South West Training Blog

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

Mindfullness and Training

Mindfullness and Training

Janet Street-Porter gave her views on ‘Mindfulness’ meditation in the Daily Mail this week. At the risk of ‘outing’ my love of a good trashy read when I’m drinking my coffee first thing in the morning, I was caught by the title: ‘Can Mindfulness really make you Live longer’?


It caught my eye as ‘mindfulness’ is a term which is increasingly quoted on public forums. As a concept, it’s taken on a life of its own and it’s bandied about by psychologist, therapists, government bodies, NHS and celebrities alike. From a training perspective, mindfulness as a subject has started to dominate the training space and it’s a course that we are increasingly being asked for.


What does mindfulness mean though? If you ask a selection of people you’ll probably get a huge variety of responses. I’ve had a go at breaking it down into some of the key uses of the term 'mindfulness' on public forums. Hopefully this article will help you to appreciate the direction from which people may be coming when discussing this topic. 


Mindfulness as a Meditation Tool


In the article, Janet Street-Porter has a go at using mindfulness as a meditation tool. Apparently, using mindfulness in meditation can ‘reduce stress’ and potentially help you live longer. Ruby Wax and others are fervent followers of this technique and suggest that it is has helped them to overcome issues such as depression and anxiety.


Danny Penman, an author on the subject, states that ‘to practice mindfulness…a person must focus on what is happening inside their body and mind in real time’. This practice is known as ‘full conscious awareness’.


It seems that this technique is open to us all and that it can be done in just one minute per day. By regularly sitting still in a chair, focusing on your breath, and bringing your attention back to your breath each time it wanders, you can generate an inner calmness. It won’t happen overnight, but even fleeting senses of ‘stillness’ are valuable.


This sounds great, but I don’t know many people who would realistically have the patience to dedicate to this. A good website for those that are interested however is www.franticworld.com/what-is-mindfulness.


Mindfulness as Living in the Moment

Mindfulness is also used as a technique to help people actively ‘live more in the moment’. This technique is active rather than meditative and encourages individuals to focus on perceptions as part of their active day. If they find themselves worrying about potential future problems, historic stresses etc. then are required to refocus attentions back to the ‘here and now’ using techniques such as ‘the cloud technique’ to dispel negativity.


How does this work? Essentially, individuals imagine their worries and anxieties as clouds passing overhead. They recognise them and then visualise them dissipating and moving on – as such, helping to banish them from their minds. Individuals must also be open to positive events too. If something worthy happens, then recognise and consider it, even something as small as the smile of a passerby.

Mindfulness in the Training World

 When we are not ‘mindful’ we become ‘mindless’, living in a world of pre-established habits, behaviours and categories. Small changes and positive events may happen, but if we are mindless then we fail to recognise them; purely living on through pre-established rules and codes.


Although, within a business training capacity, mindfulness training can take many shapes and forms (including that of meditation and active mindfulness), in essence we help individuals to think about the way in which ‘mindlessness’ restricts our realities to the constructs which have been borne in our mind through years of habit and social shaping. If something doesn’t fit within our entrenched realities and categories, then we simply filter them out; hence missing out on the rich potential that life has to offer.


Through our training courses, we help people to understand the way in which are thoughts, actions and behaviours are constructed, the way in which these constructs may rigidly dictate our actions (even if the action taken isn’t the best action to take) and the way in which we may fail to perceive and learn from events taking place around us.


The training encourages people to be more sensitive to their environment, to welcome new information, to appreciate that there are many different perspectives in problem solving, in working together and in achieving successful outcomes. It encourages people to be mindful of the perspectives from which their colleagues and counterparts are coming and not to assume they are ‘wrong’ merely because they are approaching something from a different angle.


Within a cultural awareness training perspective, ‘mindfulness’ of one’s own cultural frameworks is an essential prerequisite to engaging in cultural training. How can we appreciate the cultural nuances of our peers if we can’t perceive how we ourselves are the product of such constructs?


