Leading Edge Coaching invests in Barnados Enterprising Minds initiative to build business skills

Barnados are launching a new initiative aimed at developing business and entrepreneurial skills in youg people aged 11 to 21. Through the scheme investors donate £30 of which £10 goes to Barnados and £20 goes into a seed fund. Young people can submit a business plan to earn a £20 investment and work hard over the following 4 weeks to gain the maximum possible return – with all proceeds going to Barnados’ funds. Prizes will be issued in various categories. Through the process they will be given support, advice and training to help them to build and demonstrate the entrepreneurial skills needed both for this challenge and to equip them for the real workplace. .

It’s the first time Barnados have run an initiative such as this and Leading Edge Coaching is delighted to be investing in the entrpreurial skills of the future.

For more details visit http://www.barnardos.org.uk//enterprisingminds

Comment on new study: Organisations fail in the application and transfer of learning

A new study draws attention to key failings by companies to transfer learning into the job , citing the fact that over 60% do not have a systematic approach to helping employees apply what they’ve learnt and only 23% of managers have any kind of pre or post-training discussion with their team member. Read more at  http://www.hrreview.co.uk/hrreview-articles/training/organisations-fail-to-transfer-learning-from-training-programmes-into-the-workplace/30268

Sadly, I think this article highlights a very widespread challenge facing many businesses – how to really transfer learning into habitual action that makes a difference.

In my view, a some important factors need to be in place for this to happen:

  • The training needs to be developed with the end in mind i.e. clear objectives need to be set in terms of what needs to change and how change will be measured (e.g. behaviours and / or quantitative metrics). If the objectives and outcomes are not clear or measurable and if the training content is not properly aligned it’s outcomes are haphazard at best.
  • Trainees need to commit to specific action plans of what they will do differently otherwise they may leave with good ideas and intentions but go straight back to old habits.
  • Trainees need ongoing support. Managers need to be more proactive and take more time to really support, coach and challenge their team members to implement change and learning. 
  • Processes, working practices and cultures need to support the changes required. Often systems and cultures get in the way of changing behaviours and performance.

The companies that buck the trends outlined in this report  are clear about why they want training, deliver it in the context of broader company change and have clear actions in place to follow up, maintain momentum and measure progress afterwards. Of course, that’s all a lot easier if they have senior sponsorship and a training partner who supports them through all of these stages, but then I would say that wouldn’t I?!

New research on performance of Fast Track companies

A new report has been published by SAP and Delta Economics exploring the changing fortunes of Sunday Times Fast Track listed companies over the last decade.

This research is interesting and worthwhile. It makes valid points about the changing mix of business types and their ability to ride the economics of the last decade and makes  it clear that high growth is hard to sustain over time. Flexibility to anticipate and adapt to change – opportunity or threat – seems to be a mantra for business these days and so the fact that the report draws similar conclusions is perhaps unsurprising but consistent with other studies. From my experience working with companies of many sizes – including 2 Fast Track 2010 organisations – flexibility is clearly important and so, too, is building a sustainable business, one that develops the right skills, builds the right structure and infrastructure and which is clear that growth must drive profitability not just revenue expansion.

I wonder, though, whether the report misses a vital point in stating that 1/3rd are no longer in business because they have been acquired and grouping these with those that have gone into liquidation / receivership. Selling the business is often the reason for companies to pursue a high and fast growth strategy. Being acquired within a decade of achieving Fast Track status is probably seen by the original shareholders as a business success and achievement of the strategy, rather than the slightly negative connotation I pick up from this report. 

Read the full report at

http://www.businesszone.co.uk/files/siftmedia-businesszone/SAP-FastTrackDecadeReport-01.08.11.pdf

or catch the headlines at

http://www.businesszone.co.uk/topic/finances/infographic-fast-growth-kills-businesses/36309

Congratulations to Pharmarama & 365 iT – Fast Track listed companies

Leading Edge Coaching congratulates two of its long standing clients for their listings in the prestigious Sunday Times Fast Track league tables as a result of their considerable growth:

Pharmarama: Number 8, International Fast Track 2010

Pharmarama sources and distributes pharmaceuticals for use as benchmarks in clinical trials. Clients include major pharmaceutical manufacturers, which in many countries are required by law to run trials to compare the new drug against a competitors’ existing product. Managing director Rosemary Bensley has overseen expansion into America where offices and warehousing have helped ensure competitiveness in this major market. Since joining the company in 2007 she has also led the introduction of new services in medical device supply and drug manufacture. International sales grew 131% a year from £2m in 2007 to £10.4m in 2009.

http://www.fasttrack.co.uk/fasttrack/downloads/2010IntTrack100.pdf

365 iT Group: Number 15, Tech  Fast Track 2010

Through its wholly owned subsidiaries (365 iTechnology Ltd, 5i Ltd and 7 Global Group Ltd), the group provides an extensive range of IT services and solutions that address the nine strategic functional areas in IT operations and management: IT Managed Services, Unified Communications, Business Continuity, Data Backup, IT Security, Virtualisation, Networks, Storage Solutions and Infrastructure Solutions.  Sales grew 96% a year from £1.1m in 2006 to £8m in 2009.

http://www.fasttrack.co.uk/fasttrack/downloads/2010techtrack100.pdf

We work with clients across a range of markets, all looking to grow and expand their business in an increasingly competitive environment.

Training – the answer to the UK’s deficit?

Last week I attended a talk by Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills at the Institute of Directors. It sparked a lot of interesting questions from the audience and got me thinking about a few things.

