Bring on The Training Revolution – Part II

by Helen Morris-Brown

In Part One, I stated a case for revolutionising training, because I believe that businesses have a responsibility to create the conditions under which people can flourish. In this post I’ll be explaining how you do it. If you are involved in HR, L&D or training and you want to offer people inspiring development opportunities but…

  • you find your budget challenging
  • staff have little or no time to attend training courses

…then this is for you.

I work from the understanding that human development is an organic process. This means that my number one priority as a consultant is to help companies to create the conditions under which people flourish. I have found that the most effective way of doing this is through a formal mentoring programme. If you’ve experienced a good one, you’ll know that they create the right conditions for people to develop and grow. You’ll also know that they help you to become less dependent on external training providers, and so save you money on training courses.

How do I know that a mentoring programme is right for my business?

Do you have staff who would benefit from knowing more about how to do their job to the best of their ability? Do you also have people in your organisation who are really good at what they do? Then you have what it takes to start a mentoring programme. You will also need a programme supervisor – usually the HR or training manager.

If you meet these criteria, you’re ready to take your first steps. As with every new venture you will need support and guidance from the outset. This is the time to find a professional consultant who has a proven track record of running effective mentoring schemes. They will be able to advise you, as you…

  • Take it to the top. You need to get agreement to run a pilot from the key decision makers: the Managing Director/Chief Executive. They have to know about it and they have to approve it. No exceptions.
  • Recruit participants – mentees, mentors, supervisors. Human resources are like natural resources. They’re often buried deep. In order to find the right people you have to create the circumstances in which they present themselves to you. Advertise it. Sell the benefits. Do not make it exclusive – you can limit who takes part, but you mustn’t limit who you offer it to. Make it 100% inclusive.

Mentoring-skills training courseGood mentors will be driven by a desire to see their mentee do well. They will do it because they want to help. So, you might have to give them a nudge in the right direction. They might need to be told that someone has requested that they mentor them before they choose to get in involved. But it is still up to them – it has to be a voluntary matter.

What are the qualities of a good mentor?

  • They are good at giving feedback (constructive criticism and praise)
  • They are good at challenging others
  • They are happy to relinquish control
  • They have a good grip of their ego

What are the qualities of a good mentee?

  • They are keen to take part
  • They are motivated to learn
  • They are good at challenging others

How do I pair mentors with mentees?

Clients always think there is some deep, dark secret to this, that they have to go through extensive processes and spend money on finding the perfect solution. In fact, all you need to do is to link people who share the same values and enthusiasms, people who share similar motivational drivers. Asking people to list what they value most will give you more useful information than if you ask them to complete a personality or learning styles questionnaire – surprising but true. You also need to ensure that the mentor is not the mentee’s line manager – the most successful mentoring programmes are conducted ‘off-line’.

How do I train the mentors?

Mentors have to be prepared. You have to train them to be a professional advisor and guide. A two-day practical course which prepares them for the first few sessions and gives them everything they need to record and monitor progress is perfectly adequate. Anything less, and you are at risk of them being underprepared; more, and you will definitely be wasting time and money . Once this has been delivered a few times by an external company, you can DO IT YOURSELVES.

How do I implement the programme?

Once you’ve created an effective framework you can support the programme from a distance. Sit back and let each partnership get on with their mentoring relationship. Your role is to field questions, deal with difficulties and make changes when necessary.

How is it monitored and evaluated?

If your programme is to be successful, you have to monitor and evaluate progress. This allows you to identify where things are going well and where you need to make changes – you are not going to get it right first time. A thorough evaluation process means:

  • Taking key performance measures before, during and after the programme
  • Mentors and mentees keeping records so that you can convert stories and anecdotes into hard evidence
  • Being flexible – review progress regularly

Once you have gathered enough useful data from your pilot scheme, share it. Recognise any improvements or changes in mentors and mentees. Go back to the top, tell everybody about your successes and your failures. Tell them that the review process will guide and inform the next stage of the programme. Because it will.

What happens next?

It’s your responsibility to keep the programme alive. When each partnership comes to an end, you must ensure that your mentors are assigned a new mentee. Repeat the cycle until everybody in your business – everybody who wants to be involved, that is – has had the opportunity to be either a mentor or mentee.

The natural progression for mentees, after two years of being mentored, is to become a mentor. The natural progression for mentors, when they have done what they can within the business, is to look for new challenges. Where possible, arrange for them to share their skills with a charity or not-for-profit business in the community. When you’ve reached this stage you will see improvements in performance across the whole organisation. Your staff will be more engaged, satisfied and effective. Guaranteed.

All of this happens because your staff are working in an environment in which they gain new skills, learn from one another and become better at what they do. When that happens, they are motivated to perform at their absolute best, every day. They flourish, and so does your company.

If you think all this is some kind of fantasy, read our most recent case study. We know it’s true. We experience it every day.