Take for example an individual who would fall entirely under our ‘mindless’ label. As an extreme case, this individual perceives the world entirely as their experience of it. If people don’t behave and act within their own sense of reality then they are there purely to be tolerated and perhaps overlooked. In essence they deny themselves the rich reality of the world around us and they shun the opportunity to learn from an international human experience. Within the work place, it is possible that they operate within isolated frameworks for problem solving and see no benefit in doing things differently. Equally, they are likely to be irritated by people who do things differently to themselves; finding it harder to find synergy with their colleagues to arrive at positive outcomes.


By being mindful therefore, we appreciate these differences, we welcome them and are able to tune into the perspectives of those around us who may do things differently. Mindful people don’t just rely on the spoken word to do this, they attend entirely to the context to really appreciate what is happening. They are more likely to understand and empathise with the person with whom they are interacting and hence respond appropriately. For a mindful person, life is also more likely to be something that we learn from – developing new ways of doing things; leaving behind the ‘old’ and welcoming innovation and progress.


Bringing them Together


Relevant to all these key practices / interpretations of ‘mindfulness’ is ‘living in the moment’, being aware and conscious of ourselves and our impact on those around us. Adherents to all three of the practices outlined above would undoubtedly agree that you shouldn’t be lost in the past, anxious about what has already happened or worrying about what might happen in the future. Live for the present and be fully aware of what is happening around you. Hone into the good things that happen and leave yourself wide open to new experiences, people and viewpoints. Take the positives from situations and learn from those who might be doing things in a better way. And critically, remember at all times, that we are all products of our past and habits. Challenge the way you think and check that your thinking patterns aren’t holding you back and preventing you from growing and learning from those around you.

Training South West provide management training across the South West and have offices in Dorset and Somerset. 

 

 

Continue reading
2153 Hits
0 Comments

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, Devon and Somerset area. 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.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Training_Consulting_tender_submission.jpg

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 within the Somerset, Devon and Dorset areas. Look out for our 2016 open course calendar which will be published shortly.

Continue reading
2055 Hits

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!

Training South West delivers business training courses to companies across the South West.

Continue reading
1344 Hits

Lidl: Good Prices and Great Training!

Lidl: Good Prices and Great Training!

Lidl is planning to add an additional store to its current South West portfolio by creating a second store in Yeovil. Its portfolio has grown rapidly in this part of the world with stores across Somerset in key locations such as Bristol, Bath and Dorchester, Dorset.

This latest expansion has been met positively by the local community who can not only expect the prospect of additional jobs working for a market leading company, but also a full ‘living wage’ – putting Lidl’s shop floor workers at a distinct wage advantage when compared to other local supermarket competitors.  Good pay and additional employment opportunities are not the only reason for the local community to be happy.  Lidl also operate fantastic in house training schemes, which when delivered well, provides employees with the skills to do well in future roles regardless of whether or not they remain with Lidl.  

Adopting a ‘layered’ training approach, which encompasses the whole business entity, Lidl centralises training planning into a single dedicated in-house department.  Staff within this department are responsible for identifying training needs and developing training events, materials and systems in response.

Direction and tools flow from this department into the stores and supporting areas. Within the stores, Lidl operates a ‘Buddy’ system which ensures that new recruits are given on hand support within their immediate working vicinity making individuals who have the skills to mentor and support accessible. This approach is key to all businesses who wish to integrate their staff effectively into the business. It enables them to gain key skills on the job and avoids undue classroom attendance.

From the ‘Buddy’ system, Lidl then have formal ‘Training Mentors’ who are responsible for supporting store managers in the roll out of staff training initiatives, all of which then feeds into the Regional Training Managers who are responsible for overseeing training on a regional level and promoting a healthy learning and development culture across the business.

Lidl may be a cut price store, but a training approach such as the one outlined above at its core, certainly puts Lidl on a par with the non-cut price stores. Training flows from all levels of the business and is a key aspect of company culture and delivery.

Walker Information (an Intelligence Consultancy firm) identified training programmes as a key retention tool.  Staff who feel that they are being valued through training and development are more likely to stay within their roles.  With ‘happiness’ being an emotional contaigent, store workers are consequently more likely to impact positively on their customers; leading to greater customer satisfaction.

