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Articles, tips, guides and blogs around business skills, training, professional courses and development in addition to South West relevant news.
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Five Super Time Management Tips!

Five Super Time Management Tips!

Time management skills are an essential attribute for successful employees across all business roles. It’s a fact, that savvy time managers are more productive, climb the career ladder more quickly, demonstrate greater professionalism and competence, have more spare time within their role to participate in training programmes and sufficient time to invest in building and maintaining strategic professional relationships. 

As such, if there’s one training course that should be at the top of your list this year, then make it time management!

In the meantime, the Training South West team have prepared six fundamental time management tips to get you on the right track:

Invest in an energising morning routine!

Let’s image two colleagues, both of whom perform the same role in the same organisation. Colleague A repeatedly snoozes his alarm, falls out of bed late and then races to work having only had a coffee. Colleague B, however, wakes up early, and follows a routine that puts her in a great state of mind for the day ahead. Who do you think is going to perform most effectively when they arrive at work? Colleague A or Colleague B?

People rarely see the value presented by using the morning time effectively. This pre-work phases offers a fantastic time to get you into the right mindset for the day ahead, which in turn, will make you productive and keep you on focused.

Establish a morning routine that isn’t excessive (otherwise you’re unlikely to do it) but this is constant, positive and which puts you in the right mindset for the day ahead. Exercise should be an essential part of this routine, followed by a healthy breakfast, the planning of essential goals for delivery at work that day and perhaps mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or visualisation.

 

Super Time Management Tip 1

Apply yourself!

Many people spend time looking at internet news, drinking coffee, chatting to colleagues and perhaps checking messages when they first arrive at work. Avoid this and, instead, apply yourself from the outset.

Set your day into ‘uninterrupted’ time zones (UTZ) of at least 30-minute chunks. If you take a break either side of this, then that’s your prerogative, but aim to get maximum output from your UTZs. When you’re entering an UTZ, be clear about:

  • What you’re going to achieve in that period
  • Set a timer (not on your phone)
  • Ask your colleagues to only interrupt you if essential
  • Turn off your email and phone and;
  • Deliver on your goals!

As few as 6 UTZs a day can pay boundless dividends when it comes to productivity and achieving your daily objectives. 

 

Super Time Management Tip 2
Set goals that are measurable

Ensure the goals you set in your UTZ are measurable. They should be goals that deliver a tangible and specific result.

Email surfing, or engaging in online chat with colleagues, formatting a report that doesn’t really need to be formatted, making coffee for colleagues etc. are not measurable tasks. Instead they are just ‘floater’ tasks that focus you on unimportant activities throughout the day. When embarking on your goal, you should be clear about why you are doing what you’re doing, what your deliverable is and how you’re going to do it. Ask yourself ‘what is the most important thing I can do, that will get me the best outcome for the time I am I investing?

 

Super Time Management Tip 3
Don’t allow people to steal your time

Your time is valuable. If you see time as having a financial value, then you’ll be more guarded about giving it away unnecessarily. Only use your time to deliver outcomes for others if this is essential and necessary. Be frugal with your time and spend it on tasks that will advance you. Be confident about saying ‘no’ to others if you are being asked to do things that move them closer to their goals but not you.

Clearly, there will be some tasks delegated by others that are incumbent on you and part of your job role. Where this is the case, then set a particular time in the day – ideally during a UTZ, to complete these tasks in one single chunk. They shouldn’t be allowed to distract you from your core tasks throughout the day.

 

Super Time Management Tip 4
Assess your performance

Although it may seem counterintuitive, completing an adhoc day account is a great way to assess your time management success. Record how you spend your time; look at how much of your day was productive and how much was wasted or spent on others. Be honest with yourself when you complete it. Those at the outset of their time management journey are often surprised at just how unproductive their days are…..

 

Super Time Management Tip 5
Be aware of time traps

Start becoming aware of the traps most likely to steal your time. This could be doing the tea / coffee rounds, chatting about non work-related topics throughout the day, tiredness (perhaps due to a poor start to the day and unsubstantial breakfast), drifting through tasks without goals, procrastination or avoidance.

Once you’re aware of the traps you should think through the ways in which you will manage them and limit their negative influence on your day.

 

We’ve given you some great tips to get you started. If you implement and adhere to these tips, then you’re bound to see a significant increase in your productivity and your performance within your working role.

If you work in a team that would benefit collectively from time management training, then contact the Training South West team to discuss your needs further. We deliver customised training courses to businesses across the South West. Whether you are in Yeovil, Somerset, Bournemouth, Dorset, Truro, Cornwall or Exeter, Devon, we have training courses and trainers to meet your needs. With all our business training courses delivered on site, we take the hassle out of training.

 

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It’s not just a beautiful place, Dorset has some of the best companies to work for in the UK!