Helen is the founder and Director of Really Responsible Training. She is a facilitator, trainer and learning and development specialist with over twenty years’ experience. She holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology and is accredited to deliver management and leadership qualifications for ILM and CMI. Helen is an expert in designing breakthrough interventions for business leaders with the aim of inspiring positive change.


Bring on The Training Revolution – Part I

by Helen Morris-Brown

Six months ago, I discovered a principle that has helped me. I’ve found it to be a useful tool both at home and at work, so I thought I’d share it with you. They call it Sturgeon’s Law.

It’s simple. Sturgeon’s Law states that 90% of everything is crap. It came about during the 1950s when Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction writer, was told by a critic that “90% of science fiction writing is crap”. He was exasperated. He replied, “But 90% of everything is crap!”

If Theodore was right, it means that 90% of everything – 90% of what you read on the internet, 90% of the self-help books on sale at the airport, 90% of what George Osborne says – is all, well, questionable, to say the least. So, yes, I think he was right.ninety percent of everything is crap

And that means, of course, that 90% of all learning and development solutions are rubbish, too. In other words, 90% of training materials – the e-learning software, psychometric tests, training equipment, training providers – are just not worth your money. So it’s down to you to identify the 10% that is worthy of your investment. It goes without saying that it will be different for all of us. But my experience of working with companies as a management trainer and consultant, particularly over the last ten years, has shown me that a huge quantity of time and money is being invested in training programmes which simply cannot work. And I don’t think that is acceptable.

It’s not just the consultants who are noticing this – business owners are starting to spot it too. As a consequence, both learning and development and HR professionals are under a huge amount of pressure to ensure that the money they invest in development leads to real, quantifiable change.  And I know how hard that is to get right, because you’re dealing with human behaviour. Everyone is different. Standardised, generic training doesn’t suit everybody, so you can’t guarantee results.

David Clutterbuck, from the European Council of Coaching and Mentoring, has observed that standardised courses do not lead to long-term change. His research shows that the learning from a two or three day coaching skills course lasts on average for – wait for it –  three days. Yes, that’s right, just three days. It’s a stark reminder that sheep-dip training courses result in little or no change in behaviour. They are not worth your money.

So, don’t believe companies when they tell you that they can guarantee results with the types of intervention in which individuals are trained without their team, away from the context of their organisation. The truth is that they can’t. And the reason it’s impossible to guarantee a difference in behaviour is that the change that is demanded of people in a short time is just too great. If we change one bit of the system, or one or two people in a team, it’s just too uncomfortable. The change doesn’t stick. It won’t stick. And no one can make it stick.

Even though training appears to be changing – with the increase in e-learning, webinars, access to the whole wide world at the touch of a button – it will never be enough, because it is still targeted at individuals. So, all that is happening is that, at best, people are improving a broken model. You need to change the whole team, the whole organisation, the whole culture, before you start to see changes. And you need to do it cheaply. That’s why we need a revolution. A revolution that involves a major change in the way we approach learning in organisations.  A revolution that will result in freedom from expensive training interventions that, for the most part, do not work.

So how’s it done? How do you change a whole team, a whole organisation? How do we get the whole company to transform the way it approaches learning and development so that people change the way they do things – not just for three days, or a week, or a month, but forever? And with little or no money?

Well, you have to look at things differently. That’s the biggest challenge. Innovation is hard. It means that we have to examine what we take for granted and question things that we think are obvious. The great problem for reform and transformation is the tyranny of common sense, the idea that “it can’t be done any other way, because that’s the way it’s done”.

So, when we look at reforming training, and transforming it, we won’t get anywhere by cloning a system. There are great courses out there – management and leadership qualifications, e-learning packages – but in order to see sustainable change in people, we have to customise the training to our own circumstances and personalise it to the people whom we are actually working with.

I know from my own experience that it is the way forward. It’s not about reshaping the old, it’s about creating a movement in training in which leaders develop their own solutions, with external support, based on a personalised agenda. It’s about pursuing and investing in the 10% that works, the 10% that results in sustainable change.

It might sound like your familiar bespoke training, but it’s much more than that. This is about ownership, empowerment and, ultimately, control. You develop your own solutions, with external support. You need to spend less time and money with us, your consultants, and look to standing on your own two feet.

So how can you revolutionise your approach to training? Well, you need to create the conditions under which people begin to flourish. In the second part of this post I’ll explain how you do that effectively without spending vast sums of money.

Part II will be posted on Monday 25th February 2013.

Helen is the founder and Director of Really Responsible Training. She is a facilitator, trainer and learning and development specialist with over twenty years’ experience. She holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology and is accredited to deliver management and leadership qualifications for ILM and CMI. Helen is an expert in designing breakthrough interventions for business leaders with the aim of inspiring positive change.