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How great training clients maximize the impact of their training budget

A common question I am asked in client meetings is ‘What makes a “great” training provider?’ and then of course I’m asked to show that we are one. There are a lot of factors involved in being a great training provider, from having the right trainer, to providing relevant training (that is easily transferred to the workplace), and from having the right processes right down to the flexibility and adaptability of the program, based on the changing business needs of the participants. In part, our greatness is achieved because of great clients and we are very lucky to have many of those across Europe ranging in size and spanning numerous industries. Like great training providers share common characteristics, so do great training clients. Below are are three of them.

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1. Great training clients really get the importance of buy-in on multiple levels

Training, whether it be Business English, soft skill or leadership programs, is most successful when there is buy-in across the board. HR and L&D are important, but it is the buy-in from operational and line managers that makes a real difference. Managers at all levels and team leaders all have a role to play. The managers of our “great clients” share the “why?” behind the training. They look to link it to strategy and decisions, and show that they are personally expecting commitment and engagement. This buy-in keeps the participants focused and aware of why they are training on certain topics.  This management buy-in also supports the work of HR and L&D, energizing their efforts and challenging them to challenge us when it comes to questions such as training design, transfer to the workplace, and continual improvements. So, if you have multiple levels of management, HR and participant buy-in, you will definitely see results tied to your company goals and get a lot more out of your training investment.

2. Great training clients give feedback when things are great and when things could be better

When we put our heart and soul into delivering training, we love hearing that we are doing a great job. Even when the training doesn’t fully meet the client’s expectations, we want to hear about it. Our best clients understand that we value what they have to say and tell us openly, on a regular basis. The more consistent clients are with feedback, the easier it is to address any issues that may arise. Being clear about communication needs, proactively collaborating on training goals, content and methods, and sharing the background to decisions work to build robust relationships creates a lot of trust and understanding that leads to productive, long-term and fun partnerships. Win-Win is remarkably easy when both sides genuinely care about the other.

3. Great training clients are open to new ideas and approaches

It is great when a client knows what they want. It can make our job as a training provider that much easier – after all you know your staff, your corporate culture and what works well.  AND, we also value the chance to apply our years and years of experience when the situation presents itself. Our best clients know that they can trust our expertise and, after exploring the whys and hows, are willing to give it a chance.  We understand we have to earn that trust, but need a chance to do so.  So, know what you want as a customer, challenge what your suppliers may suggest at times but also be open to new ideas as you may be pleasantly surprised what your supplier can do.

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How we built the Business English can-do statements: An interview with Chris Slattery

How good is your business English? B1? C2? These terms didn’t mean much to most of us ten years ago or so, but today the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard for describing language ability. It is used around the world to describe learners’ language skills. The 20 years of research the Council of Europe put into designing and rolling out the CEFR  was undoubtedly worthwhile: we now have a robust basis for a common understanding of what language levels mean. However, the CEFR is not business English specific – it was was designed for general education purposes. It doesn’t directly connect to day-to-day business communication scenarios. It doesn’t directly meet the language training needs facing businesses and corporations today, nor does it directly address common business communication scenarios.

In 2010, Target Training worked with the worlds largest courier company, Deutsche Post DHL, and another language training provider (Marcus Evans Linguarama) to close this gap. The outcome was a detailed set of can-do statements usable by employees, their managers and training providers alike. Chris Slattery lead the project at Target Training, and I asked him a few questions about this project.

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What made you want to get involved in this project?

Chris: We had been working closely with the Corporate Language School at DP DHL for over 5 years, and they were keen to begin measuring their training investment. A major part of this was being able to measure learning progress. They had tried to use an off-the-shelf solution but it wasn’t working, and the CEFR was too abstract to use in a business environment. We’d been working closely together trying to make things work – and when it was clear that the tools just weren’t strong enough they asked us if we could build a business specific tool which was founded in the CEFR levels. We asked that if we were going to be the “developer” another provider be involved as a “tester” to ensure the end product was robust and practical. This is how Lingurama became involved, and this 3-way collaboration strengthened the project.

The CEFR isn’t designed to recognize gaps in performance at work. Our Business English can-do statements mean that managers can identify where they would like to see an improvement in performance, and we then know how to get them there.

Chris Slattery

How did you decide what a successful solution would look like?

Chris: Quite simply, success was a tool that managers and participants could easily use when analyzing needs, setting goals and evaluating progress. We needed something that reflected the specific business skills managers are looking to improve. This meant we had to adapt what was in the CEFR and re-couch it in terms that were relevant for the business world. For example to move from academic and linguistic terms to practical business communication needs.

Can you give an example of a scenario?

Chris: Sure. Take someone who has had English at school and then worked in the States as an au pair for two years. They speak good English with a Boston accent. When they joined DP DHL they had the opportunity to join our InCorporate Trainer program. Whenever somebody new joins the training Target Training needs to assess their English skills.  This lady got placed at CEFR B2, which shows a good degree of competency … but she had never worked in a company before joining DP DHL -and now she needed to go and deliver a presentation in English. How well was she going to be able to do that?

Her general CEFR level is B2, but in her ability to give effective status presentations in English, she might be as low as A2. This discrepancy is huge. The CEFR isn’t designed to recognize gaps in performance at work. The Business English can-do statements mean that these managers can identify where they would like to see an improvement in performance, and we then know how to get them there.

We needed something that reflected the specific business skills managers are looking to improve. This meant we had to adapt what was in the CEFR and re-couch it in terms that were relevant for the business world. For example to move from academic and linguistic terms to practical business communication needs.

Chris Slattery

The full CEFR document is 273 pages long. Where did you start?

Chris: We started by studying the CEFR document in real depth, and understanding how it was built and why certain can-do statements are phrased in specific ways.  At the same time we also agreed with the client which business fields made the most impact on their day-today communication – skills like “presentations”, “networking”, “negotiating” etc . We then reread the CEFR handbook and identified which can-do statements could be directly transferable to business communication scenarios. Then we broke these business fields down into language skills, and used the can-dos in the CEFR document which best fitted these language skills. Our golden rule was that the can-dos had to be within the context of specific business skills AND easily understood by a department manager with no knowledge of language training.

Can you give me an example?

Chris:  Sure. These two statements contributed to one of the can-dos related to participating in meetings at a B1 level:

  1. Sociolinguistic appropriateness at CEFR B: Is aware of the salient politeness conventions and acts appropriately.
  2. Grammar at CEFR B1: Uses reasonably accurately a repertoire of frequently used “routines” and patterns (usually associated with more predictable situations).

Our Business English can-do statement for B1 Meetings: I can directly ask a participant to clarify what they have just said and obtain more detailed information in an appropriate manner.

How long did the whole process take?

Chris:  It took five months to write, test, rewrite, test and rewrite again. We then needed to repeat the process with a German language version too. At the end we blind-tested it with the client, and were delighted with their feedback.  The roll-out took a few months. Today, internally, it’s still an ongoing project. As new trainers join the company, they need to learn how to use the tool to its full potential.

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The Business English Can-Do Statements toolbox also has a short FAQ and 4 ideas on how you can use them. If you’d like to know more, please contact us, or read more about the CEFR framework on our website.

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The importance of staff training

We’re a training company. We meet with corporate clients and we ask them questions to find out their situation. They ask us questions too. If they like us, we send in an offer with a training concept. The answers to the questions (from both sides) are often similar. Our clients need training because it will help them succeed. Which makes the company succeed. Here are some of those questions, this time answered by two of Target’s key people, Chris Slattery (Managing Director) and Scott Levey (Operations Manager). 

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How important is training when it comes to staff?

SL: Training is as important to us as it is to every company. (Ironically though, trainers in the industry just don’t get enough training themselves, and there tends to be very little done on an incidental basis.) By nature, trainers in this industry often work independently and at best get development opportunities by accident. Our policy is to attract and hire the best trainers and, through training, help them to stay sharp. When we hire, we look specifically for evidence of continual improvement so we know we are working with people who are open to development and learning.

