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118 | 9 tips to unlock training success when you’re a busy HR professional
Episode 1182nd February 2024 • HR Coffee Time • Fay Wallis
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Even though you’re excited about the course you’ve signed up to, it’s easy to veer off track with it when you’re juggling a demanding HR job. So, to help set you up for success & make the learning from the course stick, this episode of HR Coffee Time is here to help. In it, host, Fay Wallis shares 9 tips to unlock training success when you’re a busy HR professional. 


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Neuroscience for Learning and Development, by Stella Collins


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Hello and welcome back to HR Coffee Time. It's great to have you here. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach with a background in HR, and I've made this podcast especially for you to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR or people career without working yourself into the ground.

For today's episode, I thought I would start off by asking you a question. Have you ever been excited about signing up to a new course or programme, but then you found yourself panicking when the time comes around to get started with it because you have so much else on your plate at the same time? Or you find yourself enjoying the course, but you struggle to remember what it was that you learnt once it's over, and then you feel disappointed that you haven't got the most out of it.

If you're nodding along and thinking, yes Fay, that's exactly what's happened to me before, please don't worry, you're absolutely not alone. I've struggled to fit courses and training in myself even though I absolutely love learning new things. And now that I've created and run so many different types of training and programs myself, I've seen what a challenge it can be for other people too, and I've also seen what can help people to stay on track and get the most out of the program that they're on.


In fact, these things can often be really simple and easy to put in place once you're aware of them. They can make such a big difference in helping you stay on track, stay engaged, and remember what you've learnt. It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently, because if you're listening to this on the day that it goes live, I'm excited to be able to say that my group programme Inspiring HR is starting up again.

It's the sixth time that I'll have run it, and I cannot wait to get started and meet the newest cohort of people. So I hope these tips are going to be a really big help for you, whether you're joining Inspiring HR, you want to join a different course or program. Or you'd like to find ways to help people within your organization set themselves up for success when they're attending internal training or external professional development.


There are nine tips in total that I'm going to share with you today, so let's get cracking and dive into them right now.

As an HR or people professional. One of your biggest challenges is probably time because your role can be so busy. I know it can feel like you're constantly rushing from one task to the next with constant firefighting popping up without warning in between, so it's probably not going to be a big surprise to hear that my first tips are all to do with time. Tip one is all about planning ahead. Once you've signed up for that exciting new course or programme, Go ahead straight away and block off the time in your work calendar.


I know it sounds so obvious, but it's incredibly easy to overlook, especially if the course date is a little way off in the future, or you're really busy in the moment that you book it and you think, oh, I'll remember to put that in my calendar later. But before you know it, you're scrambling to rearrange meetings and commitments at the last minute and it all starts to feel really stressful and you suddenly realise you might not be able to attend all of the modules or all of the weeks that it's happening.

So grab your calendar as soon as you sign up to anything and put those dates in it straight away. I know it's such a simple step, but trust me, it can just save you a world of stress. Tip number two is to give yourself the gift of a buffer. When you're putting the training dates and times in your calendar, try not to just block out the exact time

that the course or the program is running. If you can add at least a 15 minute cushion before and after, it makes a massive difference. It gives you a bit of space to breathe because you don't want to sprint from a meeting and go straight into your training session or your program or your course feeling stressed out and your mind elsewhere.


You want to give yourself that little bit of breathing room So that you can transition in calmly and ready to learn and absorb more. Also, if you have that buffer on the end as well, it means that if the session overruns, or you find you've got a really important question that you'd like to ask at the end of the session, or you just want to make sure you're giving yourself time to reflect on what you've learnt and make some additional notes, you can!

Because you haven't got another thing booked into your calendar straight away. Tip three is all about helping you succeed with tips one and two. And this is to communicate with everyone around you about the fact that you've booked yourself onto a course or a professional development programme.


And with this, it's helpful to remember that people need to hear a message multiple times before it sinks in. So If the training is taking place outside of work hours, you might need to tell your family, so it isn't a shock when you suddenly want to disappear for two hours and you need to ask someone else to cook dinner or put the kids to bed, or it means you're not going to be able to go out to social events on the night that your course is taking place.

want to try and make sure you're eliminating any potential stress at home. If it's daytime training, try to give your colleagues as much notice as possible. Hopefully, I really hope this is the case, the workplace that you're in recognises and encourages the benefits in creating a learning culture, as it's something that can help drive businesses forward and set organisations up for success.

