagement and experience are key differentiators to attract and retain a talented workforce.  As lower order skills are automated, higher order human skills like critical thinking and emotional intelligence are increasingly important to deliver required levels of customer experience.

Many organisations have already recognised the volatility and pace of change mean they need to be more agile, and this demands new ways of thinking and working.  What has not been widely recognised by business leaders is that building momentum amidst these shifts demands that new, more agile ways of learning be embedded into the DNA of your organisation.

I’ve seen a recent wave of redundancies of learning professionals and teams across a range of Australian organisations.  This is typically a short-sighted cost-cutting measure. It demonstrates limited insight into the potential contribution of learning at a time when momentum is more important than ever before.  If you are doing this, or thinking of doing it, it’s imperative you stop before you lose a critical business asset.  Instead of getting rid of your learning professionals invite them to reinvent their role.  Let them lead the way to implement more effective, faster and transformative ways of learning in your organisation.  Continuous learning embedded in how things get done every day will ensure the rate of change on the inside of your organisation exceeds the rate of change on the outside.

I speak with learning leaders on an ongoing basis about their aspirations to make a bigger impact on business results.  I also facilitate a program to equip them with practical skills to work with stakeholders to co-create more effective solutions to deliver business results. I mentor them to act on these aspirations and engage with business leaders such as yourself to help transform their organisation.  I can tell you unequivocally they are ready to work differently with you to radically shift learning and build the business momentum needed to thrive and innovate amidst ongoing change.

Like you, they recognise traditional training is too slow to keep up with the speed of business.  It’s easy to fall into the training trap. It may be the predominant approach to learning you have experienced.  However, this is defaulting to command and control and stifles momentum.  It impedes agility and constrains you from making the critical shifts required to remain competitive.  It’s imperative to make a shift now, and to draw on people who understand real learning to make this happen.

Rather than having people wait for training to be ‘done’ to them, give them permission and support to learn as they go.  Build continuous learning into daily work.  There is a myriad of ways this can be done.  Run learning campaigns and challenges people can undertake as they work.  Provide flexible, on demand resources for people to access whenever they need.  Build reflection and feedback loops into natural points in the workflow such as end of shift, regular meetings and project gates. Build digital, collaboration and networking skills, and make it easy for people to connect with others inside and outside your organisation to solve problems, get fresh ideas and innovate.  Encourage experimentation.  Enable managers to support their people to learn from their daily experiences.  All these things are achievable – it’s what I support organisations to do.

When you integrate learning into the flow of work it no longer needs a label.  It becomes about working better, solving problems, improving and innovating.  It simply becomes part of the way people work.  To make this shift happen requires people who understand real learning and have the imprimatur to engage with leaders and systems across the organisation to bring this vision to life.

Ironically, the more transformative the contribution of your learning professionals, the more impact they have on your business success, the less visible they will be.  Stop thinking about making your learning your team redundant and invite them to reinvent their role and create business momentum.

Michelle Ockers works with business leaders who believe in learning. She mentors L&D managers and runs workshops to help them, their teams and stakeholders build business momentum and impact. Michelle welcomes contact from senior leaders who want to harness learning and make it a key lever to achieve business results. Her recent clients include Qantas, where she has guided strategic transformation of L&D.

[1] Welch, J 2000, 2000 GE Annual Report,

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The Training Trap

There is a hidden trap people fall into at your organisation.   Few are aware of the trap. It is so ingrained, most are blind to its existence. We’re ignorant of the part we play in sustaining it, and unaware of the damage it causes. I call it ‘the training trap’ – the false belief that training is the best way to develop knowledge and skills at work.

This collective blind spot begins in the school room.  As children, we are pushed through standard curricula in a depersonalised way. Our experience is based more on age than individual capability, interests or needs.  Schools mould us into passivity when it comes to learning in an institutional setting. This is how the training trap is born. As the mother of a teenager, I see schools continue to be teacher-centric. Students cultivate a mindset of waiting for the teacher to decide what to learn, when to learn it and how to learn.

Most of us unknowingly bring this same passive attitude to our careers. All over Australia and the globe, especially in corporations and government departments, people are waiting to be taught. Are your people waiting to be taught instead of empowered to learn and discover? Are you stuck in the training trap?

