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As I write this I am “celebrating” one year since I departed from my previous employment. On May 12, 2014 I took a Voluntary Redundancy (VR) from my 32-year career in the Australian Public Service.

A New HR Discovery Blog Post

The last number of years of my career I had been working in the L&D department of a large public sector department. I had been at this department all my working life and I loved it.

I started as a graduate and worked my way to senior audit and investigator roles. I had a special group of friends and relationships, I knew the culture and I worked pretty damned hard.

In my role as one of the L&D Directors and given my thirst for innovation, when L&D was centralized in 2010 I was identified as the right person to co-lead the L&D Design center. I was given the opportunity to take L&D to the new world and boy did I grasp it.

As a strategic leader it was my view that I was being paid “the big bucks” to lead, strategize and innovate.

I had the opportunity to research and provide strategic advice to the L&D department on a number of L&D trends and challenges. I was known for having “my finger on the pulse”.

I was one of the few that took my love and passion of L&D home with me, attending late evening webinars with Don Taylor (LSG) and Colin Steed (LPI), networking with local L&D professionals, reading blogs, Tweeting and Linking In – all the stuff I am sure most of you reading this already do.

But I soon came to the realisation that I was “unique” within my environment.

I recall that in a group of over 300 L&D practitioners I was the ONLY one who was active in this way – while some may have been tinkering at the edges and some may have come along for the journey since then, at the initial establishment of our centralised L&D department I recall that I was the only one operating in this manner.

I took up the challenge to educate my colleagues:

I wanted them to experience what I was experiencing.

I wanted them to start to develop a personal learning network.

I wanted them to be leaders in their fields.

…So I set out on my mission – I had the bigger picture in mind.

I initiated the introduction of a number of initiatives, including:

  • Established an L&D practitioner wiki
  • Established an L&D practitioner blog
  • Educated staff what MOOCs were and listed providers that staff could tap into for their learning
It was natural behavior for me to take an interest in my own personal development.

Thus, it was common practice to come home at 7:30 p.m., have dinner, spend some time with the family and then hit the PC to join a webinar – in fact after a while I was addicted – but why?

It hit me one night when I was on line with Donald Taylor and he made special mention of me on his webinar – they had never had anyone from Australia who had stayed up so late to participate on webinars on a regular basis.

It is then that it hit me “I was addicted to the connection“, being part of and connected to a wider larger professional group.

Like any learning event / forum, once you are acknowledged and appreciated by the group, you keep coming back for more – so I did!

Here I was, being embraced by a group of L&D professionals from the other side of the world, but not in my “own” world.

What a strange feeling…

I kept persisting and thought maybe it was hands on education they needed – so I asked a favor of one of my twitter buddies to do a Twitter 101 course for L&D staff but only 4 turned up!

I advocated the use of social media and would re-post a number of blogs that I had read onto our internal L&D blog that I had set up. I was the only one posting for the first number of months until one or two others joined later – still not many were using these great social learning tools.

I recall one phone hook up I was promoting Twitter and how it helped me connect and learn from other professionals around the world and the question I got asked was “what was Britney Spears having for lunch? ”.

Sadly, they just did not get it. I was dealing with a risk averse and conservative public sector culture.

I persisted – I established the first ever Learning Innovation Working Group a “think tank” for our L&D group, having representatives from across the L&D department, IT and Library Services. This was a roaring success as it initiated discussion on iPads for Learning, examined the use of video in our learning offerings, the development of Learning Bytes for Tax Technical information and the establishment of collaboration rooms as part of our LMS platform.

The group was a success! I was proud of what we had achieved and the innovations we had explored.

I went further and started to think about reward and recognition. I proposed for us to nominate for Learning Awards via LearnX organization – something never done before.

I discussed and presented a proposal on the cost and benefits of such awards – the morale boost it would give staff, the recognition for the department etc.

Eventually, due to the persistence of myself and other colleagues, we were authorised me to nominate our staff for these awards and we won our first ever LearnX Awards (three in fact) and they were all Platinum.

Wow – you should have seen the euphoria – the L&D Executive was excited. We had newsletter articles printed, we had Intranet posts, we had internal award ceremonies, we had personal letters from the senior executive to the winners – the euphoria at all levels of the L&D executive was great.

I felt I was a lone voice in my “connected world – I could see what was happening around me – I was networking, I was reading, I was interacting – I knew what was happening across L&D but I somehow overlooked my own working environment..

So come early Jan 2014 there are offers on the table for VRs.

I was a dedicated and committed public servant – but something clicked – I was feeling undervalued and not appreciated. I realised that this was not going to change and it was time to explore my passion in another organisation or as a consultant. It was time to listen to my heart!

I took the plunge and put my name down for a VR.

Funny thing was that even till the end I was providing strategic advice to my executive – in fact I recall the last email I sent to my senior executive team was to urge them to think about a shared services model for L&D across the whole public sector.

I worked with some great people and I was proud to be “ an one team player”.

Looking back since the time I have left I have:

  • Established Australia’s premier L&D tweet chat #Ozlearn with guest from all over the world excited to be featured as guest bloggers and participants on my chat.
  • Established myself as a credible and knowledgeable L&D leader who has keynoted and convened a number of L&D conferences.
  • Have been listed a number of times as a top and “inspiring” L&D Twitter User and blogger.

I have also recently completed an instructional design project where I wrote a number of accredited training packages. This I enjoyed very much as it took me back to my “roots” and allowed me to apply the skills and knowledge acquired over the years.

I am now looking forward to doing a few webinars for some organisations, heading to NZ in July for the NZ eLearn Conference and cointinuing to promote and market the extraordinary LPI Pathways to Excellence program across Australia and New Zealand.  I have also contributed a chapter on ‘MOOCs’ in the recent book: This Time, It’s Personnel: Humane Resourced 2.

Join Con (founder of #Ozlearn) @ Australia’s premier L&D tweet chat held every second Tuesday of the month.

So here we are….

(c) New To HR.

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Con Sotidis

Learning And Performance Consultant at LearnKotch Consulting
Con is a senior learning and performance consultant with LearnKotch Consulting. In this role, Con works with organisations to assist them achieve their business goals by developing effective and efficient learning and performance strategies. Con is a Fellow of the Learning and Performance Institute, Certified Professional member of the Australian Human Resources Institute and a member of the Association of Talent Development (formerly ASTD). He is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the Learning and Performance Institute.

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