Action learning


  • Identify common learning needs and meet these within the group through shared learning
  • Bring people together to find solutions to problems—developing the individuals and the organisation in the process
  • Provide ongoing reflection and learning supported by colleagues
  • Get things done!


  • Learning about the problem/issues  being tackled
  • Learning about ourselves
  • Learning about how we learn best
  • Learning new ways of doing things


  • Enhances networking
  • Increases responsibility and self confidence
  • Increases interpersonal skills
  • Increases resourcefulness
  • Builds coaching skills
  • Encourages action and accelerates learning
  • Increases self awareness

How does it work?

  • Identify common issues/problems or individuals take turn in bringing issues to the group
  • Approx. 6—10 members
  • Group usually meets regularly
  • Issues/learning explored during meeting
  • Individuals state support required (i.e. advice, listening etc.)
  • Support and challenge from the group
  • Agreement to act (what are you going to do?)
  • Try out in practice
  • Learn (from successes and failures), share, review, learn (come back and report)

How does an action learning group work?
Five key elements:

  • The person—owns the problem/issue. Uses the group to explore the issue and work things out for themselves.
  • The group—act as consultant /coach: questioning, confronting, challenging, supporting, advising, playing devil’s advocate
  • The problems—and outcome must have relevance for all
  • The process—observation, reflection, hypothesis, action
  • The facilitator—explains the process, provides structure/focus, facilitates learning

Group values

  • Shared ownership
  • Non judgemental
  • Honesty
  • Openness
  • Desire to be more self aware
  • Risk taking
  • Reflection
  • Commitment to own learning, to the group, to action
  • Additional ground rules agreed by the group

Getting going

  • Agree what issue to explore and who it belongs to
  • Presenter presents the support they require
  • Presenter presents the issue uninterrupted
  • The group question (using open/coaching questioning skills and not leading questions) to help the individual open up/explore the issue.
  • The group provide feedback and advice (leave advice until after the questioning round if the individual wants it).
  • The individual agree actions.
  • As a group reflect on the problem solving process & how well it worked & on group and individual learning at the end of the session.

Future sessions:

  • Start session with an update of actions from the previous session.

What we’ve learnt about remote on-boarding

7 tips for onboarding your new hires!

Most of us agree that ‘the way we work’ has changed significantly because of the challenges of 2020 and no I’m not talking about BREXIT.

Pre-pandemic, many organisations invested heavily in the onboarding programme for new hires, funding travel and accommodation to bring them to ‘head office’ for a comprehensive programme of meetings, training, and introductions to key stakeholders. So, what has changed?

Starting a new job in a pandemic is a different experience, IT equipment gets delivered by courier, training has moved on-line, and introductions happen by zoom. Managers had to quickly get to grips with having one-to-ones remotely, holding team meetings virtually, measuring output instead of the number of hours at a desk. All of these things are here to stay with hybrid working.


  1. THE PROCESS: Remember the employee experience starts with recruitment. The handover between recruitment and HR/line manager needs to be seamless. When a new hire has been in post for a while and we realise that we can’t action payroll because a key piece of information is missing, our new hires lose confidence in us. Develop a checklist, do whatever you need to do but make sure the hiring process is fully complete before induction begins.
  2. IT: Getting the right equipment delivered is usually the easy bit as long as you remember to order it in plenty of time. Once you have sorted the hardware, make the most of software to introduce new hires to the company, use e-signatures and electronic document sharing software. Remember your new hire will probably need to use their smart phone to access content initially (until you have delivered their laptop), so access to videos and on-line training that work on a mobile platform will get better engagement.
  3. YOUR BRAND: Deliver the vision, values and employer brand messaging up front (before the new hire starts if you can). Include videos from employees that tell a story of their own journey and ‘how we do things around here’.
  4. MEET THE TEAM: Remember orientation is a very small part of the onboarding programme, but it’s still important. Getting to meet colleagues and knowing how to find information can get forgotten in a remote programme.
  5. THE MANAGER: Start with the manager, in any new process. Do managers need training or coaching to be able to support remote new hires? Check out our free managers resource for ‘managing remote teams’ just go to the knowledgeshare page on our website.
  6. WELCOME: Include a genuine welcome from the boss! This could be a phone/video call, or a personal card or email. Canned messages are not nearly as effective at engaging new hires as a short personal message, but recorded messages do have their place in the process.
  7. FEEDBACK & REVIEW: Build in the opportunity for the new hire to ‘feedback’. New hires always have questions, we need to make it easy for them to learn our processes and to tell us what else they need. Using remote buddy’s or allocating an onboarding mentor, are effective options. Finally, review the process regularly so that you can continuously improve the employee experience.

