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The Secret L&D Manager: Encouraging a learning culture when budgets are tight

This week’s Secret L&D manager is Hungarian and is a Learning & Development Specialist for a global chemical company. In this post, he talks about the journey and the challenges of building and encouraging a learning culture in a large organization.

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You were the first L&D manager in the organization. What sort of training budget were you expecting to have to work with when you joined?

Before I came here, I was working in a huge worldwide corporation where learning and development had a lot of money working –  close to about €400,000 per year. Looking back, we were definitely spoiled, and I was expecting something similar when I came here. That was my expectation. When I arrived, I was given a  budget of €10,000 and most of this was already allocated to translation work!

I wanted to be able to build a learning culture (see this post for more information). One of the things I have been doing (and haven’t yet finished) is to build a large library of free learning. This does take time but there are a lot of free, good quality things on the internet. You just need to be able to invest the time to find and assess them. I used our skills and competency models as the basis to build this and then I just matched these skills and competencies with an index of releavnt e-learnings, learning nuggets, MOOCS, e-books and podcasts.

I have also created internal webinars. My first step was to establish subject matter expert groups within our company and then we started to create something like internal TED Talks. People could learn about and from the different groups and different fields within the company. For example we would have one subject expert talking about dealing with difficult customers. It was a 1 ½  hour session and it was advertised, and people could join via Zoom.

How did you raise awareness of these learning opportunities and events?

Here I used 2 types of advertising; one is definitely the usual and very boring e-mail communication. I’m not sure it was very helpful but people did join as a result of this kind of communication channel. The other was creating and printing leaflets and brochures and placing them around the corridors and also in the canteen. This was definitely more helpful and effective. I based them on a silly cartoon that was going around on Facebook a couple of years ago.

These initiatives have helped to prove the worth of learning. Now I’ve got the management to actually spend and dedicate a real budget for learning this year, although with the coronavirus crisis who knows what will happen? But I’m pretty sure that this time I will be able to spend more and I’ve very concrete ideas of what I want to do. So for example I want to still further develop these internal webinars and I also want to continue with e-learning creation and creating the content internally.

The other thing that I’ve been planning on doing for a long time is implementing virtual learning and actually this is also a very timely thing. As you know  I have been in talks with you regarding implementing this.  When you think of the flu symptoms and all the sickness that are going around the world right now I think one of the best tools, let’s call it a tool not a method, is to use e-learning and virtual learning. Virtual learning, and it is not to be confused with e-learning, is when you go for an interactive training session but you don’t have to go anywhere. You can do it from your home or you can do it from your office.  It fits our company and the situation.

 


More secret L&D Managers

Who is the secret L&D manager?

The “secret L&D manager” is actually a group of L&D managers. They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with their peers.

 


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The Secret L&D Manager: Building a learning culture in a global organization

This week’s Secret L&D manager is Hungarian and is a Learning & Development Specialist for a global chemical company . In this post, he talks about the  journey and the challenges of building a learning culture in a large organization.

Go to the eBook

When you joined the company, what kind of learning culture did you find?

I think it’s really easy to answer this question, because when I joined my company, I can say that there was no learning culture. If I can take a step back, people have different understandings and definitions of the term “learning culture” . For me “learning culture” means there are people who like learning, there are learning resources and opportunities that people are encouraged to access whenever they need something or expect to need something going forward, and managers enable and encourage learning . Here, in all cases, there was nothing, so people were not, really empowered to learn. The second thing is that there were not a lot of resources available for learning. One of my priorities, and it’s also one of the reasons I was hired, is to create this kind of learning environment and then along with this also create a learning culture.

How were managers and the leaders in your organization seeing learning before you arrived?

I think, and this is only my perspective, that the management was saying, “Learning is very much needed” but when it came to the point where they had to invest they said, “We don’t have the budget for that”. On the one hand they definitely like the idea of learning. They talk a lot about learning and do want to enhance, improve and develop their employees. But actually, when an employee comes to them and says “OK we agreed that I need negotiations training” and they say, “OK go, have fun”, the employee has to find the seminar or resources. Employees would just Google something and then went come back with a course they had found that cost €20,000. For me this was the first problem because nobody knew if  it was a good course quality-wise, who the provider was and if they were a fit, whether the investment was reasonable or if the training was needed.  And then usually 99% of the managers said “sorry but we don’t have the budget for that”.

So how have you gone about building a learning culture?

What I did first was convincing management that learning and development really matters to our success as an organization. I used storytelling approaches to help them see why it is good to invest in learning, and how a company actually benefits from having a learning culture.  Then I showed them that, even if they don’t want to spend a lot of money, using informal or on-the-job learning is still going to create a lot of benefits for the company. For example, using job rotation or on-the-job development does work and can make a tangible difference.  Approaches like mentoring and internal coaching can and should be done. The managers in my company really bought into this idea. The first 2 or 3 things that I managed to do were ideas which didn’t cost a lot of money but were still very beneficial.

Another example where I actually created value and showed the management why learning helps an organization is when we set up the first e-learnings. We built these internally using a tool called EdApp https://www.edapp.com/. It’s a very good and  intuitive tool and easy to use. There were a lot of templates that we could instantly just choose and work with. I worked with our technical experts and together we created e-learning activities on areas such as regulation, process management and . tendering, and product management. We then rolled the e-learnings out to 200 people and the feedback from the participants has been really great.  Because of this tool we’ve been able to gamify the learning too.

What else have you done to continue building a culture since?

Communication is key. Whenever we have a new product or new system (e.g recruiting, performance management) we  connect it to the learning. For example, in our performance management you have an annual meeting about your performance with your manager, and you have to talk about your development.  Of course most people consider meeting a mandatory step and find it boring. I have worked with the managers to help them individually use this moment to create a better dialog with their employees, be more confident when giving feedback, setting goals etc etc. This combination of  building a catalogue of recommended training providers and training courses, building e-learning, leveraging managers and looking for single moments where we can connect learning to the business process shows why learning is important in a company and is the first steps of building a learning culture.

More secret L&D Managers

Who is the secret L&D manager?

The “secret L&D manager” is actually a group of L&D managers. They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with their peers.

 

Train the Trainer: Dealing with ‘difficult’ participants – part 1

At Target Training we’ve been delivering “train-the-trainer” solutions for over 20 years to a broad range of clients across industries. Without fail, one of the most common personal training goals we see is “I want to learn to deal with difficult participants”.  No matter whether you are delivering on-boarding, technical, safety  or skills training, training starts and ends with your participants. As a trainer you want to deliver training which is engaging and useful … and as all experienced trainers know, a single difficult participant can impact this.  This blog post shares our advice and experience, so you are better prepared to deal with difficult participants in the training room.
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What do we mean by a “difficult participant” and how common are they really?

