How did you come to work in training?
I had, without realising it been training people since the age of about nine or 10, as a scout teaching knots, camp craft and various other things. At school with hockey, skiing and maths and on into adulthood when I joined the Army and was involved in recruit training. My day-to-day role in the Army was telecommunications engineering and when I left I joined Mercury Communications, part of Cable & Wireless in a technical telecommunications role. In 1995 I had the opportunity to create a training programme that would train new team members in their role. It was at this point that I realised training had been a thread through my life that I both enjoyed and saw some significant success. The rest, as they say, is history!
Describe your role
My current role is that of training team manager within a large utility. The role of my team is to provide any training support for the Customer Services Group. My contribution to that has been to build a team that have excellent knowledge of the business processes and that are developing the training skills necessary to create innovative, interactive solutions. I have had to build the training strategy and have worked closely with the HR department to revamp the performance review process, which is a key driver of training strategy.
What activities do you spend most of your time on?
The bulk of my time is spent on dealing with the strategy of training. Identifying the key needs of the organization and planning how one small team can support them. Another significant chunk of time is spent on managing the progress my team are making with their projects and helping them to apply the principals of the training cycle.
Is training in your organisation mainly organised according to a strategic plan, or mainly arranged when a need has become evident?
A bit of a mix really. The quarterly performance review process produces a list of needs for individuals within the organization that highlights needs. At the same time we take a strategic look at the data produced to see whether there are skills, attitudes or behaviours that warrant development.
Is any of your training accredited by external bodies?
We are about to launch two management development programmes, each of which is accredited.
Do you feel that training has a high enough profile in your organisation?
Yes, the industry went through a major change last year and as a result training had a key role in dealing with both new processes and systems but also with new employees. That profile has remained as a result of the quarterly performance review process.
How do you demonstrate the value of your department to your organisation?
Evaluation is a much-neglected part of the training cycle and of evaluation, return on investment is perhaps the most neglected. Unfortunately, I am currently continuing that tradition… but there are plans afoot!
What influences do you think have had the greatest impact on the training sector in recent years?
There are two area that have impacted hugely, e-learning and NLP.
E-learning was seen as a panacea by both the business and training worlds. The truth is, it is simply a tool that can be used to deal with some training needs. There are many e-learning products around that are nothing more than a glorified PowerPoint presentation, that don’t interest the learner and that don’t really do what it says on the box. I would advise all budding trainers not to climb on the e-learning bandwagon too readily, look at it the same way you would a flipchart, a video or a workbook.
Although I’m not an NLP practitioner I have a detailed enough knowledge to recognise the benefits some of the principles have when interacting with learners. Anything that can help trainers to identify personality types and behaviours on the hoof helps to improve the effectiveness of any training interaction. If you don’t know anything about NLP, find out!
Do you think that training professionals should have a greater say in planning national training policy?
Yes. If you have a burst pipe do you call the bank manager? (Well, perhaps for the overdraft for the call out fee!) Management of whatever level can only make key decisions when they have the correct information to hand. Surely the same can be said about those making the decision about national training policy?
How do you see your work changing or developing in the next few years?
I see a move away from the design and delivery of training towards the management of training teams. I enjoy the creativity of design and delivery as well as the intellectual challenge of training needs analysis evaluation but the reason I’m involved in training is that I enjoy making a difference. It’s time for me to start making the difference through strategy rather than through creating innovative, effective courses.