CS: The phrase ‘never buy hair restorer from a bald salesman’ springs to mind. We are obliged to take training seriously for any number of reasons but, most importantly, when training makes our staff stronger, we move up a notch as a company. Our challenge is to make sure that we promote internal training to ensure that the company as a whole benefits from external measures taken by individuals.

What makes training effective?

SL: Skill or job based, the training has to be relevant. The training from which we have had the most positive feedback has been our in-house “Boot Camp”.  This is where we explore the skills an InCorporate Trainer needs in order to be successful when delivering in-house training. New trainers generally have low expectations coming onto the course (‘training for training’s sake’ being a classic attitude) but the feedback has been consistently strong and participants report that they have been pushed, been developed and gained confidence during the week.  Not only that, their line managers have reported a clear difference, as have the end client.

CS: And be ready to be actively involved in supporting whatever training you go for.  Your support, or lack of, makes so much difference.

Is intercultural training still relevant?

CS: Intercultural training introduces the concept of dilemmas which every society is confronted with.

For example:

  1. Do we/they see events as individual and isolated or do we approach them within the context of a larger picture?
  2. How do we/they balance the rights of the individual against the interests of a wider society?

How a society deals with these dilemmas is the essence of that society’s culture. I would suggest that the intercultural aspect is everything… and nothing. “Nothing” in the sense that the theoretical study of regional differences (e.g. be sure to wear white socks on a first date in Ballybunnion), while possibly of some passing interest, is not necessarily conducive to effective communication. “Everything” in the sense that communication – which is our business – is founded on shared understanding. Beyond a rudimentary level of language proficiency, working out what is meant becomes more important than the words that are used and what is actually said.

Why is language training still so important in the business world today?

SL: Communication is extremely important in all areas, and people just don’t think about it often enough on an day to day level. We don’t always listen well; we are not always understood in the way we want to be understood and in a way that gets results. And this is in our native language. International business communication in a language you don’t really know is difficult – you know what you need but you don’t know how to say it exactly. Successful communication revolves around people setting aside time to reflect on how they communicate and how they can make it more effective. Language training is a tool that supports this. So people can do a great job in English.

How do you organize your training budget effectively?

SL: We talk to staff about their current skills and their needs for the future. This is an ongoing conversation. It’s also vital that our managers carve out time to think about their own needs; skills; and the future situation of the client and the team they manage. And we know that it is not always feasible to solve a current problem by throwing training at it: training often takes too long to solve an immediate concern.

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What our clients learned the easy way

target training

Long gone are the days when Business English training consisted of weekly lessons with a native English speaker, discussing what you did over the weekend. (Hooray!) In 2017 A.D, companies are paying more and more attention to the effectiveness of their Business English training programs. HR departments look for a training solution that delivers business results, based on the needs of the employees. A solution that ties in with the organization’s strategic goals. We are proud to have almost 25 years experience in this field. From concept to implementation to measuring results, we’ve learned a thousand lessons along the way, and so have our clients. In an effort to help you find the right solution for your department or company, we asked our clients what they realized three months after investing in results-oriented training that they hadn’t realized before. With some added links and examples from me, here are the three things we heard most often:




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Set concrete training goals

The most successful training happens when the participants have specific goals. A good needs analysis as well as input from managers help set these. Look for tangible business results, this will help you set your short- and long term goals. And, the more specific the goal, the better. For example: ‘Improving emails in English’ is a good start but ‘Handling billing requests from Indian colleagues via email’ is better.

The effectiveness of on-the-job training

People learn 70% by doing, and only 10% through structured training. Allowing the training to be job-focused, and on an “as and when needed” basis produces learning that sticks. A training solution that integrates on-the-job support is highly effective. And, on-the-job training is extremely flexible. For example: It can be used for email coaching, telephone conference/meeting shadowing and feedback, presentation practice and feedback, etc. It allows the trainer to learn first-hand how participants use English at work.

The importance of OTJ – a brief interjection: On-the-job support makes the training useful because it directly targets the training needs of the participant. Our on-the-job training and shadowing solutions are at the heart of the Target Training cycle and a core element of our InCorporate Trainer programs.

Forget about language levels and test scores

These results can’t be translated into how someone has transferred their knowledge to the workplace. If performance in English has improved, the training is successful. Measuring knowledge and language (CEF) levels can be useful as an indicator but it isn’t very practical, nor is it always realistic in a corporate training program. For example: It can take 700 hours of training or more for an A1 (beginner) to reach a B1 (intermediate) level. This type of time investment isn’t possible for most working professionals, nor is it (always) in alignment with the organizational goals.

Final interjection: A chain of evidence is created with Kirkpatrick evaluation model, showing how much training contributes directly towards business goals..

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You can always ask us your questions how to implement a successful business English training program. We’re quite good at it, ask anyone… Or start here:

 

Is Blended Learning the right solution for you?

Considering the implementation of a Blended Learning (BL) program brings with it a set of questions and decisions that need to be made. Blended Learning has a huge number of benefits. We know through experience that it personalizes learning, it reduces training costs, it offers flexibility- to name a few. But where there are advantages, there are usually some disadvantages too. When technology is involved, people need to know how to use it effectively, and there are set up and maintenance costs involved – to name a few. When we help our clients set up a BL program, or when we train trainers on this topic, we advise them to plan and evaluate the outcome of the BL solution. The below questions will help you get started.





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Visualize the big picture

If you think that Blended Learning is the right solution for you, great.

  • What successes are you looking for by implementing a BL program?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of implementing a BL program?

Find the perfect blend

There are face to face (seminars, 1-1 training, classes) and online elements (webinars, virtual classrooms, community learning) to consider. Chances are you won’t be using all of them. There’s no need. But you’re looking for the perfect blend, so you need to know which elements there are to choose from and how each of them are of benefit to you. If you don’t have access to an expert to ask, Wikipedia is always a good place to start.

  • Which components of available BL solutions are in your toolbox?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of these components?
  • How easily can these components be implemented?
  • How are you going to link content between the components?

Engage participants

Not everyone will jump at the chance of exploring a new online system, not even if the learning benefits are obvious. It’s possible that not everyone needs to engage with all the BL components that are available, or to different extents. If you’ve dealt with change in the workplace, you know it already, buy-in is necessary if you want your BL program to hit the ground runnning.

  • What does participant engagement look like?
  • How can you maximize participant engagement?
  • Which participants should use which components?

Train the trainer

The trainer is key to any successful training solution. You need their buy-in too. Their engagement with the training shouldn’t end when you move to the online component. And if your trainer is expected to deliver some of the online components, your success depends on their ability to utilize the tools available to them. Most trainers are keen to try out new things and will happily engage. Nevertheless, there is often a learning curve for the trainer.

  • What is the trainer’s level of engagement with each of the components?
  • Which skills does the trainer need to make the program successful?
  • How can we close gaps in knowledge?
  • How will we get trainer buy-in?

Measure success

  • What behaviours have changed at work as a result of the BL program?
  • How do training objectives relate to business objectives?
  • How do we measure success?
  • What do participants need to be successful?

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Practical advice on implementing the 70-20-10 model

The 70-20-10 model has been around for a few years already. It reflects the increasing awareness that people learn not just through “traditional” training. Research shows that we actually acquire most of the knowledge, skills and behaviours we need to perform our jobs through actual experience and working alongside others. The 70-20-10 model has its origins in the work of McCall, Eichinger and Lombardo from the Centre for Creative Leadership.

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Their book, “The Career Architect” (1996), is based on empirical research and concluded that successful managers learned in 3 different ways:

  • 70 percent of learning comes from real life on-the-job experiences, performing tasks and problem solving
  • 20 percent of learning comes from feedback, working with and observing role models
  • 10 percent from “traditional” training

Initially focussing on management and leadership development, this conclusion has since been extended to other types of professional learning and development. Today the 70-20-10 model is being used by Learning & Development departments in a wide-range of multinationals operating across a broad range of businesses. (e.g. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Nike, Dell, Goldman Sachs, Maersk, L’Oréal, and Caterpillar)

Why implement the 70-20-10 model

Whether you are a learning & development specialist, a line manager, a trainer or training provider, or an employee, you should take time to reconsider and refocus your efforts. By doing this you can:

  • shift the focus and expectations towards more efficient and effective types of learning and development
  • ensure that time and money invested in learning and development makes a greater impact
  • support your business by keeping people in the workplace while they are learning

The model has an attractive simplicity, although the exact ratios are contended. As a trainer and manager of a training company I think it’s important to see the model as a philosophy and not a rigid recipe.  The key is understanding and accepting that the majority of learning actually happens outside of the classroom, and that any learning and development program should take this into account and proactively support this.  It doesn’t mean that traditional training is no longer relevant in the 21st century, but rather that this traditional training is just a part of learning and development strategies.