Training is about adding value to your participants and organization, by developing their knowledge, skills and behaviours.  You want your participants to have a rewarding learning experience – and you have designed your training to achieve this.  You’ve identified and considered the learning goals, you’ve considered the flow so it is smooth and ties together, and you’ve designed varied activities to keep the training engaging and rewarding. A “difficult participant, is a participant who hinders or prevents the above – intentionally or not. Difficult participants diminish the impact of the training for the other participants and reduce your organizations return on investment.

All participants have the potential of being difficult, and this depends upon a variety of factors – ranging from the context of the training to the training design, and from personalities to an individual’s situational circumstances.  We all have bad days. However, truly destructive participants are thankfully rare. I’ve been involved in delivering training for over 23 years, and looking back I can only think of a handful of “difficult” individuals.  Unfortunately, I remember them clearer than the rest. So, what can you do? Before the training starts, you can minimize the risk of participants becoming difficult before the training even starts, through some simple steps.

Know who the participants are

If you are delivering internally, then get a list of the participants in advance and make the time to speak with their line managers.  By doing this you can learn more about the “perceived” context for the training, and the participants knowledge, experience, needs and attitudes. If somebody is cynical, silent or a talker, then the line manager may flag this. Alternatively, just ask straight out “Are there any participants I should keep an eye on?”.  You can also encourage the manager to speak with her participants and reinforce that they value training and have expectations.  Line manager involvement is key to successful training (Clemmer 2008) and ensures your organization makes the most of its training investment.

If you have a chance to meet the participants before the session, you should take it. Give them an impression of who you are. Build rapport before they enter the training room. Introduce yourself, find out what they expect from the training and set their expectations (“yes, unfortunately, there will be some role-plays”), or just make small talk for a few minutes. For you, the trainer, it makes a huge difference to walk into a room with ten strangers (not knowing what they want), or to walk into a room with five strangers and five people you already know (whose expectations you’ve already set).

Design the training so it respects and engages everyone

Use what you’ve learned from speaking with the line managers to ensure your training content is appropriate, relevant and challenging. By doing this you can minimize the likelihood of a wide range of difficult or disruptive behaviours – from boredom to frustration to challenging. You also want to ensure that your training respects the range of personalities and learning styles. Give your participants the opportunity to reflect, consider and contribute both as individuals and in groups.  Plan “loud” and “quiet” times so both extroverts and introverts get what they need– not everyone enjoys brainstorming and discussions. Do consider the flow of energy within the training day and consciously design your training around this e.g. after lunch will you energize the group, or give them some reflection time to look back on the morning?

Anticipate tough questions, difficult learning points and likely areas of resistance

If this is a new training solution, then take the time to play “what if”.  Write down all the questions that you hope they will ask, know they will ask, don’t want them to ask, and dread they ask. Then think about your answers. Practice your responses out loud and ensure your answers are brief, to the point and authentic. As the trainer you have a lot of knowledge and experience – and synthesizing all this into a clear and brief response can be tough.

If you’ve delivered the training before than you’ve already spotted the areas which raise questions or provoke discussions.  Again, step back and consider what you want to say, how you want to say, and how much time you want to invest in which topics.

If there’s an elephant in your training room, then know how you want to tackle it

Keep your training human and keep it real. The circumstances surrounding the training can and will influence behaviours. If the organization is going through change, restructuring, laying off staff, or merging then you can expect this to impact attitudes and behaviours. You probably cannot influence these circumstances, but you can acknowledge them and prepare for possible resistance, push back or disassociation.

I remember delivering a 2-day leadership program to an automotive company where everyone knew that at the end of day 1 a major announcement would be made on the future of some plants.  The training content was fixed and “motivating and driving performance “was a major part of the first day. We spoke about the circumstances openly, acknowledged that the topic was awkwardly timed to say the least, and agreed to reframe the training as practical management skills for the future, wherever they may be. Keeping the pace fast, the energy high and the themes as “archetypical” helped the training make a personal impact.

Reframe how you see difficult participants

Embrace the challenge of difficult participants. At its heart, training is about people, and we learn more about working with people from difficult situations than from “everything going to plan”.  You want participants to be engaged and challenging you is actually a good thing.  You want your participants to let you know if something isn’t going right for them during the training and not afterwards. And you want your participants to be themselves.  I’ve only ever met one participant who I couldn’t work with at any level whatsoever, and even this was a learning moment – I learned that was ok, to accept the situation, and to focus on the other participants who clearly wanted to be there.

Always open the training in a way that sets out mutual expectations

Creating and agreeing on ground rules and shared expectations is essential. This then gives you and others the framework to hold each other accountable and have difficult conversations with difficult participants about difficult situations. Experienced trainers do this naturally and each trainer has their own style, but the core you need to agree on is

  • Timing (start, finish, breaks and length of breaks). Even the most experienced trainers can forget this, and participants want and need to know what to expect. You don’t need to lock yourself in to a schedule if you don’t want to but telling them you’ll break for lunch “around 12.30” helps.
  • Laptops open, closed, or even in bags. Phones are the bane of a trainer’s life, and when one person takes a call during the training everyone is impacted. Possible approaches could be
    • at the front on a desk
    • must be on silent
    • in bags and only check in breaks
    • take calls but leave the room before start speaking

Effective approaches to managing the pull of phone calls that I’ve seen/heard/ done have included:

  • make a joke of it e.g. “Is anybody expecting a child to be born they know about? No, well in that case do we really need our phones on?”
  • be direct e.g “Put your mobiles on silent and in your bags (not your pockets). You can check them during breaks, and if something is truly urgent your colleagues know where you are and how to find you.  And if they can’t be bothered to come to the training room it can’t be truly urgent!”
  • charity box “Everything you take your phone out you put X in the bowl up front”
  • choosing a venue with no phone reception

And if none of the above are acceptable, then at least get agreement that people respectfully leave the training room when on the phone.

  • Communication. If the training topic is likely to be contentious or difficult then it is worth taking time to agree on expected communication styles. e.g. try not to interrupt, ask question to learn and not to show what you know, ask if something isn’t clear, close the loop by asking clarifying questions back etc.

Agreeing on ground rules allows you as the trainer to refer back to the agreed expectations and have awkward conversations safely. And of course, all of the above approaches are much more powerful when the training participants build them themselves!  This allows the participants to hold each other accountable and take responsibility for ensuring the dynamics are healthy.  You can expect that colleagues can self-regulate behaviours to some extent!

