How to Excel at learning

How to Excel at learning

About the author: Karen Nienaber

Karen Nienaber is a Learn with Aegis Union Learning Rep based at pension and saving provider AEGON, in its Peterborough office.

Karen has been supporting staff develop IT skills, and talks about a recent initiative providing excel training.

During March this year the unionlearn steering group for the AEGON Peterborough office met to review the learning needs of staff and to discuss how these needs could best be met. Based on an earlier survey, and after discussion with our Training Manager, we decided to focus on providing intermediate Excel skills training to as many interested staff as possible.

I researched local Excel training providers and contacted two to discuss the types of training that could be provided. With the information and quotes received from the providers I created a draft schedule and emailed the Senior Team Leaders and Department Managers around the business outlining how the training day might be structured and inviting their feedback on the idea.

Following a further steering group meeting it was agreed that the intermediate skills would be delivered in informal ‘floor-walking’ sessions of 40 minutes per team (each team selecting three topics to be covered) – which would minimise the impact on daily business deadlines and allow the most staff engagement. From feedback received we also recognised that providing two hour long lunchtime sessions for two smaller groups of staff would be the most effective way to provide the Advanced Excel topics requested.

Using all of the information and feedback I then wrote an informal proposal requesting approval for the training to take place from the Senior Management Team. Our unionlearn Project Worker, Mary O’Brien, had also secured supplementary funding from Aegis which covered a third of the training cost.

Once the proposal had been agreed I could focus on the planning and logistics required – which included securing the agreed date with the trainer and providing her with the selected topics to prepare for; booking the room to be used for the Advanced training; issuing the schedule to the Team Leaders and sending invites to people attending the ‘floor-walking’ and Advanced sessions. 

Ahead of the day I also ensured that each attendee received a copy of an ‘Excel Quick Tips’ reference card (sourced by Mary) and a survey to be completed once the training had been delivered. Aegis also provided Excel Intermediate Guides, which were very popular and I am sure will be used for future reference. I also created folders and stored the files received from the trainer for use on the day of the event and ensured that each of the ‘floor-walking’ teams was identified and knew the location of the files.

Excel Intermediate ‘floor-walk’ training was provided to 31 staff, while a further 12 staff received the Advanced Excel training during the two lunchtime sessions. Feedback received from those who attended has been very positive and we hope to start planning to deliver more learning opportunities to AEGON Peterborough staff soon. During the day of the event I acted as liaison between the trainer and each team, ensuring that the training ran smoothly and everyone could focus on learning. As the Union Learning Rep for our office I was able to be involved in the planning of this training, responsible for organising the event and communicating with all the stakeholders involved, from staff to management and to external providers. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me and has not only provided skills training for the staff here but also given me the chance to develop my own organisational and communication skills.

If you are considering providing training in this way my advice is to try and keep scheduling and content simple – you may not be able to accommodate everyone’s training needs at once, so decide from the start if your aim is to provide training to the largest group you can or if you want to provide advanced skills to a smaller group of staff. Also, rather than relying on email, have a meeting with the managers that need to be involved to discuss your training proposal and the draft schedule – this should encourage managers to fully support you learning initiative and may prevent the frustration of last minute changes.

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