“Almost without exception, in my experience, organisations that have adopted 70-20-10 have achieved greater impact on performance at organisational and individual level at lower cost than was being achieved beforehand.”

Charles Jennings

How to implement the 70-20-10 model

The 70-20-10 model has proven to positively impact organisations in enhancing learning and development programs. Based on what we’ve seen our clients do, and what we’ve tried ourselves, here are some concrete and practical ways to begin implementing the 70-20-10 model in your organization.

Raise awareness and build commitment through conversation 

Everyone involved needs to be brought on board with the idea that learning and development is not just about going on a course.  My own experience as a manager is that it is relatively easy to get people to see 70-20-10 as “common sense”. These conversations are essential as the 70-20-10 model depends on L&D working closely with line managers, and on line managers communicating with their staff. Managers need to be aware of the pivotal hands-on role they play in developing their staff, and employees need to appreciate the context for new decisions.

Implementing the 70-20-10 model is not a cost-cutting exercise – replacing “training” by a loose learning-by-doing approach. It’s actually a quality driven initiative, aiming to make sure that the company is developing to meet future challenges.

Scott Levey

If, like Target Training, you’re a medium sized company, these conversations are reasonably manageable. If, like many of our clients, you’re part of a larger organization then start small. Find a business unit where managers are comfortable and confident wearing the “developing people” hat. Speaking with our clients, many of whom are multinationals, the general consensus has been that introducing the 70-20-10 model step by step has proved to be the most effective approach. By connecting with managers who have a genuine interest in developing their teams and the employees within them, the model organically spreads to other areas.

Enable experiential learning

This is key when we consider that 70% of learning comes from “doing”. Giving employees the opportunity to learn through challenging yet achievable experiences is one the most powerful and practical tools in a manager’s toolbox. Experiential learning can come through new roles and equally occur within existing roles. Three approaches we’ve seen clients benefit from are:

  • extending the scope of responsibility and control
  • enabling and increasing decision-making power
  • expecting staff to build new relationships (e.g. other business units, senior managers, virtual teams , suppliers, partners, clients…)

 

Be prepared to accept a compromise between optimal efficiency and developmental opportunities

You can expect to see specific requests upwards, where an employee is keen to get involved in a challenging project specifically to build their skills. Naturally they won’t be as effective or efficient as somebody who can already perform this role – so look at it as a learning and development initiative rather than just a question of resources.

Engage with internal and external trainers and training providers early on

Discuss how to connect the dots between on-the-job, social and formal learning. The goal is to identify critical skills and behaviours and then look at building and reinforcing these using all options.

Coaching and mentoring

These are great ways of integrating social learning into a traditional program. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, and both draw on a similar skill set I’d argue there are differences. For me mentoring is deliberately connecting an experienced person (the mentor) with a less experienced one (the mentee). The mentor could be a colleague, a manager, or the line manager. The mentor then tutors, shares experiences, models, counsels and offers feedback.  Coaching does not necessarily imply directly related experience, tends to be less directive, and is aimed at improving performance in specific areas.  Regardless of how you define them, both approaches have a lot to offer.

When it comes to traditional training the key is early and explicit management involvement

The single most powerful step a manager can take is to clearly explain to their staff  why the training is relevant to the business and that there are clear expectations. This simple step drives motivation, participation and transfer. This transfer is crucial and I’d suggest that any traditional formal training has to integrate a transfer plan. In this simple document the employees are challenged to consider how they will actually transfer the learning into their workplace, when they’ll do this, who else needs to be involved and how will they know when they have achieved this.

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What makes a great trainer?

We recently had the opportunity to ask a selection of managers what they think are the qualities of a great trainer. At the end of the session, they were pretty much in agreement. Their collated answers are summarized below.

Variety and flexibility

Have a wide range of activities to use flexibly in different training situations. These activities should accommodate different learning styles. The trainer also needs to vary the training approaches and the interaction patterns in the training room. They need to know how to make sure participants get the most from the training.
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Creative and innovative

The more personalized and interactive the activities are, the more immediately transferable the results will be. A great trainer will feel the reward of delivering something that really adds value for the participants. Great trainers are passionate about what they do. They will want to experiment with new ideas and activities, each time reflecting on its success and development.

Know the audience

It’s not always possible to know every participant in advance. But a great trainer will have done the research. They’ll know about, for example, what the client does, what their challenges are, and how they expect the training will help them reach their goals.

Embrace change

With new training trends, new technologies, and the ongoing cycle of change in business, the trainer’s ability to adapt will make him/her/the training more effective. Great trainers drive change. They introduce new techniques and elements to the training – a blended learning or virtual learning element for example.

Focus on results

Great trainers work with the end in mind. Every activity should consider the goals of the participants and learning progress is measured. The trainer looks for immediate results (reaction to the session) and long-term results (behaviour on the job).

Approachable

Having a genuine, active interest in people is just one of the qualities of a great trainer. The trainer’s ability in building relationships is a major part in ensuring an effective outcome for all stakeholders.

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We offer a number of train the trainer programs in English and German. Not all the information is currently on our website. Here’s a good place to start.

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TED talks on motivation and leadership

This week’s post was meant to be about customer service skills. Once I had my initial ideas on virtual paper, I started searching online resources. Very quickly and inevitably I ended up on TED.com and almost an hour later, I was still watching videos, no longer anything to do with customer service. My post was about what customer service professionals can do to stay motivated, with an array of some not so nice customers contacting them. It was inspired by one of my not so very motivated participants. He said: I don’t care if they’re nice or not. I don’t care if they think I’m nice or not. I still get paid for taking the call. Being motivated to do a good job has very little to do with having ‘nice’ customers – ultimately. That was one of the points of my post. Perhaps I will finish the post, it was an interesting training session. This post is instead about everyday leadership, feeling good and staying motivated.
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What makes us feel good about our work

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely starts his TED talk ‘What makes us feel good about our work‘ with a mountain climbing example. “…If you read books of people who climb mountains, difficult mountains, do you think that those books are full of moments of joy and happiness? No, they are full of misery. In fact, it’s all about frostbite and having difficulty walking, and difficulty breathing — cold, challenging circumstances. And if people were just trying to be happy, the moment they would get to the top, they would say, “This was a terrible mistake. I’ll never do it again.”

Everyday leadership

This very personal TED talk from Drew Dudley is easily transferable to a business context. ‘Everyday leadership‘ starts with a clear message. “…I’ve come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us; something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world. We’ve taken this title of “leader” and treat it as something that one day we’re going to deserve. But to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do, that we’ve convinced ourselves those are the only things worth celebrating. We start to devalue the things we can do every day. We take moments where we truly are a leader and we don’t let ourselves take credit for it, or feel good about it.”

The happy secret to better work

Shawn Achor’s very funny talk ‘The happy secret to better work‘ is definitely worth watching. “… One of the first things we teach people in economics, statistics, business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, do we eliminate the weirdos. How do we eliminate the outliers so we can find the line of best fit? Which is fantastic if I’m trying to find out how many Advil the average person should be taking — two. But if I’m interested in your potential, or for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, we’re creating the cult of the average with science. If I asked a question like, “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?” scientists change the answer to “How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?” and we tailor the class towards the average. If you fall below the average, then psychologists get thrilled, because that means you’re depressed or have a disorder, or hopefully both.”

 

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Not bored of videos yet? This playlist contains 7 talks on loving what you do. Also recommended, here are a few customer service posts from our blog. Our new and very much improved Boost your Business English blog is online.