Start the training by keeping it real and keeping things human

The final tip is that positioning yourself above your participants will create unnecessary resistance and provoke difficult behaviours as participants try to prove something wrong, reject messages because they reject your credibility, or fight to show they know more. You are the trainer and you are human. Use this to build authenticity, credibility and trust from the outset and reduce the risk of difficult behaviours derailing the training. Share your experience, build your credibility and also show that you know how it can be challenging at first to get to grips with the specifics (“ I remember when ..”).

If you are delivering soft skills, customer service or leadership training, then avoid presenting yourself as the example to be followed. Tap into meaningful stories, share experiences and connect with the participants on a human level. My own approach is to open our Practical toolbox for managers program with “ I strongly believe in the value of everything we’ll be covering in the next 2 days, and many of your colleagues have fed back that they found it practical. Saying that, as a manager, I do not do everything we’ll be covering myself. I’m human and I have my strengths and my weaknesses”.  I then see the participant’ physically relax and open up.

 

17 practical ways senior managers and executives can support training and development inside their organization

Recently one of our clients asked me to co-facilitate a workshop at an annual global event. The client is one of the largest building materials companies in the world, and their annual event is attended by plant managers, country directors and executives. Amongst the presentations and plenary sessions they wanted to run 2 challenging workshops which would then lead to concrete action plans. One of these workshops focused on the ambitious goal of quickly becoming carbon free, and the other on training. 

Our client wanted to further strengthen their learning culture and ensure top-level management were playing an active part in this journey. Rather than asking the senior leaders “What do you need?” the question they wanted to ask was “So. what can you do?” – and the participants loved it.  They were more than happy to share their experiences and opinions, and all were quite vocal when expressing that learning and development was their responsibility. As one Indonesian plant manager said  “You at headquarters support us and help us, we like the e-learning and the virtual delivery offers … but we are the important ones because we need to make it happen”.

Based upon their input, and expanded through interviews with other clients, here are 17 ways that senior managers and executives can actively support training and development within their organizations.

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  1. Ensure that the message of how training connects into your long-term health and strategy is lived by all levels. This means looking for opportunities to repeat this message and using concrete and relatable stories.
  2. Be clear to your L&D teams about where you see your future challenges. What will the critical skills be in 5 years time? What trends do you see in your market? Where do you see the skills gap? What are the core behaviours you want to see in your staff’s DNA? If you show them where you want to go they will help you get there.
  3. Support the building of a skills matrix for roles , then with a rolling 36-month focus, ensure training is connected directly to this skills matrix. This is an upfront investment that then provides a clear framework for deciding where training budgets go.
  4. Tap into “management by objectives“ behaviours and make learning a target for your management team.
  5. Encourage awareness that people learn through experience and exposure. Be an example and look into include and involve upcoming talents and high-performers.
  6. Expect your management teams to lead by example and actively join training sessions. This helps ensure that training is seen as strengthening for the future and not a sign of weakness or gaps.
  7. Be seen to be looking for training and development for yourself. This sends a clear message that training is about becoming stronger and not a sign of weakness.
  8. Insist that managers actively feed back to the central L&D team regarding their current and future needs, satisfaction levels, and ideas for the medium and long-term. Strive to make the internal customer surveys a formality.  Your L&D teams should know in advance what is working and what is not if they are benefiting from direct conversations with the regions.
  9. Ask to see that all training has a clear objective and that this is reinforced before, during, and after the training by line managers in person. This isn’t about checking quality, but rather showing the people involved in the before and after that you care, and these steps aren’t nice-to-have add-ons!
  10. Connected to above, insist that all training programs lead to follow up actions by team leaders and line managers. See #4.
  11. Ensue that clear and tangible training objectives are communicated at multiple touch points. Find stories and examples which connect the importance of learning and development to medium- and long-term goals. Yes, this similar to points 1 & 2 but we can’t emphasize it enough. If people understand the “why” then things happen.
  12. Whenever you visit a plant or site, take the time to meet the local training dept and ask what else you can do to support them. They’ll really appreciate this … and you are again sending a clear signal that training and development is strategically important to you.
  13. Get involved with your emerging talents programs. These people are your future. They’ll be energized by your involvement and they’ll energize you too!
  14. Commit to actively supporting a training session once a month by joining the first 15 minutes, explaining why this training is relevant, showing interest in the people in the room and being clear about what we want to see afterwards
  15. Show little tolerance for regions reinventing the wheel. Identify the core strategic programs needed by all regions– get these programs right through piloting them – and then make sure there is budget to adapt them to the local skill levels and languages.
  16. Get involved when budget ownership questions threaten the actual delivery of training. Help cut through the complexity of cost centers and encourage the company to work as one organization.
  17. When costs need cutting, defend training budgets and training availability. It’s too easy to cut it and the savings are often small compared to more painful options but the message is clear. Do you want your employees to see training and development opportunities as a bonus or as an expectation?

For more information

If you’d like to know more about how you can actively make the most from your training investment then download this simple and practical guide.

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The secret L&D manager: What makes training effective?

This month’s secret training manager is Italian and has worked in a variety of fields including public research organizations and service companies. Here she talks with Scott Levey about the basic elements that make training and trainers effective.

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

What makes training effective?

To me an effective training is a training that uses most of the senses. Meaning: seeing, hearing, touching. The learners need to experience things and be actively engaged. Of course, the training needs to cover the thinking side, but adult learners need to learn by doing things. A good training event also has to be designed to have different activities and moments. For example, it needs moments to listen and get input and ideas, moments to pause and ponder on the theory that was just presented to you, moments to experiment, and moments to recap. I want the trainer to also plan in multiple moments where they cover again the main and salient points of the training.  For me this is essential.  I would also say that effective training sessions need to have a certain pace and this pace changes depending on the moment.  After lunch the trainer will increase the pace to get people moving again. Alternatively, the pace may slow down if the trainer sees that the participants aren’t following what the trainer is trying to do or trying to say.  So that’s what I think makes an effective training.

What makes the trainer effective? I mean you yourself have worked with many trainers and you have also trained yourself, haven’t you?

Well the most obvious answer would be that the trainer is the subject matter expert. She is an expert in her field and has real experience … but that isn’t enough. I’m going to give you a trivial example but I think everyone can relate to it. It’s about my daughter. She’s in high school right now and her math teacher is brilliant. He has a very brilliant mind … but he is not a pedagogue, so he is a teacher by definition but he is not a teacher through experience, and he is not patient with them. He knows his stuff, and is really smart, but he doesn’t know how to convey the salient points to my daughter or his class.  When I think back to the many companies I have worked in, I have also seen similar experiences with internal training sessions ran in various topics. It could be IT related, quality management, HR or technical skills.  Being a subject matter expert is the start but not the end.