Ideally, we want to be encouraging people to develop and improve so that they can bring innovative ideas and tools into our workplaces. So the fact that you're taking your professional development seriously is a positive thing and it's a positive message to be sending to everyone around you. Let the people around you know what you've signed up to and why.


You may find yourself really surprised by how interested some other people are in hearing about what you're learning and finding out how you're going to be applying it at work. To help the message sink in, you could even try doing something like adding the dates and times that you won't be available, put those in your email signature, so that everyone gets a reminder each time they send you an email.

They get that updated email signature saying, as a reminder, I'm not going to be around on these dates and these times. Tip four is to not only tell everybody what you're going to do, but it's also to ask for support with staying on track with safeguarding your time that you need to be on the course.


So this can involve forming just a tiny bit of a contingency plan. Because as an HR or people professional, you're in an important role and you're often the person that people automatically turn to if they have something that crops up that feels really urgent. So having a plan in place for who people can turn to if they absolutely cannot wait for an answer is another useful strategy.

Think about what happens when you go on holiday, or you take annual leave. Hopefully you're not expected to be on call 24 hours a day in those instances. If you are, it might be time to think about getting a new job. So, as well as letting people know that you're attending training and won't be available, you can also communicate who to turn to if an emergency crops up.

Perhaps it's one of your colleagues, or if you're in a standalone role, it could be a different member of the management or leadership team. Or it could even be an external HR service that the company might use as a backup from time to time. Putting all of this information in your out of office email message can be a helpful reminder for everyone.


So if someone does try and get in touch with you, straight away they're given a clear instruction on when you'll be back and available And who they can contact in the meantime. Tip five is if, despite following tips one to four, something crops up at work that absolutely can't be avoided, schedule some time in your calendar for catching up with what you've missed.

Especially if you're attending an online training, those sessions are often recorded. I always record the Inspiring HR sessions for the cohort, and then I always share a private link to the recordings with everybody in that cohort afterwards, because I know that even if everyone did attend, often people like to re watch them and refresh their thinking about the learning.

I recently signed up to an online course, it's actually an online drawing course, something quite different, and I caught up with what I missed by watching the recording while I was doing my ironing at the weekend, because I do the ironing most weeks at the weekend, and I usually use that time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks or chat to my mum on the phone.


Instead, I propped up my iPad next to the ironing board and I watched the recording. Whenever there was an exercise that had to be completed as part of the training, I switched off the iron and I drew the exercise on a piece of paper rested on the ironing board. It meant the ironing took a bit longer than normal, but I also knew I just didn't have any other slots in the week where I could easily make up for the missed time.

So it may be you've got to be a little bit creative in your thinking if you have got a packed schedule, but please do try and make the most of that training that you have signed up for by catching up with anything you've missed. Tip six is to write down why this course or training is important to you.


Is it going to help you achieve a particular goal? Is it going to help you progress in your career? Is it going to help you feel more confident? Why have you signed up to it? What do you want to get out of it? I know that you're probably always supporting everyone else in the organisation and putting everyone else first, but you deserve to give yourself development time too.

And to help keep your motivation up if work gets particularly busy and you have people asking if you can duck out of one of the sessions to help them, reminding yourself of why you're doing this can make it easier to gently say no to other demands and stay on track. If you have an HR planner, write it in your planner.

If it helps to write it on a post it and stick it on the edge of your computer screen, where you can see it all the time, use a post it. If you want to set it as your phone's screensaver, we look at our phones more than anything else, then put it on there. Because reminding yourself why you're doing something can be really powerful at just helping keep you on track with it.


Tip number seven. One of the best ways of embedding learning is to teach what you've learned to others. It could be a colleague at work you'd like to share what you've learnt with, or a friend or family member who's interested in hearing all about it.

I remember when I did my DISC training a few years ago. DISC is a behavioural preferences assessment. It's a really helpful way of helping people in teams to understand each other. I was so excited about what I'd learnt at the time, I couldn't wait to share it with my sister, but when I started trying to explain it to her, I realised that my knowledge was hazier than I thought, which made me revisit some of the course content to make sure it had fully sunk in.

