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Learning & Development: Heat’s Holistic Approach

In recent years, there has been a decisive shift in attitude towards professional Learning and Development, as employee and employer alike are increasingly inclined to consider the benefits that enhanced investment in L&D can offer. With Covid acting as an impetus for this change, training and development programs have been upgraded from somewhat of a tick-box exercise to a valuable necessity which can increase retention, improve employee wellbeing, tackle the growing skills-gap and even reshape the culture of a business.

Given all of these, we decided to take a deep dive into the timeline of Learning and Development at Heat to understand how our holistic approach to learning is shaping the culture of the team, and why it now plays an integral role in the success of each of Heat’s employees.

How has Heat’s approach to L&D changed over the years?  

It’s fair to say that the Learning and Development approach at Heat has evolved massively since the businesses’ inception: in the first instance, when the business was only around 5 recruiters strong, there was very little in the way of a structured Learning and Development plan. Now, with the business sitting at 80 strong and continuing to grow, we have been a lot more deliberate in the way Heat’s offering has been developed as the business has scaled, but also in how the culture has been developed too. Crucially, being conscious of retaining the core values that formed the foundation of the business, such as hard work, passion, and integrity, was essential to ensuring the overall mission of the business remained aligned with our values. Our HR team have worked hard to make sure our values are central to the culture and overall people strategy, and the whole operations team continues to work relentlessly to make Heat an amazing place to work. Over time, all of this has contributed to creating the L&D offering we now have in place.

Over the first 5-6 years, it was very much a case of learning on the job as opposed to anything structured. But, as the volume of new recruiters joining the business continued to increase, it felt only right to start offering a more comprehensive induction. Recruitment is a difficult industry, so equipping our new starters as best as possible felt important; we want to ensure we are giving everyone the best possible chance to succeed from the very beginning. Our approach is therefore a lot more holistic now, encompassing formal training, online learning, experiential learning, mentoring, coaching, regular 360 feedback as well as the all-important learning on the job.

What challenges have there been? 

The impact of the pandemic has undeniably had a massive knock-on effect for our Learning and Development program; being cast in the deep end forced us to adapt to and adopt new technologies quickly in order to ensure the continuation of development as well as wider business procedures in general. Through the use of Teams, breakout rooms and the other various functions that online communication platforms provide, we realised it was actually still possible to offer engaging training through a virtual medium. That being said, we still do a lot of face-to-face training where possible, but if needs must its useful to know that we can quickly adapt to virtual and accommodate our fully remote workers.

Another challenge posed by the pandemic, which has continued as we have brought our remote ‘work from anywhere’ policy into practice on a permanent basis, was ensuring we were able to continue instilling a culture of continuous learning and development into the workforce whilst still including all of our remote staff. To make sure this was possible, we invested in online learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning: because the courses on the platform are completed virtually and at your own pace, we’ve been able to give a consistent experience for all of the team, whether they are remote working or in-office. The implementation has definitely been a success, with the team completing a total of 8620 videos on the platform in the past year.

How is our offering unique? 

Our Learning and Development approach has been an ongoing evolution, but one of the biggest shifts has been beginning to view it as learning as opposed to training. It’s easy for training to become a tick-box exercise, and to assume that by simply partaking in a training course it automatically means you have learned something, when in reality much of the evidence available to us now suggests that formal training can be one of the least impactful ways of achieving long-term behaviour change. This is why we have come to adopt a more holistic learning strategy at Heat.

For all of the obstacles that the pandemic presented with regards to Learning and Development that- for the most part- we were able to overcome, there’s still a great deal of value to be had from learning from others. Data from The LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report of 2021 backs this up: it found that ‘learners who use social features — Q&A, course shares, and learning groups — watch 30x more hours of learning content than learners who don’t’. For this reason, we’ve put a lot more strategies in place to facilitate greater social learning, such as our monthly Q&A ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions, where we interview someone within the business who is excelling and put them in the hotseat. Equally, last year over 50% of the business was involved in either 1-2-1 or group mentoring, and we’ve also just launched a new talent bench which will allow people from different teams to work together on projects within the business that sit outside of their usual role.

What are the plans for the future 

Last year, we identified that we had a gap in terms of leadership within the business, with some of our more established divisions being too bottom heavy. This was having an impact on our Associate Directors, who were struggling to spend enough time with each of their team members and had far too many direct reports. We were also aware that we needed more diversity amongst those in management positions too; realistically, we knew the talent had to come from within, so we launched our Rising Stars program for those who believed they could accelerate to management positions quickly through leadership training. This is still an ongoing project and challenge, as we continue to offer leadership development opportunities to those showing management potential, as we know its critical to develop our leadership capacity as we increase our headcount. The program has helped to start the process of balancing the scales more in terms of male to female managers, but we realise there’s definitely still more to be done, and it’s something we are actively working on for this year and beyond.