Being an expert is not enough; you also need to be an expert in pedagogy, you need to be patient and you need to be attentive to the participants and allow them to ask questions. You need also to be able to shut down any conversation that strays from the topic because it can become difficult and you can waste time and not reach your training goals. This is not good because as we know training has an agenda and you need to stay on track.

Somehow a trainer also needs to be very confident and have some leadership behaviors, because she’s the leader of the group for the time of the training. Finally, I think an effective trainer has to have those storytelling skills where you put theory and experience into a nice little story that illustrates the point. And is easy to understand and remember

So, what I’m saying is an effective trainer is somebody who

  1. Is a subject matter expert
  2. Is a good communicator
  3. Is people-oriented
  4. Can lead a group
  5. Has the skills needed to design training so there are the right moments at the right times
  6. Has the skills to deliver the training in an engaging way and manage the pace
  7. Is focused and reaches the objective set for the training

Train-the-trainer courses can really help for both new and confident trainers … but it is my opinion that nothing really beats experience. So that’s what I think makes a trainer a good trainer.


Who is the secret L&D manager?

The “secret L&D manager” is actually a group of L&D managers. They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with their peers.

You can meet more of our secret L&D managers here …

 

Organizing management and leadership training programs – the secret L&D manager

This month’s Secret L&D manager is German, based in Germany and works for a global automotive supply company.  He/She has worked in training and development for over 7 years.

New Call-to-actionWhat is important to you when designing and rolling out a leadership program?

For me a successful leadership or senior manager program in our company can never be a “one size fits all” solution.  Leadership and people management is not like a manual. We don’t want a “that’s how you have to do it” approach and we are serious about offering an individualized approach. The programs we build with companies like Target give people a chance to identify whatever they need and benefit from support in applying this in their day-to-day tasks – or in their life as a whole. Individuals take different things from the program.

Who do you target when you set up management and leadership programs?

When I set up a leadership program we are typically involving managers and leaders from a broad range of different functions – from HR to finance, logistics to manufacturing etc.  This means I have to exclude functional topics from the training design because they won’t be relevant to the whole group.

What kind or development areas are you targeting when you set up management and leadership programs?

We’re working in a very fast-paced environment and there are always a lot of changes going on.  A lot of our managers and leaders are firefighting, and really involved in operational work. We want to focus on soft skills like strategic thinking, so that they can step out of the operational and build a broader view of everything.

It is really important for me that our managers have the chance to step back and have a look at the broader picture – this means looking especially at strategy and finance. The leadership program needs to tackle what finance means for our company and to ensure the leaders have a big picture of company decisions that are made based on our financial performance. This extends to them having a broader view on strategy.  Our programs support them in building a strategic view of the company, their area and their immediate objectives.

We also want them to develop a stronger understanding of the consequences their own behaviours have, for example, on an individual, team or another department. If they are stressed out and don’t recognise that somebody in their team is drifting away, that’s not good.  The programs develop them to focus on their people –  their team is what makes their life easier in the end. They need to see not only themselves, their own workload, their own fires that are burning but also to focus more on their people and our overall strategy and values.

Do to summarize, strategy, finance, self-awareness, leading teams, and managing and developing the people they are leading. We want them to just take a step back and have a look at this and to have also the chance to experiment with tools, models and ideas. Not every tool is suitable for every person so they should decide on their own what they want to apply in the day to day what’s useful for them.

What is important to you when designing the training interventions which make up such a program?

I want them to work in groups and have personal time with the trainer. We have a mixture of formats including 1-to-1 intakes, using a tool such as DISC or MBTI, face-to-face seminars, virtual workshops and individual coaching. As the participants in the program are coming from all over Europe we also look to reduce travel costs and time using webinars, e-learning, virtual training sessions. The intakes, accountability calls and transfer coaching are all normally done via phone calls or using Webex. Then there are 3 to 4 onsite events with the groups coming together and meeting each other. These could be at the headquarters, a nice seminar hotel or near a plant (so we can organize a plant visit). Cost- and time- wise it is just not possible that they are travelling every few weeks.

What are you looking for from the trainers?

The trainers, of course are a very important element. When we look for trainers it is important to us that they are flexible. Our audience is usually, during the day, under pressure and there can be last minute things coming up so they are not able to attend a the whole session or training. So we need the trainer to be timewise as flexible as possible so if somebody missed some content they don’t get lost in the program. The trainer needs to help them and give an insight into what has been done. They need to be supportive with the people through the whole process – that is really important. Then of course that they have to be able to handle different personalities, functions, nationalities and cultures.

You mentioned culture – what role does this play in delivering the training?

This is a huge challenge, I can tell you. It depends a little bit on which positions the people are coming from. If they are coming from central positions and travelling a lot, meeting a lot of people etc. then usually they are open to everything and it’s easier to work with them. People coming from the production sites somewhere far away in the middle of nowhere – then it’s sometimes hard for them to connect with the other leaders and the softer stuff. It’s also hard for the trainers to manage them in the right way because they are really stuck in their culture. They are not as open as the people who are already used to being in this international environment – but it’s really important to get them to the stage where they are more open to the other cultures and diverse people.

How do your managers and leader react to the programs you offer? And how do you assess the training ?

The reaction of the operational leaders to this approach is very very positive. There are people who are more willing to open up and to work on themselves than others but I must say that those people who opened up completely are the ones that benefited the most from the program in the end.

About assessment, after the training I usually do a post training assessment where it’s a questionnaire where I ask people different sort of questions.


Who is the Secret L&D manager?

The Secret L&D manager is actually many L&D managers.  They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers.

When trainers become participants: 17 tips for getting the most from your training

As a training company we invest in internal training with a passion. We can cover many of the soft skill and leadership topics internally, but when we are lacking the insider knowledge we carefully qualify and source external providers. One of the questions we ask a potential provider is their experience in training trainers. Training trainers can be daunting as you know that your participants are evaluating the training and you as the trainer with a insider’s eye (much like a chef cooking for another chef who is watching them work in their own kitchen!). When trainers become participants, they also go through an internal process which can be every bit as uncomfortable. We recently organized a seminar for a small group of our management team. Bringing in an external trainer changed the dynamics, and as experienced trainers we were now in the passenger seat. Over the 2 days we asked ourselves “what could we as participants do to get the very most from our training?”. Here are our tips for getting the very most from your training experience.