Yes, training has a place. It’s appropriate for novice skills, safety and essential compliance requirements. I’m not arguing against all training. But I am arguing against its indiscriminate use and substitution for real learning.  Research shows 70% of all training is wastage – quickly forgotten after the training event. If that doesn’t alarm you, this might. Your attitude to training is obstructing your company’s capacity to become competitive, adaptable and agile.

Do your managers place orders for training courses to ‘fix’ a wide range of issues?  Do the Learning and Development (L&D) team meet the orders, delivering training events or online courses? If this is the sum of how your people learn, it’s inadequate. It holds back your company, failing to unleash learning as a true force in your organisation.

Consider the cost of people waiting to be developed. Consider the value of allowing them to take action and develop themselves. Imagine the impact on your whole organisation when everyone has this permission.

Some companies don’t have to imagine, they’ve already begun. Their Citibank #BeMore program was created to ‘build leadership and manager capability, drive ethical and cultural change and empower employee-led development.’ Two areas of focus were Continuous Learning and Individual Development Plans. Citibank’s L&D shifted away from their traditional training role to support staff to learn more independently using the Three E’s of Experience, Exposure and Education.

Learning is a force to be unleashed and harnessed in your organisation. It has infinite potential to support you and your staff, and your work with business partners. In my recent work with Qantas I saw the excitement build for this change amongst staff, leaders and business stakeholders, as they opened their eyes, saw beyond the training trap and realised what was possible. Westpac is supporting their staff to develop ‘skills for life’ – portable skills that will be meaningful in any job role or organisation.  Their flexible approach allows people to ‘access the learning they need, when they need it, to the level they need it.’   These are companies leading the way, building a culture where learning is a critical part of everyday work.  It’s a lever to generate performance, innovation, transformation and competitiveness.

Learning happens when people do something differently and get better at their work.  Minds open, creativity flourishes, motivation and empowerment follow. People learn in realistic situations, in the midst of real challenges as they work, in their daily interactions with others. Waiting to be taught slows progress and impedes transformation. Your organisation can guide people to use learning as an important tool in your business. Learn to learn through trying new ways, experimenting to solve problems, observing and reflecting on what happened and how it could be improved. Become bolder when meeting challenges and collaborate courageously while looking for the opportunities that stretch and engage us.

Learning is in its infancy in those organisations struggling to maintain control. They lag behind more agile organisations who have let go and now share responsibility for learning. Phrases such as learning culture, social learning and self-directed learning have rightfully created excitement in recent years. Whatever the words, give your people the opportunity to understand the meaning and impact of these important concepts, and the skills to get on with learning every day.

I help organisations who want to escape the training trap.  Yes, it’s difficult. Letting go of control always is.  But if you want to address the extraordinary challenges your business faces, indeed the threats to your survival, you’ll need to learn how to harness the creativity and optimism of your people.

Michelle Ockers works with business leaders who believe in learning. She mentors L&D managers and runs workshops to help them, their teams and stakeholders become high impact business partners. Michelle welcomes contact from senior leaders who wish to harness learning and make it a key lever to achieve business results. Her recent clients include Qantas, where she has guided strategic transformation of L&D.

Image source: Shutterstock

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Motivation to Learn in Flatter Organisations

During a discussion with the Procurement Director of a large corporate last week she was exploring the impact of flatter organisational structures on career development and learning for her team.  The elimination of layers in the organisational hierarchy has reduced her ability to offer her team members promotion through a series of more senior roles.  She asked: “How do I motivate young people to learn when I cannot offer them career progression?”

At first this seems like a tricky question to answer.  However, the question can readily be flipped around to become an answer.  A key motivator for people (young or otherwise) to be lifelong learners is the lack of predetermined career paths as a result of a range of changes including less hierarchical organisation structures.  The lack of clear career progression within a department in an organisation makes it more important than ever for people to continuously learn.

One of the key reasons for people to upskill used to be to compete for promotion in their current organisation.  However, forces such as an increasingly competitive global business environment and digital disruption have resulted not only in fewer layers in organisational hierarchies, but new structures including networks and temporary teams.

