Let’s Celebrate. It’s Responsible Business Week.

By Helen Morris-Brown

Business in the Community (BITC) has organised events, meetings and online debates this week to raise awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) trends across the UK.  They have declared that 15-19 April 2013 is Responsible Business Week.  Hooray!

Responsible Business Week aims to become the UK’s largest celebration of responsible business. It has been designed to raise awareness of the depth and breadth of responsible business; its transformational impact on communities; individuals and businesses; and of those pioneering companies, innovators and thinkers who are integrating responsible behaviour into all they do. Business in the Community aims to inspire businesses across the UK to help tackle some of the UK’s most pressing social and environmental issues.

At Really Responsible, we love the idea. Responsible Business Week will shine a spotlight on the powerful, positive role of business in society and those organisations and leaders who are truly transforming their companies for the benefit of their communities, employees and the environment. Really Responsible Training is supporting the week and we, like BITC, hope it will inspire many more businesses to put responsible behaviour at the heart of the way they do business.

For three years, we have been arguing for and implementing a programme which links skilled people from the commercial sector with small charities. These partnerships present an opportunity for charities to get the support they need to complete vital projects and allow the person in charge of the project to develop new skills in a meaningful way. They are not just volunteering their time to a worthy cause, they are being coached and mentored through the process. Unlike conventional volunteering programmes, the development needs of the volunteer are also taken into consideration and addressed.

When I devised the Really Responsible Leadership programme the people who held the purse strings needed convincing that this approach would improve the skills of their staff. I have had too many awkward conversations with HR professionals and directors who, despite needing innovative training solutions, resisted the idea of letting their staff work with charities on a part-time basis. Without any real evidence of how the programme would improve their staff’s skills and performance, they were resistant to making an initial investment.

However, I am delighted to say that a few loyal clients have taken a leap of faith and allocated staff to the Really Responsible Leadership programme. And we have hard evidence that it works. We now know that when you combine learning and development with CSR initiatives your staff acquire improved communication, delegation and feedback skills. And they are better at organising and planning their workload. Most importantly, these improvements last – and not just for a week or a month, as is the case with traditional training courses. Because they are supported throughout, new behaviours become habits and participants change the way they do things forever.

Based on our experience, the lessons we’ve learnt are these:

1) You’ll reap the rewards if you invite HR and CSR to work together. Training & development and CSR initiatives need not be mutually exclusive.

Leadership Programme2) Your staff will thank you – and perform better – if you give them the opportunity to work with a charity which would benefit from their knowledge and expertise.

3) When people are given meaningful projects to complete while they are developing new skills, the learning sticks for longer.

I’m committed to the principle of sharing knowledge and skills with others and expecting nothing in return. I believe we have a moral duty to engage with our environment and community, to be responsible citizens. The truth is that you when you are involved in responsible business, the rewards are huge. In my experience you always receive more than you give. As Winston Churchill once said:

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our clients who have taken a leap of faith and, as we reach the end of the inaugural Responsible Business Week, shine a spotlight on them and their responsible business practice.

JP Boden & Co Ltd,  Vanquis Bank, Sandaire – Thank you!

Let’s make every week Responsible Business Week.

 

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 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.