Lianne set up LMO Development in April 2020. A challenging time to start a business, but the last year has also highlighted the online potential for talent and learning consultancies. LMO helps organisations of all sizes develop their people. At any other time this would have been part of face-to-face meetings, but COVID meant an immediate pivot in delivery, after quick consultations with her initial clients. Hear why Lianne is optimistic about the future of online learning, systems that balances live interaction with a schedule that suits every employee. No matter how courses change and adapt in the future, online learning is worth the investment.
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Lianne Onslow, Jake Shaw
Lianne talks about pivoting here face to face learning business to a total online delivery.
Jake Shaw 00:01
Hello and welcome to the Amaiz podcast where we talk to businesses large and small, experts in subjects across a spectrum of business, entrepreneurialism tech, innovation, investment and finance. I’m Jake Shaw, your host. If you'd like to learn more about Amaiz, please go to www.amaiz.com.
Jake Shaw 00:23
Hello and I'm joined today by Leanne Onslow of LMO developments, a learning and development company based in Exeter. Good afternoon, Lianne.
Lianne Onslow 00:33
Jake Shaw 00:34
So Lianne, you set up your business in April, which is great that a new business has been set up right in the teeth of COVID-19. But before we talk about that, can you tell me a bit about the business and what it does?
Lianne Onslow 00:46
My business is a talent and learning consultancy. So I go in to help organisations of all different sizes to think about how they can develop their people.
Jake Shaw 00:56
And what sort of companies or organisations are your clients?
Lianne Onslow 01:01
I work with all sorts of companies as my clients. So I've got some training providers who like me to go in and design and deliver programmes on their behalf. And I've got companies of all different sizes, who like to talk about different ways they can develop their people, whether it is one to one coaching, right the way through to using their apprenticeship levy to put people on programmes.
Jake Shaw 01:23
So that's interesting. So I'm taking it that the original model was that it was going to be a face to face business, where you would go into a classroom environment for a significant part of the training. Is that correct?
Lianne Onslow 01:34
Absolutely. So I sort of work on the basis that I would have quite lengthy programmes and continuous relationships with these people. And we would have face to face events, face to face classes, where they would do this work, I would be able to coach them, then COVID happened and that didn't seem particularly viable anymore.
Jake Shaw 01:54
What happened was he suddenly the whole business model went out the window. To use the most overused phrase in Britain, today, you pivoted the business.
Lianne Onslow 02:03
I did indeed pivot the business, I had handed my notice in in my old role in February, when none of this was really happening. A two months notice period took me to April, and here I was with a single contract that was for face to face delivery that couldn't happen at so yes, there was some pivoting.
Jake Shaw 02:21
So the first thing you did with this pivot of the business,
Lianne Onslow 02:25
I think the first thing I did was probably have a little meltdown in the corner. But then when that had finished, I spoke to the organisation that I was due to be completing this contract with, PGL training her a local training provider in Exeter and just sort of said to them, I would really still like this to go ahead. And I think we could start this programme online and then go back to face to face delivery, once COVID was over whatever over looked like. And actually, they were really interested in doing that. It was a completely new thing for me, I have never designed and delivered online training before always been face to face delivery. So it wasn't anything that would have been my first choice. But I felt in the circumstances, I just had to go for it.
Jake Shaw 03:14
So there you are with your brand new business staring into the teeth once again of COVID-19, which means none of us can be in the same space, not in as long as we used to be. The government has offered quite a lot of support for people to be furloughed. So as you're self employed, you won't get that and also is offering the see bills and the bounce back loan, I'm assuming but you can tell me if I'm wrong, that you are not eligible for any of that support.
Lianne Onslow 03:38
Now, that's right, having started my business in April. So right at the beginning of this current tax year, I have been fully employed up to that point. So I've not been eligible for any of that assistance. And I'm a sole trader, so I'm not eligible to be furloughed. So no, there's kind of nothing for me in that respect,
Jake Shaw 03:57
Pretty challenging situation to be in. Tell me what sort of support have you received the local council or any government agency?
Lianne Onslow 04:03
I think support wise, actually, there's been a lot of support from the local business community. So using things like Twitter and LinkedIn, I've had a lot of support from more experienced business owners with regards to the council and government agencies, not particularly, I've not had any direct contact with them. My bank would send through emails and notifications and alike to tell me about government assistance. But obviously, that's not something that I was eligible for anyway,
Jake Shaw 04:36
You talked about the bank communicating with you about government assistance, has the bank offered you any assistance?
Lianne Onslow 04:41
No, I haven't been offered any specific assistance by the bank. It's been more of a signposting from them offering links to this is the government form where you can access the loans and grants and things but nothing specifically that I feel like has been produced by them
Jake Shaw 04:58
Thinking about the banking side of things house a communication? Is it any good when you get in touch with them to respond quickly? Or do they pick up the phone,
Lianne Onslow 05:05
When I have had to get in touch with the bank, I tend to use sort of a form of live chat rather than trying to ring them. I think certainly because obviously they've been affected by COVID, to trying to get through on the phone can be quite difficult when they've got a dispersed workforce as well.
Jake Shaw 05:21
I mean, in terms of support, there hasn't been any sort of major change in the support for the business or for you by the bank, I take it,
Lianne Onslow 05:27
the level of support from the bank has been quite standard. The signposting to what currently exists from the government is lovely. But I think also, if you've got a head on your shoulders, as a business owner, you've probably been able to access that information yourself. Anyway, I think potentially, something more around sort of hints and tips for a new small business owner would be a really useful thing.
Jake Shaw 05:48
Going back to the business, tell me about how you redesign them to work online, the development courses and learning causes face to face with your people.
