South West Training Blog

Articles, tips, guides and blogs around business skills, training, professional courses and development in addition to South West relevant news.

Training South West makes Happy People even Happier!

Training South West makes Happy People even Happier!

To make sure we get our business offering right, it’s essential that we truly understand our South West neighbours and their potential training needs. One of the best ways to map training needs is to ensure that we stay on top of reports released from entities such as the Office for National Statistics or UK Trade and Investment.


Reading ‘Portrait of the South West’ which was compiled by the Office for National Statistics, I came across some noteworthy facts which I thought would make interesting reading for any of our South West based blog readers. Here goes:


•    Did you know over five million inhabitants reside in South West England; making the population bigger than Northern Ireland and Wales combined?
•    The South West has also been recorded in recent times as having the fastest growing population in the UK.  Since this growth is driven by people migrating into the area, the South West clearly has lots to offer – it’s the place to move to!  I’ve attended lots of networking and training events in Somerset, Bristol and Dorset and had the opportunity to meet many people who have migrated to this area from large cities such as London.  Most cite the outstanding natural beauty of the South West as their reason for moving here, coupled with excellent Broadband connection.  I’d say that a good 90% of these individuals are self-employed and hence not dependant on employment opportunities
•    The South West has more people of pensionable age and above than any other part of the UK
•    Almost four out of five employees in the South West work in the service industry. From a training perspective therefore, this makes customer services training an essential part of our offering
•    Restaurants and hotels in the South West contribute more to the economy than any of their UK counterparts
•    The South West hosts more domestic tourists than any other part of the UK and is the fourth most popular choice for international tourists.  From a training perspective, this finding makes cultural awareness training and international sales a key offering
•    Employment rates in the South West are one of the highest in the UK with high numbers of self-employed individuals.  As trainers, this makes finance related courses key as it’s essential that self-employed individuals are financially literate and able to navigate documents such as P&Ls and Balance Sheets.  Equally, this also makes Sales an essential training course – if you can’t sell your business then the P&Ls will make for dismal reading!
•    The numbers of people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance is lowest in North Dorset, West Dorset and West Devon.  The fact that our business operates in the Dorset and Devon areas is great as the only other companies offering business generic courses are based as far away as Exeter and Bristol, making our training offering a valuable doorstep commodity
•    With absolutely no relevance to training whatsoever (we don’t train people in how to live longer!), but interesting reading; life expectancy for women in the South West is higher than anywhere else in the UK at 83.1 years of age and for men, it is the second highest in the UK at 79 years of age

Having lived in Somerset and now living in Dorset, reviewing this report made me proud and happy to live in the South West.  It is clearly a place that people want to visit and move to it is a ‘happy’ place to live – why else would people live longer than in any other part of the UK?!

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How well do you Performance Manage your Team?

How well do you Performance Manage your Team?

For those of us, fortunate enough to have worked under great managers early in our career, we rarely forget them and aspire towards their management attributes as we progress within our careers. I recall a conversation not too long ago with members of the team in which we discussed the ‘best managers’ for whom we’d worked and one colleague in particular was adamant that all her management skills were learnt from the manager that she held in such high esteem. She remained connected with him and would often approach him if in need of management advice or mentoring.

Management roles present us with an opportunity to really make a difference to an individual and to become that person that positively influences and shapes the development of team members as they progress within the organisation.

If you are new to managing a team, then be sure to get as much support as you can in the early days as this will undoubtedly shape your management success.

Open training programmes are a fantastic start as they give you the opportunity to meet other individuals new to field and to gain an insight into their experiences. These training programmes will also equip you with the fundamental, core performance management skills and challenge you with scenarios and case studies which you will undoubtedly have to deal with as part of your role.

For those of you not in the position to participate in training, here are some key considerations to help you along the way:

·         Ensure you fully understand the roles of your team members.  Where necessary, take the time to sit with them with and shadow them as they do their role.  Understand the challenges of their roles, the tools they use, the way in which their role is integrated with other roles across the organisation and also the success measures of their roles.  Why has the organisation invested in these roles?  What must these roles absolutely deliver in order for them to be of value?