Engage with the training and trainer before you start

  1. Make sure you know why the training has been organized. What is the context for the training? And what does your organization / your manager hope you’ll take from the training? Ideally your manager will have shared this with you, but if not then seek it out.  And if for some reason you can’t get an answer before the training stats then get it during or after the training!  If you want to make the most of your training investment, understanding the what’s and why before the training starts is a must [Making most of your TI ebook]
  2. Build clear goals. What would you like to leave with? What questions do you have? What would you like to learn? practice? reflect on? And discuss these with your colleagues too!
  3. Is there anything you as the participants can do before the training to help the trainer/training really go to plan? Is there any information that you’d like to share? Or want them to be aware of?

Choose your attitude

  1. Suspend judgement. You, your manager or your organization has qualified and selected this training (and maybe this particular trainer) so trust that they know what they are doing and let them do it.
  2. Connected to this, the trainer and training is already paid, so adopt a “what can I take from this?” mentality and not a “prove yourself to me” Be curious and be open to learn what you expect and what you may not expect too!
  3. Share your thoughts and feedback with the trainer before it is too late. Don’t wait until the end to tell the trainer you would like them to have done something differently. Don’t adopt a “I don’t want to rock the boat” or “why bother approach”. It could be that the trainer or training can’t give you what you want – but wouldn’t you rather want to know sooner than later rather than sitting there thinking “when will we ..?”
  4. Reinforce the positive – feedback forms have a place, but like anyone trainers like to hear positive feedback as they work. If you find something useful, interesting or enjoyable then openly share this.

Help yourself during the training so you can help yourself later

  1. Organize and write your notes from the outset in a way that will help you make sense of them when you refer back afterwards.
  2. Find and use tools that will help you during the training. If something interests you proactively ask for suggestions for books, websites etc so you can go deeper later
  3. Be honest and open about your problems. Don’t hesitate to ask you trainer to repeat something, explain something again or share more examples.  If you are struggling there’s a good chance one of your colleagues is too!
  4. Look to bring in examples from your day to day life during the training. This helps to make the training more relevant and transferable. It will also help the other participants and the trainer to connect learning to reality.
  5. Ask all your questions. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
  6. Use your breaks to reset and recharge. Don’t try and work for 10 minutes, but instead stretch, get some fresh air, talk to the others.  Network, reflect or recharge.

See the training as the start of something

  1. Review your notes at the end of each day and in a few weeks, to help with transfer and long-term memory. Consider setting up a calendar reminder a month later to revisit the training
  2. Take one concrete action immediately after the training.
  3. Catch up with your colleagues back at the office. Maybe you want t0 schedule lunch with a colleague who was also in the training and review both content and actions since the training.
  4. Commit to one or two transfer steps you will do after the training. Make these concrete and share them with others.

So whether you have an internal or external trainer, you also have a big role to play in getting the very most from your training day.  Let us know if you have any other tips too!

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Business English training: on-the-job training (for the job)

On-the-job (OTJ) training has been a cornerstone in our approach to in-house Business English training since our first InCorporate Trainers started their jobs (one of them was Scott Levey). When we explain the concept of on-the-job training to potential clients, they “understand” what we’re saying … BUT …they don’t really “get” how effective and beneficial on-the-job training is until they have seen it in action. This post aims to explain what it is, how it works, and how participants benefit, using some non-specific examples of on-the-job training.

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The benefits of on-the-job training

OTJ training is highly effective because the training takes place alongside and as part of your daily work. The trainer uses your work situations (your emails, your virtual meetings, your plant tours) as the basis for your learning. On-the-job training takes place at work, while you are working. This brings two huge benefits.

  1. You maximize your time because you are benefiting from training while you are working.
  2. You can directly transfer what you learn to your job. Your training is completely based on a real and concrete task. Everything you learn is relevant.

If you are familiar with the 70-20-10 model, you’ll know that 70% of learning comes through “doing” and from “experience”. Learning while you work is highly effective and this is the heart of on-the-job training.

“I helped Hans to de-escalate a situation in Supply Chain Management. Hans felt that the American party was wound-up and overly difficult. Hans brainstormed phrases with my help and he wrote a draft email. I helped him improve the structure and tone of the email and suggested he rewrote some of his sentences in plain English. A few hours later, the American party positively replied and the whole thing was solved by the time Hans went home.”

What exactly is on-the-job training and how does it work?

With on-the-job training, the trainer is there when you need assistance in preparing emails, specifications, manuals, reports, slides and other documentation. The trainer can support you in the planning, writing and reviewing stage. The trainer is also available to you for preparing meetings, phone calls, web meetings, teleconferences, presentations and negotiations.  They can then shadow you in action and provide personalized and situationally-based feedback.

On-the-job training focuses on your priorities at work and on you improving your business English in those areas. It can be

  • reactive where you ask the trainer for help “Can you help me improve these slides?”
  • proactive where the trainer encourages you to share work you have done/are doing in English “I heard you are involved in writing the R-Spec for the new project. How can I support you?”

“One of my participants, a product manager, had to deliver two presentations in English. It was basically the same presentation, but for two different audiences.  Observing her in our first practice session, I made a note of language points to work on. We worked on these, and a few other things (key messages, adapting messages to different audiences, Q&A session) over the next week. She delivered the presentations to me again, already with much more confidence and fluency – and then she practised with a few colleagues in a weekly group session and benefitted from both their positive feedback and the confidence boost.  Finally, I watched her deliver from the back and she did great.  After the presentations we debriefed and I shared my feedback (what went really well, what would she like to focus more on next time etc) . She was too critical of her performance and I helped her to be realistic about what she needs to focus on.”

What on-the-job training isn’t

What the trainer does not do is write the email/document for you (where’s the learning in that?). One common misconception is that on-the-job trainers are translators or proof readers. They’re not, in the same way that translators and proof readers aren’t trainers. Collaborative proof reading and translation can be an option, but the ownership needs to stay with the learner.

Another misconception is that on-the-job training is traditional “classroom training” during work time. The trainer will certainly use the “insider” view and what they have seen on-the-job to tailor traditional “off the job” training. This means your group training, coaching, 1-1 training, and seminars are closer to your workplace and that the transfer of learning is smoother.  But “on the job” training is learning while actually doing. There’s a good example of how this looks in action in an R&D department here.

“Three of my participants had written a 300-page instruction manual and they came to me with the request to help them improve it. Nobody in their department understood it enough to successfully use the system that it was meant to explain. I told them I would read it. Oh boy. We worked on writing with the reader in mind, structuring documents to make them scannable and writing in plain English. Visuals replaced paragraphs and we even created a few video tutorials too.  Four weeks later, they produced a second manual. Over one hundred pages lighter, it was clear, comprehensive, mistake free, and written in a style that everyone could understand, even me. As a result, the system that was supposed to make everyone’s job easier made everyone’s job easier.”