It’s not just a beautiful place, Dorset has some of the best companies to work for in the UK!

There’s a good reason why our training company is headquartered in Dorset – and that is, that along with other parts of the South West, we believe that Dorset is one of the most beautiful places in the UK.

A vibrant county with entrepreneurs, multinationals and small family businesses bustling together against the backdrop of a stunning landscape, it’s fair to say that Dorset is the place to be!

Adding to the many reasons to celebrate Dorset, is research carried out the by the Indeed Job Search website, which has ranked a number of Dorset companies in the top ten list of best companies to work in the UK. 

Let's look at who the companies are and why the managed to make it in the top ten list: 

Ranking at number 3 is Agincare, a care provider based in Portland.

Agnicare has been praised for providing a culture of work life balance and supportive management. Starting life as a single care home in Weymouth in 1986, Agnicare now boasts 3,500 staff in over 50 locations.

Ranking at number 5 is Lush, a cosmetics company based in Poole.

Known for its commitment to animal welfare and its strong stance against animal testing, the company is now a common feature in most UK high streets. Starting life in 1995, Lush has grown both nationally and internationally. It now has over 12,000 staff based in over 450 shops and 900 outlets globally.

Lush was praised for putting the welfare of staff at the heart of its business. Parental leave was not only encouraged, but doubled, childcare allowances were paid to staff returning to work from maternity leave and wages were brought in line with the Living Wage. This increase resulted in over 1,000 workers in Poole receiving a financial increase of just over £2,000.

Coming at number 7 and number ten respectively, were the larger multinationals Barclays and JP Morgan.

Barclays employs over 1,000 staff in Poole, while JP Morgan employs over 4,000 staff in Bournemouth.

UK Managing Director for Indeed, reported that reviews posted by employees put considerable value on areas such as work life balance, employee support and a positive work culture.

A positive work culture is essential to retaining staff, driving productivity, ensuring morale and driving teamwork. It also reduces key areas such as sickness leave, time off work and failure to meet targets.Training and development and a visible commitment to helping staff ‘grow’ are essential ingredients to creating a positive work culture. A commitment to training demonstrates an investment in staff and provides a fulfilling framework in which staff can develop new skills and feel a sense of achievement.The cycle of training and the application of new skills and know how back into the workplace allows staff to feel that they are gaining something of value back from their role – in essence, that they are personally benefiting from being the role incumbent.

The research carried out by Indeed is great news for Dorset businesses and demonstrates the reason why Dorset has seen an increase in people of working age relocating to the county.

Training South West provide business relevant training courses to South West based businesses. Whether you are in Devon, Cornwall , Dorset  Somerset or Wiltshire, we have courses and trainers to help grow your staff and business.

Contact us for more information.

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Tips to secure employee buy-in to company training programmes

Tips to secure employee buy-in to company training programmes

Working with businesses across the South West, it’s fair to say that securing employee buy-in to company training programmes is a common challenge for many learning and development staff.

The attitudes of reluctant trainees are typically rooted in past experiences, such as previous enrolment on poorly scoped training programmes, working within a company culture that devalues training, or enrolment on courses that were a bad fit for their role.

As most learning and development staff realise, these attitudes can be incredibly damaging due to their ‘contagious’ nature. Not only do these attitudes serve as self-fulfilling for the negative learner when attending training programmes, but their lack of engagement and motivation can have a knock-on effect on fellow learners.

Below, we’ve given a series of bite sized tips to help you get the training buy in you need from your staff:

Engage staff at ground level

Get feedback from staff on what they believe to be training gaps or training needs. A sense of involvement at the planning phase goes a long way to reducing the sense of top down enforcement.

Engagement at this phase may also help shape your training initiatives in unexpected ways – you may enter the process assuming you need X but actually come out with an XY type approach.

Make training an important part of your company culture

Place value on training throughout the company. For example, talk about training plans and share training success stories in company communications, make training an important part of progression and promotion activities, create department / team / individual learning paths, actively talk about the benefits of training to business productivity or the financial bottom line.

Ensure training is relevant

If learners can’t readily apply most aspects of their learning within their roles, then the chances are that the training wasn’t relevant.  Task staff responsible for developing training content with the need to demonstrate the way in which learners can be translated back in the work environment and then assess the degree to which this has happened through post training evaluation checks.

Ensure training delivery is engaging

Training works well when it requires learners to actively engage.  The use of games, group challenges, quizzes, case studies, group discussions etc. are essential methodology for any training course.

Provide additional ‘add ons’

If you’re running the training in house, then consider additional opportunities to add value to the training.  If for example, attending learners don’t get to see each other very often, then ensure the lunch session is strictly social and that an appealing lunch buffet or equivalent is provided. Perhaps arrange for post training drinks in a local pub..

Evaluate training

Ensure that training programmes are evaluated and that any feedback is taken forward and used to shape future programmes. Where possible, ensure feedback is anonymous so that people can be honest in their feedback.