Firstly, it’s refreshing to have a government that understands that the public sector, whilst important to the nation’s wellbeing, is not the economy and that it’s the private sector that will have to trade the country out of its deficit.

Whilst much of Vince Cable’s speech and the subsequent Q&A demonstrated that business is tough, foreign competition aggressive and finance hard to secure at reasonable rates, it was notable that the audience, made up of IOD members, seemed resilient, determined and cautiously optimistic about tackling current challenges and building a sound future.

OK, so training alone could never be the answer to the nation’s financial deficit but skills development and training is high on the government’s business agenda – from the age-old challenges of equipping school and college leavers with essential employment skills through to the specialist expertise needed to drive innovative growth within business, particularly in areas with greatest export potential.

According to Cable, the coalition government is committed to the principle that government should create the right framework and environment for business to succeed and then get out of the way. In my view, it’s a philosophy that’s good for staff development programmes too – equip people with the environment, the operating frameworks and skills and support them to work to the best of their ability, without being prescriptive. Employees who are competent, confident and trusted to use their judgement within consistent parameters are more likely to help their companies to succeed in these demanding and fast-changing times.

So what does the training community need to do to rise to this challenge?

I believe the recent economic downturn has been good for training. Too long regarded as a fluffy and intangible ‘nice to have’, something to tick off at the annual appraisal or to wrap around a ‘jolly’ to keep the troops happy, training has to deliver real value to the business. That doesn’t necessarily mean a hard financial metric but it does mean clearly helping the company deliver against its strategy, outsmart the competition and drive revenue, customer loyalty and profitability.  It means being clear about the reasons for training, specific about the desired outcomes in the context of the business objectives and setting training in a broader context of creating the right environment.

In my view that’s a good thing. As a trainer it’s nice to know that people have enjoyed training with me but it’s much more important and personally rewarding to know that they are now using that training to achieve what we set out to do – make a real and tangible difference to their organisation.

Companies recognise the importance of having the right skills in place but there’s still some way to go in addressing the gaps. Are you up for a discussion? I’d love to hear your views – How does the training profession equip the nation’s workforce to trade out of the deficit, now and for the long term? What involvement should government have in training and skills development? Are the UK’s trainers of the right calibre to rise to this challenge? What training do you give your staff – why and how do you measure it? What challenges do you have in developing the right skills in your workforce?

Remote / live online training – does it work for you?

In a previous blog I talked about how to run online training sessions effectively – but how do you make the most of this learning environment when you are a participant?

In the current climate of doing ‘more with less’ more companies are starting to look at delivering live training via the web as a means of both scaling training to a wider audience and reducing travel time and costs. Whilst the participants we’ve worked with have appreciated the convenience of online training, many would still prefer getting together face-to-face, especially when the training is about behaviours and skills.

So, how do you make the most of live training via the web?

Here are our top 3 tips:

1. Focus – be clear about your learning objectives beforehand Read the course overview and create a relevant and clear goal for what you want to get out of the training. If it helps, write it down and stick it somewhere visible as a prompt while you are in the training. Be proactive in achieving your objective and keep asking yourself how you will apply the course content to meet your objective. And if the course isn’t giving you what you need? Don’t just drift away. Ping a private chat message to the trainer, ask pertinent questions or talk to the trainer in a break to let them know what you want. Trainers don’t get as much visual feedback in an online session so they will welcome your requests.

2.  Be present It’s easy to assign a lower priority to online learning than to a classroom session – but don’t! Treat them with equal importance and book the time in your calendar.

  •   Set up your ‘out of office’, shut down your email and turn off your phone. Most courses will give you lots of short breaks so you can respond to anything urgent. And some online meeting programmes, like WebEx Training Center, will tell the trainer if you’re not on the shared screen so expect your name to be called if you flip over to your emails!
  • Be in the right place! Although in theory we can ‘work from anywhere’ the reality is a little more challenging. Joining a training session from your local coffee shop may be nice in principle but it often results in flaky wireless which drops out, poor voice quality (whether over VoIP or mobile) and too much background noise for others to hear what you are saying.  Find somewhere with decent, reliable internet and voice connections where you won’t be disturbed or distracted, make sure you can sit comfortably and have plenty of drinks and snacks handy if thirst or hunger may become a distraction.
  • Get kitted out! A headset means you don’t have to hold the phone for extended periods of time and a webcam means that others can see you – the more people connected by webcam the more of a sense of the classroom rapport you will get.
  • Participate and ask questions – not just of the trainer but of your colleagues. Ask your peers for their experiences and how they plan to apply learning from the training which might help you to meet your objectives.

3. Be aware of your learning style and energy levels. We all learn differently and have different energy and attention patterns. Be aware of yours and how online or remote training helps or hinders you in learning. Well designed training should try to accommodate different learning styles but you may need to make it work for you. If you like to learn by doing, keep engaged in chat windows and activities. Offer to be the scribe or spokesperson in break out sessions. If you are a pragmatic learner, keep your objective in mind and ask the trainer and colleagues to apply the content to real life situations with you. Whatever your preferred learning style, be mindful of how this will influence your engagement in the training and figure out how to make the session productive for you.

So, does remote / online training work for you or is a waste of time? What are your top tips? Please add your comments below.

Live training via the web

As trainers we subscribe to the adage that we never stop learning – but we can still find ourselves challenged by a new learning experience.  Having been a full-time professional trainer for over 10 years I have developed a degree of confidence that whatever challenge I may come across during a workshop then I’ve probably seen it before!

However, last week was a step into something new – and something I think we will all become more familiar with over time – live delivery via online training tools. Continue reading »