Micro learning is important yet insufficient on its own, says L&D expert

by John Hilton22 Feb 2016
Micro learning is a necessity of L&D in 2016, however the real challenge is to make time for longer learning programs, according to Murray Paterson of the global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. L&D Professional talks to the head of L&D at HSF for his insights.

How important is L&D to staff attraction, retention and satisfaction at HSF?
It’s very important. I think it really sustains the engagement of our people. To be continually learning is fundamental for every professional’s success. Lawyers are particularly keen, as it’s necessary for them to improve their knowledge around technical areas of law.
But there are many other skills that we teach which they are interested to learn as they progress through their careers. If you are becoming a senior associate or moving up and accepting more management responsibilities you really need to continually develop your skills. So we aim to do our very best to give our people access to as much training as they need.
We just finished an engagement survey recently and got very positive feedback about the level of training and learning generally across the firm. People talk very fondly and with great enthusiasm about how much they value the opportunity to learn at HSF. It is pretty clear that it’s a very important thing from an individual’s engagement point of view, but it’s also fundamentally important for success at the firm.
What do you find the most interesting aspects of L&D?
Personally, I find it very exciting to be involved with providing people with the opportunity to learn and develop as they go. It’s very engaging to be working with people and seeing them struggle with something, practice it and become proficient.
What are some challenges you facing?
We are working in a world which seems to be compressing time each year. It seems to get busier and busier and faster and faster. If you are a professional who has to complete a lot of work with very little time, how do you develop your skills and knowledge? How do you make the time to go to a workshop or a seminar or a conference or whatever it is, because it seems to take you away from your day-to-day work? So I think that challenge is getting harder.
This is particularly true for a firm like ours, because we are now global. How do you make sure you create opportunities for people no matter where they are placed, whether they are in a well-resourced office or a much smaller office? And how do you get things to people at the time that they need it?
Are e-learning and m-learning important to your organisation?
Yes, they are. And I think increasingly more so, as people want things delivered more quickly. They also want smaller bits of practical information that they can access when they need it.
We have to look for ways to offer blended learning which is a mixture of providing access to information and resources.
So we have got to provide small elements, online elements, access to resources and talks. But also when you can there has to be time for deep engagement. This includes longer programs where you spend much more time on reflection and introspection. There is still very much a place for that kind of learning activity, but it’s just harder and harder to manage.
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