Melissa Venner was recently chosen as CIPD’s People Management Awards Outstanding Student of the Year 2017, thanks to the incredible results she achieved in her organisation by putting into practice what she learned on her online CIPD L&D qualification with AVADO. We caught up with her to find out the full story.

Why did you choose to do the L&D qualification?

I fell into L&D almost reluctantly! I had come from a recruitment background, but always had a skill and a passion for developing others. My team was always up and running the quickest, because I had really quickly identified gaps in the formal training programme and augmented that with my own training programme. So although I had a passion for developing people and could see a real correlation between my interventions and performance, my own experiences of L&D had been disappointing to say the least. Then I was offered the opportunity to design the learning programmes myself and deliver them how I thought they should be done. They gave me complete free reign which was great but also frightening to be responsible for learning and development for an entire business when I’ve got no formal background in L&D! I chose the CIPD qualification because I wanted to have some credibility as an L&D manager and get the support behind me to develop effective learning programmes.


Why did you decide that online study was right for you?

In my line of work, with sales people and coaching, the hours are long and not always predictable. So if I were to do a traditional classroom course my concern was that it would impact heavily on my ability to do my job, or my job would impact significantly how well I could do the qualification. The fact that you could do this course online allowed me the flexibility to study in my own time. If I missed a live online class, it’s recorded and uploaded the next day so I could catch up, and I could also revisit it at a later date if I needed to. The flexibility was great. My tutor was also really patient and supportive – I was anxious at first and there were loads of emails and phone calls, she was amazing.

One of the best things was logging in on my laptop from work or home, and suddenly being in touch with people from all over the world in vastly different markets and industries. We were all working together in break-out rooms and group activities – I definitely wouldn’t have had this opportunity if I was at my local business school. I connected really quickly with the group and we are still in contact, sharing ideas, advice and opportunities.


What was your course highlight?

I’m very passionate about neuroscience so learning about models of engagement and how to increase and enhance participant engagement has been amazing for me. Not only am I using these myself, but I’ve trained other people on what I’ve learnt and now my team are actually using this knowledge to have an impact, so that’s really cool.

My favourite personal moment was a challenge right at the start of the course. We had to upload a video of ourselves as if we were pitching to the board of directors to convince them why L&D is worth investing in. I uploaded my video and it was picked as the winner! It was a great experience.


What has the impact been on your work and your company?

This course has been an absolute gamechanger! It’s literally the basis for everything that we do, from the way we design the sessions and the peer-to-peer learning we have introduced, to the way I engage with the senior management team. The conversations that we are having around L&D and how it is viewed are completely different. I learnt from the course that there are so many factors that influence whether training is effective or not, we have to work together as a business to get it right. It’s not just transactional, it’s definitely embedded in everything.

I started studying this qualification within three months of starting the job, so the timing was quite opportune. Although I had inherited an existing structure, it helped that I was starting from a blank slate in terms of my own practice and I was able to be collaborative and take on new ideas. Through what I learnt on the programme, I was able to make a business case to directors, who had little understanding of L&D, why I wanted to make changes to what had been done before. I don’t think I would have been able to convince them if I didn’t have the support and the evidence to back it up. It definitely allowed me to do things I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.


Can you give an example of a change you made based on what you learnt?

When I joined, there was no online training, no digital content whatsoever. I brought in an e-learning strategy and the platform I chose was actually recommended to me by somebody on the course. I’d spend an entire module learning about the benefits of digital learning, what makes it effective and ineffective, so I knew what I was looking for in an e-learning product. I chose it because it is bite-size, on-demand, you can do it on your phone and it uses gamification. All of a sudden, people were doing learning voluntarily, and with effects that we could measure. We use it to complement the face-to-face learning, it has become a big part of our learning framework.

The results have been amazing including a decrease in staff attrition of 18% and an increase in the number of deals per recruitment consultant. There were also 300 voluntary course sign-ups in the first three months of the user-led e-learning programme.


Would you recommend this course?

One of my team is about to start on the programme and lots of other colleagues are really interested. They can see how useful it was, what I’ve been able to achieve and the results we’ve seen in the business. Even those who thought they wouldn’t have time have seen how easily I managed to fit it in whilst working, they have confidence that they could do it too. My recommendation is to go for it, you won’t regret it.


If you would like to learn more about any of our CIPD L&D courses, you can give one of our friendly Course Advisors a call on 020 7173 5664.