Blended learning in practice

Blended learning is efficient and dynamic because it caters for different abilities, interests, learning styles and motivations. Working through the steps of the regional leadership model will help align development needs to options and outcomes.

Regional leaders: building a new team

Jemma is a level 8 regional employee. Her agency is starting a program for ‘at risk’ customers and she needs to build a team of ten people in the next quarter. Jemma worked for many years in customer service, but has not led teams before. She and her Perth manager, Rachel, identified generalist management skills (the regional influence) as an immediate development focus. They have linked this to the ‘achieves results’ leadership capability, particularly two indicators:

  • Builds effective teams with complementary skills
  • Allocates resources in a flexible manner across work areas to deliver the best results for the organisation.

Jemma and Rachel are not looking for training. It would not be easy to attend, and Jemma prefers to experience things in an active way and apply her learning on the job. They have thought about blended learning options, what needs to be achieved and when. They are using job shadowing and a stretch assignment. Job shadowing will be one day a week over six weeks with a leader from another agency who manages a team out of the region, and the stretch assignment is building the new team.

Jemma and Rachel agreed to this task in a performance development session and they mapped out goals, milestones and evidence. They discussed sources of support, including Jemma’s mentor who was able to offer different perspectives and some ‘distance’ from the day-to-day demands of the task.

Desired outcomes include experience and increased capability for Jemma, formation of the team for the agency and stakeholders, and collaboration across the sector. Evaluation will be used by Jemma, Rachel and others.

Jemma’s agency may need another team in future. She can share her skills and experience down the track.

Metropolitan leaders with regional responsibilities can also take a comprehensive approach.

Metropolitan leaders with regional responsibilities: media liaison arrangements

Kylie coordinates media liaison for her agency which manages significant projects statewide. This is a 24/7 on call role, centralised from Perth for many years. The executive has now decided that senior regional leaders (five people at level 9 or above) can contribute to media liaison to help with succession planning, sharing of duties and unplanned situations. It is critical that community and media relations are not compromised, so many people are closely monitoring the changeover.

In the past, Kylie talked with relevant regional employees (including the five executives) and then responded to the media. This often took time, including repeat phone calls or emails to clarify information, but Kylie could always make sure corporate messages were consistent.

The change requires great trust across the organisation and Kylie needs to use a different skillset in working with regional colleagues. This is much more than a change to business process.

The regional leadership model will help align Kylie’s development needs with agency outcomes and her regional colleagues can do the same.

Kylie and her manager, John, will focus on the ‘face of the agency’ as a regional influence because it links well to media relations. The chosen leadership capability for the moment is ‘communicates and influences effectively’. The blended learning approach is to use a stretch assignment for Kylie to develop and test the new media liaison policies and processes, and two outcomes are having a local media contact in five regions and the quality of this contact over time. Both outcomes will be closely evaluated.

Gaining support

With so many blended learning options, it is vital to gather support in the short and long term. It is worth considering:

  • how blended learning fits the agency culture - culture should drive but not limit the approach, and change may be needed
  • endorsement from the corporate executive and senior leaders - they may need further information or time to discuss options
  • current blended learning examples that can be shared
  • suitable people across the agency or sector who can motivate and influence others and help address concerns e.g. some people may be pleased that training is not the first choice, but others may worry about consistency and control
  • information available about regional colleagues, their work and what they can offer to capability building to help with action and planning.

Leaders’ expertise can be harnessed in many ways, such as:

  • subject matter experts to support colleagues on the job - e.g. with higher duties or stretch assignments in person or remotely
  • skilled leaders and managers who are role models with strong networks
  • buddying and mentoring programs
  • those who prefer to work with individuals or small groups
  • others willing to share their experience at sessions or formal events.

The preparation checklist (Appendix B) has further detail.

By setting up a group of regional contacts, I built my own skills in networking and collaboration. It was not easy, but it has been worth it. I did not need to go far to find the opportunity and I used it as evidence for the leadership capability profiles. It has been a good strategy for the business and my own development.

Regional public sector leader

Agency-specific factors

Agencies should consider factors specific to their operations, as these are not covered in this resource. Examples include:

  • governing legislation
  • agency vision, values and behaviours
  • size, regional presence, structure, funding levels and dynamics
  • leadership preferences of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and leadership team
  • relationships with stakeholders (e.g. government, other agencies and sectors)
  • work types, systems, policies and procedures
  • human resource (HR) access, systems, practices and support
  • IT support and availability.

We would like to do so much for regional leadership. To scope our efforts, we reviewed the legislation and matched this against local, regional and agency business plans and consultation feedback. Legislation gives us the power to act.

Metropolitan public sector leader

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Page last updated 23 July 2014