Why we doubled our investment in learning and development

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Our managing director Nick Hardie-Grant explores some of the exciting new learning initiatives taking place at Hardie Grant Media.

Nick Hardie-Grant

The content marketing industry, and media industry more broadly, has gone through more change in the last five years than most businesses can keep up with. As a result, we constantly need to stay up to date with what’s coming and what’s going, especially for the benefit of our clients.

At Hardie Grant Media we’ve always had a focus on bringing the outside in – learning from our global peers, attending conferences and training sessions, forecasting trends and challenging our clients to think longer term. Recently though, based on the belief that our people are our biggest asset, we’ve doubled our investment in learning and development and have a focus on developing a learning culture.

What does that look like? First of all, it involves formalising and better communicating some of the initiatives we’ve already had in place. But more importantly, it involves introducing some new ones.

The core framework we’ve used is the 70:20:10 model. The essence of the model is that hands-on experience and social or informal learning is far more important than more traditional coursework through instruction.

Here’s an overview of the main learning programs we offer:

1. Leader-led learning

We recently partnered with Wentworth People to develop a more structured learning and development program across the Hardie Grant group. A key part of this program is a focus on leader-led learning, which puts the onus on our leaders.

2. Biannual idea hacks

The winners of our Sydney idea hack activity (from left to right): Brittany Daniel, Michael Glenn, Sophie Knox and Katrina Mastrofilippo.

Every six months we clear the whole team’s calendar and throw out a challenge to be turned around by the end of the day. This encourages everyone to experiment with new tech, new channels and new ideas, and making a day of it gives everyone an opportunity to think creatively, work with new people and try new things. 

For example, in July we asked our Melbourne team to develop an integrated campaign that would inspire all Australians to change their daily habits for the benefit of the planet. First, we screened scenes from the documentary 2040 and then Kate Thompson, our strategy director, set some loose parameters. Our Sydney team completed the same challenge in September. The results across both offices were really exciting. And if any particularly innovative ideas come out of these sessions, we have some budget set aside so we can fund them. 

3. Self-directed learning material

As part of our learning and development program, we have a range of content available on our intranet for those wanting to dive deeper on a specific topic. This ranges from podcasts to videos and longer-form guides.

4. Off-site training days

In addition to cross-functional sessions we also have our department heads run specific development days for their team. We bring the editorial, sales, creative and client service teams together as a group once or twice a year (flying the Melbourne team to Sydney or vice versa) to explore topics relevant to their field.

This might involve bringing in a guest speaker, hosting an interactive session or workshop, or introducing a longer-term project to be delivered over the proceeding 3-4 months.

5. Global working groups

The Hardie Grant leadership team hard at work during a strategy session.

The Hardie Grant group strategy sits across our publishing, media and consumer businesses, as well as our four key markets (ANZ, UK, US and Asia). 

Our more senior staff are given opportunities to join working groups consisting of a diverse group of people, where they are tasked with refining, workshopping and pursuing key strategic business initiatives. They then come back with a report on a quarterly basis. This gives more of the team exposure to our overall business strategy and offers a line to the board and the senior management team. 

6. Internships

We run a few different internships across the business, which we think benefit both the interns and our team. For example, we’ve been working with CareerTrackers, an Indigenous intern program, for the last few years.

Not only does this program allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students interested in media to get some hands-on experience, but we also get the chance to learn so much about their cultures through lunch and learn sessions, CareerTrackers events, and just from working together. Diversity is so important in publishing and we’ve found that bringing in new perspectives has real advantages for the team.

7. Inter-agency opportunities

Nick Hardie-Grant (Hardie Grant Media) and Stacey McArdle (tide.PR).

As our offering is so diverse (from PR to content marketing, book publishing and digital media), it’s important that our team knows our full range of services and how each division works.

We offer team members the opportunity to work closely with our other agencies. For example, we sent our business director up to Sydney to work at tide.pr for a few days, where she did press send outs, helped with client presentations and updated databases.

We’ve done a lot of these things in the past, but in a more organic, small family business kind of way. Introducing some more formal development opportunities ensures that we’re continually adapting. A lot of the work we’re doing now won’t be the same next year and if we’re not learning and evolving, we’ll be left behind. This is an exciting period for the content marketing industry, and we want to be leading the change, not resisting it.

Nick Hardie-Grant, managing director

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