Transforming Learning and Development at Royal Voluntary Service

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WHEN Royal Voluntary Service joined the Charity Learning Consortium in 2005, as one of its founding members, its eLearning system was clunky and the focus was purely compliance. There was no L&D team to drive eLearning, so not surprisingly, it wasn’t that popular.

Today the much-loved charity has an L&D team which is creating multimedia, bespoke resources and courses as part of a blended approach to learning. Content used includes a wide range of eLearning and videos from the Charity Learning Consortium. The L&D team is focused on supporting the learning culture at Royal Voluntary Service, on developing a great user experience, and aligning everything to the organisation’s core values and needs. How did they achieve such an incredible transformation? Members of the L&D team explain some of the challenges they faced along the way, and how they overcame them. You can download a PDF of their story here, or read on!

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The learning challenges

 With 20,000 volunteers, as well as 1,200 staff, the sheer volume of numbers using eLearning created real challenges for the charity’s small L&D team. Jen Williams and Peter Wright, Digital Learning Designers, found that a large part of their day was spent answering queries. The charity’s eLearning site wasn’t easy to navigate, which made it difficult for people to find what they needed. eLearning had traditionally been focused on compliance, so it didn’t have a great reputation to start with, so this just made matters worse. All round, it wasn’t a great experience for anyone. 

“We had a huge number of inquiries every day,” explains Jen. “We’d spend our days answering phone calls and emails about passwords and site navigation and courses not completing properly.” 

Three key things helped the L&D team transform learning and development to the vibrant offering that it is today. They transformed the eLearning experience, encouraging self-help; turned their eLearning site into a one-stop shop for everything related to learning and development; and have spent considerable time and effort to inspire a new learning culture at Royal Voluntary Service.

Encouraging self-help

When Peter Wright joined the charity in 2017, he started keeping a spreadsheet to analyse where all the enquiries were coming from. This helped the team understand what needed to change. Improving navigation and signposting on the charity’s eLearning site, introducing self-help elements, such as answers to FAQs, were made a priority. Changes like these have made a massive difference to the user experience. An FAQ document explains how to log in, find and access courses from different types of devices, and aims to answer any technical issues users might experience. As a result, they’ve noticed a huge reduction in enquiries. “Previously we’d be swamped with daily phone calls and emails about basic issues such as users accessing the site. These could take the whole morning to sort out. The phone barely rings for stuff like that now,” says Peter. “We aim to inform people so they can solve their own problems, rather than doing everything for them. It means they’re better equipped to work their way through the site successfully.” 

“We’ve tried really hard to make everything bright and simple, to make it less overwhelming for the user and to make their learning pathway a little clearer,” adds Jen. “We’ve really focused on user experience. We want to make sure learners have the best experience possible so they’re going to come back!”

A one-stop shop

The L&D team have transformed their eLearning site into a central hub for everything related to learning and development. Rather than have resources spread out across the organisation, on various systems, everything is now in one place. The charity’s Learning Site doesn’t just offer eLearning, it’s a document library for anything related to development. Staff and volunteers can find a range of multimedia resources to help them, including:

  • eLearning provided by the Charity Learning Consortium
  • Bespoke resources and courses created in-house. Peter and Jen are using a variety of tools such as Storyline and Powtoon to create engaging, interactive content
  • Workbooks as alternatives to eLearning modules, so there’s a choice of how to access materials
  • Training packs enabling managers to deliver face to face courses locally
  • Webinars
  • PDFs
  • Tutorials
  • Videos
  • The full training portfolio and a training calendar, so users can see what face to face courses are on offer

Once logged in to the system, a short welcome video explains how Royal Voluntary Service’s eLearning site supports people in their roles. A compliance matrix and learning pathways have also been developed, to show what training is essential or recommended, to lead them through a learning journey. The team is planning to do further work to enhance this, continuing to develop learner pathways and develop a wide range of resources to support soft skills and personal development. Optional feedback buttons have also been added to some modules, as a trial, with comments helping to inform the work that the team carries out.

“We want our site to be the only place for our volunteers and employees to access learning materials,” explains Jen. “We want to minimise them seeing the site as being just for compliance or mandatory training and be somewhere they want to come, rather than have to.”

Learning culture

When Stacie Lloyd was first promoted to Training Manager in 2018, she made the learning culture at Royal Voluntary Service her top priority. She spent time with key people across the organisation including the CEO, directors and heads of departments, to understand the business needs and challenges. She created a training needs analysis and an ambitious corporate training plan and portfolio. She also developed a strategic intent, to outline how the L&D team would support the organisation’s needs.

“It was months of work to bring training, learning and development to the forefront of the charity, which had been missing for quite some time,” explains Stacie. “But we’ve got a real buzz around learning now.” The team is continuing to build on this momentum, sending out communications as often as they can – and not just about mandatory training that people need to book onto: “We try and send out some inspiring ones as well!” 

The team is also trialling a new training request form. They send this out as soon as they get an initial enquiry. This is designed to encourage people to think a bit deeper about their request: the business challenge they’re facing, their desired objectives and how they’re linked to the organisation’s strategy, and whether eLearning or any kind of learning and development is the right solution. 

When learning is needed, the form also prompts those requesting its creation to think about the materials they can provide, and the commitment they can make to developing something. “We want everyone to really think about the learning environment and learning culture at Royal Voluntary Service,” says Stacie. “Learning isn’t always the answer, but when it is, we want it to be a great experience for everyone.”

Stacie Lloyd is the Training Manager for Royal Voluntary Service. She works with Digital Learning Designers Jen Williams and Peter Wright. 

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