We talk with our colleagues about their background in learning and development, the Xprtise projects that make them proud, and the biggest challenges in learning & development in the coming years. This time it is Learning & Performance Consultant Robin de Graaf’s turn. After completing her Master's in Organizational Learning & Development, she worked as an e-learning specialist for two years, then started at Xprtise. As a Learning & Performance Consultant, Robin is co-responsible for a number of exciting projects, including Alrijne Healthcare Group, MCL(Medisch Centrum Leeuwarden), and Stedin.

Who? Robin de Graaf.
What? Learning & Performance consultant at Xprtise since November 2020.
Where? Xprtise NL, 's Hertogenbosch.

I’ve been living with my boyfriend in 's Hertogenbosch for the last year, just around the corner from Xprtise's office. We will still be close by when the HQ moves to Grasso– only 6 minutes by bike.  I studied in Maastricht, completing my Bachelor’s in International Business and a Master’s in Management of Learning (now called Organizational Learning & Development). This study includes economics, business, human resource management, and learning sciences. Because it is based on multiple disciplines, you get a good picture of how knowledge and skills can be used and developed effectively at the individual, group, or organizational level. I was also a student consultant at DECP (Dutch Employers’ Cooperation Program). My team and I developed a strategy related to skills development in emerging markets. It became a tool – based on academic research and interviews with knowledge carriers – for (employer) organizations to identify a skills gap in a company. During my Master’s, I first started with Learning & Development.When I graduated, I started working as an e-learning specialist at an HR service provider and grew into an L&D specialist. Then went from the customer side to the consulting side at Xprtise. I got to know Xprtise when I attended an event with Bob Mosher in the Verkadefabriek. I continued to receive Xprtise's newsletters, and when I saw a vacancy, I applied. The company I was working at was going through organizational changes. So, one plus one is two: I applied and was hired within a week.

Where do you get the most energy from? What is your passion?

I love musicals...  my guilty pleasure! I love to watch them, and until seventeen, I played in them. Then when I went to university, it faded into the background. And because of the pandemic, visiting musicals (I’d like to get to London one day) has not been possible. Hopefully soon! In terms of work, I get a buzz working with clients when at one point, you both feel: this is it! That you have created something good that really works. That gives me such a boost. At Alrijne, for example, we’re working on Medisch Rekenen for caregivers in nursing homes. We used the workplace learning solution for nurses and adapted it for the target group of carers. The people we work with are so enthusiastic and participative that you feel together you’re making a difference.

I get a buzz working with clients when at one point, you both feel: this is it!

What makes the field of Learning & Development so interesting to you?

In our field, you’re busy helping people develop and work better so that work is never done. And, you work with a mix of people. One time you’re with mechanics, and the next, with nurses. Each requires a different approach. Important questions I always ask myself are: "Who am I dealing with? What do we want to achieve? What has worked in the past, and will it work in the future? What can we do now that we couldn't before? And how do we keep learning fun, challenging, and as easy as possible at the same time? L&D is a kind of 'science,’ while at the same time, you also work with a lot of people. I find that combination interesting. It's trying, experimenting, and thinking creatively.  You constantly have your preconceptions challenged instead of falling into routines.”

What do you think makes Xprtise unique?

That is the flexibility and mentality of the team. I'm reminded of what Pipi Longstocking said: "I've never done it before, so I think I can do it." You can feel that within Xprtise as well. We are growing and discovering what we all want and can do, but actually, we can do everything already. We put our shoulders to the wheel and fix it. And what I also really like - something that struck me when I first worked here - is idea and vision behind Xprtise's work. The 5 Moments of Need® methodology is fully woven into the organization. Everyone within Xprtise acts based on this methodology, and that is distinctive. With us, it’s not just: 'the customer asks, and we run'; we do it together and look for the best solution together.

What projects are you working on?

One of the two biggest clients I work with is Alrijne Healthcare Group, where we are working on several projects. A project for the vulnerable elderly, DBC (registration of care costs), medical calculations for nursing homes, a project for team leaders, and have recently started a project for lung diseases (inhalation techniques). Some of these projects go live soon, and the rest over this year. We are expanding so much within Alrijne that small things like the DBC are also covered. So the learning solution is becoming broader and more embedded in the organization.

Another big project I'm working on is with a big pharma company. We completed a large pilot there at the end of last year. And we are now in the start-up phase to roll this out further. At the same time, we are working on another pilot there. We are doing the Analyses, building a proof of concept, and getting user feedback. That takes a lot of time but is very fun and challenging. I am also working on a number of assignments for Albert Schweitzer Hospital, Stedin, and Medical Center Leeuwarden (MCL).

What project are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the successful pilot at the large pharma company. A large, international customer where we made an information EPSS instead of a workflow EPSS. They had structured their processes very differently, so we had to do it differently. All documentation was scattered; one document was on SharePoint, another on another portal, and someone had printed something or put it on a separate disk. In short: it was unclear where the right information could be found. We, therefore, looked at all the resources and where they are available. “What is the process? Who is it for? And what resources does this person need for this task?” We made that fully personalized and put it in a nice Performance Support solution. The pilot has been received very positively!  For me personally, this project brought me a lot. I was busy with both the content and building the portal, and I learned a lot from that. We looked beyond the standard possibilities; extra nice that we can develop it further.

With us, it’s not just: 'the customer asks, and we run'; we do it together and look for the best solution together.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in L&D in the coming years?

That is implementation, that is, really implementing what you have conceived, created, and developed as an L&D specialist. This also involves a bit of change management: how do you ensure that people in the organization use the solution, become enthusiastic about it, and do not feel that extra work is coming their way. And they see it is designed to make their job easier and save them time. I think L&D people often miss that step. Therefore, essential questions are: ‘How are you going to implement the solution, and how do you ensure that others within your organization are convinced to use the workplace learning solution? So that it doesn't disappear on the shelf.’ That is a major challenge.

Want to know more about Robin de Graaf? Check out her LinkedIn profile or send her an email at r.degraaf@xprtise.com. Robin has also collaborated on an Xprtise podcast with Drillster, an adaptive learning program that helps employees learn and remember material faster and better. Curious about how this program works and how you can use it to enable learning in the workplace? Listen to the podcast here (in dutch).