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Linking top HR tech solutions to power up skills, knowledge and performance at Far North District Council

E-learning at Far North District Council

About Far North District Council 

The Far North District Council is in the most northern part of New Zealand. Bordering the Kaipara and Whangarei districts, it is the largest of the Northland Region’s three territorial authorities and stretches from North Cape and Cape Reinga in the north to the Bay of Islands, the Hokianga, and Kaikohe further south. The council is responsible for establishing policies and strategies that determine its overall direction, and these are implemented by a chief executive and 360 council staff members. A mayor and nine councillors represent the district’s wards.

Far north District

The Business Issue

How to provide timely, flexible and cost-effective learning to staff that  could improve the services delivered to customers and equip people to move and grow within the Council

The Solution

By connecting Mariner7's online performance management tool with Skillsoft’s intelligent online learning platform Percipio, FNDC have enhanced the value of both systems.

The Impact

  • A 600% increase in the uptake of e-learning

  • 10% of the workforce have had the opportunity to either be promoted into senior roles or to move to another team as a result of having developed themselves in readiness for the next opportunity.
  • The technology-enabled change to a culture of self-directed learning, career progression and staff engagement has opened up the opportunity for further development of talent.

The Business Issue

Far North District Council (FNDC) is an organisation that is geographically spread across a wide catchment. This presented challenges in providing training to their staff in a timely, flexible and cost-effective manner. Having staff travel regularly to offsite training workshops for days at a time was becoming cost prohibitive and was adversely affecting productivity.

As part of their strategy to build a stronger and more agile workforce, FNDC wanted to offer their staff access to a broad, blended learning programme in highly transferable skills, rather than just role specific training. They also wanted to link this learning and development programme to their Mariner7 performance management system to ensure the delivery of learning, development and performance were complementary parts of a single process focused on locking in the learning and using it to increase value to both customers and the Council.  They chose Skillsoft’s Percipio for their e-learning system because of its ease of use, range and type of learning available and the fit with the goal setting, performance conversation and feedback tools within Mariner7.

 The integration of Mariner7 and Percipio was designed to grow the quality of service that FNDC delivers to its community by growing employee engagement. Personal learning and development and a clear understanding of what is expected are major drivers of engagement.  A highly engaged workforce is proven to have an enormous impact on almost every metric of an organisation’s performance, as shown by this Gallup survey that can be downloaded here.

The two systems play complementary roles.  Mariner7 is used to agree goals, coach performance  through performance conversations and manage each person’s agreed training and development plan. Percipio offers a broad range of high quality e-learning content that can be fitted around work schedules and whose completion can be managed to required standards. People can discuss progress on learning and performance with their people leader via Mariner7’s online performance conversations and progress feeds into each person’s Mariner7 development plan which is used for career development conversations and annual performance reviews.

Size and scope of the learning programme

The FNDC learning programme is comprised of several programmes for both People Leaders and team members and is designed to provide the right kind of learning at the right time. By early 2020 the programme had been adopted by 100% of the 251 employees targeted to participate.

The Percipio solution provides the learning assets which feed into the development plans for each staff member. The plans are driven by an assessment and conversations between Leaders and their team in order to identify and bridge specific skill gaps that relate to areas such as Leadership, Productivity & Collaboration Tools, Customer Experience and Project Management. Three key examples of how FNDC has utilised the Percipio solution are summarised below:

The Building & Resources Consents Team

  • This area of the council has the most visibility in the community as information relating to how quickly consents are provided is publicly available
  • The tactical 6-week programme was driven by the People Leaders to improve the knowledge and ability of their team members in the areas of Customer Experience and Business Communication skills.
  • Leaders communicated this programme to the relevant individuals and assigned learning modules
  • FNDC provided incentives and a sense of friendly competition amongst the learners to build engagement and interest in the programme.

The Capital Project Delivery Team

  • A team of 8 Project Delivery staff were assigned to a 16-week programme to prepare for major projects in the district such as the development of the Waste Water Treatment Plant, the largest capital project in the district
  • The staff members were assigned a module/course to complete every week focusing on the essentials of Project Management
  • The goal of this programme was to enable the staff to manage project initiatives in an effective and efficient manner
  • Members of this group also carried out key roles in the Drought Response Team set up to manage the water crisis earlier this year.