A lovely surprise from running Inspiring HR has been having some of the participants tell me that not only have they found the content of the programme helpful, but they've also enjoyed seeing the facilitation techniques that are used on the programme, and they've then practised using those facilitation techniques themselves when they're delivering training internally as part of their roles.


So whatever part of the training it is that you really, really want to remember, it's a simple but again, a powerful tip. See if you can teach it to someone else or see if you can use the learning straight away. Tip 8. An incredibly valuable resource available to you when you're part of a course or a program is the other learners.

I've talked so much on the podcast about how much of an impact your network can have on your career, so I won't talk about it in detail now. Instead, I'll make sure that I put links in the show notes to all of the networking episodes, so you can listen to them afterwards if you want to. One of the reasons I love running Inspiring HR is seeing the friendships grow between the people who attend each cohort. My aim is to help everyone bond so that they still have each other to turn to for advice and support long after the program has finished. Whether or not the training you're attending has got things built in to help you connect, like I build into Inspiring HR, try to be as proactive about this as possible.


Because people can often feel a little bit hesitant about being the first person to reach out, but it's so worth it when you do. You could suggest having a virtual coffee chat to get to know each other, or arranging a time to chat about what you've learned from the course once it's over to help each other really embed that learning again.

As an absolute minimum, I'd love to encourage you to connect with the other participants on LinkedIn, and a handy tip is to always make sure you personalise the connection request with something like, it was great to meet you on the. XXX course, whichever the course was, put the name in there, so that years later when you're trying to remember how you met that person, if they start popping up in your LinkedIn feed and you think, oh yes, it would be helpful to get back in touch with them, how do I know them again?


Where was it that we met? Or you realise you need to ask someone for help and you can see from their profile that they have got experience in the area you'd like to ask for help about, you'll know exactly when and where it was that you met them. Tip nine is a slightly different one. This is to use your senses.

Expert facilitator Kirsty Lewis was a guest on the show for episode 110. That episode was called Why Facilitation Skills Can Help Your HR Career and How to Develop Them. And in that episode, she recommended a book to us all, which was called Neuroscience for Learning and Development, How to Apply Neuroscience

and psychology for improved learning and training and the book was written by Stella Collins. I've really enjoyed reading it and it sparked lots of ideas for how I can make learning experiences even more impactful for anyone who's attending Inspiring HR. One of the main things I'll be trying out for the first time for the next cohort is making aspects of the program multi sensory.


I do already do this with visuals and sound, but I'm now incorporating smell and touch into some of the activities because, as Stella Collins points out in her book, making things multi sensory helps make the learning stickier. It's much more likely to stay with the person who's learning it. If you're attending a course or programme and it doesn't have things that tap into your different senses to help you retain what you're learning, then you can always see if you can incorporate this yourself in some way.

If you're attending it virtually, can you have a scented candle burning on your desk while you're taking part in one of the modules? Or can you spray a fragrance around the room? Or can you use a special scented coloured pen for making your notes? Or can you challenge yourself to summarise the learning in a drawing?


That's one of the reasons I'm doing the drawing course that I mentioned earlier to see if it can help me with encapsulating things I've learnt or conveying key ideas in a simple, very basic, because I find drawing hard, drawing.

There will be all sorts of brilliant ways you can try and help yourself retain what you're learning and make the experience a little bit fun and a little bit different at the same time. And that brings us to the end of the episode. You've heard nine practical tips to help you make the most of your next learning opportunity

even when you're in an incredibly busy HR or people role. I hope that these suggestions really help you to embrace whatever learning opportunities you'd love to dive into. And as always, it's fantastic hearing from you and getting feedback about the show. If you decide to put any of these ideas into action, I would love to hear how you get on.


You can always reach me on LinkedIn. I'm on there as myself, Fay Wallis. That's Fay without an E on the end and Wallis is spelt with an I S on the end instead of A C E.

If you've been listening for a while and enjoying the show, I would love it if you could rate and review it for me. Lots of the podcasting platforms let you leave a rating, a star rating, and Apple Podcasts lets you write a review.

I'm always so grateful, it's wonderful to see the feedback pop up, because I'm just recording this at home, in my home office. So it feels like I'm talking into the void, whenever I hear feedback it makes it feel so worthwhile and I hugely appreciate it. But that's all from me for today, I'm looking forward to being back again with another episode for you very soon.