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8 questions about experiential training answered

training providerslargeHave you ever tried teaching a child a new skill? Take learning to swim as an example. You could give a detailed description of the process and then expect them to remember and follow your instructions, or you could let them get on with it, learn in their own way. Learning in their own way will certainly result in some frustrations, but through this experience of trial and error they are more likely to remember for themselves the best way to get to the result.

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We think that experiencing real situations and learning from what you experience is key to all learning. And so, clearly, do a lot of big thinkers before us. Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. Long before him, Aristotle said “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”.

James Culver

What is experiential training?

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience – and more specifically the process of “learning through reflecting on what you’re doing / just did”. It’s been around for a very long time.

Why is experiential training so powerful in management and soft skills solutions?

The gentlemen I mentioned above were onto something. These observations still ring true today, especially when we want people to learn behaviors to apply in the workplace. Learning by doing is great for children, but as adults in the workplace we can really add the additional aspect of reflecting on how our behaviors affect outcomes. This is the experiential advantage.

How can experiential training help you retain information and embed behaviors?

Dr. Igor Kokcharov’s did some research into this and came up with this pretty useful pyramid. If you take a look at it, you can see how learning by doing with coach led reflection and practice gives participants the best chance to retain necessary information.

 pyramidexplearning

 

Who’s using the experiential training approach?

A lot of adult learning approaches in a broad range of fields from corporate to military, and from emergency services to care work, make use of this experiential advantage. Business schools use the approach with simulation exercises, and critical incident gaming can be found in government agencies and board rooms alike. At Target Training, our experience is that experiential training can do much more. It can increase awareness of behaviors, particularly those with negative consequences. It else has the power to challenge current approaches in a developmental, non-judgmental way.  If experiential training is established, we can focus on the individual’s needs and deliver tangible change. This fits perfectly when developing soft and management skills.

What does experiential training look like in the training environment?

Put very, very simply, experiential training = do + debrief + do it again.  You might be thinking that sounds pretty boring – why go to training to do the same thing a couple of times over? Think about the result you’re looking for though. You’re going to training not to learn a bunch of theory, but to be able to go back to your workplace and do something differently. Experiential training is all about working in the real world.  Whether in a well-designed activity or on-the job, you behave the way you do. After observing you in action, the trainer/coach leads you through a consequence-based conversation, talking you through the behaviors he or she observed. They also link what they have seen with alternatives to help improve the outcome. You develop new skills and can then apply them to a new experience. You learn to recognize “triggering events” in your work environment and can choose to use the new behavior in training – and beyond.

How does it work?

Here are some of the elements which are key to successful experiential training:

Training environment

By creating a positive, encouraging environment in the training room. This help you to act as you normally do and feel comfortable with trying out new skills. The more you can share the behavior-consequence based feedback the trainer gives you, the easier it will be to identify and close any behavior gaps.

Debriefing

The debriefing stage is key. New information necessary to support new behaviors is introduced here.

Varied interaction and activities

Challenging, timed group and pair work problem solving activities to raise the stress level so participants communicate as themselves.

What can I expect from my trainer?

The trainer’s role is not to present you with lots of information. They act more as a coach and are responsible for creating a developmental, experiment-friendly environment in the training room.

What do I need to do to make experiential training a success?

Be open. To be effective, experiential soft skills training requires you to fully participate in experiences, as well as being willing to reflect and identify behavior gaps with others. None of us would feel comfortable about learning to swim through guided discussion or a PowerPoint presentation. Experiential soft skills training puts you in the deep water of communication situations. This allows you to see a need for new behaviors that will lead to better consequences on the job. You practice these behaviors through experiences in a safe, leaner-centered environment. And will then feel ready to dive back into your working environment to try out these new behaviors.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

We work with the 70-20-10 model. My colleagues and I are available to tell you more about how we can implement the right training for your needs. To help you find a training provider, please download our eBook THE DEFINITIVE CHECKLIST FOR QUALIFYING TRAINING PROVIDERS.

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The best training course I have ever been on (or why wanting to be there made all the difference)

Most of my working life I have worked independently in or with small organisations, where training has often been on the job and learning by doing (the “70%”), or learning from and copying colleagues (the “20%”) And to be clear I’m not complaining –I’ve worked with and learnt from a long list of inspiring individuals. So a big thank you to Jörg, Wilfried, Wolfgang, George, Danny, Richard, Mac, Piers, Niven and many many others. Indeed the best “training” I have ever experienced was the 20% of the 70/20/10 model – and the best training course I have ever been on was one I really wanted to join. Here’s what made it such a great experience.

Professional and personal benefit

I’ve never been “sent to training.” Any seminar I’ve attended has been self-financed, and I’ve therefore always been choosy. Earlier in my career I attended seminars that could provide a hard benefit for my own work – but the best seminar I’ve ever attended benefited not just my work but me personally. The seminar was an introduction to the Ennegram. It was run by the Enneagram Institute of Greece and took place in a small hotel on Naxos, an idyllic Greek island.





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Inspiring trainers

The Enneagram unfortunately does not appear often on the radar screen of the HR departments of most German corporations – it seems at first glance to be too wacky and esoteric, but as a trainer who has worked with DISC, SDI and the MBTI I’ve found it to be powerful and challenging. The seminar was delivered by two inspirational Ennegram experts, Russ Hudson and Don Riso. Don and Russ had together developed the Enneagram away from the esoteric and mystic and made it into a robust psychometric tool, although the word tool does not do it justice. To cover the content of the seminar in a paragraph would be to invite ridicule. Suffice to say it covered applied psychology, history, mathematics, anthropology, theology. We explored the 9 types and took them to a deeper level.

The five day workshop provided space and opportunity for self-reflection. It was a „selfish” learning programme, in a positive sense. There was a refreshing shift away from learning a couple of tips and techniques for the day to day work – and a rewarding focus was on what are my motivations, how can I develop and how can I avoid the downward spiral into the darker side of my personality.

Location, location, location

The location was paradise. Imagine arriving at Athens’ airport, a short bus ride to the port of Rafina, staying overnight and eating seafood, catching the morning ferry to the Cyclades, a three hour sail to Naxos, disembarking, lunch in the harbour tavern, finding one of the island’s few taxis then to the hotel with its own beach surrounded by endless blue sky and water.

Motivated participants

The other participants were diverse, motivated and engaged – even the more sceptical among us. We learnt together and from each other, and from Russ and Don. Our only mystery was our selves. There were long lunches with time to swim and sleep; but we worked late into the night (Mediterranean time rhythm). The room was small, crowded and hot and it did not matter. Technical support was non-existent and not needed: the view was breath-taking and more motivating than a PowerPoint screen.

To summarize

Like Hans Castorp in the Magic Mountain I re-entered the real world five days later, enriched and motivated. Here are the factors that made the training so fantastic.

  • It was not a “have to join” seminar but a “want to join” seminar.
  • The course presenters were inspirational.
  • The other participants were diverse professionally and culturally and I made some good friends.
  • Learning from each other is powerful.
  • It was a great location – I doubted it would have had the same impact in a business hotel at an airport.
  • The content was intellectually stimulating and challenging
  • There was ample time and process for self-reflection
  • And as a bonus I could transfer what I learnt to my private and business life.

I believe looking at the list above there are clear parallels and transferable to dos to the corporate world of organizing training. Do you see them too?

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What does Blended Learning really mean?

Blended Learning (BL) is one of those terms that is kicked around freely in the world of training and development. The only problem is that there are so many different interpretations of what it actually means. For some people it is virtual training, for some it is e-learning, others might think it is e-learning with a mixture of classroom time, and so on. A great starting point is to think about the meaning of the word “blend”. The chances are, you have a blender in your kitchen. What do you do with your blender? Usually you pick the ingredients you want to make your smoothie, soup, marinade or whatever else you might be making. You pick those ingredients in the quantities that you like, and you hit the blend button to get the result you are looking for. That’s what blended learning is: choose your ingredients, adjust the quantities, blend, and you’ve got your result.

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Why should you consider adopting a blended approach to learning in your organization?

