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Jon Kennard


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TrainingZone interviews: Richard Eason


What's the L&D environment like in the RAF? TZ recently caught up with Richard Eason to find out.

Tell us about your background in L&D.

I joined the RAF as a L&D officer straight from university in 1998 and have been lucky enough to work in a wide range of different appointments. The RAF views its personnel with L&D expertise very much as internal consultants and you can expect to move to different parts of the organisation every two years. Some particular highlights for me include being the lead training advisor to aircrew learning how to operate some of the UK's airborne surveillance aircraft and working within the MOD as part of a team working to transform the way defence approaches technical engineering training.

What's the L&D culture like in the forces? Is it free and collaborative or quite hard to innovate?

I believe we have a learning culture that looks to develop our people throughout their time in the service. If we’re not on active operations, much of what we do is training in preparation for future deployments. As such, a large amount of this training is conducted in the workplace, outside of our formal learning environments. We therefore need our people at all levels to ‘get it’ when it come to understanding the importance of learning. To help with this we have a clear and structured approach. The downside of this structure is that it probably does stifle innovation, or at least slows the implementation of new ideas.

You're conducting a survey of the state of L&D across the industry. What trends do you predict the survey will uncover?

The aim is to gain a better understanding of the extent to which L&D professionals recognise common barriers to evaluation. Through my research I have identified nine areas that I think may be relevant to the wider L&D community (not just in a military context). Whilst I don’t want to second-guess the results, my instinct is that a couple of specific areas will particularly resonate with your readers. My thinking is that if we can collectively highlight the barriers we’ll be better placed to develop strategies to lower them. Our individual approach will need to be relevant to our own organisations but I suspect there are some common elements that we can share with each other.

What will you do with the data once it's been collected?

I will be creating a conceptual framework. This sounds more complicated than it is – essentially it will be a graphic that attempts to illustrates both the barriers that the L&D community believe have the potential to limit evaluation activity and the extent to which those barriers are actually having an impact in our organisations. Hopefully I’ll get a good cross section of your readers completing the survey – those that wish can opt to see the results when my research is complete. This all forms part of my final module of my MSc in Practice-Based Research with the University of Hertfordshire. 

What changes would you like to see in L&D in 2013 and beyond?

I think we need to continue to become more business minded - linking our learning interventions to organisational outcomes. To achieve this we must be very clear about the learning requirements and for this we need to step out into the operational side of the business. In my experience, developing relationships and asking lots of questions is key. We can then design meaningful learning that the organisation needs, rather than what we would like to deliver. We should then effectively evaluate in a way that our specific organisation accepts – producing an evidence-based view on the impact that we have achieved (be it positive or limited).  I think this will help to develop our credibility as a function and will ultimately enable us to deliver even greater value than I’m sure the majority are already offering.

To take part in the survey click here

Richard Eason is a L&D specialist currently serving in the Royal Air Force. His interests include learning evaluation and using data to support decision making.

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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