The tips given above are essential ways to start getting your staff interested in company training. Once the foundations are in place, steps can then be taken to further enrich the learning culture and drive further engagement within the workplace.  

At Training South West, we develop the skills of staff across industries and locations within the South West (e.g. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset). Our training programmes are tailored to meet the specific needs of learners and delivered, on site, to groups of up to 15. For more information, contact us.

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Make your Training Company Tender Questions Relevant

Make your Training Company Tender Questions Relevant

Part of my role as a Training Coordinator at Training South West is to tender for training contracts within the Dorset, Cornwall, Devon and Somerset areas. Although the initial documentation phase can be rather painful at times, a number of businesses use this phase as a basis to select companies who perform well against criteria to take part in a subsequent face to face process. I really enjoy this part of the process as it provides a fantastic opportunity to increase my exposure to the diverse range of South West businesses and I’ve met some really interesting people because of it.

Having considerable experience commissioning HR services in a buyer capacity, I can honestly say that I far prefer being on the bidding side of the table. My experience of running tender processes is that it’s hard work, demanding and extremely time consuming.

Plus, let’s be honest, the documentation submission phase never makes exciting reading! This phase resolutely erases personality and human dynamic and instead presents the buyer with pure operational data coupled with criteria descriptions and weightings. Analysing huge numbers of responses can result in buyer apathy for even the most committed people.

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Having been through a detailed analysis of the initial phase and selected a number of those who meet the criteria, is not unusual for buyers to view a potential face to face phase as the ‘finish line’ without even sufficiently preparing; with an obvious impact on question quality and focus. On a personal front, I’d always suggest that businesses appoint a staff member with no involvement in the initial stages to help frame and deliver this phase as this keeps the momentum and energy going and helps ensure the business makes the right decisions.

One of the most effective ways of establishing questions to be used during the face to face phase is to speak to as many internal users of training services as possible.  Whether previous training delegates from across the organisation or Managers who have actively identified and overseen the delivery of training needs, these individuals will all have a view on what they believe works well for the organisation and areas which have maybe not worked so well.  Get as much feedback as possible as this will generate detailed insights into a broad spectrum of perspectives which will undoubtedly yield areas of relevant focus.  Consider also reviewing the long term impacts of previous training courses.  In what way did the courses impact the organisation?  Was there sufficient follow up? Was there a strategy in place to ensure that key learnings were further consolidated upon return to the office?

It may also be beneficial to draw upon your local business network to establish additional additional themes with which to discriminate between training providers. Since the training industry is constantly evolving, so too are the questions being asked of them.

In the meantime, here are some questions which I have either asked or been asked:

  • How will your trainers ensure they deliver the most impact within our business?

 

  • How will your trainers utilise their role to engage with our staff in a way that may otherwise be compromised by the hierarchy and structure of our business?

 

  • What will your trainers do to ensure that the training delivery methods used by your team constantly evolve and engage our staff members?

 

  • What methods will you use to assess the long term efficacy of your training interventions?

 

  • What might you do to address an imbalance between short term and long term training value?

 

  • The learning preferences of our staff can be very different. How will you ensure the training process is valuable for all our staff members?

 

  • How will you plan your training sessions to ensure that they are business relevant?

 

 

Training South West provide in-house and open training courses to businesses across Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. .

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Is Financial Illiteracy Costing you Dearly?

Is Financial Illiteracy Costing you Dearly?

According to research by the think tank ‘IPPR’, British people love going it alone. They estimate that over 14% of us now work for ourselves.  There’s clearly a huge attraction to working independently (not least being able to manage your own holidays and working times) but the realities of being a sole worker without the backing of all the functions that typically support a larger business can be tough.
 
Not only does the individual need to excel professionally within their chosen specialism but they also need to be adept at marketing, sales, administration systems and processes, website management, IT, HR and finance. Arguably, financial literacy is one of the most critical assets as, without it, the success of the enterprise becomes at best compromised.  Poor financial literacy is, without doubt, one of the major reasons that so many self-employed enterprises fail within the first few years.  

Take for example an individual who has excellent turnover. They assume everything is ok because their sales ledger tells them it is but this individual has an insufficient understanding of cash flow. Despite successful sales, they have not forecast creditor needs and general expenditure such as annual tax payments and their business starts to suffer.

Although financial literacy is an essential skill, most schools do not teach it and neither do the majority of parents.  As such, an individual may leave academia with a praiseworthy understanding of their chosen speciality and establish their own enterprise but the inability to understand and reconcile their P&L, decipher assets from liabilities and truly understand their Balance Sheet jeopardises the potential of their business.
 
