Interview with Gary Norris – Personal Facilitator for Online HRM at DPG – by Matt Chappell

Gary Norris, Personal Facilitator at DPG studied Business at Brighton.

Written by Matt Chappell from DPG.

Gary Norris, Personal Facilitator at DPG, recently spoke to colleague Matt Chappell, also from DPG – a CIPD approved centre for HR training and courses – about his career and how his Business degree at Brighton Business School first introduced him to the world of HR.

Brighton Business School is also a CIPD accredited centre and offers a CIPD-accredited Level 7 programme to help you progress a career in Human Resource Management. This course is also accredited by the Chartered Management Institute, allowing you to graduate with a Masters, a CIPD Advanced Diploma in Human Resource management and the CMI’s Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership.

Can you give us a quick introduction about yourself and your role at DPG Plc?

I work as a Personal Facilitator for Online HRM at DPG, which means I help and support participants on our Online CIPD Level 5 Programme.

I use webinars and other online interactions to guide participants through the programme. I’m their first point of contact, and I remain their primary contact throughout the programme. I’m available to advise and assist our participants outside of office hours, evenings and weekends.

The amount of contact I have with our participants really helps me individualise the support I provide – and helps me put the ‘personal’ bit in my job title.

I also provide feedback to our programme developers to help to continuing improve our programme and system. Being so involved means I’m buoyed with an in-depth knowledge that helps me deliver the programme comprehensively.

What did you study at university and what impact did it have on your career path?

I studied Business Studies at Brighton University, and it’s where I first got a glimpse of what HR was all about. Brighton was and still is very cosmopolitan. There’s a lot going on culturally, with plenty to see and do. I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for Brighton.

University served as a great base for what would be my future career, but I’ve also done a lot of learning since through other university and CIPD courses and this has really boosted my understanding of how I learn and, in turn, how other people learn. In my opinion this makes my ability to help others learn that more effective. So, I’d say that the studying I did later on has had more impact.

What work experience did you undertake before landing a permanent position?

My first role was in Learning and Development, in a training role, training members of the public. Then I moved into areas where I was also developing staff members and later I managed the people who were developing others. I oversaw quality assurance, writing different kinds of programmes and developing training content. I worked closely with awarding bodies to make sure that the programmes delivered met with their particular standards. I also helped one of the companies I worked with to move their paper-based learning programs onto an online system when online-based content delivery was in its infancy.

What advice do you have for those who are just starting university right now?

Choose something that you’re passionate about. If you can’t find something you’re passionate about, keep looking and keep trying things. It’ll come! That’s the main thing for me. We spend so much time at work that you’ve got to be doing something that you like otherwise it is going to cause you stress.

Do something you like doing, or change! You don’t necessarily have to stay doing one thing, either. If you end up working in one area or industry for years and you don’t fancy doing it anymore, you can effect that change – and it can be deeply positive!

Has your role changed, or have your responsibilities evolved, as you’ve worked for DPG Plc?

On joining DPG I was made aware that the role would evolve and that’s one of the elements of the culture that attracted me to it.

I think a job where you can evolve with it is key, I enjoy that I’m able to submit ideas at DPG. When I got to DPG the content developed and the systems had been laid out by really talented people. There’s lots of really ground-breaking content so it is a pleasure to work with this and then submit ideas to enhance or  resolve the little challenges we come across. We don’t really have any problems – its more about polishing the system we have, and it’s good to be able to help with that.

For example, we’re using a new learning management system, and we have to train the internal project managers on how to use it. I was able to volunteer to help design and deliver their training. So, it’s not something that was initially in the job spec, but the opportunity to be able to bring my role to life in new ways is fun, and enriching.

What key skills do you need to get into the industry? What do DPG Plc look for in prospective employees?

I can’t comment on what DPG look for as that’s not my remit. Of course, for any role related to HR it is important to have an awareness of what HR actually is. HR is about seeing people as an asset. If you brought in a big shiny new piece of machinery that does a job, you strive to keep it working well. You update it when necessary, you make sure it doesn’t break down – and you do the same with a human being when they come into a role, you look after them. And that’s what HR is about.

Can you give one piece of advice you know now which you wish you had known when you started?

Choose something that you’re passionate about which provides vocational experience. Keep looking till you find something you’re passionate about, then make sure any learning gives you the practical experience employers want.

How important is practical work experience when applying in today’s job market?

It’s extremely important, employers want to know that staff can do the job they are recruited for and will hit the ground running. So, in interviews you will be asked to give examples of how you acted in certain situations – you need experience to be able to do this. That said, employers and learning providers know that it isn’t always possible to have practical experience. With our online programme, we address this issue by providing our participants with HR simulations in our ‘Business District’. The Business District is an animated virtual business world with several organisations, each with characters within them who have different HR based problems. Our participants are seconded to a HR consultancy, ZipHR, where they get to try out their new found knowledge. They get to act as HR consultants and advise the organisations in the Business District, which lets them see what effect their advice has – all in a safe environment.

Did you take part in any societies while at university, and if so, did you learn any valuable skills from your time?

Societies are a great way to get vocational experience and are a way to develop your social interaction skills. To progress your career and continue to learn any type of network is key. Societies can provide this wider network of people who you can connect with and learn from.

What is the most challenging part of your current role?

The most challenging part of my role at the moment is getting our participants to understand that they aren’t on a distant learning programme – i.e. they are not learning on their own. Some still start their messages with ‘sorry to bother you…’ when it is quite the contrary – if they get in touch it allows me to do my job so I welcome their question. I demonstrate effectiveness when I help and I deliver within agreed timeframes – all of which builds that all important trust.

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