Digitizing learning in the Ottawa Police Service with Josh Abraham
UNLEASH Editor Jon talks to Ottawa Police’s Josh Abraham about the service’s digital learning journey and the tech that helped them on their way.
Why You Should Care
Design your learning strategy for the whole organization, not just senior leadership.
L&D often gets sidelined in lean times, wherever your organization is in the world, but - when people realise its benefits, the positives of the change are universal.
Listen to our full conversation with Josh beneath.
The OD (organizational development) and learning manager for Ottawa Police Service details some familar concerns about learning budgets, before telling UNLEASH what happened next.
Josh Abraham: The Ottawa police is definitely no different than any other police organization, we face the same challenges and pressures. Ultimate, our number one job is to keep the community safe. And there’s a lot of things that impact that including community pressures, politics happening in the city.
We’re a municipality here and a government town, the city of Ottawa. And oftentimes, things that are happening at that level can have a significant impact on how decisions are made or how much we can progress at any given rate, as well as any emergencies that happen in the organization and in the community.
One perfect example of that was earlier this year, when we had a convoy coming through the city of Ottawa that really shut down the downtown core. That definitely took up 99% of the Ottawa police services resources at the time. And so during crisis like that, you probably are thinking, nobody can really make time for learning or engaging with awesome HR technology, even if it’s the best that we can offer. That’s definitely not top of mind, and we can’t blame them for that.
Because their number one admission, and it’s coded within a mission is to take care of City of Ottawa residents first.
Jon Kennard: It’s a similar story with so many different organizations, not just public services; it doesn’t seem to matter in which country, that learning and development is often one of the services that gets cut, when belts need to be tightened. So how have you convinced the people that you work with that some kind of digital transformation or digital learning initiative needed to happen?
JA: Yeah, great question. So when I when I was hired four years ago, one big ask of mine was to join the Ottawa police service to build a senior leadership development program. So at the time, and just like many other organizations, oftentimes the development and the learning is these Cadillac experiences, as I like to call them, [which] are reserved for those in executive or senior leadership positions. And oftentimes, the rest of the organization – not on purpose, just the way the system is designed – gets forgotten about. And so when I recognized that very little had been done and there was a lack of progress in L&D space, with the exception of focusing on senior leadership, it was important to raise the challenge.
I brought that concern forward with a promise that I would come back with a fuller strategy that wouldn’t ignore the senior leadership ranks, but rather make them part of this ecosystem where everybody’s learning together. And we’d democratize learning that would really draw them closer to the rest of the organization as well, because there is a bit of a ‘lack of leadership presence’ was one of the things that we heard in recent engagement surveys – so I started there.
Choosing a learning platform
And when I when I did my research – and in government, it’s very difficult for us to be innovative, because we have pressures and, and budgets – but I still like to look at the private sector…and we were very fortunate in Ottawa to have several employers that represent the top employers across the country, and some even globally. And I was very fortunate to get in the doors with some of these companies and, and that’s where I discovered the technology that we decided to put forward which was Degreed, the learning experience platform, and I fell in love with the platform right away.
But for me, it was more about convincing them to build the proper foundations that could set them up for true succession planning, because they wanted that now, but they didn’t have a strong pipeline of leaders, not because the skills were in there, but it was because we haven’t been developing developing them from the ground up.
And we needed an award-winning technology to be able to support that process and to help us become a learning organization. And so with those two thoughts together, it was an easier sell than I thought it would be, and the investment was made. And here we are a year and a half later…
Hear about Josh’s whole digital learning journey by listening above.
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Editorial content manager
Jon has 20 years' experience in digital journalism and more than a decade in L&D and HR publishing.