What we learnt this year! 11 L&D and people development lessons from the HowNow team

November 29, 2021
June 26, 2023

Self-reflection is our secret weapon when it comes to personal and people development! But if we don’t stop to understand how we learnt something that made us better at our jobs or when that light bulb moment happened, we can’t do more of the good stuff over time.

The trouble is that when you’re learning on the job and in the flow of work like we do at HowNow, you don’t always stop to think about the why, how and where of your own development.

So, with 2021 swiftly coming to a close, we put the kettle on, sat down and took a few minutes to reflect on our biggest L&D lessons of the year. Here are eleven from the team and where you can connect with the HowNower who shared their nugget of personal wisdom.

Flora Sanders: There is never going to be a good time, so just start today

Too many times, I put off taking the time to learn something as I am too busy. There is never going to be a right time, quieter time or better time, so just start involving learning in your daily routine.

It is better to start now and do 10 minutes a day than keep putting it off until the right time and never actually do it!

I now section off time each day to learn something that will help me in my role. It doesn’t always have to be a big thing, but I am trying to make it a habit – repetition for me is key.

I think lots of people put learning at the end of their to-do list, like me, but if you prioritise it even for 10 minutes, it will help you in so many ways.

Flora Sanders, Customer Success Executive | Connect with Flora on LinkedIn.

James Lewendon: Authenticity equals success

I made a pact in January that I would focus more on bringing my true self to the workplace and, by doing so, encourage my team to do the same.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of hiding elements of my character (for example, my struggles with anxiety) or communicating in ways I was told were the right ways, opposed to how I (James) would handle it.

Bringing these changes has made me a happier leader. I feel more connected to my team, more comfortable in myself and who I am. Plus, I’m way, way more self-aware in the improvements I need to make.

It has really shed that last bit of ego I had, and I am so much better for it. Professionally and, more importantly, personally.

James Lewendon, Head of Sales | Connect with James on LinkedIn.

Jon Magnus: Learn by understanding and selling your product

Trying to educate the world on the new way of learning and the new world of learning platforms is a challenge. I’ve learnt through trying to sell! You really have to dig deep, be innovative and consider how you tell the story. There’s a saying that I love from the classic film Back To The Future: “Guess you guys aren’t ready for this, but you’re kids are going to love it.”

Jon Magnus, Director of Learning | Connect with Jon on LinkedIn.

Jordan Chrisostomou: Learn your own way and find what works for you

We can’t be expected to learn in the same way or at the same pace as others. Everyone internalises information differently, and that doesn’t make us any worse or any better than our peers. If someone can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.

I’ve never been able to learn the ‘traditional’ way throughout education. I like to process things and then put them into practice as soon as possible. It wasn’t until leaving education that I fully accepted failure was an important part of learning and failure only happens when you try (especially when you’re not ready).

I used to think I was behind, and my methods of learning were unorthodox until I learnt that there isn’t a right way to learn. My advice would be to find what works for you and fully explore that.

Jordan Chrisostomou, Learning and Development Strategist | Connect with Jordan on LinkedIn.

Nikita Friedman: Set assessments and use interactive exercises

I have found that mini-tests or assessments during and at the end of a course are a great way to see how much you have actually learnt. Interactive exercises along the way are also great. For example, I did a little bit of learning on Codecademy, and they had a great exercise functionality to build little web pages etc. It’s also a great way to put your learning to practice.

Nikita Friedman, Learning and Performance Strategist | Connect with Nikita on LinkedIn.

Gary Stringer: Listen to more podcasts!

Maybe I’ve seen behind the content curtain too often, but a lot of what you find on YouTube and Google search results is an SEO exercise. Too many businesses (not us) are creating resources based SOLELY on terms people are searching for in sufficient volumes.

But what about all the new or outside the box ideas we want to hear about? That’s why I think podcasts are so important, as they’re based on interesting people and conversations. They’re not as guided by search engines or a need to hit website traffic metrics. Some of the most novel and useful lessons I learn come from two marketing people shooting the breeze on a podcast.

Gary Stringer, Content Marketing Manager | Connect with Gary on LinkedIn.

Eloise Laot: Understand your L&D priorities from the start

Via calls with clients, I’ve found that in the long run, it is better to understand what your specific L&D goals are from the beginning of your L&D journey. That way, you don’t get overwhelmed with the numerous possibilities of what you *could do* and remain focused on projects that are important to you and your team.

Eloise Laot, Learning And Development Strategist | Connect with Eloise on LinkedIn.

Ellen McKay: You can acquire knowledge, but you won’t necessarily benefit until you use it

I’ve learnt this lesson throughout university and in the workplace too – it is one thing to simply learn something, but it is only when you actually start to use that learning in practice that you can understand it.

Knowing you can recall information because you actually understand it is a much more rewarding feeling than recalling information simply based on memory. You could memorise information, but it would limit your understanding of it to that single piece of information.

Whereas if you actually understand the meaning behind it, you would have a better chance of being able to see how that information relates to other contexts. That is why I think this learning is useful for people in the workplace, as it enables us to have a wider view of what we are learning.

Ellen McKay, Learning and Development Strategist | Connect with Ellen on LinkedIn.

Georgie Walsh: Learn by doing

I’ve learnt that for me to build confidence and understanding, it is essential that I actually do something. For example, when I first had calls with potential podcast guests and even though I had prepared for them, I was still quite unsure and nervous. But practising across multiple calls has helped me learn the process and build confidence in a way that I wouldn’t be able to access solely by reading or listening.

Georgie Walsh, Brand Marketing Manager | Connect with Georgie on LinkedIn.

Jack Fielding: There is ALWAYS something you can do to improve your efficiency

There is always a way to work smarter, and working smartly is synonymous with enjoying the work you do! I’ve picked this up through a mix of experience, a couple of helpful books and courses on everything from Coursera to Eckhart Tolle.

It’s allowed me to prioritise work far more efficiently in and out of the office! And I realise that there are always ways of helping people deal with monotony, time management, and job satisfaction.

Jack Fielding, Customer Success Executive | Connect with Jack on LinkedIn.

Aaron-Spencer Charles: Tap into online communities

My learning and development lesson of the year has been the importance of accessing more than one online community. As part of that, I’ve discovered that interacting with both entry-level and expert professionals can help you to gain an understanding of many areas of your own role or industry.

For my Product Management role, I had a rule of searching for keywords that were challenge areas, such as “bugs” or “how to scope”, to find posts or conversations related to those areas. What were others saying about it? How were they handling it?

Initially, I’d always look at the same spaces, as the conversations were new and interesting, but it made sense that exploring through the various other communities would open up even more knowledge and idea-creation.

Some of the best sources for communities include Reddit, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups and Quora. I also find through conversations that you can always get a heads-up on ideas/issues that are being spoken about way before they reach publications. You won’t always read about everything from the latest articles! Sometimes, the exclusive or alternative stuff comes straight from the horse’s mouth!

Aaron-Spencer Charles, Product Manager | Connect with Aaron-Spencer on LinkedIn.