The employment relationship is also shifting, with an increasing number of people working in the ‘gig’ economy on temporary contracts or as freelancers (2016 studies in the United States, European Union and Australia estimated 20-30% of the labour force are freelancing either full time or part time.)  Both the changes to organisation structures and the gig economy mean that work is being organised more on a project or task-by-task basis rather than people having a consistent job role.

Where people continue to work in permanent job roles they change jobs more frequently – the average job tenure in Australia is now three years and four months.  This trend is not restricted to people early in their career.  Australians aged 45 and over typically stay in the same job for an average of 6 years and 8 months, compared with 10 years in 1975.

Even if someone were to remain in the same job for an extended period, advances in technology and automation mean that the nature of the work in that job will change.  A McKinsey study released in January 2017 showed that automation using current technology will change the daily activities in all jobs to varying degrees.  With ongoing technological developments this impact will grow.

The four key shifts described above are:

  • Flatter, more networked organisational structures
  • More temporary work engagements
  • More frequent changes in job role
  • Advances in technology changing daily work activities

These shifts make the career path of any individual more fluid than ever before and make it imperative to take charge of their own learning.  In this environment it’s critical for people to learn continuously to stay abreast of change, keep their knowledge and skills current, remain competitive, create new opportunities, and reinvent themselves.

The content of this post is based on my preparation for an upcoming keynote speech I am giving at a professional development conference on the theme of ‘Be Future Ready.’  Enquiries regarding event speaking can be directed to me via LinkedIn or 


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Learning and Development Benchmarking with Towards Maturity – Australasian Insights

I’ve just registered for the ‘Unlocking Potential in Australasia’ webinar hosted by Australian Institue of Training and Development on 23 October 2017. This session is effectively the launch of Toward’s Maturity’s first Learning & Development (L&D) benchmarking report focused on the Australasian region. Laura Overton from Towards Maturity will explore what the research using their global benchmarking database tells us about how the practices of Learning and Development teams in Australasia compare with top performers across the globe.

I recently wrote an article about how Qantas has used the Towards Maturity benchmark as part of an organisation-wide review of L&D.  I’ve been working with Qantas over the past year on a transformation program. To help identify strengths and opportunities across the many L&D teams at Qantas we had eight teams complete the benchmark.  Towards Maturity then analysed their input and compared results and practices with selected regional and industry sectors. This helped Qantas to identify opportunities and learn both from others across the organisation, as well as from those in relevant sectors outside of the organisation. This is now being used to help inform both strategic and tactical actions to improve the impact of L&D. The article highlighted lessons extracted from the benchmarking in three specific areas:

1. Technology-enabled learning
2. L&D capability
3. Learner context

You can read the full article on the Towards Matuirty website:

What have Qantas learnt from the TM Benchmark?

I’m looking forward to seeing the new report on how we compare in the Australasian region versus our L&D colleagues around the globe. If you haven’t already registered for the webinar, go ahead and register here.


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Why Business Needs Learning and Development

Untapped potential in Learning and Development (L&D) is a lost opportunity in most large Australian businesses. Whilst executives wonder what L&D does, L&D doesn’t get a hearing. Meanwhile, organisations and their people miss significant opportunities.

Executives look for answers in all directions – wrestling with over-regulation, meeting customer expectations, digital transformation, and improving productivity and profitability are all front of mind. Meanwhile L&D waves from the sidelines, hoping to be seen. L&D knows they can contribute to these issues, but struggle for influence and impact.

Is L&D missing from your line of sight? Do you just give them a nod of acknowledgement? They look after compliance and training courses, right?

If this old school view of learning sits in your business, you may be in trouble. Look at competitors and notice what the best are doing with learning. It’s transformed. In fact, they are embedding learning into work. The L&D function has adopted an explicit focus on performance. They are sharing responsibility for learning and performance with managers and staff. They are connecting people with each other across their organisations and beyond organisational boundaries to share knowledge and improve practices and outcomes.