The benefits of coaching and mentoring

Coaching and Mentoring is a different approach to employee development that focuses on future possibilities, not past mistakes and encourages the employee to identify and solve problems and challenges. It is a very non-threatening and positive way to help staff take more responsibility for their own learning and continuous development.
Coaching can …..

  1. help employees to be more confident and willing to take more responsibility.
  2. give key staff the knowledge and transformational leadership skills to develop others in the business and improve overall performance.
  3. strengthen the business and reduce its vulnerability to future change.

A coaching culture can…….

  • increase commitment to training, learning and development.
  • improve the transfer of training into the workplace.
  • improve staff retention as individuals use more of their potential and feel that they are contributing to the business’ success.
  • create an environment where interpersonal skills are valued and developed.
  • improve workplace communication, creating a friendlier and more trusting environment.
  • encourage employees to become more self-directed, accountable and less dependent on others.

As a result, cooperation is increased with employees working together to achieve team objectives and company goals. Employee engagement is high with employees feeling motivated, enthusiastic and valued.

Who Says So?CIPD Training and Development Survey
Companies surveyed who had used a Coaching and Mentoring approach reported the following:

– 99% – said it delivered tangible benefits
– 96% – said it was effective in promoting learning
– 93% – said it enabled the transfer of learning to the workplace
– 92% – reported a positive impact on bottom line results.

Fortune 1000 companies study:

Companies involved in the study reported the following benefits as a result of using Coaching and Mentoring:
– an average of 53% increase in productivity
– 39% increase in effective customer service
– 32% increase in retention of key people
– 23% reduction in costs
– 22% increase in bottom line profitability

Xerox Corporation 
– 87% increase in effectiveness of formal training when followed up with coaching.

International Personal Management Assoc. 
– Training programmes supported by ongoing coaching improved workforce performance by 88%.

An International Coaching Federation survey of 4,000 companies found the benefits of coaching to be:

  • Improved individual performance
  • Improved client service
  • Development of people for the next level
  • Management/staff relationship improvement
  • Improved retention
  • Better communication

Let’s “follow the data” and get coaching embedded into our organisations! 


A reminder for HR to take action on EU national employees

HR: Are You Ready?
We were all reminded yesterday at our Cake and HR round table discussion with the CBI that any employees who are EU nationals should be aware that free movement will end by 31 December 2020, which means that if they wish to apply for settled status they should do so as quickly as possible. And not just employees but relatives and friends too.  

There is no fee and the app is available on any device now. 

Of course we cannot force anyone to apply but simply lay out the facts as we know them. Employers are not, and will not, be required to check that current employees have settled status but by the beginning of next year it is likely that we will have to check settled status for new employees. That means if an employee moves to a different employer the check will be made then.

A few of our members have talked about how they have given out as much information as possible to EU employees in order to demonstrate that we want them to stay and feel valued.

A few more tips came out in the discussion:

  1. Take care not to discriminate in hiring at this time by not appointing an EU national.
  2. There is an Employers Toolkit available from the Home Office.
  3. And finally ….carry out an audit NOW on all Right To Work Checks to make sure that everything is in order ready for the end of free movement.

Watch this space for announcements following the February Cabinet meeting and new salary thresholds expected for visa applications. 


How to measure remote performance

Knowledge Share Event 9 June 2020Summary from May 2020

Motivating a remote workforce and finding new ways to innovate and thrive is proving difficult during lockdown”. “Remote managers’ biggest concern is employee productivity”.

Adopting an OKR, or objectives and key results-based, approach is one way of doing this. This was first developed by Intel boss Andy Grove in the 1980s and then adopted 20 years later by Google, in start up mode; it then spread rapidly throughout Silicon Valley and is now used by Amazon and Airbnb, Walmart and ING bank.

​OKRs have two components;

  1. an objective, or short description of what you want to achieve
  2. and key results, which consist of 2-5 metrics, which are used to measure progress towards hitting the objective set.

The CEO sets business objectives for the year ahead and how it will be measured although in these times monthly goals might be better.
Senior leaders do likewise and evaluate quarterly.
Individual employees work towards operational OKRs; at this time maybe daily.
It is vital that people see how they contribute to the overall goals; clarity and focus, OKRs are an anchor in tricky times.

Roof shots versus Moon shots
OKRs should include achievable objectives but also stretch targets that may not be achieved. Only having achievable targets does not account for the innovative or creative risks that would push a company forward (like Google). With OKRs your performance does not have to be perfect because you are free to learn in the process and take different approaches.

