I remember doing my MBA dissertation on whether training was for the benefit of the employee or for the business. Roll on 20 years and the question still remains a hot topic, is training something done to you, or something which it is assumed everyone wants to do?
For 20 years I have been developing training and development programmes and working as a coach, with the aim of helping people develop their skills and achieve both theirs and the businesses aspirations.
From experience though, not everyone is a willing participant in training, and sometimes reluctantly gets involved because of fear for their job security and future progression. A factor which only goes to underline the importance of creating the right culture which supports people and appreciates the value of their skills and potential. I also feel businesses still have a very traditional perception of training and development operating in academic year mode; with most training being undertaken between September and June, and in a traditional format of taking people away from their jobs whether for training in the business or on externally run training programmes.
So is the statistic true that 80% of any learning gained from a training programme is lost as soon as the person having completed the obligatory happy sheet walks out of the training room? From experience yes, as people struggle to apply theoretical learning to their practical role.
For businesses considering training ask yourselves the following questions;
Why do I need to train someone?
- How do they prefer to learn?
- What impact do I want for the business?
- And what’s in it for them?
A person’s attitude to training can be very similar to how they perceive, and approach change. We are creatures of habit, we get used to operating within our roles and teams. Any change which we perceive could adversely affect our habits can be viewed with scepticism and cause us to fight it. It is therefore easy to appreciate some people’s reluctance to training as they fear that they may not be able to learn new techniques and confidently apply them.
So, is it time for reinvention and for challenging conventions?
Establishing a coaching and learning culture is essential to the success of any training, coaching and mentoring activity, and it needs to be driven from the top. Leaders have to be fully committed to wanting to train and develop people for mutual gain, and not be afraid that people can subsequently develop their skills, become more aware of their potential and leave the business for career progression. Surely you would celebrate the impact you have had on building their confidence or is it worse that you don’t train them, and they stay with you.
A company which has fully embraced this approach is ExtraMile Communications, a business I have been working with for 2 and a half years now. My original brief from the Managing Director Gabrielle Hadley was to establish a coaching and learning culture across the whole business, and build a high performing management team capable of helping the business achieve its growth potential. A small business with big growth plans, a team of 15 people, and a very forward-thinking authentic managing director committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture.
So where to start?
The culture at ExtraMile was a massive influence on how I structured the training for this business, bearing in mind that a small business on a growth curve cannot afford to release people for large chunks of time. It puts too much pressure on individuals, and it can cause resentment from leaders if key service/product milestones are being missed.
The answer was, I decided to see if you could train a management team for 2 hours a week.
A team with no management experience, but a bundle of potential and an element of trepidation walked into a room for their first session with me. Having established their skill level, we identified what skills people felt they needed to develop. This was crucial to me, although I knew what the business needed, I wanted people’s engagement from the start. To build trust and rapport. It was therefore important for me to establish what they felt they wanted to learn, and so we created a list of topics.
Whilst theory is important, practical application was more important here and I wanted there to be 80% application of any learning. Therefore we developed a structure of a 2-hour session followed by one to one coaching to help apply the learning to their specific roles, tasks and issues. The sessions were tools focused to give people a framework for the theory, and over the weeks they started to build up a toolkit and the confidence to apply them.
There is a great misconception about coaching and whether it is worth the investment. I believe that in this case it was fundamental to the success we achieved as we focused on coaching the individuals to develop their behaviour and skills for both their own and the company’s benefit. Breaking the development down into bite-size chunks worked, we tackled subjects that were relevant to them and worked on problems they were facing at that time. Working together to solve problems meant the team became strong, focused and trust was built very quickly.
A high performing team started to develop with clear purpose aligned to the overall vision, goals, and values of the business. Their confidence to tackle issues grew and a problem-solving culture established across the management team and their teams.
So, where next?
Developing talent is one element of training and coaching, but retention of talent is also crucial for a business which wants to retain some level of stability whilst it grows.
The ExtraMile Communications team continues to grow, and more importantly in this last six months, we challenged the boundaries of traditional management development again by handing over the strategic planning to the management team. We created a series of “hot teams” each one of the teams made up of a mixture of managers and team members who took a strategic priority and created a focused quarterly plan of activity. They have taken responsibility for planning and maintaining momentum. They continue to learn, and they continue to have a one to one coaching session monthly to ensure that their personal development continues.
Did it work, from the perspective of ExtraMile? The answer is undoubtedly YES!
So in summary, have the courage to challenge traditional perceptions and develop something that fits your culture and helps you to deliver your business aspirations. A one size approach does not fit all when it comes to staff training and mentoring.
About the author
Amanda Brooke is a highly successful, self-employed business and leadership facilitator and coach – working with clients across the UK for over 20 years. She has helped dozens of businesses to grow and coaches managing directors and chief executives to achieve their goals. Amanda began working with ExtraMile Communications two and half years ago and recently become not only Commercial Director, but also a shareholder in the international digital marketing company.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.