From a training professional perspective, we therefore welcome the news of an impending second store in Yeovil as every business counts when promoting a culture of learning and skill development within the South West.  

Continue reading
1842 Hits

Are Written Skills really so Important?

Are Written Skills really so Important?

Growing up as a child in the 70’s, grammar and punctuation were instilled in lessons and, along with my classmates, errors were not acceptable and we would be penalised for making them. We were repeatedly told that our written work represented us as individuals and that it should be as well presented as our physical selves.

When I became responsible for recruiting teams however, it quickly became apparent that these standards no longer hold the same weight that they did when I was a child.  Following my recruitment of my first few employees, one of whom was degree qualified, it became immediately obvious that they lacked writing skills.  They were bright people who had performed fantastically during the interview phase and had some great attributes but their written work was not of the standard that would allow us to send it to clients without first checking and amending it. A training course in writing effective business communications became an absolute must for the individuals in question.  

Our realisation that written skills were an issue within our target recruit market made it necessary for us to implement a testing system to assess written English standards. The test did not discriminate, but merely enabled us to establish the type of support and checking systems that might be required should an offer of employment be made. The fact we had to do this was a shock.  We regularly employed individuals from overseas and their standards of written English and knowledge of grammar and punctuation far exceeded that of the young English recruits coming through the door.

The possibility that our educational systems are not properly preparing our children became evident during a parent – teacher meeting whereby I raised concerns that my older child seemed to have very few frameworks when writing.  He rarely applied capital letters, sentences could amble on for half a page and commas would be thrown in haphazardly with an almost artistic intention. Not only did his teacher seem surprised when I asked how we might further support him at home to ensure he acquired his written skills but she then proceeded to tell me that if we thought these skills were important that she’d focus more time on him.  Had I been discussing my 6 year old child, then this conversation might have been appropriate as content is of the essence and formal written skills come later – but I wasn’t.  My child is a year off entering senior school.

I don’t believe that the relaxed attitude of this particular teacher is typical of all teachers but it gave me the momentum to discuss it further with other educational professionals.  One individual that I spoke to said that she didn’t put too much emphasis on written skills as this puts children with challenges such as dyslexia at a disadvantage. This shocked me.  Was the individual expectation of this particular teacher that our written English standards should be obliterated to accommodate children who have a natural reason for struggling with them?  I feel absolutely not.

There are many amazing British entrepreneurs and academics with dyslexia but their condition has not stopped them doing incredibly well.  I’m confident, for example, that Richard Branson would not send out a communication littered with errors but would instead delegate someone within his team to make the necessary checks and amendments.  A previous employee within one of my teams had advanced dyslexia.  As a specialist in her field, she would write fantastically informed pieces which would then be proof checked before they were dispatched.  A simple task which involves team work.  She would equally guide and educate others in respect to her own unique skills.

With these examples in mind, I maintain my view that written skills are essential. Poorly written content does not sell a company and people are less inclined to read material that falls over at the most basic levels of grammar and punctuation.  Emails littered with errors do not inspire confidence in the recipient and could potentially affect customer retention.  Why should an individual trust the quality of the product or service if the communications are error strewn?

As both a trainer and an employer, I firmly believe it is essential that companies support individuals who need to further develop their needs in this area. Formal written skills training will go a long way and enables an individual to focus on skill development away from the office.  However, internal arrangements can also be made whereby someone with the appropriate skill set is made responsible for mentoring the individual on an ongoing basis and checking their written work before it goes out. At Training South West key material never goes into the public domain unless it’s been checked – regardless of the writing skills of the author. My written skills are acceptable but I still rely on my team members and colleagues to double or triple check my work. 

Failing to support staff members in this respect and overlooking poor written skills means that their chances of gaining traction, successfully delivering the objectives of their written work and positively protecting the reputation of their company are diminished.  Everybody deserves good written skills.  Ensure  you honour this with your staff and you’ll increase their confidence and productivity no end.