·         If not already mapped, then map out Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your team members. KPIs are the key objectives of the role; collectively the KPIs of individual roles help the overall organisation to meet their broader objectives

·         Since poor communication can often underlie performance issues, then be sure that all your team members understands their KPIs and what you expect of them – clearly prevention is better than remedy

·         If at any time it becomes apparent that one of your team members is having a difficult time with their role then speak to them immediately.  Performance often becomes an issue if managers leave the individual to it and hope they will find their feet.  Again, prevention of an issue is certainly easier for you and healthier for the self-confidence of the employee concerned if potential problems are averted

·         If discussing performance with any of your team then always ensure that the discussion is as open as possible. It should always be the individual and not you that dominates the conversation.  Failure to listen and failure to facilitate an open discussion will undoubtedly result in the core issues remaining undetected.  The issues are not always what you might assume they are as a manager, do don’t attend the meeting thinking that you have all the answers.

·         During this discussion, you will ultimately want to understand where in the cycle of their role they are finding challenges. On this basis, why are the challenges there?  Is it an issue with training?  Is it an issue with communication (perhaps the needs of the role have not been sufficiently clarified with the individual)? Does the employee lack the tools or materials essential to do their job properly?  Perhaps these tools or materials are not fit for purpose?  Do they need to be further developed / amended? Are other team members being helpful?  Is anyone inadvertently making the role of this individual more difficult than it need be by not fulfilling their own role adequately? Is the individual managing their time properly?  Could they benefit from time management training?

·         Undoubtedly, this conversation (coupled perhaps with additional shadowing of their role for a defined period) will throw light on the issues which need to be addressed. Discuss your findings with the individual and ensure that they are in full agreement with both the issues and your suggested solutions.  Can the individual further add to the solutions?  Is anything missing?

·         Create a shared document with the individual and outline each issue clearly; adding the activities which need to happen in order to correct the issue.  Discuss the document regularly with the individual and take a keen interest in their progress.

It is most likely that the activities outlined above will go a long way to addressing the situation; winning the respect of your team member and the preservation of their dignity and self-confidence.

Where these actions do not correct the situation and where the issue continues, it may be necessary to implement the formal disciplinary processes of your organisation. It is a legal obligation in the UK that companies have formal disciplinary processes in place and that these are followed as required. 

If you need any formal training support in this respect then do not hesitate to get in contact.  We partner South West businesses to deliver Business and Management related training courses across Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucester and surrounding areas.   

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Do Blanket Training Policies Work?

Do Blanket Training Policies Work?

Training approaches differ greatly across companies and with experience working across large corporates through to small privately owned companies, I’ve found that the value and nature of the respective policies vary greatly in tandem.


Within the corporate world, my experience has been that there is a tendency to ‘pin everything down’ – if it can’t be measured, quantified and reported on, then the attitude is that efficiencies are lacking.  With the luxury of ample training budgets, the corporate world has the ability to arrange regular training courses which are delivered by fantastic trainers.  One would assume that the courses would be well received but my experience suggested that these programmes were not.


Often the training policies in place operated a blanket approach which ensured that staff working in particular areas would be trained in a, b, or c; regardless of delegate willingness.  I appreciate this is a need when health and safety or basic job training are at stake, but, what happens when they are not?


Having been a delegate myself on endless courses, I witnessed many people attend merely because the organisation expected them to attend and not because the delegate had opted to.  It was a day out of the office and a chance to have a buffet lunch with colleagues coupled of course with the opportunity to finish early (training often finishes by 4pm). I found that when the ‘want’ factor is taken away from the delegate then the return on investment expected by the employer wanes. They dutifully attended the training session, learn less than would be anticipated and then return to work for business as usual.


Ok, this might be a really negative perception and it’s not as black and white as I write, but there is a great deal of truth here.
When working in a smaller (and often more creative environments) where there was an absence of prescribed training programmes, I found that staff were more motivated to train.  In these particular environments I found that staff members would find something applicable to their roles, that they really enjoyed and would then request training.  The training would then be arranged in response to something that the staff member really wanted to do.  They were motivated to learn and got more from the programme.


When training works from the outside in, i.e. pouring information into a vessel that isn’t necessarily keen to be there, then some (if not all) the information often pours out through the other end.  When, however, the need is generated from inside out i.e. the individual has personally recognised a need for the training and has requested it, the vessel holds far more information. Learning is more likely to be retained and the individual is more likely to apply their learning within the work environment.


