BPHALogo_360x180Keith Whitburn, former learning and development manager* at Bedford based housing association bpha, explains how he meets the challenge of compulsory training, with support from a dynamic chief executive and leadership team that believe in leading by example.


Q: When did you introduce eLearning at bpha and why? What challenge does it solve?

A: We first started to use the Charity Learning Consortium’s suite of eLearning in 2015. Before that, most training was face to face. The aim was to introduce a modern, blended approach to the learning and development (L&D) we offer to employees.

eLearning is now part of our rolling L&D plan. This includes compulsory training and job and technical skills, as well as professional development and a leadership and management programme.

By offering a range of relevant L&D opportunities, we aim to make a significant contribution to achieving bpha’s key goals and objectives, as well as enhance personal and professional development. It’s a real sign of our commitment to our people.

We deal with a diverse client base across 18,000 properties so it’s vital that staff are equipped to meet their needs, whilst we also ensure that we minimise any risks. It’s a fast paced, constantly changing environment to work in, so agility and resilience are also key.

Q: What’s the scale and scope of your eLearning? Any specific challenges that bpha have had to overcome?

A: We have around 370 employees, each with an individual eLearning account. The nature of our work means that each employee is required to complete quite a lot of compulsory training, such as anti money laundering and health & safety.

Compulsory training is a notorious challenge. We’re incredibly lucky that both our Chief Executive, Kevin Bolt, and executive leadership team lead by example. They keep up to date with their own compulsory training and promote what all employees need to do at regular staff briefings.

Compulsory training is now mandated across the organisation and managers have it written into their key performance indicators. We have 100% completion rates in courses, for example, in the Bribery Act, health and safety, data protection and equality and diversity.

  1. Bribery Act (1 module) and Anti-Money Laundering (1 module).
  2. Data Protection (1 module) and Cyber Security (1 module).
  3. Equality and Diversity (1 module).
  4. Health & Safety (6 modules to be completed: Introduction to working safely; DSE awareness; Fire safety awareness; Manual handling; Slips, trips and falls; Alcohol and drugs at work).
  5. Bribery Act (1 module) and Anti-Money Laundering (1 module).
  6. Data Protection (1 module) and Cyber Security (1 module).
  7. Equality and Diversity (1 module).
  8. Health & Safety (6 modules to be completed: Introduction to working safely; DSE awareness; Fire safety awareness; Manual handling; Slips, trips and falls; Alcohol and drugs at work).

Reports generated directly from the Charity Learning Consortium website help us keep track of eLearning completions. A monthly report is sent to the executive leadership team and senior managers, and this is also reported on a quarterly basis to the Board.

Q: How do you encourage a Learning culture within your organisation?

A: There are regular communications to the business through a learning and development page in our weekly employee eNewsletter.

New courseware provided by the Charity Learning Consortium has also significantly raised the profile of eLearning within the business, as the modules are more intuitive and also need less time to complete.

I’m also really lucky that bpha has such a supportive chief executive and leadership team. They recognise that learning and development has to be tailored to meet both current and future business needs within a challenging external environment.

Q: How do you ensure that eLearning aligns with the core aims and/or values of your organisation?

A: Our learning and development programmes aim to support employees to live our bpha values of accountability, collaboration, customer focus, efficiency, integrity and innovation. They were developed ‘by staff for staff’ to help keep us focused on making bpha the place we all want it to be.

Ultimately, I know I have the leadership team’s absolute support to equip our people with the skills to do their jobs.

Q: What three tips would you share with other learning professionals, from your experience of launching eLearning?

  • Engage with your communications team very early on. They are invaluable with getting the marketing, communications and branding in place to ensure a successful go-live.
  • Have a project plan that is costed.
  • Consistently reassess the eLearning that you have and listen to the end users. We collect feedback and data in a range of ways, including appraisals, personal development plans and employee one to ones.

Q: What benefits do you see to being part of the Charity Learning Consortium?

A: Economies of scale – you just get more for your money: more eLearning and a support infrastructure for your annual subscription. We’ve also developed excellent one to one relationships that enable the Consortium to meet our needs. There are no tiers to pass through to resolve any challenges, which is refreshing.

Keith Whitburn is the Learning & Development and Organisational Development Manager at bpha.

About bpha

bpha is a Housing Association which is committed to providing its customers with high quality, value for money services whilst continuing to develop energy efficient, sustainable and affordable housing.

Based in Bedford and operating in the Home Counties between Oxford and Cambridge, bpha owns over 17,600 homes, employs over 340 staff and in 2014/15 had an annual turnover in excess of £118 million.


*Since this article was published, Stacy Cantwell, L&D Adviser at bpha, has taken over from Keith Whitburn