Making experience count

first_img Comments are closed. Making experience countOn 1 Jul 2001 in Personnel Today Training professionals are under pressure to build outdoor training into amore holistic approach – and call it experiential learning insteadGone are the days when attending an outdoor management training course meantdonning fatigues, marching up rain-sodden mountains and munching Kendal mintcake. Mistakenly seen as a holiday to half the management population andtorture to the rest of us, training managers were finding it harder and harderto justify the expense. So different is the market now, few suppliers or buyers of outdoor trainingeven describe it as such. Now it’s experiential learning, which the expertstell us could be indoors, outdoors – or, as the new jargon has it, “neardoors”. Don’t be fooled, says Steven Taylor, director of training with LakesideManagement, the outdoors is still a popular medium for teambuilding andleadership training and with good reason. “It’s a great way of spendingtraining resources because the effects are immediate and lasting,” hesays. But he too admits its use has changed. In the old days, outdoor courses wereabout taking people out of their working environment and giving them achallenge. “Now what firms want is an holistic approach to training thatinvolves body, mind and spirit,” Taylor says. And this means finding time to reflect on and discuss the activities. The outdoors, he says, is ideal for this approach to development. “Thevery nature of the outdoors experience is reflective, you can’t help but talkabout it, so what we have done in the last few years is formalise thatprocess,” he says. Proving value At the same time – as with all training – suppliers using the outdoors as avenue are having to prove its value to the business. Fifteen years ago, companies were only interested in the old task, team andaction model of leadership – what was important was getting people up themountain, even if it meant breaking their spirit in the process, explains ChrisGoscombe at airline EasyJet. “Now we have a fourth circle around these three and that’s environment,which enables us to relate training and development back to theworkplace,” Goscombe says. Suppliers such as Impact and Brathay have also noticed this change.”Training departments have had to respond to the pressure of showing whatvalue they are adding to an organisation. “They are always concerned to put the context of their organisationinto what we do for them,” says Jonathan Lagoe, business developmentmanager with Impact. “And we are required much more now to say how what wedo will improve a client’s performance,” he says. Aligning competencies Usually this means aligning their training to a company’s managementcompetencies. “It’s comforting for the accountants, who can see what they are gettingfor their money,” Lagoe says. This trend also reflects the changing nature of training as a function.Budgets are being devolved down to line managers and in some cases toindividuals, leaving training departments struggling for a role. The best have grasped the nettle and are turning themselves into internalconsultancies. “Training departments are moving away from the old administrative roleof putting people on courses, and are becoming advisers,” Lagoe says. Theyassess the organisation’s training needs and research possible trainers. Some companies are taking this further and drawing up lists of approvedsuppliers, which anyone who is buying training must stick to. “Most of our big clients are saying that they have to narrow theirsuppliers down from 200 plus to 15, 20 or 30,” Lagoe says. Supplier route Gill Brewer, client communication manager at Brathay, maintains that thegrowth of company intranets will further boost the preferred supplier route.Managers will be able to log on to the HR system, find the list of suppliersand click on the hyperlink straight to a website or booking form, Brewer says. It means that organisations like Brathay are having to work hard to be surethey are on the right lists. “It’s not about the door being closed, butabout really proving yourself to get on,” Brewer says. However, it’s a move that is coming primarily from company accountantslooking for a cheaper deal and training managers are not very keen. “Ourown research shows they are concerned that it will take away an element oftheir judgement,” Brewer says. EasyJet’s Chris Goscombe and Jonathan Wainwright from the Halifax agree.”It would be far too restrictive,” Wainwright says, while Goscombesuggests it would prevent training professionals snapping up that new ideaaround the corner. Many of the changes that have taken place in outdoors experiential trainingare positive. But there is some regret among the training community that the tighteninggrip of finance departments is limiting its potential impact. “Surely there has to be an advantage in saying training should bevaluable in its own right,” says Lagoe. Case studyEasyjet prepares for take-offChris Goscombe, head of people and organisational development at budgetairline EasyJet, is a big fan of using the outdoors. “The outdoors is the most stimulating of the experiential learningtools – it’s very powerful. I’ve used it as a line manager and now I propose itto others,” he says.”It doesn’t have to be about pushing yourself to the limits. “Often it is about exploring what those limits are, but you don’t haveto reach them.” EasyJet recently used Impact to provide leadership training for itsdispatchers.These are the men and women who organise the logistics of a flight on boardthe aircraft – saving a few minutes off the turn around of flights can save theairline huge sums of money. But it’s a complex job that involves working with many different people whodon’t necessarily share that precise agenda. The training Impact providedinvolved a variety of exercises – not all outdoors – that reproduced thesechallenges, without simulating the workplace.”We were removing the context of work from people and enabling them tosee things in a different way,” Goscombe says. “Often the context of work gives you an excuse for not doing things –but in experiential learning, there is nowhere else to go apart from yourselfand the people you are working with. You can’t just say, ‘Oh the IT people arealways like that’,” Goscombe explains.However, it didn’t necessarily work for everyone. “Some werebrilliantly enlightened by the experiences,” Goscombe says. “Those who weren’t, we need to manage and treat almost as if they havenever been on the programme. These people need the context of work.”Case studyAn added extra from the halifaxIf you’re a graduate trainee with the Halifax, you will almost certainly getthe chance to battle with the elements as part of your management training.”We’re quite conventional about it,” says Jonathan Wainwright,management development consultant at the Halifax.”We use some high impact exercises, which we then review. Our graduateswon’t have had a lot of experience of working in organisations or working as ateam and this is a safe and supportive way of looking at leadership and workingtogether.”However, when it comes to the bank’s leadership development programme, theoutdoors is far more important for its inspiration than the challenge itoffers. The programme is designed for senior managers with exceptionalpotential and about 36 people are taken on each year. There are five modulesand two of them take place at Brathay. Participants spend their first few days on the programme at Brathay gettingto know each other. They go back several months later fora fourth module onleadership. “We’re more interested in Brathay for the quality of its facilitatorsand the environment it offers rather than the outdoor activities,”Wainwright says. “Senior management development is about building people’sself-awareness and understanding of their own values and beliefs. They get thisfrom reflection and dialogue with each other.”There are experiential exercises built into the Brathay modules that providea focus for discussion – and this may happen to be outdoors. “We’re nottoo concerned with the content of the activities any more, or whether or notour managers can climb a rope,” Wainwright says. “We’re onlyinterested in whether or not exercises foster an environment that leads peopleto talk.”Nonetheless, there are the opportunities for managers to climb ropes or rowboats if they want – but these are extra-curricular activities. “And it’snot the rowing that’s important, it’s the shared experience,” Wainwrightsays. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img