We need to embrace lifelong learning

The GCS Professional Development team has marked Learning At Work Week 2021 with a panel discussion on effective learning. The session gathered leaders from across the GCS professions to share their personal experience and insights on learning and development.

Below we have distilled the key ideas discussed.

Our work lives have changed dramatically

The work environment has dramatically changed in recent years and none of us can maintain high performance without learning any new skills. Lifelong learning is therefore the only solution to bridge this gap; it actually makes our work lives much more exciting!

Simon Baugh, Director of Communications at Home Office, gave a striking example to prove how much the comms profession changed over the years:

“At the beginning of my career, I was actually cutting the press clips with scissors! Nobody can imagine this happening today.”

Learn something new

There is no one-size-fits-all learning style

As I mentioned in my earlier blog, everyone’s learning style is different. Some may find reading visual materials engaging, others prefer to listen or do things. Reflecting on your style is key to being successful.

Sophie Barber, Transformation Communications Business Partner at HM Revenue and Customs, highlighted:

“I’m a doer and I prefer learning on the job. I would therefore personally struggle with spending the whole day on reading.”

The good thing about the GCS Curriculum is that everyone can find something relevant for themselves: courses, webinars, videos, books or podcasts recommendations. Some people associate learning with just sitting in a classroom which is far from reality. I would absolutely encourage people to experiment with new ways of learning and finding what works for them.”

Coaching and mentoring are key

The importance of mentoring or coaching people cannot be underestimated. It’s often that our career progression depends on inspiring and empowering individuals we meet.

Patrick Brown, Deputy Director of Wellbeing, Employee Experience and Internal Communications at NHS Test and Trace, said:

“I strongly believe in people identifying coaches and mentors. Speaking from my own experience, this can really boost your confidence. But don’t necessarily ask someone who you like to be your coach as they may be biased. What’s key is to find a ‘gem’ person who can push and challenge you.”

Focus on what you love and always think of the next step

Very few people nowadays will be in their role for the rest of their life. Simon Baugh said:

“A big part of lifelong learning is having some space in our roles to reflect on how we progress to the next role, what worked and what hasn’t. This will then allow us to make the right decisions about our career future.”

It goes without saying that planning and preparing for the next role should be at the back of your mind when doing your learning and development. The panel agreed, though, that to truly be good at something, we should focus on how to improve our existing strengths.

“By doing something you enjoy, you will become more curious. Curiosity will give you the energy to become better and better in your field,” Simon added.

If you are a GCS member, you can watch GCS on-demand webinars. The password is accessible via your Development Adviser or by contacting gcs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

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