Outside of work your people are learning in connected ways. They use the internet and digital tools to acquire and share information and evolve knowledge with others. These approaches have already changed your people’s lives, whether you are harnessing them or not.

I’ve participated in – and now lead – the ‘coming of age of learning’ in businesses. I was stunned to hear the former CEO of a Big 4 bank recently tell a gathering, “It felt like my L&D team worked for another organisation.” What a shame.

I’ve worked with senior leaders who expect more from learning and get it. From 2012 to 2016 I established and led the Supply Chain Academy at Coca-Cola Amatil. Our Director treated learning as a strategic tool. He expected his executive to use it as a lever for improved performance. And that’s what it became. In one instance we were tasked with addressing a business continuity risk. Critical operational processes and IT systems were reliant on a dangerously small number of experts. Delivery, quality and cost targets were being compromised given how few knew ‘how everything worked.’

We looked at the problem. Expertise was spread unevenly in operating locations across the country. Practitioners had limited connection to peers at other locations, and were busy keeping local operations running. They saw learning as separate to work, and had no time for it.

We created a network of practitioners who could share their knowledge and make it easier for them to learn and get better at their jobs. We used the many ways people learn to create individual, group and networked approaches. The Supply Chain Academy created a culture of sharing, collaboration and innovation. The Academy’s work won awards and recognition globally. It’s even been replicated in other Coca-Cola markets.

The project was well-supported and the flow-on significant. More effective problem solving and processes were created as a direct result. Operations ran more smoothly and productivity improved. Experts had more time to work on innovation and business transformation.

And this is my point. In a continuous learning environment L&D moves from creating and organising courses to building an entire culture of continuous learning. L&D prepares maps and equips people so that this culture flourishes. Importantly, L&D knows how people can learn as they work. They understand and enable knowledge sharing and learning networks. Treated with the respect and excitement it deserves, learning is not a disruption or burden. It’s all about potential. As it creates pride, connection and inspiration, people carry that spark with them every day.

Learning is an innate, deeply-human desire. Every CEO should know how to harness this for their business. I invite you to work with those who know how to activate your people. Your staff want to get better at their work, connect with others and continuously learn. I recommend you pull up a chair for your future Chief Learning Officer.

Michelle Ockers works with business leaders who believe in learning. She mentors L&D managers to help them become future CLO’s. Michelle welcomes contact from senior leaders who wish to harness learning and make it a key lever to achieve business results. Her current clients include Qantas, where she is guiding strategic transformation of L&D.

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Learning and Development Practitioners – Benchmark before 15 July to Improve Your Impact

Did you know it’s “benchmarking season” in Learning and Development?  Every year Towards Maturity take a close look at what learning organisations around the globe are doing and what is driving high performance in these organisations.  While they are constantly working with the data that they gather through their online benchmarking centre, they comprehensively re-examine it annually and issue a new benchmarking report in November. The deadline to complete this year’s benchmark are receive a free personalised report is 15 July.

If you’re ready to get started without reading more use this link to access the benchmark.


Benchmarking is about finding ways to compare your performance and practices with peers.  This allows you to identify improvements, examine how top performing organisations are achieving results and act to improve your own results.

When I was leading an Academy at Coca-Cola Amatil and in my current role helping Qantas with Learning transformation I’ve used three approaches to benchmarking.

Professional Networking

Use existing professional associations and networks to learn about what others are doing. Attend networking events and, if your budget extends to it, conferences.  Find and participate in online forums and communities, especially those where case studies are shared and people talk about how they work.

Develop your own network.  Build relationships with people by interacting with them, discovering common interests, and finding ways to contribute to them.  Ask about their work and be willing to talk about yours.

Use Research

Find relevant research published by others.  If you can’t afford the fees to subscribe to professional research organisations you may find free or low cost summaries or webinars that you can access.  Check the independence of the publishers, and read the fine print about how the research was conducted to inform how you interpret and use the research.

Complete the Towards Maturity Benchmark

Over the past few years I have found the Towards Maturity Benchmark an essential tool to reflect on the effectiveness of the L&D strategy in organisations I work with, help me demonstrate the value and benefit of investments made and to identify tactics to improve the impact of L&D.