Training South West deliver training courses across Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Exeter and Bristol.  Contact us to discuss your needs.

Continue reading
1203 Hits

Calling on South West Businesses to Accommodate Remote Working during the Winter Months

Calling on South West Businesses to Accommodate Remote Working during the Winter Months

I am fortunate enough to be abroad and working at the moment and I am not looking forward to coming back to Dorset, which my family have written to say is already becoming rather cold.

I wrote an article recently on behalf of Training South West which urges businesses in the region to allow more people to avoid the nightmare of commuting during winter months and accommodate remote working arrangements.  

For some people it's essential that they attend the work place but for many others it's not critical to their role at all.  They can probably get a far better job done at home.

Urge your business to look at possible remote working options for you and your colleagues - the benefits to both you as an employee and the environment are even more pronounced for the employer.  They will have a happier workforce, reduce costs, enhance employee retention and increase the geographical scope of the talent pool that they have to chose from.

It's a win win all round!

Training South West provides business training courses to South West companies

Continue reading
1112 Hits

Our Dedicated Somerset Training Venue

Our Dedicated Somerset Training Venue

Training South West has traditionally delivered its training from a dedicated training venue in Crewkerne, Somerset with beautiful, light airy training suites and great facilities. Delegates have always commented on the rooms as allowing a pleasurable space in which to learn.

Due to the way in which we work with our clients and the broad area covered across the South West, we have decided that dedicated training venues have value but that they are not always the right solution for our clients.  Why?

Our clients do not necessarily have the luxury of time to enable them to travel to a training destination which is not 'on their doorstep'.  For a client in Dorset, for example, taking a day out to travel to and from Crewkerne; whilst also battling peak hour traffic certainly does not make their life easy.

Since there are fantastic venues across the South West which are able to accommodate training delivery needs excellently then we have decided to make more use of them, particularly for our 'open' courses.  These venues are well established, have great facilities, catering on tap and happen to also be on the doorstep of our clients.  It makes more sense therefore, for the Training South West staff to do the travelling and hence remove the pressure off our clients. It's not uncommon for our clients to need to pop to the office before or after the course and for those who just want to enjoy a bit of a lie in and a slightly earlier finish then doorstep training is great!

Additionally, the venues which Training South West are now making more use of are local businesses and from a South West business perspective, why not also contribute to the businesses of our neighbours?

It's a win win all round.

If you have a venue that you feel would be great for our local training delivery then let us know.  Essentials on our ticklist include a large airy room equipped with projector, white board and 3 x flipcharts, two breakout rooms and catering facilities.  

Continue reading
1178 Hits

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.   

Continue reading
1209 Hits

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.  
 

Continue reading
1326 Hits

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.

Continue reading
2896 Hits
0 Comments

Accounting & Finance Skills

Accounting & Finance Skills

Did you know that the word accountability derives from accounting?

Although finance and accounting may (for some) be quite daunting concepts to approach, it is important to understand the benefits of understanding basic financial management skills for business purposes.

A recent opinion article beautifully explains the origins and deemed importance of accounting in capitalist society from a historical point of view. For example, “In Renaissance Italy, merchants and property owners used accounting not only for their businesses but to make a moral reckoning with God, their cities, their countries and their families.”

A basic understanding of some of the following concepts are in fact vital to business success:

Learning how to read, understand, interpret financial statements is crucial to the sounds running of a business, getting investors interested and managing risk.

Furthermore, understanding basic accounting concepts, such as the relationship between profit and cash will enable sound business decisions, drive up performance and increase effectiveness.

Today, we are a part of a society which has passed responsibility onto experts, which means that much of the wider population is unfamiliar with basic accounting and finance skills. This is quite a shift from the past as for instance in the 1500s in the Netherlands, most of the population knew how to do double entry bookkeeping. In fact, “Not only did the Dutch have basic financial management skills, they were also acutely aware of the concept of balanced books, audits and reckonings. They had to be. If local water board administrators kept bad books, the Dutch dyke and canal system would not be well maintained, and the country risked catastrophic flooding.”

