Rewiring corporate learning #9: acquire a network

In his penultimate article on rewiring corporate learning, Nigel Paine looks at why, as an L&D professional, you need to have a network.

You might be the lone representative of L&D in your organisation, or top dog in a department with hundreds or staff. In both instances you need a network of experts outside your organisation. There are five reasons why:

  1. Organisations are all consuming, they suck in employees at all levels and the more you are sucked in, the less you will keep in touch with developments outside, and keeping in touch should be an integral component of your role. A network keeps you in touch.
  2. You need to be seen as an L&D player as well as an x or y corporation employee. You never know when you will need that network to help you get a new job. In all job openings, only players need apply!
  3. You will need help at some time. If, at that moment, you have a group whose expertise you can draw upon, you have the best opportunity to solve that problem quickly.
  4. You get to meet people you might be able to recruit at some point. To have a list of people in reserve, massively speeds up the time to get a replacement up to speed.
  5. You need to have regular conversations about learning in an environment that is non-competitive and with people whom you trust.

If you agree that a network is desirable how do you find one to join? The answer is, that you don’t have to. Sometimes creating one yourself can work better. Check out what exists, ask around. See what CIPD or ASTD does in your area, for example, and see if there is a group to grow or an established one to join. If there is nothing suitable check out Linked In, if that draws a blank then grow your own.

If you know one person only, ask them to bring someone along so the three of you have a chat session at somewhere convenient (maybe your workplace). If the three of you enjoy it, try to each invite a new member. If you get five for the second meeting then try again and you are up to seven or eight. That is a viable group.

Have a loose agenda, share issues; share problems and keep in touch outside the meetings. If you each agree to send one interesting article, or information about one new app per month you have a regular source of intelligence that will keep you in touch with what is going on outside. Without much effort you have created a bridgehead from your company to the more general world of L&D, a pre-requisite for rewiring corporate learning.

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