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In October I was pleased to be able to share with ABP members the story of ‘noodle’ – a brand-new learning approach using a bite-sized, adult-led format which integrates the psychology of human performance and interactions to share concepts, frameworks, tools and techniques with employees facing unprecedented demands on their time and energy.

For years there has been a competing tension between the increasing pressure on time and budgets afforded by employers to develop their people and a shortage of capable and confident managers who reflect the diversity of the UK workforce.

An immediate intervention is required to help address the UK’s low productivity compared with the rest of Europe and beyond. Added to this pressure, new ways of hybrid and global working make it harder than ever to get people together to understand and apply any developments to their managerial skillsets. And, of course, the pandemic exacerbated all of these problems – with the subsequent ‘great resignation’ further risking hopes of creating and maintaining impactful, effective teams and individuals.

In 2020, during lock-down, my co-founder Max Gooding and I had the opportunity to create what we had been talking about for years – an online, flipped classroom learning approach to support those people who become ‘accidental managers’. Maybe you’ve been there yourself; you’ve certainly come across them – people who are promoted into people-management roles who have proved their technical expertise but are somewhat stumped when it comes to confidently leading and influencing the people on whom they depend to get the work done.

With years of experience working across employee engagement, change management, learning and development and leadership coaching we found:

• Clients repeatedly asked for short, impactful learning for their people.
• So much content was condensed into learning experiences that it proved harder for people to absorb, adopt and apply.
• Across multiple people-related contexts (feedback, influencing, communication) we were drawing on the same foundational psychological and behavioural content.
• People managers who needed developing the most were often the least likely to have access to timely, relevant and helpful learning.
We also had clients whose people had no access to technology beyond personal phones and/or tablets, for example hospitality or healthcare where most staff are ‘on the floor’ and not at desks or PCs. (This rang true with ABP members who shared in the webinar.)

We created a plan for 160 animated lessons of no more than 5 minutes each, following a consistent format and graphic approach, that could be accessed anywhere for just-in-time experience. Learners could tap into the portal where these were grouped by topics such as ‘Managing Others’, ‘Engagement’, ‘Change’ and ‘Influence’ as a subscription service, either as an individual or as part of a group. We piloted the approach with several businesses and industries (for example the NHS, universities, a media company, a charity and investment banking) and found some surprising – and encouraging – results.

Where we had initially considered we would be targeting individuals with little access to development opportunities, the shifting nature of work through enforced lockdowns meant that what we had produced was very attractive to employers, particularly its modular nature. Our over-arching intention has always been to help more people gain access to the amazing breadth and depth of psychology and all it has to offer us as human beings – both when we are together and when we are on our own – at work and at home. So – we shifted our goals to focus for now on reaching more people through programmes and businesses.
We also hadn’t anticipated how attractive noodle would be to the creative sector, with the branding and visual approach working for neuro-diverse learners in particular. It has also been refreshing and rewarding to see noodle making a difference across more experienced managers, not just those new to role.

Our fellow ABP members have responded very positively to what they’ve seen for themselves – a way to relieve the huge pressure on people-managers in the workplace to handle the day-to-day issues affecting morale, productivity, engagement and mental health. Helping those people to step into tricky situations with ability and confidence has an ongoing positive ripple-effect that makes for a better working day all round. We were delighted to be runners up for the Excellence in Learning Interventions award and to share our story.

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