Perhaps it’s time to put double entry bookkeeping back on the agenda if we want to be a part of an accountable society?

Check out our finance training courses coming up.

Continue reading
1684 Hits
0 Comments

Join Us for Our Open Day

Join Us for Our Open Day

You're invited to our Open Day May 6th!

Come and join us to officially open our new training centre and meet with other local businesses for a bit of networking and nibbles.

We welcome you to come either between 12:00-14:00 or 18:00-20:00 on Tuesday May 6th 2014.

Networking Scavenger Hunt!

To make this time valuable for you, we are going to hold a Scavenger Hunt! You'll find out information about other local businesses as well as spread the word about your own. The winner will win a prize, but shhhh, it's secret…come and find out what it is ;)

We would love to see you on the day, so get that diary out and pen us in!

To register, please email Caroline on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For directions, please visit the 'Finding Us' section on our Training Centre page.

 

Continue reading
2431 Hits
0 Comments

Managing Multicultural Teams: A Participant's Feedback

Managing Multicultural Teams: A Participant's Feedback

We ran a Managing Multicultural Teams open course on January 30th. We asked one of the participants to tell us about her experience of the open course – what was covered, what her key take-aways were, and how this experience will be applicable back into her role at an international NGO.

 
What did the training cover?


The training was nicely structured but also informal at the same time allowing us (attendees) to ask as many questions and share our own experiences as we went along throughout the day. The training started with looking at how culture affects business and leadership.  We looked at how cultural self-awareness ties in with managing multicultural teams and we assessed our own cultural awareness, management and working/communications styles.


Afterwards we looked at the different levels of culture: the impact of corporate culture, national culture and individual culture. The session also examined team development and group processes - the influence of culture on the length of development stages of team development. Motivation, conflict resolution practices across cultures was also looked at as well as on how to give and receive feedback. Finally, we looked at the strategies for success – how to develop trust and build relationships with the team and create synergy within the team.


We had the opportunity to discuss and share our own values with the team. There were fun practical team building exercises throughout the day, which enabled us to better understand how to manage and work well within a team - and most importantly, to experience what is written in the slides rather than just listening throughout the whole day.


What was your ‘aha’ moment (ie. your key take-away)?


By looking at culture in depth and understanding it throughout the training, I began to think in terms of 'the platinum rule'. Essentially, this means to treat others how THEY would like to be treated – opposing to the famous saying 'treat others how you would want to be treated'. The emphasis throughout the training was on how THEY would want to be treated.


What will you apply back in your job?  


I will take on board with me that it is critical to be open-minded to all various situations. Even though you are not necessarily accustomed to a cultural practice, it is essential to do the best possible to comprehend situations in a cultural context (especially during  conflicts). With this, I think it is also important for me to take my learning in order to educate others through what I have learnt throughout the training. Culture is something that is instilled in each of us from a young age, however it can also be learned. It is therefore important to ask questions and dig deep.


Who would you recommend this course to?


I would recommend this training to anyone - as we live in a globalised world - which means understanding culture is essential and an individual will also be working within a diverse team - therefore I would say this training would benefit anyone. However, I think that it would especially benefit those working specifically in an international context, particularly those responsible for managing multicultural teams. This training could also be insightful for anyone who has not yet had experience working in an international background, however is looking to work within an international organisation.

If you would like to join our next course, please visit the Managing Multicultural Teams course page for more information.

Want this course in London? We are running this training course in London on 3rd April 2014 in London. Please refer to Findcourses for more information.

Continue reading
1821 Hits
0 Comments

What makes for the Perfect Training Centre?

What makes for the Perfect Training Centre?


Proximity

For a business it is good to have local facilities that avoids to go too far to find the right place. It saves time and money. This is the reason why we think that our training facilities can help regional businesses to develop.

Comfort

To learn, you need to be in the right conditions. Our rooms are spacious and comfortable. We want them to be right environment for you to bring away as much as you can, in the right conditions.
The training centre also includes a lounge. Perfect to have a break with some refreshments, it is also a good place to talk with the other attendees. It is available all day.

