Innovation and Me

I would love to share with you why and how I do what I do that led to such a fantastic award for my work recently.


The National Innovation in Training Awards are also know as The NITAs. Heard of them? Let me share a little about what they are.

BII NITAs 2016 Logo

The NITAs highlight the individuals and businesses in the hospitality sector who are putting people first and is part of the BII’s ongoing pledge to raise industry standards and share best practice in training and people management.

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to win the coveted Trainer of the Year at The NITAs which preceded this framing and feedback before the winner was announced:

This award focuses on the trainer’s innovative approach to training design, delivery methods, recognition of learning styles, evaluation skills and a commitment to continuous personal development.”

“The judges were particularly impressed with Donna’s ability to completely engage with learners, the passion, training style and professionalism. There was also real innovation and creativity in her use of the latest technology to deliver really great training.”

I passionately believe in enabling people to be as awesome as they possibly can be. The impact of this on the person, the job they do and, consequently, the business they work in is measurable, enhanced success. Sustained, high-performing teams, a culture that is proud to have its foundations built on personal development, progression, a happy team forging great customer relationships and a bumper P&L – who doesn’t want that in their business?

I do a variety of people stuff to help with that; design and facilitate tailored learning & development, support with achieving Investors in People recognition (my last client is one of only 7 companies to be recognised with Platinum status – I am beyond proud of this and definitely a highlight of 2016 for me), identifying and embedding apprenticeships, leadership & team work development, coaching, mentoring, employment law and recruitment, amongst other things. I specialise in L&D but I am a generalist, in the traditional sense, but how I work is far from traditional.

People Stuff Matters
People, not HR.

Perhaps the reason for working the way I do stems from my career advancement predominately crafted on the job?

Perhaps it’s because I am bored of having training “done to me” rather than being part of the design of future learning?

Perhaps it’s because I want to be involved, to help shape the future of how we work, to play my part in saving the world from shit training, boring inductions, tedious e-learning, predictable policy writing and the compulsory process flow-charts you must follow?

I’ve learned through experience over the last 20 years both from an operators perspective as well as learning each of the people related roles. After I’d reached a senior L&D role, I had my experience mapped for my CIPD status and, not happy with sitting on my laurels, I further developed myself by undertaking the Level 7 CIPD qualification. This academic recognition affirms that I know what I am talking about. I had the added benefit of being able to demonstrate and share, with my student colleagues, how I applied the theory in the workplace. I still think I learned more of the “how” and “why” on the job and would endorse this path for anyone who doesn’t have an academic leaning, like me. All of this experience, reinforced with my “bit of paper”, gave me confidence in my ability as a people professional. I thrived.PrintBut I still wanted to do things differently. The traditional approach to people development, paper-based, classroom only, teacher/student styles are rapidly becoming a thing of the past for creative, modern-learning, flexible businesses.

Checklists and signatures, to say you’ve had training done to you, with the compulsory happy sheets at the end, or to confirm you have read a policy should be made to go through their own redundancy process. There’s just no need for this approach any more. There are alternatives.


When I first meet clients, I have found that by listening to teams, thinking differently and challenging norms, we can identify clear, achievable goals together. Approaching people development activity by asking clients “why are you doing X the way you are?”, “how do you want it to change?” and “what does success look like?” can open up all manner of emotions. It also leads to quality conversations and collaboration on a future of work that’s right for them.


When I am discussing the design of a tailored learning solution, I make it very clear that powerpoint and formal lesson plans are not my thing. I can do them, I just don’t particularly enjoy it. There are many other options out there which are exciting, engaging, creative. I encourage my clients to consider alternatives, adopting modern workplace learning. We discuss options available. I facilitate. I don’t “do it to you”.

According to Ollie Gardner of Noddlepod, “Good face to face learning delves into the deeper, less tangible learning. Facilitation helps that to happen. Of course, facilitation is not purely a face to face, offline experience. Facilitation has also taken off in the online space and is only going to become more and more important”. I agree. The addition of platforms, apps and web based learning is proving to be an exceptional resource. It has become vital to people that the information they need is available to them in bite-sized chunks, on a platform which works for them, at the point they want or need it.

Building online communities is another approach I am a big advocate and user of. These communities will help to sustain momentum and engagement with your learning. You can write, format and illustrate text with images and embed media. You can upload files directly from your computer or simply link to resources of relevance such as YouTube, Vimeo and other popular web sites. The user experience mimics social media platforms that we are all familiar with. Your teams can create their own content, share resources and insights, ask questions and have discussions with their peers. I facilitate collaboration. I love it.Noddlepod Partner Logo.pngMy recruitment work is approached as if I worked for my client. I spend time working in their business, understand their needs and the culture so when I advertise, screen and interview, the person thinks I work directly for the company. I’m not an agency recruiter, I’ve only ever done in-house roles and the connection you have with a person, from application to hire, is crucial. It is for this reason I do not operate on a % or success of hire rate. Many clients will be able to vouch for the success of my approach.

Many of my coaching and mentoring conversations are based on strengths and values. Things that matter and are at the core of who you are. I am a person who keeps things simple. I prefer easy language that we can both relate to. No buzz words, no management speak, no bullshit. I find it works well. It’s me, being me, with you, being you. Open, sharing, trusting.

These examples of my work are not exhaustive by any means, but many people and potential clients have asked what makes me innovative, how they can be better, how I can help them be better. The only way to find out is to ask me. You can find me on Twitter @pubdonna, call on 07880 198 348 or email

I would love to hear your thoughts – how are you innovating your work?

Innovation concept

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Widow, Cats, Family, People Stuff, Exec Coach, Food Nerd, Gin Queen.

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