Note also the use of the word ‘learning’.  Within this context, learning can be perceived as individually inspired whilst ‘training’ can be perceived as externally instigated. I’m not saying ‘don’t have a training policy’, instead I think companies should really think through how the policy is applied.  Does training really need to be something that is quantified across the board?  Do all courses really need to be mandatory? Perhaps there’s a little freedom that companies can apply when thinking through their policy.  My preference is to present an environment in which, during one to ones and appraisals, employee and employer engage in a conversation which has as little ERTT (Employer Talking Time) as possible and enables the employee to talk about how they are doing in their role and personally identify potential learning paths which meet either current gaps in know-how with their role or learning opportunities to meet the needs of future roles to which they aspire.


As such, my ideal training policy is to ensure that managers know how to facilitate good quality discussions with their staff and are able to promote the learning topic as a key feature of their discussions with their employees.  If the employee recognises a need (and if it’s relevant to the company or the employee’s role) then consider allowing the employee to investigate possible learning or training environments.  It may even be that training which is not entirely related to a role is sanctioned as a retention tool.  A number of times in my role as Manager I have sanctioned Diplomas and other post graduate courses, not because they have directly benefited the role, but because I’ve known that the employee has a deeply held interest.  As such, sanction of such courses has become a retention tool in kind as the employee feels valued and perceives the employer as caring about their personal development.


In the most recent training policy I developed, I also ensured that staff returning from training / learning opportunities shared their learnings with other staff members.   These events are a great way to get teams together and to allow them to share knowledge and learning within an open environment with people they trust.  The sessions should be employee led and open floors should be allowed to ensure that other employees can contribute their opinions or experience of the subject matter. It also helps consolidate delegate learning through the action of relaying it to others.

To summarise, yes, training is important but I question training policies which are structured to such an extent that training is ‘imposed’ blanket like on employees.  My belief is that regular discussions in respect to learning and development are vital to identifying needs and allowing individuals to reach their own conclusions as to learning needs. Finally, bringing the training back into the work place and allowing the discussion of training points lends itself to greater training consolidation for the delegate and team building for the broader team.  
 

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How Reciprocity is Effectively used in International Business

How Reciprocity is Effectively used in International Business

Reciprocity is a word many people have heard of before however few can define the mechanisms of this concept in business even though they may experience it all the time and as it happens right in front of their eyes. The purpose of this blog is to explain why one feels the need to return favours and how businesses or anyone can take advantage of the phenomenon.
 

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Our Emotional Intelligence Training Course

Our Emotional Intelligence Training Course

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a trendy concept and no wonder why - it can help anyone in achieving success both in their personal and professional lives.

Employers are increasingly looking for candidates with interpersonal skills as they could be key to better adaptation and performance in the workplace.

Emotional Intelligence is being able to adapt to every social interaction using the right approach and also embracing a positive mindset, which helps to achieve success. This ability is crucial in order to have constructive conversations, (even difficult ones) and to lessen any negative outcomes that could come out of them. It also enables us to communicate effectively and respectfully. In other words, to be highly emotionally intelligent helps to take the best out of...  yourself!

Our Open Course

This month we had our first open course on … (I’m sure you’ve guessed) Emotional Intelligence.

The trainer explored the key ingredients of the subject and focused on the link between EQ and Leadership. What is a good leader? Someone who communicates effectively, who motivates the team, who can cope with unexpected situations: Someone highly emotionally intelligent.

The first step that was covered in the open course was how to become more self-aware. We need to know our strengths and limitations to change our behaviour and break with our bad habits. Throughout the session, participants we were able to take tests to raise their self-awareness.
The trainer then debriefed the participants and explored great communication concepts and skills that they could apply not only at the work place but in any interaction.

Lunch and Learn Session

This open course was for us the opportunity to do our first Lunch and Learn session! As one person from our London office attended the training, he recapitulated key learning points from the session in a presentation. He concentrated on the ‘Self-talk Cycle’ and how thoughts directly impact our performances. 

What is the Self-Talk Cycle? It is the cycle of the little voice in our head and the consequences of what it says to us. The concept explains that every thought provokes a feeling that triggers a behaviour, this seems logical. As logical as the fact that if when we are happy we perform better than when we are down. This scheme highlights the necessary of having a positive attitude to forge success. Our negative self-talk limits ourselves while positive self-talk enable us to surpass ourselves.

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