Yes the CEO has to set clear milestones but innovative strategies often come from the bottom up.
This is a strategic shift towards a culture based on innovation with calculated risks; the OKR culture rewards learning over strict, rote performance. Grow and pivot. Realign goals quickly in line with the market.
Employees need to be ambitious, autonomous self-starters. But if they are not we can still shift the culture.

(If you are wondering about the relevance of the picture of Sophie, our cake baker, well she has pivoted and grown her business in the pandemic. Its fair to say though that she just had no idea about OKRs! She altered her offering, changed her marketing and came out busier than before. PS the wine bottles don’t belong to her)


An introduction to Group Coaching

People distinguish between group coaching and team coaching, generally by defining a team to be a group of people whose members all have the same purpose and goals, and work together in the same organisation. In Group Coaching the individuals are generally a disparate group who have come together for the purposes of learning together.
This approach is becoming increasingly popular in organizations where it makes better use of employees’ time and cuts training overheads (Flückiger, Aas, Nicolaidou, Johnson, & Lovett, 2016).

This article explores the group coaching model, its benefits, and what to consider when setting up and running a program.

What Is the Group Coaching Model?
Group coaching is a powerful and effective coaching technique for working with people to improve their health, wellbeing, personal strengths, self-efficacy, leadership qualities, team building, and beyond (Armstrong et al., 2013; McDowall & Butterworth, 2014).

Coaching in organizations has become increasingly common over the last couple of decades, with human resources and organizational development teams (and external consultants) expected to deliver coaching support on an almost daily basis.
Aside from the cost savings, professional group coaching has many benefits, not least is the ability to strengthen team bonds and improve awareness of the decisions made within a broader structure (Anderson, Anderson, & Mayo, 2008).

However, despite research findings suggesting that organizational interventions are best delivered at a group level rather than individually, most companies continue to coach one-on-one (Brown & Grant, 2009).

To effect real change in any organization, both individuals and groups must have a good understanding of the organization and systemic awareness, recognizing that individual decisions can have broad impacts. Attending sessions with peers can open the individual to awareness of that bigger picture.

Group life coaching for the individual (rather than a business) can safeguard your position as a coach while being beneficial for the client. After all, many coaches end up leaving the field or becoming burnt out because they cannot make sufficient money or find enough clients (Rivera & Rivera, 2019).

So, what is group coaching?
It is useful to distinguish between team and group coaching. The former relates to individuals working closely together as a single entity toward a clear and shared goal. The latter, group coaching, involves any group of individuals; they may not know one another and may differ in their needs and ultimate aims (Brown & Grant, 2009).

Group coaching involves one or more coaches and two or more individuals.

While the aim of coaching is typically to effect change in individuals, group coaching has the additional challenge of handling group-based dynamics by putting in place interpersonal and rapport-building skills (Brown & Grant, 2009).

There may be clear differences between one-to-one coaching – sometimes referred to as dyadic coaching – and group coaching, but at times the two can be combined successfully. It may prove useful or even necessary to switch between approaches as the situation dictates (Anderson et al., 2008).

For example, when a specific need arises or something is proving too personal to discuss in a group setting, a one-to-one intervention may be more appropriate.

However, there are instances when group coaching is preferred. Within an organizational setting, group coaching can promote team building and improve leadership effectiveness (Hackman & Wageman, 2005; Goldsmith & Morgan, 2000). Besides, it is more effective when primarily performed by an internal coach, such as a member of the team or team leader, rather than a parachuted-in consultant.

Broadly, the literature supports the idea that a systemic approach enables organizational development. Group coaching can overcome organizational resistance to change by rising above the focus on an individual’s goals and instead encouraging corporate thinking (Brown & Grant, 2009).

And there is value in reaching a consensus within group settings and listening to a range of voices and differing opinions.

However, group coaching must overcome some crucial challenges to be effective, such as consent and willingness. High-performing teams will not be created if staff attending and participating are under duress. It is worth knowing whether there are valid reasons behind a lack of enthusiasm; perhaps there is uncertainty regarding future career prospects, restructuring, or a resistance to change (Kets de Vries, 2005).

Individuals may also have concerns regarding openly discussing personal feelings or issues in front of peers.

For these reasons and others, such as existing tensions within groups, group coaching can be challenging and requires highly skilled coaches to have a chance of effecting permanent and positive change. Therefore, coaching at a group level is most appropriate when its goal closely aligns with those of the attendees.