Lianne Onslow 05:56
It's really important when you're moving a programme online to think about the actual pedagogy of online teaching. So it's not enough to take the PowerPoint you would have used face to face and just pop that online, it doesn't achieve the same outcome. It's really important to think about the attention span that people have when they're viewing something online. And the fact that people like that interactivity. But also, they do like to have materials they can go back to when it suits them, particularly at the moment when people are juggling home-schooling, and working from home and the like, as well. So purchasing those materials on a virtual learning environment for people to be able to access. I have set up groups within Microsoft Teams, to talk to people and using different channels for our book club and things like that. So it's been a really steep learning curve for me. But there are some great resources out there to really help you do this properly.
Jake Shaw 06:55
That's really interesting that you've found resources that already exists, am I right in understanding that all the tools that you're using to do this already exist on the web,
Lianne Onslow 07:04
things like teams, obviously other people use zoom, and there are other platforms available with regards to the virtual learning environments, I'm using the V le that is supplied by the training provider I'm working in partnership with but equally for them, it was sort of an add on to a system they already had that they've never used previously. So I have spent quite a lot of time designing and putting those materials onto that table for them and for the learners. And it's something that actually we're looking at doing with some more programmes going forward as well.
Jake Shaw 07:35
So what is the future for Virtual Learning Environments? What How do you see the future panning out?
Lianne Onslow 07:40
I'm quite excited because for me, online learning is something that I had never looked at as a possibility for LMS development, it's suddenly become this whole new business area with great growth. And actually I'm really looking forward to embracing that. I'm quite optimistic that as we go forward, we start to realise as a culture as a as a country that presenteeism isn't always necessary in an organisation. It's not about bums on seats, it's about the way that people work best. And so I think that online learning is a really good opportunity for people to develop anywhere, and when it suits them.
Jake Shaw 08:16
I've worked for myself pretty much permanently since I was about 1718 years old, I actually don't work very well, in the idea of turning up at an office not really my thing, in terms of people actually achieving through your courses. Is there any change in what they're achieving? Are they achieving things better or worse, or to say,
Lianne Onslow 08:35
certainly for the group that I am delivering the level five Operations Manager apprenticeship with these are middle to senior level managers within organisations actually saying to them, you have this online learning that you can access when you have the opportunity to do that. And when it suits you, is far better for them than saying, you will spend these two days a month in a classroom with me regardless of what else is going on. Even though they've got the online materials to be working through. We do still have to our face to face sessions through teams or zoom each month gets that combination of stuff they can access on demand, but still getting that live element of interaction with the group. balancing those two together works really well for them.
Jake Shaw 09:22
One of the things that I had an interesting conversation about it was actually using virtual spaces, but also on the quality of the events. If you think about in a conference or in an exhibition context, people are going to be less inclined to travel. So the draw has to be considerably better. Do you think this applies to learning development as well?
Lianne Onslow 09:41
I really do. People will start to embrace online distance blended learning approach. It's still very different from signing up to an online course where everything is online. I think it's still really important to have that live tutor input to know your tutor and be able to interact in that way. But I think as you say, people will feel a little bit reticent to go to large events, certainly in the short term. But online is a is a brilliant opportunity to make those things available to people who can't travel because they have caring responsibilities and things to small businesses who can't afford to pay a large ticket price for a conference and the hotel that needs to go alongside it. So think it's almost accessibility to these things as well.
Jake Shaw 10:31
spoke to a lady recently who was running polities and yoga classes in the local village hall COVID-19 hit, obviously, no more village hall for the foreseeable future. And she's gone from being a Hampshire yoga and pilates company to being a global yoga and plotting. using the tools just as you described, she now has thousands, perhaps thousands of too many, but hundreds of people now taking part in our classes all over the world. So the outcomes for COVID are not universally bad. There are people who are really beginning to come into their own six to 10 months from now, where do you think your company and online learning is going to be?
Lianne Onslow 11:12
Six to 10 months from now, I would like to think that I still have the opportunity to see people face to face I think we all do. And certainly I Buzz off of seeing people and talking to people it says the personality type that I am, but I am really invested in online learning. I have seen how accessible it has made a programme to people that are still working but can't leave their homes to people that are furloughed or have learners on my programme that furloughed and also to people who work within organisations were spending a couple of days nine to five in a classroom is just not possible for them. I have somebody on my programme, who works condensed hours because they are usually doing school pickups and drop offs. And obviously being able to access online learning when it suits them is fantastic. So I really hope that it continues in that way. I think there are certain elements of learning that are better face to face. But I think it's really nice that we have taken that leap. It's sort of been forced on us, I suppose. But actually people have taken that leap. And they're really starting to see the benefits of that.
Jake Shaw 12:22
So my last question is what are the top two courses that you're running right now
Lianne Onslow 12:27
the top two programmes I'm running right now is the level five Operations Manager apprenticeship programme with PGL training. It is a just short, a two year programme where people will come away with a full level five apprenticeship and level five qualification in leadership and management. And we conduct that online. We still do our teams calls, you still get to see my lovely face and we actually get to talk. But there is a load of online materials to be working through as well. And then the second one and insights discovery practitioner so I do a lot of work with people around how our personality types and our preferences dictate how we prefer to work, how we work with other people and how we can have a harmonious working environment by taking into consideration what other people's preferences are.
Jake Shaw 13:18
Finally, um, so where do people find you? What's the website,
Lianne Onslow 13:21
having only just launched my website is still under construction, but you can find us at LMO Development on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn. So all over the shop.
Jake Shaw 13:33
That's fantastic. Onslow of LMO Development. Thank you very much
Lianne Onslow 13:38
Jake Shaw 13:39
Thank you for listening. If you'd like to hear more podcasts like this, please go to www.amaiz.com and don't forget to like and share this podcast.