It’s been over 2 years since I moved from deepest Devon to the Midlands and, as a consequence, I’ve had to work very hard to maintain the personal connections I made in that region. Being such a distance away means it’s not as easy to meet with old friends and, with a busy work and social life, time passes away before one realises. This may just be due to the certain age I’ve reached but that’s another article altogether!
I’ve also noticed a similar situation occurring in my professional life. For example, when I recently attended Learning Live 2015 (an annual conference for the learning & development community), I bumped into a number of people who I’d met a year earlier at Learning Live 2014 and yet hadn’t spoken to them at all in the interim. With one’s very closest and best friends, it’s possible to go for years without meeting and then pick up exactly where you left off, as if no time had passed – but is this the case for business relationships?
Most of the professional connections I have are either Heads of Learning or Chief Learning Offices working for large corporate organisations and responsible for the learning and personnel development of employees across the globe – a demanding role indeed!
I asked a number of them recently how they manage to keep up to date with their peers and also share their professional experiences. Many use a Personal Learning Network (PLN) but these tend to be rather informal, mainly based around social media and not necessarily having the desired focus or depth. As high-performing learning professionals, these Heads of Learning and CLO’s have an almost insatiable thirst for knowledge – which becomes harder to quench as the demands on their time increases.
I’ve been fortunate to be involved in an initiative at my workplace which aims to address the challenges described above. CLO Connect is a framework that allows the consumption of highly focussed and up-to-date information, whilst encouraging both group and peer-to-peer networking. The USP of this framework is that it delivers this content in blocks of time – meaning it can be diarised far more easily.
Since the network’s inception, the feedback has been extremely positive: several members have commented on how they are able share their experiences and gain a freshness of thinking that has helped them overcome strategic challenges. Being able to set aside time in the diary to compare notes, instigate research and create connections with peers has gone a long way to quenching the aforementioned thirst for knowledge.
We should all reserve space for personal interactions and learning. If we simply carry on and hope that activities will just happen, we might be disappointed when we find another year has passed and we’ve lost contact. This is a shame as, not only does the business lose out on potential knowledge sharing but we also experience a weakening of the important relationships that help focus our thinking and support us.
Reflecting on all of the above, I am now making a conscious effort to set time aside to nurture my personal and professional relationships. Keeping time aside formally in my diary to either network or simply have a conversation means that, hopefully, the next time I bump into someone at an event, the conversation will not begin with “has another year really gone by?!”
Find out more about CLO Connect by simply clicking here
About the author – Michael Strawbridge
Michael has been part of the L&D community for the past 20 years having originally being part of the Personnel Today & Learning & Training publication team. More recently Publisher at Sift Media responsible for all aspects of the award winning online publications TrainingZone.co.uk and HRZone.co.uk. Michael is now Head of Member Services at The learning and Performance Institute.
Connect with Michael on Twitter Michael_LPI