Adaptability

According to needs and expectations you would not need the same room organisation. Therefore we chose to have a room that can have different arrangements to set up the optimal lay out for the training.
The rooms can host up to 15 people. We also have also 2 smaller rooms (up to 8 people).

Experience

When you have no experience, you can make mistakes easily. We have got a 10 year experience in the field of trainings. It enables us to deliver high standard trainings.

Quality trainers

A training is totally useless if the trainer has nothing to learn to you. Our trainings are delivered by first class trainers. We only work with trainers have many years of expertise in various business sector as well as on the subject matter.

Attention to people

We think that respect is an essential value in life. If you come at our trainings you will find professionals that are passionate about how you learn and that make customer service their priority.

 

Written for Bob by training intern Elorn Causer.

Continue reading
3181 Hits
0 Comments

Developing Soft Skills as a Manager Today

Developing Soft Skills as a Manager Today

Management and leadership as we know it have undergone a significant shift in recent years due to globalisation and the increasing need to work virtually and across time zone and cultures. Previously, a manager was seen as someone with largely specific technical/hard skills, today that perception of the role has largely developed.


In last decade, and as the world is becoming an increasing ‘global marketplace’ (Lane 1997), human resource development has also taken on a more international outlook which means that the global talent search has focused increasingly on finding, developing and retaining those individuals with a specific skillset: self-efficacy, interpersonal skills and perceptual skills (Harris and Brewster 1999) amongst others.  


In addition, it has been found that good management/leadership skills at home, does not necessarily mean success abroad (Jokinen 2005). Although there has been very little research done in this area,  it is now a rapidly growing field which with an increased hunger to decipher and gain a better understanding of the competencies required to manage/lead effectively and successfully on a global level.


So what are the characteristics that make managers and leaders successful in the global marketplace? Interestingly, the research points to broadly soft skills:


•    ‘Social, creativity/resourcefulness, positive outlook, responsiveness, self-knowledge, cultural sensitivity’ (Brownwell 2006)
•    ‘Knowledge of how to use their personal influence, strong character, knowledge of how to motivate others, act like entrepreneurs (…) (Connon 2000)
•    ‘Relationship, cognition, organising expertise, visioning (…) (Mendenhall and Osland 2002).

Even Learning & Development professionals in companies tend to focus less on producing programmes for hard/technical skills because these often need specialised knowledge and some can be via blended learning programmes, reading or other methods. The challenge for today’s Learning & Development professionals is developing people skills or ‘soft skills’ especially at the global level in order to get things done.


So you may be asking yourself, what’s next? How can I start improving my soft skills? Here are a few practical suggestions:


1)    Build positive relationships with your employees
a.    Spend time with your employees, give them your full attention and develop trust
b.    Understand who they are and what motivates them
c.    Be fair and resolve conflicts in a respectful and sensitive manner


2)    Develop self-awareness of your preferred working, communication and management style
a.    Try and read between the lines and gauge the effect you have on other people
b.    Listen actively and show real interest
c.    Practice speaking and writing clearly. Do not be afraid to ask for constructive feedback and in return practice giving feedback too.
d.    Be flexible in your management style – different people respond differently to different styles – find what works


3)    Inspire
a.    Practice what you preach to demonstrate that goals are achievable
b.    Celebrate success
c.    Learn from mistakes


Effective management and leadership today requires an addition ‘touch’ as expectations of what it means to be a good leader has changed. Generally speaking, employees today expect their leaders to have the necessary soft skills to build positive relationships, be self-aware and inspire others to get things done.


As Steve Denning summarises in a recent Forbes article, managers today are capacity building instigators: “Management is not simply a menial set of technical directives. At its best, it clarifies and magnifies human capacity. By opening those pathways by which human beings become productive, it brings an increase in existence for those doing work and those for whom the work is done. Through creating the space where we can live mindfully and wholeheartedly, it enlarges what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”

Continue reading
1611 Hits
0 Comments