Linda Cooper: How to guide your learning towards an intelligent future

Improving knowledge retention among employees and volunteers, while fostering a learning culture, reducing costs associated with retraining and creating a more self-sufficient workforce are all top priorities for charities.

Maintaining the highest possible ethical and legal standards and helping to ensure our entire teams are highly knowledgeable in their core legal, safeguarding and health & safety responsibilities can all be achieved by using innovative digital technology.

We have invested in a unique digital learning app that uses the power of AI and engaging gamification to continuously help employees to understand, reinforce and retain their learning and knowledge. Employees and learners use Cognito Learning on their phones, tablets or computers, spending just two minutes a day answering questions about training, procedures, compliance or anything else.

Our learning and skills team support everyone in a customer-facing role, including those working with our dogs or delivering services to people who are blind or partially sighted. Although we are comfortable with our learning programme, we needed a way of verifying that our staff and volunteers remember and understand what they are taught, particularly around compliance elements, including GDPR, safeguarding and health and safety.

We wanted something really simple to use and uses AI to identify the areas where people or departments need additional help and support. It’s vital our systems are accessible, so another key driver was to make sure everyone could easily access it, including members of the Guide Dogs team who are blind or partially sighted. Currently 1,600 staff and 400 volunteers use Cognito Learning. We trialled the system for 12 months and are now building on those solid foundations. This follows hugely positive feedback where 93% of our users agreed that the system is incredibly easy to use.

The vast majority of our people (85%) really value it and look forward to completing their questions. There is also a league table that ranks our top performers, which encourages competition. Over the last 12 months we have run a soft launch with six questions. Now that teams have embraced it, we are re-launching to maximise the AI element. This will give us even more data to enable the retention of knowledge, particularly around compliance.

Every penny counts for us, but it is also essential that we maintain our quality and standards in everything that we do. Our legal obligations are extensive, and we are regularly audited. The data that’s provided is invaluable when it comes to demonstrating how we support staff to keep their knowledge and skills up to date, as well as being compliant with policies and procedures covering everything from whistle blowing to data protection and so much more.

Cognito Learning also ensures ROI on training and a reduction in retraining requirements. The system’s AI shows us where the knowledge gaps are and helps us to review how we are delivering our training. It also supports Guide Dogs’ ethos around encouraging individuals to take responsibility and ownership of their own professional development. It makes it easier for people to have a conversation with their manager about areas they need support with as it clearly identifies people’s learning achievements, which are ranked by learner, improver, expert and master.

We are now working with the digital learning provider to maximise our use of the system and it’s really exciting to keep discovering new ways it can help us. It reflects our cultural way of life now, where information is instantly available, and our learning tools must mirror this. Easy access to knowledge that can be embedded in an enjoyable, speedy and easy to understand way, is the intelligent future of learning.

Linda Cooper is head of learning and organisational development at Guide Dogs.

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