The COVID-19 Response

  • FNDC put together two custom channels to assist People Leaders and staff with the transition to remote working during the lock down.
  • These contained a blend of content including:
    • Percipio content
    • Organisational specific content
      • Service Desk Guides
      • How-to Guides
      • Policy documents
    • External Assets
      • Mental Health Foundation to help deal with mental well-being during this time
      • Ministry of Education to help staff members who are parents to discuss the Covid-19 situation with their children
      • EAP resources
  • The “Stay Well Away From Work” channels have had a massive impact on helping staff members get back online in a timely manner. They have helped the leaders to navigate their team through uncertainty and have provided support resources to help deal with lockdown and isolation periods.  FNDC shared their work here with peers in other Government agencies, and organisations across New Zealand with a case study published on LinkedIn.

How the programme has grown and adapted to the changing needs of the organisation

Initially the programmes were designed to address specific leadership and business skill needs within the Council. However, the Percipio solution has now enabled FNDC to quickly address new issues as they arise. The examples shown above demonstrate how targeted learning campaigns to address specific needs can be quickly rolled out. In these cases, face to face training was not an option, due to cost and lockdown constraints.  E-learning through Percipio was able to overcome these barriers and provide an extremely cost effective, high value solution. 

Congratulations to Far North District Council’s Mike Boyd (Manager, Talent Development) and Cara Pietersma (Customer Experience Lead) who, as a result of this work, were finalists in Skillsoft’s Asia Pacific 2020 Programme of the Year award.

The programmes overall business impact 

The programmes in place at FNDC have had a great impact on driving a culture of self-directed learning, career progression and staff engagement. Initially the key metric focused on was how well the resources were adopted by Council staff but after achieving a 100% uptake FNDC has been able to track other outcome metrics such as promotions and new opportunities for staff.Success

The value and enjoyment gained from the initial programme by the participants was such that the Council has seen a 600% uplift in utilisation of e-learning.  E-learning is no longer viewed negatively and this change in culture has opened the way to scaling up training and development programmes more effectively for the future.

In addition to the increased use of e-learning, FNDC has found that during the past year, 10% of their workforce have had the opportunity to either be promoted into senior roles or to move to another team as a result of having developed themselves in readiness for the next opportunity. The Percipio solution was a critical enabler of this success and the power of e-learning has been a real eye-opener for the organisation.

Together with the success of the online conversations around development and performance that Mariner7 has enabled, a platform has been laid for the continued growth in engagement and performance for the Council that was envisaged at the outset. 

The ability to connect best practice technology solutions to deliver targeted outcomes is ideal for the size and style of New Zealand businesses.  It enables organisations like FNDC to build a tailored, integrated, outcome-focused people system in the order and at the speed they require to meet their specific needs.  


What staff say about the programme

“Percipio is an excellent learning platform that works with my schedule.  Working and Learning through Percipio is a stress-free way of enhancing my personal development.”

Health Safety & Wellbeing Specialist

“I love that Percipio offers a range of subjects and, specifically in the Project Management  Module, offers several stages as you work your way through a project.”

 “My Project Managers were able to do modules in-between projects and at their own pace without having to leave the district for training.” 

“All the modules on offer have been taken up well by the team and are providing valuable advice.”

Team Leader – Infrastructure Projects

“Percipio is awesome! I can learn what I want when I want and how I want. I really like using the app which means I can access content on the go. My most recent learning is ‘Forging ahead with perseverance and resilience’ which seems quite timely in these challenging and evolving times.”

Manager – Quality

“I recommend staff check out Council’s Percipio learner-centric training. It provides an extensive range of courses, videos, practice labs, audio books, book summaries. When I drive for long periods I use the mobile app to listen to courses offline.” 

“My development is very important to me and I set a recurring appointment in my calendar to make sure I take time to learn.  I also get regular emails with recommendations based on my recent activity.” 

EA to the GM Corporate Services

“Percipio is an outstanding tool for all our staff. I love that you get a choice in the form of the content and the range is absolutely fantastic.”

Customer Experience Lead

“Within our organisation we are getting a lot of value from assigning courses for team and professional development. Creating our own channels is a valuable feature to pull together relevant and personalised content.”

Future plans

Currently FNDC have plans to focus e-learning on the top 10 skills highlighted by the World Economic Forum. These skills are highly transferrable, meaning staff can be prepared for challenges in their future as well as their current roles within FNDC or elsewhere.

They are also focusing on the people leadership and development requirements associated with remote working.


Linking e-learning and performance management