After completing data entry in an online benchmarking centre you receive a free Personalised Benchmark Report.  The report shows how you compare with peers (over 600 participants in the 2016 data set).  It provides insights to help you improve specific practices such as defining business need, aligning learning with work context and engaging learners.  It also helps inform decisions about updating your approaches to learning.  The insights are well worth the 45 minutes that it takes to complete the benchmark.

If you have a team, I recommend you include some of them in discussion as you complete the benchmark.  It is a good group reflection activity and can generate high quality debate.  You are then better positioned to include your team in review of the results and get buy-in to improvement plans.  Allow two hours to include others in benchmark completion – a low investment compared to other methods of benchmarking, especially considering the insights provided by the personalised report.

In coming weeks I’ll post about some of the insights I’ve gained using the Towards Maturity benchmark and practical advice on using benchmarking.

2017 is particularly exciting for Australian L&D practitioners as Towards Maturity will publish an Australia specific report.  There is added incentive for us Aussies to complete the benchmark before 15 July.  I encourage you to take the time to complete this valuable exercise.

Get startedhere’s the link to the benchmark.



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Benefits of Internal Collaboration

Community logo with textEarlier this week I was interview by HR Daily in advance of my presentation at the Workplace Learning Congress (8-9 June 2017 in Sydney) on Advocating Working Out Loud in your Organisation.  The interview discussed the benefits of internal collaboration.  Full text of the HR Daily article is posted below.  Please contact me via LinkedIn or Twitter if you would like to discuss how to build collective capability in your organisation through knowledge sharing and collaboration.

Benefits of internal collaboration too great to ignore

Too many organisations are not yet recognising the benefits of fostering collaborative online employee networks, an L&D strategist says.

Many employers today have an internal social network, or use Yammer or SharePoint, but far fewer are realising the full potential of online sharing, says learning practitioner and collaboration expert Michelle Ockers.

Some fear inappropriate comments and behaviour, others are overly concerned about sharing information too widely across the organisation. But a bigger risk, she says, is the “opportunity cost” of not utilising collaborative networks.

There’s a “business continuity risk”, for example, of employees failing to pass on unique and valuable knowledge. “There’s that risk they walk out the door with it, because there haven’t been active efforts to cross-pollinate, to share it, and not everything can be written in documents and trained – there’s a lot of tacit knowledge-sharing that you risk missing,” Ockers says.

There’s also an increased risk of unnecessary rework and duplication – “if people aren’t connected and working openly, there’s a lot of waste and cost in that” – and the risk of losing employees who thrive on online collaboration and networking, particularly those from younger generations.

The benefits, on the other hand, can create a significant competitive advantage, and have a big impact on productivity. Regular status updates among members of a project team can, for example, make for shorter, more efficient meetings.

“I’ve sat on projects where we’ve transformed project team meetings from status updates more to getting straight into issues, risks and so on, because people were providing their status updates online,” says Ockers, who is currently reviewing Qantas’s L&D approach, and previously held senior L&D roles at Coca-Cola Amatil.

The key to effective online collaboration is to be clear about the purpose of the network, and structure it accordingly, she says.

“Think strategically… what is going on in your organisation and what is it in your strategy that you need to address?” If the strategy is to leverage internal expertise more effectively, the focus might be solely internal, but if the organisation needs to stay abreast of certain cutting-edge fields of knowledge and expertise outside the organisation, the approach might be to assign key people to build external networks and collaborate there, before bringing that information back to in-house networks.

HR should ask, “what are the relevant communities of practice or bodies of knowledge we want to connect people around?” and consider setting up different forums around different interests, projects and topics, Ockers says.

Differentiation is important because if employees know their knowledge is relevant to all members of a community, they’ll be more likely to share with greater detail.

One way to improve internal network participation is to get senior managers and executives to lead by example by sharing updates on their own work and thoughts, she says.

“I worked at one organisation where the CEO did a weekly blog… She wrote about what she’d been doing that week, what sort of things she’d been thinking about, who she was meeting with and the kind of conversations she was having. She put in a little bit about her family and what was going on for her personally. It made her very approachable and it gave people a sense of what was on her mind and the direction she was heading, which was very powerful.”