Research by the National Training Laboratory (World Bank) shows that the amount of new information trainees retain depends on how the information is presented. The graph below shows the retention rates for the six most common methods of teaching new information:

retention graph Logically then, one mode of delivery is not sufficient to achieve the intended results from training programs. The more you blend, the better the results. And consequently, the better your return on investment is.  Blending is therefore not really a training option,it’s a must.

What can you put in your BL toolbox?

The different ways of training (training modalities) are important to understand. Your 5 main choices are:

  • Face-to-face training (seminars, classes, workshops, peer coaching)
  • On-the-job training
  • Wikis and community learning
  • Webinars / Virtual classrooms
  • Web-based Training (WBTs)

At the most basic level, blended learning could be that you set home work after a training intervention and follow up on it, BUT you can do much better than that!  In this mobile age, there are literally hundreds of tools out there you can choose them. You’ll need to take a look at them, evaluate them, and figure out which ones are best for you and your organization. And if you’re not happy with any of them, there are easy-to-use platforms that allow you to develop your own.

How can you get that perfect blend for your training program?

Deciding which elements to use when isn’t easy, but there are tools out there. You need to decide which tools are best suited to each step along the learning journey you are designing. Try using a decision tree to help you with this.

What are the main obstacles?

The 5 main obstacles we’ve seen clients face are:

  1. When are you asking your participants to do the elements which are not face-to-face? In a lot of cases, this has to happen after work and within their own time. Your staff have to complete certain elements, but they need to be given time and space to do this. This means a higher investment of course, but you can then expect that the participants will work through these blended elements. The level of motivation will also be much higher, and that will mean that the participants are actually likely to learn more.
  2. The fear of technology. Blended Learning does not actually have to involve a technology based part, but invariably these days it will. Some people are easily able to take on new IT tools, while others find this more challenging, and ultimately scary.
  3. Getting and sustaining true virtual engagement. I speak from experience as a participant. I have joined an online course with chat functions to help interaction between the participants and tutor. For the first few modules I’ve been full of energy and assigned time for the training, but after that practical realities and operational issues have got in the way, and the training has slipped further down my to-do list (especially when there are no time constraints on the training). That’s a big shame, but it is a reality, and one that I’m not alone in facing.
  4. Disconnected content. Successful Blended Learning involves teaching and deepening the same content using different modalities and a range of tools. In several programs I’ve seen there has been little connection between the content of the face-to-face training and the virtual elements. Rather than building on knowledge, new input is being given in each setting. This may be because there is so much input, but the result will be that a lot has been covered, but little has been learnt.
  5. Unrealistic expectations. Just because a participant has attended a webinar, it does not mean that they actually know the content. You need to have seen facts several times and be able to relate them to a relevant context in order to learn them. It’s only when you need the information in reality that you will see how successful this has been. If no opportunity arises over the months following this training element, then it is likely that participants will not remember much of the session. Blended Learning can help by offering further tools to aid retention outside the training room – but application is essential!

Blended Learning is finding the right blend of training tools to suit your individual organizational needs. Finding this blend will help improve learning retention as well as providing resources that participants can refer to outside face-to-face training. On the flip side, if you’re investing in or designing a Blended Learning program for your organization, then you need to make sure that the expectations and outcomes set are realistic. For the training to be motivational, participants need to have time, space and the necessary technical equipment. If you have all that in place, then the chances are you’ll see success.

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16 jargon-busting learning terms you need to be familiar with (if you work in L&D)

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Thousands of new words are created each year. Not surprisingly, some of those words are related to learning and L&D. Here – in no particular order – are the top 16 learning terms we think you need to be familiar with in 2016.

1. Blended Learning

Blended learning is about finding the right blend for an individual training solution. Think of a training toolbox, which can include face-to-face and online training solutions. You and the trainer can pick the best options from the toolbox at each stage of your learning journey. There is not one truly successful blended learning course that looks the same – it depends entirely on the needs of the participants and the organization.

2. Flipped Learning

Flipped learning simply means that all the face-to-face time in training is dedicated to productive learning. All other elements of training are done in preparation for and as a follow-up to the face-to-face training sessions.

3. Bite-sized Learning

These day people don’t have a lot of time for training. And they don’t have long attention spans. Training should therefore come in small doses, or bite-sized chunks. As well as slotting easily into busy schedules, training needs to be available from everywhere. The Training Journal blog puts bite-sized learning as the top learning trend for 2016.

4. mLearning

mLearning (mobile learning) means that you can access and use learning resources e.g. apps, videos, links from your smartphone or tablet wherever you are.

5. eLearning

eLearning involves the use of specific online courses and apps. There is typically no face-to-face element. There will often be a facilitator who runs the course, gives feedback and ensures that collaboration is taking place.

6. Business-centric Learning

In this model, the needs of the business take priority. All L&D is aligned to the business’, not the learners’ needs.  Success is then measured based on the impact that the training outcome has on the needs of the business.

7. Web-based Training (WBT) /Virtual classrooms

Web-based training is the same as face-to-face learning – just delivered virtually. Using tools like Skype for Business or Webex, the trainer can connect with participants anywhere in the world and train them in the same way as they would in a face-to-face environment. This learning space is called a virtual classroom.

8. Social Learning

This type of learning means that people learn from each other. This happens through collaboration and working together. This can be face-to-face or on, for example, intranet / internet platforms. This is really what the 20 in the 70:20:10 approach is about. We learn a lot from other people, the situation, and what is around us.

9. On the job Learning

And this is what the 70 in the 70:20:10 approach is all about. This is the amount you learn when you are actually working on the job. If 70% of learning is on the job, and 20% is social learning, then only 10% of training needs to be through formal instruction.

10. Gamification

Gamification, is as the name suggests, a way of turning learning into an enjoyable, memorable and interactive experience. It is often so enjoyable that participants don’t actually realize that it is training.

11. Informal Learning

This is the learning which happens in an unplanned way when people interact with each other. There is no control from above as to what will be learnt.

12. Experiential Learning

This kind of learning is all about the experience. Take, for example, virtual teams training. There is plenty of information openly available about how we should be working in a virtual team. A trainer can also share this information. We can read an article, nod, think “mm, that’s right, I’ll try that next time”, but if we don’t experience the event, and receive feedback on what we’re doing, then there is little chance that we will actually change our behavior.

13. Independent / Self-directed Learning

This kind of learning is completely up to the participant. Management has no control over this. In contrast, the learner has total control. Choosing what interests you, means that you are more likely to remember what you learn and be motivated to pursue your learning further. There are endless tools, apps, and websites available which mean that learners can work at their own pace and at times that suit them.

14. Self-paced Learning

In this kind of learning it is the learner who decides how fast they want to move through the course.

15. Ongoing coaching and mentoring

Telling people something once generally isn’t enough. Ongoing coaching and mentoring is key to ensuring that messages and content have been understood, digested, and are being put into practice. This approach means that individual training goals can be set and reached.

16. Prescriptive Learning

If you’re sick, you go to the doctor’s. The doctor gives you a prescription to fix the problem. In the same way, prescriptive learning programs are designed to fix the skills gap and get the individual from where they are now, to where you and your organization want them to be.

For more information

  • These are just some of the learning terms that are in use at the moment. They will of course change. There are some really useful glossaries around which are updated on a regular basis. Here’s one we like
  • To keep up-to-date with trends in the industry, follow our Flipboard magazine: On Target with L&D
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Evaluating existing training suppliers

Once a decision has been made for a training supplier and the first delivery has been checked for quality and suitability, we usually move on to other things. In reality, this can mean that a training provider delivers the same training measure again and again over years, without its contents being updated to current business needs or checking that the agreed contents are still being used by the selected trainer. Use the following topics to structure how you evaluate your existing training suppliers.

How up-to-date are you?

Evaluating your existing training provider starts in your own office. As you are responsible for the training measure(s) that your provider is delivering, you should have up-to-date information on the latest participant evaluations, seminar documentation and hand-outs. The older your own documentation is, the quicker you need to evaluate your training provider:

  • When did you last have a status meeting with your training provider? What was decided?
  • What can you learn if you compare participants’ evaluations over time?
  • If you don´t have a copy of the seminar documentation on your server, how quickly does your training provider hand out a copy to you?

