At the beginning of the month (2-6 October), Gowling WLG held its first Festival of Learning, a week of virtual and in-person sessions to provide an opportunity to all of our people to learn a new skill or develop existing ones. In this blog, Kate Collis, learning and change consultant, shares the journey to Festival launch and the exciting events that took place.
I relish managing change in a business. Change is all about the people; how they respond and react to change depends very much on how they are involved in the change, communicated to about the change and feel like they have a part to play in making the change happen.
This is where the ‘Festival of Learning’ came from. An opportunity to do something that Gowling WLG had never done before, to bring about a change in our learning culture where we encourage everyone to be in the driving seat of their own learning and development, create a buzz in the air and give everyone a chance to learn something new.
After conceiving the idea of the Festival, I took the idea to the board to make sure that the idea could really happen. I set to work writing a bold proposal, detailing my idea and vision. The response was fantastic and the Festival of Learning was born.
With my skills as a programme and change consultant prior to working at Gowling WLG, I knew the only way to go was to run the Festival like a full-blown project; I needed a sponsor/s to steer the decision making and I needed a working party to help the thinking and I definitely needed firm-wide engagement!
I set to work and started to recruit my team. I talked about the Festival to everyone, at all levels across the firm. My husband, children, dogs, cats, hens and Rufus our pony all heard about my plans for the Festival of Learning! I then enlisted the exceptional support from key people from across our business – I was delighted to recruit HR director Chris Oglethorpe and partner Andrea McMahon as sponsors. I also needed a communications plan, a festival booking system, a unique festival design and brand and plenty of volunteers in the form of both working party members and some super people who would deliver a session on the Festival programme. The list of people who supported the Festival goes on and on. In fact, over the course of the programme I’d managed approximately 200 separate actions and activities with the support of a brilliant engaged army of individuals across our firm and it makes me immensely proud to say this!
The next few months were hectic with lots going on, fortnightly working party meetings as well as our own Learning and Development team focus sessions to drive the activities forward. The launch date crept up quick and the Festival of Learning opened its doors on 2 October.
A learning programme was born with a selection of 47 sessions, to include origami, generative AI, working in Government, career development, barista techniques and latte art and so much more. Primarily, the Festival took place in our London and Birmingham offices but with virtual sessions and local sessions in Dubai and Frankfurt, we were able to cast the net wider and include those in our international offices.
The week itself was hugely successful. We have seen encouraging evidence to show that people learned new skills from the large amount of feedback received. There has been an increase in people signing up to getAbstract and MBL Webinars since the festival too. Having taken into consideration feedback from those who attended the sessions, the festival working party, participants and indeed ourselves, we know that there are clear reasons and huge benefits of delivering the festival again in the future.
I’d like to end by saying how much I enjoyed working in an environment with so many people who gave up their time, their brain power and enthusiastic energy to me, my team and the Festival of Learning. What an incredible bunch you are – thank you!