For the Aztec Academy, this year has been about embracing change and encouraging others to do the same. We asked Associate Director Gary Millns to explain how new training festival ‘Aztec Adapt’ focused on career development and new ways of working in a virtual world.
In a people-focused organisation like Aztec, professional and personal growth are essential components for every employee. Every year, the Aztec Academy runs its Festival of Learning and Development – a six-week programme of training, coaching and Continuous Professional Development (CPD). The aim is to ensure everyone is sharing best practice, maintaining the highest possible professional standards, and finding new ways to reach their full potential.
As Gary Millns explains: “Our annual festival is a really important period in the calendar across the entire organisation. It’s the time of the year when everyone can make time to focus on their own learning, not just to complete their CPD requirements, but to really take decisive steps to owning their career.”
A new event for an exceptional year
But in an era of COVID-19 which necessitated a move to virtual learning, planning this year’s festival presented a unique set of challenges. This year’s festival, which took place between August and September, was renamed ‘Aztec Adapt’, in line with a particular emphasis on digital training, learning and working remotely, and flexible management styles. Over six weeks, employees were given the option of signing up to two or three different voluntary courses each week. Each course was delivered virtually, supported by additional e-learning modules, covering topics such as resilience, conducting virtual meetings, virtual coaching, and managing flexible teams, among others+. The team delivered 30 hours of training over eight bespoke sessions.
Switching suddenly from face-to-face learning to virtual learning could have been a logistical nightmare, but for Aztec’s training team, it was a chance to put their ideas into practice. As Gary explains: “It has always been part of our longer-term strategy to offer more remote and digital learning – the events of 2020 just accelerated the process. We already had a head-start in terms of choosing the type of software we wanted to use, and we had strong ideas on the training we wanted to deliver. We knew it needed to be professional and true to our ‘Bright Alternative’ philosophy, and to really engage our people.”
Bringing different jurisdictions together to learn
One of the most significant developments this year has been the way Aztec Adapt brought different jurisdictions together. In previous years, learning courses were conducted face-to-face, with each jurisdiction having its own separate timetable. But the move to remote learning meant people from different jurisdictions could attend the same training, in one virtual classroom.
Gary explains: “We always talk about Aztec being a cross-jurisdictional business, but distance means it’s not always easy to bring all our people together. One of the biggest advantages of ‘going virtual’ was that it naturally created an environment of cross-jurisdiction teamwork and collaboration. Our people really got something out of recognising that most of the issues they face are also experienced elsewhere, by colleagues who can offer insight, collaboration and ultimately solutions. It’s been instrumental in bringing our people together and ensuring precious knowledge is being shared effectively.”
The Aztec Academy vision
Aztec Adapt is another step in the Academy’s long-term vision, which is to ensure each employee has their own ‘talent plan’, which goes beyond training to offer invaluable career progression. This can include coaching, mentoring and secondments in different areas of the business. These ‘experiential’ learning opportunities are an essential part of the team’s vision for future learning and development.
As Gary puts it: “Too many large companies think the best way for employees to develop their careers is to focus on only addressing and improving their weaknesses. Our talent plans encourage people to consider how they can actually use them to their advantage.
“A person isn’t defined by their job title or department. We want people to feel they can move around the business, absorbing valuable new skills and growing in confidence, rather than worrying about what they can’t do. Initiatives like Aztec Adapt are part of this process, and will help us to keep offering a wider selection of learning opportunities.”
Learning and development in 2020
Feedback for this year’s training has been exceptionally positive, the courses have been well attended, with over a third of the business dialing into the live training sessions. In many ways, Aztec Adapt has set the standard for future learning and development festivals, and many of the new training courses will form part of the regular calendar of events.
“Everyone has had to adapt this year, so it only felt right we should acknowledge and embrace it”, says Gary. “We’ve taken lots of positives from the situation, including thinking about creative ways that will allow us to be more flexible in how we work. It was a big ask of the team, and they responded magnificently. We’ll be using the lessons learned in 2020 to get the best out of ourselves, and everyone around us.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about career at Aztec, get in touch with our recruitment team on firstname.lastname@example.org