Financial training is therefore one of the most important investments that self-employed individuals should make if they are to successfully drive their enterprise.  Self-Study via internet sites is better than nothing and there are some great resources out there which will at least equip you with a basic understanding. Operating in the absence of a detailed knowledge and pressing ahead regardless could be something that the individual regrets later down then line when financial poor management catches up with them.
 
If you are yet to embark upon financial training or study, then here are some practical frameworks in the meantime:

•    Ensure you have excellent record keeping, including fully comprehensive sales and purchase ledgers.  Absolutely everything connected to the business and bought on behalf of the business should be tracked in detail (with receipts where necessary) and equally all sales made on behalf of the business should also be tracked.  Reconcile these ledgers weekly if not daily to ensure that income is meeting outgoings.
•    Prepare a budget – what out of the ordinary expenditure will be due?  This may include for example annual insurances, tax payments, IT renewals, professional membership renewals.  Review against purchase and sales ledgers.  Has enough money been put aside for these payments?
•    Consider the credit terms you offer to clients; does the speed at which you collect payments allow you to meet creditor demands?  If you are giving credit to clients then always reference their credit worthiness. There are plenty of companies online providing this service. Where possible take payments in advance.
•    Avoid taking on debt. Where possible defer large purchases until such a time as you’ve generated sufficient net profits to make the payments. Debt is a sure way to burden your business – often unnecessarily.  
•    Consider how best to develop your financial skills – whether this be via online research, online courses, mentoring from someone within your network or face to face training, it is essential that you put a development plan in place.  At the very least develop a detailed understanding of terms such as cash flow, profit margins, assets, liabilities, net profit, gross profit, balance sheet, expenses, operating costs and depreciation.
 
By prioritising the need for financial literacy you have already increased the chances of your business succeeding.  Get this fundamental skill under your belt and you give yourself a significant competitive advantage.

Training South West supply business training to companies across the South West, including Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Wiltshire.  Courses may be tailored specifically and delivered in-house, or, via open settings. Financial courses include 'Introduction to Finance Management' and 'Advanced Financial Skills'.

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Are your Presentations Presentable?

Are your Presentations Presentable?

Did you know surveys have shown that people fear delivering a presentation more than dying or divorce?  The good news for those of you who are not seasoned presenters however is that good preparation and confidence in your materials can go a long way to reducing potential presentation anxiety.

Follow these simple tips and ensure that not only are your presentations of value to your audience but that you also enjoy delivering them:


•    When preparing your presentation try to use a variety of different media; come equipped for example with a tangible product if possible to pass around, maybe incorporate a short media clip, or use a prop to demonstrate a point. Variety helps to retain participant interest.
•    Ensure that your presentation is short and snappy.  Each page should be to the point and not text heavy. The purpose of a presentation is for you as the presenter to deliver the content, not your slides. The slides are there merely to add emphasis and clarification to what you are saying. They are not there as a crib sheet and you should avoid reading from any length off them.
•    Use slide animation tools to enable each segment of information to appear separately upon individual clicks.  This will help you structure your presentation more effectively whilst also avoiding participants reading ahead and losing sight of what you are saying.
•    Use graphics to break up the text and to lighten if the mood if the topic is very dry.
•    Use a distinct font and not one that is artistic and hence possibly distracting. You should aim for your headers to be size 20-26 and for your main text to be 16-18.
•    Use the ‘bold’ font rather than underlining or capitals as the latter can be distracting.
•    Proof read your presentation thoroughly before delivery and ask a colleague to do a double check as there’s nothing worse than being mid presentation and finding errors.
•    When introducing yourself, keep calm and don’t rush.  If you gain participant confidence within the first 30 seconds of your speech and manage to keep good control, then you should find that the rest comes naturally as your audience will give off visible signs that they are confident in you.  Rehearse your introduction repeatedly to ensure that you have it under your belt.  Inject a little humour if you feel it’s appropriate but avoid telling jokes. Incorporate for example a humorous quote which is relevant to your topic.
•    If you feel nervous at first, then do not relay this to your audience by apologising as they will start observing you for nerves and feel on edge themselves.  Take a deep breath, smile and carry on.  
•    You may want to incorporate an activity at the very beginning and get people on their feet doing something; using for example, a two minute icebreaker relevant to your theme.  This takes the attention off you for a short while and puts it back on the participants – a great tactic if you are feeling a little anxious at the very start.
•    Be aware of the speed at which you are speaking.  It’s not uncommon for people to unwittingly leave their audience behind as they race through their presentation.  Be aware therefore of how long you want to spend on each slide and ensure that you give each slide its fair due.  

If you come to your presentation equipped with a well-structured presentation, remember to smile and make good eye contract then you should find the rest comes naturally. Reinforce business skills such as delivering presentations with plenty of practice, as we all know, practice makes perfect!

For further guidance, why not read this more detailed blog on preparing an excellent presentation! 

Training South West delivers business training courses  and presentation skills training courses to companies across the South West, including Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. 

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