Bringing on-the-job training to life

We sign confidentiality agreements with our clients. Even when we don’t, we wouldn’t use their actual documentation online, so these examples are non-specific and Hans is not really called Hans … she’s called XXXX.

If you would like to know more about the benefits of this approach, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Getting started with virtual delivery

Although many professionals, managers and training managers know of virtual delivery there is still some confusion as to what it is and how it works.  Here are some common questions we get asked when supporting our clients in integrating virtual training into their learning strategies. For more information on this topic, see also 5 questions you definitely need to ask when you are setting up a virtual training program.

What do we mean when we talk about virtual training or virtual delivery?

Virtual training (also known as virtual delivery or remote delivery) is training where one or more of the participants is not in the same room as the trainer.  Training is delivered using one of the many “unified communication platforms”. This term includes web conferencing tools such as WebEx Training Center, Adobe ConnectGo Meeting or Skype for Business and video conferencing services such as BlueJeans or Polycom.

People often think of virtual training as an international solution. For example, we’ve delivered a virtual session with the trainer based in Frankfurt, Germany and having participants in Hawaii, Boston, Luxembourg and Singapore.  However, if you have a trainer in one location on a site and you have participants on the same site/same country but in different rooms – that’s virtual training too.

How does virtual delivery differ from e-learning or webinars?

These terms are often defined by a training supplier’s marketing department, but typically most L&D professionals will agree that:

  • E-learning is led by the learner and there is no live trainer.  The learning is self-paced through interacting with a computer-aided learning program. A simple example is Duolingo as an app for language learning. SkillSoft is an examples of e-learning aimed at developing your soft skills.
  • A webinar is speaker-led and has probably about 50 people maximum – although some webinars have hundreds in the audience. The webinar is delivered through video or a video conferencing platform online and the presenter is talking most of the time. At the end he or she has the ability to take questions and if they are using a producer they can engineer interactive moments e.g. asking for input via a poll during the webinar.
  • Virtual training is a trainer plus participants. Ideally the training is interactive, engaging and adaptive the needs of the participants.

What does virtual training give you that a webinar doesn’t?

Put simply, virtual training is about learning through interaction, engagement and personalization – it is active learning. This includes learning from the trainer, learning from personal experiences and from each other via e.g. discussions and experience sharing. Webinars are comparable with lectures or online presentations – learning is passive and based solely around the speaker and the content they are sharing.

How many participants can you train virtually at the same time?

Surprisingly, many people assume that virtual means more participants.  This is often based around experiences in webinars with 50 people plus. In a face-to-face training seminar, we would never try and deliver training to 50 participants in the same room.  Typically, we suggest 8-12 participants with 14 being a maximum.  Years of experience have shown us that an ideal number for highly-interactive virtual training is about 6-8 people. With a small group like this you can make sure that people have a chance to interact with each other in a more intimate way, using options like breakout rooms found in the more functional platforms such as WebEx Training Center or Adobe Connect. These breakout rooms offer the same benefits as integrating small group activities in a training room. This interaction is really important because a lot of the value of training, whether it’s virtual or face-to-face, is the interaction that the participants have with each other. They don’t just learn from the trainer but through each other too!

What is a producer and why do we need one?

A producer ensures that the virtual training runs smoothly and supports the virtual trainer in delivering an interactive, personalized and above all smooth training experience. This allows the trainer to manage up to 50% larger training groups too e.g. 8-12 participants. Their role includes:

  • providing technical support to participants before, during and after the training
  • setting up break out rooms, polls etc
  • monitoring engagement and contributions in chats and break out rooms
  • modelling activities
  • time checks with the trainer and participants

For more information

At Target Training we offer all of our solutions in a virtual format too. This includes in-house Business English with our Virtual InCorporate Trainer , Presenting in a virtual environment and Working in and Leading virtual teams. If you would like to know more about our virtual solutions, save time and money and extend your training reach then please contact us. Finally, see here to read more about delivering training virtually.

Nine ways to Learn More … Effectively, Enjoyably and Easily!

Want to learn anything more effectively, enjoyably and easily? Then use each letter of the words in the triangle to memorise the following 9 ways to do just that:

1. I Can – Believe it or Believe it not!

As Henry Ford once said “Whether you believe you can do something or whether you believe you can’t you’re right!“ Decide to believe in yourself – your potential is infinite and your best has yet to come!

2. Creativity – yours is infinite – let it soar!

We are born creative! Even though we may not have used our creativity for a long time it’s still there waiting to be unleashed! Like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, it may need a drop of oil! Today do something totally new or something old in a totally new way. Your creative ability is infinite. Observe any children at play and you will see infinite creativity in full swing! Let them inspire you!

3. Attention/Mindfulness – learn to relax and focus

Learn to put your attention where it’s needed most and on what’s truly important in the present moment. As our society continues to get faster and faster, the tendency is to cultivate a mind which is always “racing” and prone to distraction. We must learn to relax our minds. Learn meditation, relaxation, yoga, mindfulness, tai chi or similar forms of exercise which cultivate stilling your mind and improving your attention.

4. Newness – your brain thrives on newness!

When you first arrived on this planet everything was new and in those first few years you learnt to walk, talk, recognise, eat and much much more! In times of great change we learn greatly! So remember if we resist change, we are also resisting learning! So travel to a totally different culture, learn something you thought you couldn’t learn and continuously try new ways of doing old things. If it doesn’t work, so what, learn from it and try something different instead!

5. Learning Growth – Continuously aim to improve how you learn

Before learning anything set yourself a goal – the who, what, when, where, why, how of what you’re learning. Ask yourself – how will I know I’ve learnt it – how will you test yourself? Get an overview of what needs to be learnt. Use the left and right side of your brain – the logical and the creative. For example use colour, words, images, structure, movement, rhythm, excitement, humour. Above all make it an enjoyable experience! After achieving your learning goal ask yourself – what worked and what could be done better next time?

6. Exercise – Physical exercise – Body/Mind

Recent research in Japan showed that people who exercise three times a week for half an hour have mental abilities 30% greater than those who don’t. It really stands to reason – do you think you learn more effectively if you physically exercise regularly? Test it and see – take time to exercise. The exercise can be gentle like walking, swimming, cycling or whatever type of exercise you like.