Some leaders will require coaching on how to increase their online presence, others will simply need encouragement. HR can also consider running regular events to increase participation, such as monthly chats where different leaders field live questions or answer questions that have been submitted beforehand.

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Demonstrating Value from Working Out Loud Circles in an Organisation

This is the second in a two-part case study on the first wave of Working Out Loud Circles at Coca-Cola Amatil.  The first post discussed how the Circles were set up and supported.  This second post  discusses the evaluation and outcomes.

Recall from the first part of this case study that this was the first wave of Working Out Loud (WOL) Circles run in the organisation, and that it was done as a grass roots initiative, with a senior manager as sponsor.  The purpose of the experiment was to understand the potential value of the Circles in the organisation in order to get management support.  We were also interested in how we could run future Circles effectively.

WOL Circle Stories

I read some statistics this week about the low number of  people who make it all the way to the end of a blog post.  So, I’m posting the bit that don’t want you to miss out on first.  (BTW – there’s some good stuff further down so be sure to at least skim through – most of it is presenting visually and easy to understand.)

As part of demonstrating the value of WOL Circles some of the participants agreed to make a video discussing the value they got from being part of a Circle.  These videos can be used in a range of ways to promote Circles in an organisation, including getting support of managers and encouraging people to join a Circle.  Thank you to Navya Chandran and Justine Jardine for agreeing to their videos being shared publicly.


Two weeks after completing their Working Out Loud Circle participants were sent a survey – 13 responded.  Topics covered in the survey were:

  • Individual goals – what type of goals did participants set, how much progress did they make on their goal, and how did the WOL Circle help them to work on their goal.
  • WOL program – program structure, duration, activities, materials, and participant time
  • Individual value – what people can do as a result of participating in a Circle
  • Organisational value – potential benefits of WOL Circles to the organisation
  • General feedback and recommendation to others – including asking participants whether they would be willing to be interviewed and have their story shared with others
  • Facilitator questions

Here is a link to the full set of survey questions.  This survey was adapted from one used internally by Bosch since 2015 and generously shared with other organisational WOL Circle practitioners such as myself.  Thank you to Cornelia Heinke and Katharina Krentz from Bosch for the support they provided me in getting started with WOL Circles inside an organisation.

I prepared a summary PowerPoint presentation and made a short screencast video.  I shared both broadly via the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) and with a number of managers who had previously expressed an interest in WOL Circles.

Individual Goals


Participants made good progress towards their goal with the support of the WOL Process and their WOL Circle peers.


Participants were positive about using WOL to make progress on a goal.


Individual Value

Participants overwhelmingly believed that Working Out Loud had improved their skills in networking, accessing information and expertise, and sharing knowledge.  They also felt more in control of their professional development and career, and more fulfilled at work.


Potential Organisational Value

Again, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  Participants thought that Working Out Loud could help the organsiation be become more collected and collaborative. Note that some of the statements in this section of the survey were aligned with transformation goals specific to the organisation.  If you are going to run a similar survey I recommend customising the statements to your organisation’s strategy and goals.

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Participant Recommendation


All participants recommend Working Out Loud Circles to their colleages.  92% stated that they would participate in another Circle.

Social Proof – Participant Videos

John Stepper recommends internal social proof as one way to get management support for WOL Circles.  Short participant videos discussing their Circle experience and the benefits of Working Out Loud are one way to do this.  If you haven’t already done so, go to the top of this post to view a sample of the ‘WOL Circle Story’ videos that we made.

I was inspired to make these by the videos shared by the University of Melbourne.

What Next for WOL Circles at CCA?

The short answer is that I’m not sure.  I moved on from CCA shortly after completing the evaluation of our first wave of WOL Circles, in September 2016.  At the time of writing this post no further Circles have been run at CCA, which is in the midst of a significant change program.  The first wave of Circles seeded some Working Out Loud champions in the organisation, and demonstrated how easy and low-cost it is to run Circles.  There is also a WOL site on the SharePoint intranet where a record of the Circles can easily be found.  My hope is that between these assets and the participants that remain in the organisation that further WOL Circles will be run.