Digital learning is helping Ramona Saligari transform law firm Maddocks
Effective professional development can be a challenge at any time, but especially when you have to satisfy some exceptionally bright people.
"Lawyers are very smart, so when you're having conversations and thinking about what to provide them for development, it's very interesting," says Ramona Saligari.
Ramona is Head of Learning and Development at Maddocks, one of Australia's top law firms, where she is moving the company's professional development programs online.
To help make the project a success, and meet the demanding standards of a law firm that has been an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality for 16 years in a row, Ramona enrolled in the Driving Performance in a Changing World course at Melbourne Business School.
Maddocks' CEO and 37 per cent of its partners are women, as are 60 per cent of its workforce, and it tries to be ahead of the pack in everything it does. With offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, Ramona is responsible for the professional development of more than 600 staff.
"I've been able to apply some of the things that I learnt on this program in the current project – influencing key stakeholders and working with a project team on creating resources that we've never created before in a format that we've never used before," she says.
"We're building about 24 different types of resources in digital format rather than face-to-face, which is very different for the lawyers."
Ramona is trying to create a special kind of online experience at Maddocks to ensure it continues to attract and retain the talent it needs to serve major clients in multiple sectors, including government, infrastructure, healthcare and professional services.
"We've been thinking about a transformation program, starting with induction – from the time people come to the business – knowing that learning is going to be a little bit different."
"The whole program was virtual, which meant that you could go in through Zoom conferencing each week and use an app to access all the weekly content, share comments with the facilitators and everyone else who was on the program. It was a really easy, flexible and accessible program and suited me down to the ground."
She found the mobile app particularly helpful for accessing the program from anywhere.
"I didn't use my laptop as much as my mobile phone. I could go into the app and watch the recording of the masterclass if I missed it. I could go into the handouts. I could look at videos. I could read articles. I could do it on the train. I could do it in the office. I could do it at home. It was really easy."
Ramona says the program content was "fantastic" and the program facilitators managed to create a classroom experience online.
"They were really engaging. We could talk through questions, and they'd ask questions, we'd answer or raise questions."
Even though she has worked in human resources and learning and development for more than 25 years at Goldman Sachs, JBWere, Deloitte, King & Woods Mallesons and Maddocks, Ramona says that leading her digital transformation project requires a special set of skills and behaviours.
"You have to look through a different lens when you're a digital leader. It was really useful to have gone through the program when I did. It was the right time for me to learn those behaviours and skills if I want to step up a notch," she says.
"It's challenging to work with smart people because they are smart. I think that's what creates challenges for me as well."