7. Age – regularly exercise your mind

No matter how much of your brains potential you have used so far, there is always more to use – you have at least 100 billion brain cells. The reason that we believe “mental abilities get worse with age” is because most people believe it! There was a time when we all thought the world was flat as well! We were all wrong! Begin to believe that your … mental abilities can soar with age… exercise them and as they say “use it or lose it”.

8. Reinforce – keep noticing what’s working: The law of reinforcement

Whatever behaviour is reinforced will tend to be repeated – so keep on noticing what’s working and celebrate it! Keep on reinforcing what it is you would like more of in your life. Think about everything that is working, then ask yourself – how can I improve the rest?

9. Never give up learning to learn

Learning is growth. Growth is learning. Never stop learning. Never quit exploring. Your canvas awaits your creative masterpiece. Never give up learning! Never give up learning to learn!

Now if you’ve read this far, congrats and remember as Einstein said “the true power of knowledge is in its application”. Decide to take at least one action after reading this article and learn more … effectively, enjoyably and easily! Let us know how it goes!

About the author

Sean is a leading expert on how to use more of your minds infinite potential. Sean trains and coaches organisations and individuals worldwide to tap into some of this untapped infinite mental potential. With over 25 years of experience in the training industry, Sean has delivered training to many businesses and organisations worldwide. You can learn more about him at: www.MindTraining.biz

Does the Peter Principle still hold true? (And what you can do to develop your managers.)

Nearly half a century ago Laurence J. Peter published his seminal work on selection and promotion, “The Peter Principle”.  In this satirical look at why things go wrong in businesses, he argued that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.” His theory is so convincing that you feel it must be one of those natural laws that is just simply true, and indeed the Peter Principle is based on the behavioural observation that there is a strong temptation for people to use what has worked before, even when this might not be appropriate for the new situation.

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers

Over the last couple of decades I have had the impression that the Peter principle is either out of fashion or no longer as relevant. Management training is now so widespread that all managers are now allegedly agile, change agents, ace communicators and inspirational. Yet intuitively I have always felt the Peter Principle in its elegant simplicity must still hold true, so you can imagine my relief when I came across an article in the Times by Alexandra Frean entitled, “Rise of the accidental manager lies behind UK’s low productivity”. She uses the term ‘accidental managers’ and explains “they have excelled in their role and are rewarded with promotion to a management position that is entirely different from the job they have been doing, only to flounder when they get there.” Does this sound familiar? The focus of her article is that accidental managers are more prevalent in the UK and account for the UK’s poor productivity. According to Ann Francke, head of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), four out of five bosses in Britain are accidental managers; so 2.4 million managers are probably not delivering to full capability. And international comparisons indicate UK managers perform 30% below the benchmarked countries of Germany and Scandinavia. Francke does not agree that good managers are born not made and makes an impassioned plea for more and better training.

Which neatly brings us on to the question: What does effective management training look like? Here are four thoughts to consider:

Invest early

Building skills, knowledge and behaviors in young managers can provide spectacular results for years to come! Simply teaching and training simple skills for managing the task, the team and the individuals, does yield real returns. More investment at the beginning is a must especially training solutions for when they first move into management  .

Show the managers that their managers care about the training

Research consistently shows that when a training participant’s manager shows interest and involvement this is the single most important factor in transferring the training to the workplace. Involvement starts with explaining the purpose of the training and linking it to values, strategy and concrete business needs. It finishes with senior managers who are committed to delivering results through developing performance. And keep this human!

Fewer models

There are hundreds of management, communication, team, interpersonal dynamics, and strategy models. Good management training understands that models can be useful BUT they need to be simple to grasp, easy to remember and actionable. And be aware of trying to bend a model out of shape just to fulfil a trainer’s desire to show how everything fits. Managers can deal with complexity too!

Skill drills beat bullet points

It’s not what you know it’s what you do as a manager that counts. Discussing the role of feedback, exploring SCARF, sharing horror stories can be useful BUT the most important things is to get managers practicing, practicing and practicing.  Skill drills change behaviors and build confidence.  Yes, role-plays aren’t real but they give you an opportunity to experiment and practice! And my experience is that investing in business actors always add value too. This is why Target’s own leadership and management programs focus on doing (again and again).

 

 

 

 

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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

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.

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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

What our clients learned the easy way

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:



Go to the eBook

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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:

 

Train the trainer: Interactive presentations

Internal training is often done via presentations and companies often use an internal “expert” to deliver training to other members of staff. Slide after slide appears on the screen and by the end, there’s a handout with the most important points and perhaps a summary. The upside of this type of training is that the information is first hand from the expert. One of the downsides is that the trainer often doesn’t have experience in training. He/she doesn’t understand how to make learning stick, or that only 10% of learning happens through structured training. (Read more about the  70-20-10 model.) Here are a few ideas to make your presentation based training interactive. 



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Who are you and why are you here?

A trainer always explains the objectives of the training session. The objectives need to be relevant to the audience – you need buy-in for learning to take place. Everything that happens in the training should link back to the objective. The participants have objectives too – but they might be different to yours and you need to align the two sets. This is often done through a warmer activity – who are you and why are you here? A warmer activity can be done as a group, in small groups or in pairs. At the end of the activity, everyone has shared their personal objectives (ideally they are visible for everyone to read). The trainer then paraphrases the personal objectives and links it in to the objectives of the session. If there are objectives that can’t be aligned, the trainer points them out: “Sorry, we won’t be covering that in detail today”, or “There might be time to do that at the end of the session.”

Get people up and moving

If participants don’t know each other very well, a few icebreakers are necessary. A game called ‘find someone who’ can be adapted easily to any audience and topic. Beyond that, you can bring discussion cards, or tasks that participants have to do between slides. Especially when people’s interests are fading, stop the presentation and get them up and moving around the room. Ask them to brainstorm in groups, to summarize in pairs, to troubleshoot, or ask them to pick a position in the room based on how strongly they feel about a company/work-related statement. Ask them to present some of the key learning points of the presentation back to you half-way through and use it as an opportunity to align participant knowledge.

Involve your audience

Closely related to the above, even when the training material is dry, full of facts and technical jargon, your training can be interactive. You can engage participants in almost a thousand different ways. Ask them for their experience or opinions, ask them to read out the information on the slides, or prepare a quiz or a competition (with a token prize). Open a debate, do a shout out round of questions or get them to walkabout the room to examine information on the topic at different stations. (Here are 25 ideas on making training active.)

Ask for commitment

When the participants leave the training room, what are they expected to do? They learned something but how will they transfer that to their job – that’s a good question to prepare yourself for. Before the training session finishes, take enough time to ask participants about their ideas, and also to give advice on making the learning stick. You may also consider a Personal Learning Plan.