How do you check the quality of existing training measures?

Regular quality management should be one of the key tasks of HR development but, unfortunately, everyday operational topics regularly push this to the bottom of the list. On the other hand, evaluating the quality of training measures ensures that you´re spending money on relevant training measures that support your business:

  • Does the seminar documentation (key messages about leadership and teamwork, cultural focus, takeaways, etc.) still reflect the current business climate and needs in your organisation? What needs to be updated?
  • Learn from the participants: What expectations does a participant have going into a training event? How are these expectations met after the training? What takeaways are still present 4-6 weeks later?
  • Observe (or participate in) a training event: Is the seminar documentation relevant? Are the key messages suitable for your business reality? Is the trainer still motivated?
  • Talk to your trainer: How does he/she suggest incorporating into the training content what they learn from the participants about your business environment?

How reliable is your current training provider?

A good training provider understands your business and provides a training event that fits your organisation’s culture and industry. In addition, you can rely on them to keep you up-to-date on critical topics arising in their trainings, or to provide you with interesting ideas that synergise with your business:

  • Does your training provider keep you up-to-date with what is new on the market? Do they actively come up with new ideas which benefit your business?
  • Does your training provider shy away from the idea of working with another provider (or with an internal trainer) at your request to deliver a customised training measure?
  • Do you get enough training dates from your training provider? Does he/she keep these dates and/or offer back-up trainers or alternative dates?

Is your contract up to date?

Once signed, companies rarely update contracts with training providers even though a discussion of training fees seems to be a regular event. Nonetheless, important factors such as travel expenses or secondary costs need to be checked on a regular basis. Also, legal requirements, e.g. confidentiality or data protection, change over time and need to be adhered to:

  • Do the agreed payment terms still fit current purchasing standards in your company?
  • Do the training rates meet market standards? Does the number of training measures provided justify a re-negotiation of fees?
  • How dependent are you on your training provider to deliver this training measure? Does this fit with your HR strategy or should you have a wider pool of providers?
  • Do you have an up-to-date confidentiality agreement with your training provider?
  • Does your training provider charge you separately for materials? Is the seminar documentation relevant or can you send key documents via email to save costs?

Download our eBook to learn more

There are thousands of training providers out there and many promise great things. But how can you really find out if they are the right fit? After all, it’s essential that you don’t risk wasting your employees’ working time or your hard-won training budget! Download the eBook.

By Fiona Higginson

Fiona’s corporate career in human resources started in 1997, and is characterized by her focus on the design and/or delivery of high-quality HRD measures and instruments.She’s worked in multinational corporations in both manufacturing and service industries, from DAX – 30 listed global players to medium-sized organizations. Fiona is a certified trainer and coach and
has degrees in Developmental Learning and International Affairsfrom Ireland, Germany and the UK. She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Spanish and French. She recently
established her own consultancy: www.fionahigginson.com
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Qualifying potential training providers

Virtual teams target training

training providerslargeThe key to assessing potential training providers is to find out how well they fit to what you want to achieve with the training. It’s important to get to the point quickly and here are a few questions that can help you decide if the people you’re talking to are ‘right’ for your company. 

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The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

Are they prepared?

Before you present your company and situation to them, let the training provider describe what he/she already knows about your organisation. At the very least, they should have done their homework by reading the homepage. The most impressive of providers will already have incorporated your internal company language into their (written or oral) presentation:

  • If you sent them information prior to the meeting, are they referring to its content correctly?
  • Have they picked up any company brochures while they were waiting for you in the lobby?
  • Do you have to repeat yourself or are they listening to you describe your organisation attentively? (taking notes, rephrasing what you said, using company language)
  • Does their presentation reflect what you are looking for?

What kind of business do they have?

You need to know whether you´re dealing with a one-man-show (flexible to your needs but limited in scope) or a training company (offers standard content but can provide wider services). Additionally, you need to know how their business model fits your company and whether their training approach is compatible with the leadership culture in your organisation:

  • How many people work there?
  • Can they provide you with trainer profiles?
  • Who would you work with on the actual design of training content and why is he/she the most qualified?
  • What kind of international work have they done in the past?
  • What is their policy should a trainer drop out at the last minute? (replacement, back-up)
  • Which institutions do they cooperate with? (business schools, leadership think tanks)

How do they approach designing training content for new clients?

You can buy standardised content from any reliable provider, or you can ask a provider to customise training content to your situation and needs. If you choose the customized training option, you can ask:

  • How do they normally go about creating a new design for a first-time client? (design phases, milestones, client approval, dry runs)
  • What do they suggest they need to get to know your organisation in order to be able to create a suitable design? (discovery interviews with stakeholders, plant visits)
  • What level of customisation are they willing to provide? (adoption of company-internal language/abbreviations, integration of company goals/competences/principles into training content, incorporation of internal specialists in training programmes)

What methods of quality management do they apply?

No training measure should be an individual, stand-alone event. Any professional training provider should have a variety of methods to ensure the applicability of training content to the business and the transfer of learning to the workplace. For longer-term or repetitive measures, they should suggest methods to maintain high-quality content and to review and update these contents to your changing business environment:

  • Other than the typical “happy sheets”, what kind of evaluation methods do they offer?
  • What methods have they used successfully in the past to ensure an effective learning transfer? (also ask about negative experiences and their underlying causes)
  • What is their approach towards blended learning? If you have an online learning platform, how could the training contents be linked back to it?
  • What certifications do they possess? (industry certificates like ISO or individual certification like personality diagnostics)

What are their expectations regarding contracting?

Most companies have internal standards about contracting external suppliers, whether it be about payment terms or travel regulations. Most training providers do not like to have to accommodate their contracting terms but, as the customer, you should ensure that the contract details suit your business:

  • What are their daily rates? (beware of different rates for design, preparation and delivery)
  • What kind of payment terms do they suggest? (timing of invoices, listing of travel expenses, payment of instalments)
  • If they create materials customised to your organisation, what are the intellectual property considerations? (ideally, you should be able to use this material internally for other purposes)

What references can they provide?

Ultimately, you need to check the references of any training provider before contracting them. Be aware, however, that some references given may be outdated or refer to projects not applicable to what you require for your business:

  • What other similar clients have they worked for in the recent past? (same industry, similar size, similar business model)
  • What other similar projects have they successfully run in the recent past? (focus of contents, hierarchy level of participants, scope of measures)
  • Can they give you the name/contact details of reference clients? (a good provider will want to check with that client first!)

By Fiona Higginson

Fiona’s corporate career in human resources started in 1997, and is characterized by her focus on the design and/or delivery of high-quality HRD measures and instruments.She’s worked in multinational corporations in both manufacturing and service industries, from DAX – 30 listed global players to medium-sized organizations. Fiona is a certified trainer and coach and
has degrees in Developmental Learning and International Affairsfrom Ireland, Germany and the UK. She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Spanish and French. She recently
established her own consultancy: www.fionahigginson.com

Building authentic intercultural business relationships – part 2

There’s a great English expression “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.  I’ve found this to be a practical starting point when working with clients to build their intercultural competence. Why? Because not every problem comes back to cultural differences! So many other factors play a part in relationships.  The first step is to recognize is this actually a difference in culture? And if yes, how am I different to this culture?

How can the Intercultural Awareness Profiler (IAP) and the 4 R’s help you succeed globally?

This is where the IAP and the 4Rs model add tangible value. Developed by Dr Fons Trompenaars, the IAP does a great job of explaining what these steps need to look like, and why  “knowing” that Chinese culture value the group’s needs over the individual’s needs doesn’t necessarily translate into performance, commitment and results. During an interview with Dr Trompenaars we asked him to briefly explain the 4Rs model in his own words, and how he saw the Intercultural Awareness Profile tool within the context of the 4Rs.

To summarize…

Recognize

Can you recognize that you are dealing with differences in cultures? How do you as an individual differ from those cultures? For example, ss the different approach to decision making you’re struggling with a cultural dilemma? Or a question of personality? And most importantly – what is the dilemma?

Respect

Can you genuinely respect that the differing approaches are not better or worse – just a different way of operating. Do you respect that they are equally valid and legitimate?  For example, is coming to decisions through a consensus as valid as coming to decisions through the “expert” deciding, or by the “boss” deciding?

Reconcile

Now that you’ve recognized the difference and genuinely respect them how do you reconcile the dilemma facing you? What do you do?  How can you come to an agreement? How are you going to make decisions?

Root

How will you take what is working and make it part of your day to day modus operandi? Will you forge a team culture that is transcultural (bridges all cultures)?

Interview with Dr Trompenaars

Also online:

Building authentic intercultural business relationships – part 1

Doing business with another culture can be many things – exciting, intimidating, rewarding, challenging … and intercultural training should play a key role in helping your team to prepare to succeed globally. But what should you be asking for? And how can you evaluate the many many options out there? A recent coaching session showed the dilemma perfectly. Martin, a senior materials purchaser was about to start a relationship with an Indian supplier – and their very first question to us was “So, what should I do, and not do, when I’m in Mumbai?”.

A “does and don’ts” sort of approach can be useful if you are focussing on a single culture and in a real hurry. Starting from a position of concern and wanting to be aware of tricky situations make sense -but it brings with it a range of difficult questions. Intercultural training doesn’t stop with knowing the do’s and don’ts. Nor does it stop with just theory. But, who knows to say “I have to go to Mumbai in 2 week’s time. I’d like to learn about some theory and an intercultural model”.

The limits of a do’s and don’ts approach to intercultural training

SMALL TALKThink for a moment of your own culture. How easy would it be for you to tell someone how they should act when they come to your country? Do all of the people in your country act the same, react the same, or think the same? A list of do’s and don’ts doesn’t explain the reasons behind cultural behaviours, so would it really help you to do business in that country?

Now don’t get me wrong. Do’s and don’ts

  • can provide a sense of security,
  • are easy to engage with,
  • they simplify a challenging situation.

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“Understanding one’s own cultural profile is key to enhancing job performance and bottom line business results when working with other cultures.”
Fons Trompenaars

How does the IAP differ from a do’s and don’t’s approach to intercultural skills building?

Dr Fons Trompenaars is the best-selling author of Riding the Waves of Culture and one of the world’s leading management thinkers. He is also the architect behind the Intercultural Awareness Profiler (IAP) – a self-assessment and diagnostic tool. The Intercultural Awareness Profile (IAP) is designed to assess the personal orientation and choices that individuals make when resolving intercultural business issues. We asked him “How does the IAP differ from a does and don’ts approach? “ , and this is what he said …

Building business relationships through understanding

The Intercultural Awareness Profiler (and the theory of the 7 dimensions of culture the IAP is based upon) offers you a robust basis to understand the dos and don’ts . Once you understand more about why people act a certain way, you can start to think about how you should act when e.g. presenting your product, managing staff, negotiating a framework agreement. The IAP provides a deeper level of understanding, meaning you don’t just recognize but also respect differences between cultures. Without that, how can you build authentic business relationships?

Interview with Dr Trompenaars

Also online:

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How to convince participants that gamification is a good thing

The first time I used a game in the Business English training room it failed – miserably. Actually, from a training point of view it worked pretty well as participants were talking a lot and interacting in an authentic, interested manner with each other. That was the aim of the session. In fact, being a business fluency class, it was really the aim of the whole course. But participants didn’t see it that way. They went straight to my director, complaining that the class had been a waste of time as they had to play a game.

What went wrong? This experience happened twenty years ago and the participants were heading towards retirement. I don’t think that it is time or age that explains it though. It has more to do with participant expectations, their perceptions of an activity’s usefulness, and the training department and trainer’s need to “sell” the training tools we are using to get participant buy-in. Looking back, I definitely didn’t sell it well enough.

Three ways to sell gamification to training participants

Gamification is all the rage in training at the moment and is one of the top training trends for 2016. And there are lots of tools out there to help the trainer convert the training room into a fun, interactive, engaging place to learn. Most of us working in training know that this is a good thing. Let’s look at some ways training managers and trainers can convince participants that games are not a silly, waste of time in training. We need to show them that games are a very valid way to learn, retain and use what has been taught, as well as being a great diagnostic tool to find out more about what they still need to know.

We’ve found that taking these three steps really helps to make participants feel ready to take on any kind of activity you want to give them. They’ve just got to know why.

Ensure you and your training provider share the training methodology before the training begins

Participants in any form of training have to know what to expect. Take language training for example. People have learnt languages in many different ways, but most commonly at school where the focus tends to be on grammar and accuracy. Traditionally they expect the teacher to stand at the front of the room and ask individuals questions. In language training, intercultural training and leadership training today, trainers are encouraged to act as facilitators and resources rather than to stand at the front of the class and talk at the class. The shift from this kind of traditional school teaching to a trainer who facilitates learning and makes participants play games and talk about their own experiences is a big leap. And it needs explaining before the training is even purchased.

To consider: Does your corporate training catalogue describe the training styles and tools that will be used in the training room?

Ensure your training provider shares the aims at the start of the training session and again at the start of the activity

You can generally get adults to do anything in the training room – as long as they know why. General course aims are often explained and shared right at the start of the course in the first session. They really need to be shared right at the start of the session and when setting up each activity too. Here’s a couple of simple ways trainers can be using to get participant buy-in:

  1. At the start of the session, write up your main aims in the corner of the board of flipchart. You can then tick them off as you move through the session and draw the participants’ attention to the fact that you’re doing this and that they’re making great progress.
  2. Start each activity by explain “why”. All you need to do is add a “so that”, “in order to” or “because”, and it helps to link your rationale back to the aims you outlined at the start of the session:
    • I’d like you to work together and play this game so that…
    • In order to …… we’re going into divide into two teams and…….
  3. Finally, check that everyone is OK with that. A simple Is everyone OK with that? or Does everyone feel comfortable with that? goes one step further towards making participants feel that they have been included in the decision-making process as well as giving them an opportunity to say that they don’t want to do whatever the trainer has just asked them to do.

To consider: Do your trainers and training providers share their aims at regular intervals? At the start of the program? At the start of each session? Before activities?

Ensure your training provider is debriefing effectively

Training providers need to be getting the participants involved in the rationale and evaluating the usefulness of an activity. They need to give them the opportunity to decide if they think they would benefit from doing that kind of activity again. Creating a dialogue helps to build rapport, increase buy-in, and build a positive learning environment. And a positive learning environment will help move participants along their learning journey. Here are some ways of starting that debriefing dialogue:

  • Why did we do that activity?
  • What did you get out of that activity?
  • How could that activity be improved?
  • Would you want to do that kind of activity again?

Trainers should go back to their list of aims on the board. Review this list and mark what has been covered, and what hasn’t. If some aims haven’t been met, this should be discussed with the participants.

To consider: How well does your training provider debrief training sessions?

Your search for the right training provider

For more ideas regarding what to expect from a training organization, why not take a look at our eBook The Definitive Checklist for Qualifying Training Providers:



eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers





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Can a Slice of Pizza Make a Difference? – building alignment in service industries

training providerslargeAll owners and managers dread hearing “I’m just here for my paycheck”. It’s crucial for all establishments to have a culture that employees can relate to, and this means building a working environment where employees share your mission and vision. Large organizations may have a strong overall culture; but the specific cultures within each department and team are just as important. We want our staff to feel attached to the mission and vision of the company. But how do we do this?

I’ve worked with many companies working in the service and hospitality industry in the US and Asia. One problem I’ve noticed is that whenever people begin to talk about building the right culture within a department it can quickly become too abstract. This doesn’t need to be the case! Let’s think of culture as a pizza (or a “pizza pie” as we say in the States). There are several layers in developing a successful and delicious pizza and every layer is essential. Building an effective company or team culture is similar – each layer has its own role to play in impacting the work environment and the bottom line of the organization.