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Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic. We also offer a range of  Train the Trainer and Workshop Facilitation seminars.

 

Needs analysis questions for departments in need (of training)

‘Word your requirements precisely and ensure that you cover all categories of human-related requirements.’ That is one of the underlying principles of needs analysis. A needs analysis helps define what any system should look like, before it gets to the design stage. In other words, if you don’t know what you need, you might end up getting the wrong thing.



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How to get the right thing

If you are ever in the situation of having to find “some training” for your team, department or company, start with a simple training needs analysis, which won’t take very long. It is important that you can clearly outline who should receive training and why. It means you will know what to ask for when you are ready to talk to a potential provider. A training provider who knows what they’re doing will have lot of experience with training program design and they will design the system for you/with you. The more insight you can give from the very start, the more effectively your training program (your system) can be designed and implemented.

People commonly start by thinking about the sort of training they want. Effective training must have realistic objectives for everyone involved. If you are familiar with our blog and online publications, you’ll have come across this sentence “Start with the end in mind.” Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What result(s) do we want to see?
  • What behaviour needs to change so that this result can be achieved?
  • What skills, knowledge or attitudes do people need to learn to change this behaviour?
  • What sort of training is most appropriate for learning these skills, knowledge or attitudes?

A good training provider should be able to help you to define the behaviours that support your objectives. They should be able to help you to decide what skills, knowledge and attitudes affect these behaviours. And, finally, they can suggest alternative ways for delivering training which will ensure that your people learn and can transfer the training to the workplace.

Finding the right trainer

There is a huge supply of trainers and training providers on the market. Finding the right trainer is not necessarily easy, even though it can be. It helps to clarify at this stage what type of trainer you’re looking for, because it will allow you to exclude a large section of what is on offer. Here are some things to consider:

  • What skills, knowledge and attitude are we looking for?
  • How much relevant training experience should they have?
  • How qualified should they be?

Determining investment

There are many factors and steps involved in getting to a well-designed, effective system. Consider for example how workload, deadlines, holidays and illness could affect the success of the training.

  • How much time can each individual invest (realistically) in the training?
  • How much additional resources can be spent on the training (administration, travel, etc)?

What determines success?

And leading from that, how will you measure success? If it’s enough that people put a tick under the smiley face on the feedback form after the training, that’s fine. But “happy sheets”, as we call them, measure only the reaction to training, not the actual results. Tests measure knowledge, is that what you want? That’s fine too. Whatever you’re looking for when you define success, these questions will be useful:

  • Which systems do we need to measure success, or progress?
  • What can we do to make sure that learning is transferred to the workplace?

Again, a good training provider will be able to support you with figuring out the details of measuring the training and overall success. A great training provider will already have systems in place and will be able to provide detailed reports.

The next step

Now you can start thinking in more detail about the design and share the requirements for your system with an expert. The systematics of that will all be explained in a future post.

 

 

10 easy steps you can take to kick-start your learning in 2017

The idea of new year resolutions isn’t a modern invention. The Babylonians and Romans both made promises to their gods at the start of a new year. Whether or not you are making resolutions, the start of a new year does bring new opportunities for you to refocus on learning new skills and building knowledge.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but here are 10 proven and practical steps you can take to help get your learning off on the right track in 2017.  And here’s the good news …. you don’t need to necessarily do them all! If you try just a couple, you’ll see the benefits by the end of the year.




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1. Set realistic goals

Take half an hour to think about what you really want to learn, develop, improve, and why. Now write those goals down so you have something to refer back to reflect on. Whether it be improving your vocabulary in a foreign language, overcoming presentation stress  or learning to play the drums: SMART GOALS HELP!

2. Find options for achieving these goals

If you want to improve your writing skills, how are you going to do that? Use an app, attend a course? Do your research and find options that are going to work for you – and try to get the ball rolling sooner than later. It’ll be summer before you know it.

3. Get social

Talk to people about their goals and what they’re doing to get there. How are they learning? And what can you learn from them? And share your goals too.

4. Eat small bites

Micro-learning is one of the learning & development trends for 2017. The great thing about this is that it acknowledges the time issue we all have. Training can now happen in bite-sized chunks that literally take no more than 5 minutes at a time – that means you can learn something very quickly without having to make major changes to your routines and schedules. There are micro-learning solutions for most areas, including business English.

5. Get organized

If you’re learning anything new, it helps to organize yourself. That could be organizing your notes, your time, and setting priorities. Take the time to consider what works for you.

6.  Experiment

According to the 70-20-10 learning model 10% of learning happens in formal training situations, 20% happens through social interaction, and 70% happens on-the-job. On-the-job means in practical, real situations. So, if you’re learning something, you need to experiment in real situations. Look for opportunities to do this.

7. Learn from your mistakes

If you experiment, you’re going to make mistakes. Don’t worry about that, it’s part of the learning process. Just make sure you actually take the time to reflect on what went wrong and what needs to happen differently the next time round. And then do it differently.

8. Enjoy yourself

The best learning happens when it’s so much fun, you don’t even realize you’re learning. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Choose learning options that fit in with how you would normally be spending your time. That could be watching a movie, listening to a podcast, reading a book, or playing a game on your tablet.

9. Notice your progress

If you write down your goals, and review them regularly, you’ll see the progress you’re making. It also helps if you can begin to notice the small events that show that learning is happening.

10. Celebrate your results

And when you notice those small events, celebrate and reward yourself. When we ask participants to build transfer plans at the end of a seminar we ask a number of questions, “What? How? By when? Who else needs to be involved? What does success look like?” AND “How will you reward yourself?”. It could be as simple as holding off on buying a new book or as grand as buying concert tickets and taking your daughter.

Overcoming the 4 core obstacles that prevent intentions turning into action

Whether they be new year resolutions or not, our plans and intentions often fail to materialize due to a lack of specificity, vision, accountability, and discipline. To overcome these 4 obstacles …

  • Define what you want to achieve as clearly as possible (see step 1 below)
  • Consider what success looks like – and then ask yourself if you are really doing all you can to make your vision come true
  • As well as holding yourself accountable, set up a “buddy system” in order to stick to your resolutions. Avoiding embarrassment can be a great motivator (see step 3) -although some research does argue that sharing goals actually widens the intention-behavior gap.
  • Stick to your goals and your plans, and don’t make excuses.  The more you practice discipline, the more disciplined you become. When you do slip, rather than making excuses, think of ways to do it next time should you happen to come across a similar obstacle.

Good luck and have fun learning!

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.

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?

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 from. 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.