The Dough

The dough is our foundation. When managers and Human Resource departments hire new candidates, one criteria they should look for is the candidate’s commitment or we could say “Is the candidate passionate about what he/she is trying to achieve?” We need to hire those who are passionate and enthusiastic about their roles.

The Sauce

Dough would be tasteless without the sauce. Sauce can be described as core skills and behaviours for the organization, and one-on-one time with new hires is essential. On-boarding training is key too. I consulted a business called Reggae Bar Phi in Thailand. They wanted all new candidates to jump into the job and weren’t spending any time on induction and training. Taking the time to train new employees meant that employees knew what they were doing, why they were doing it and how their roles and actions impacted the bottom line. On- boarding should have a company-wide element plus be customized to fit the department’s objectives.

The Toppings

We’ve got the dough (a passionate candidate) and the sauce (essential training). We all have our own favorite toppings for our pizza – and this is where acknowledging and working with individual diversity is essential. For instance, in the hospitality industry, it’s important that all team members bring their own unique charm to the table to customize a guest’s experience at the hotel. Managers and Human Resources hire employees because they see the unique aspect in each individual that could impact the company. I strongly feel that leaders should build an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable being themselves and playing to their individual strengths.

I had the privilege to work for a great manager at a wonderful hotel in Orlando. One of the key characters my manager asked for was that I be myself. She told me “Bring out the charm in you and wow the guests”. This is an important statement. It’s hard to change a person’s personality and characteristic, but leaders can craft those inner talents towards the establishment’s goals. Allowing employees to bring their personal skills and assets to the table drives commitment, engagement and quality.

The Oven

Have you ever eaten pizza raw? Of course not, we need an oven to fully complete the process. Leaders and Human Resource departments should be there to support individuals and departments to achieve their goals. Employees must feel connected to the organization. One client shared her approach as “Treat employees like you want them to treat external clients”. This can be extended to treating colleagues with the same respect – after all we all need support from one another. Employees need the support from their supervisors or leaders. Front desks can’t run a hotel without the support from the housekeeping department. And a logistics team can’t function without the IT support team.

I’ve used my “Pizza Mind” metaphor to help hotels improve their Market Metrix score and ranking of the departments from the lowest to the winning department of the year. In addition, it also helped to increase staff retention and morals. The main objective of implementing the “Pizza Mind Metaphor” is to help organizations create a stronger and effective culture where employees can be the competitive advantage in the market. No competitors can replicate this recipe of building “intangible assets” within the company.

Earl DechsakdaAbout the author

I have worked professionally in the hospitality industry for more than 7 years. I am currently getting a Master degree in Human Resource Management. I’ve helped train several departments to achieve both departmental and organizational goals. I have consulted and improved employee’s engagement at various small businesses locally and internationally.

Earl Dechsakda

 

 

5 tips for internal HR consultants

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eBook Training InvestmentFrom my years working in HR, I know that employees don’t often ask HR for help. At least, that is what it was like for the companies I worked with. As HR consultants, it is our job to give guidance and support to enable our colleagues make better decisions. Our roles are operational, not strategic, and, if we do our jobs right, we are practically invisible to other departments and employees. When a problem arises on the operational front, HR is consulted, but not always, or only when the situation has “gotten out of hand”. I’ve often stood and asked myself “why didn’t you come to us for advice or help before?” For HR consultants to become trusted advisors to every employee in the company, here are five of my ideas.

1.  Advertise what you can do

‘You don’t know what you don’t know’. In other words, what is someone going to ask, if they don’t know what you can help with? Tell others what you can do for them. You can advertise your services via a newsletter, via posters on the wall, via Q&A pages on the intranet, etc. You can even write simple case studies, describing what you have done for someone in the past.

2.  Listen for context and unspoken words

Listening for information that employees aren’t saying is very important. When we can listen for the context around what is happening, not only the content, we can get more information and offer better solutions.

3.  Ask before you tell

One way to be clear about the needs of employees is to clarify what we have heard from them. Questions like “Let me check to see if I understand…”and “I heard you say these things are important, is that right?” lets the other person know you are listening and thinking about their needs before you give advice. It also helps you to make sure you understand what they are saying.

4.  Begin with the end in mind

Questions like “What outcome would you like to see?” and “What is the most important behaviour to change?” help employees to see the end of the process – not just the first step to solve a problem. By focusing on the overall outcome, you can offer methods your internal clients may not have thought about.

5.  Don’t say “no” if you don’t have to

“What I can do is…” can be the most powerful tool in your phrase book. Why say, “No, I can’t do that” if you don’t have to? I know this can be a cultural point, but focusing on what we can do for our internal clients instead of what we cannot shows them that we are willing to problem solve together.

These tips are based on my personal experience. If you work in HR, or if you have recently dealt with a situation involving HR, and if you have any additional tips for our readers, please use the comments box below.

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How can you react to increasingly specific requests for training?

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training providerslargeHere’s an extract from a recent initial needs analysis I carried out with a client who had booked English training for a global change management project. This is just one example of how we’ve seen that training requests for communication and soft skills are becoming more and more specific. If you work in an L&D department, you’ve probably noticed this too.

Me: “Why are you interested in developing your team’s English skills?”

Client: “I need my team to be able to improve the way they use language to communicate the changes we need to make across the company. My team will need to spread the message globally using our intranet, internal social media platform, and through presentations and workshops. The way they communicate will need to be adapted according to the cultures e.g. Japan, Brazil, and the US. We need help establishing a style and communication campaign that will make everyone want to get behind the changes and drive them forward”.

This statement alone says there is a need for intercultural skills training with reference to over 40 countries where the changes will be made, creative ideas for marketing campaigns, how to write effectively for social media, how to achieve a global corporate writing style, presentations skills, workshop facilitation skills, and the list goes on. And no-one has even mentioned English yet. Basically, the client needs all of this, but in English – so she booked an English course straight out of a catalogue,  because couldn’t really find anything that fitted her needs exactly.

If you’re a participant in a standard Business English course, you may have noticed how the book you’re moving through, doesn’t always fit your needs. You’ve got really specific situations you need to use English for and there is no way they will be dealt with in an off-the-shelf course. If you’re a manager, you’ve probably spotted specific situations where you think your employees could benefit from some training support. You look at what the training department has on offer, but nothing seems to quite fit.

The starting point of effective training design should be the needs of the participants

This is precisely why we shy away from offering a catalogue. (Don’t get me wrong, we have a catalogue, because that’s what potential clients often request). But a training catalogue simply offers “standard” courses. Those courses are written in advance without detailed knowledge of the participant or their needs. They can of course be adapted to a certain extent. But shouldn’t the starting point of effective training design be the learners themselves? How can pre-designed courses really meet the training needs of the department or individual? Surely the ideal way is to listen to the client, dig deeper into their challenges, and look for solutions that will solve their problems?

The pros and cons of taking the individualized approach to training solutions

The pros

  • The training is completely tailored to your needs.
  • The results are immediately transferable to the workplace.
  • Improvement in performance on the job is evident.
  • The relevance ensures a happy learner.

The cons

  • You really need to be able to and want to listen.
  • You need training partners who are highly skilled in analysing needs based on limited information – everyone says they can do it, but it really is a skill, and it’s hard to find people who can do it well.
  • You need time. And time, when it comes to training design and materials development, can translate into money.
  • You need to evaluate the cost, often with the purchasing department. It can be hard to justify the cost of individualized learning to people who may not see the benefits of the immediate transfer to the workplace.
  • You need to move away from the simplicity of offering what is in the catalogue as a “take it, or leave it” solution.
  • You need to work with trainers who are adaptable, reactive, creative, and enjoy thinking on their feet.
  • It might be more difficult to sell to clients.
  • It might be difficult to measure concrete results e.g. with a test

OK, I admit, the cons list is longer, but how many of them are real problems? Solutions are easy to find to all of them. It might take a bit of effort and extra time before the training is organised. But, ultimately, an individualized training program will save you time and money in the workplace.

If you are interested to learn more about our needs analysis or individualized training design, please get in touch with me, or one of my colleagues. We’d be delighted to tell you more.