Take training straight to the top

first_img Previous Article Next Article Winningtop table influence for training activities need not be a distant dream, as ourTD2000 campaign has shown. We look at how to make your mark on corporategovernance. By Lucie CarringtonWeall know that if our ambitions for training are to succeed we need the supportof our leaders on the board – it’s not rocket science. Theproblem is how to turn training into a boardroom issue. To some trainingmanagers a trip to the moon seems a lot more likely. However,Shari Casey, programme manager with Raytheon Training, responsible for theVauxhall College, maintains it can be done. Infact she has done it herself, twice – first when she headed up training at thecorporate banking division of NatWest, before the Royal Bank of Scotlandtakeover, and then in her current role providing management training toVauxhall Motors.Hersecret to gaining that vital support from an organisation’s leaders is toinfiltrate the corporate governance system. So at both NatWest, and nowVauxhall, training councils have been set up as boardroom sub-committees. Theyset the strategy for training – with some input from the training team who thenhave to make sure it happens.It’san idea she recommends to others for several reasons. It gives training andtraining managers tremendous clout within the organisation. Training – orlearning, as Casey prefers to think of it – becomes a business imperative ifthe board puts its weight behind it. LearningcouncilsItalso integrates learning into business strategy – that Holy Grail for thetraining team. It stands to reason, given that business leaders are focused onbusiness performance, they are going to insist that any time they spend on thefirm’s learning strategy is similarly focused. Thefirst step in setting up a boardroom learning council, says Casey, is finding adirector to champion training. “Training,like any programme, needs champions to lead from the top to push measuresthrough and ensure alignment to the business strategy,” she says.Thisdoesn’t seem to have been a problem at Vauxhall which is awash with champions,so enthusiastic are its directors, that the chief executive, personnel directorand manufacturing director all have a role. Caseygained the most senior ear at NatWest too. The divisional managing director puthis shoulder behind a training steering committee and ensured it became asubject for the board’s regular attention. “Heunderstood what we were talking about,” Casey says. He also made sure therewere enough senior people on the committee – including the finance andoperational directors. Mosttraining managers are going to have to work a bit harder than that. Identifyinga champion is one thing – selling him the idea is quite another. Itinvolves a great deal of lobbying, Casey warns, so be prepared to sound like abroken record. TheInvestors in People scheme could be a big advantage – it certainly was atNatWest, which was looking to achieve IIP. “Thismade it much easier,” Casey says. “Achieving a lot of the IIP indicators meantdirectors had to take this sort of interest.” Languageof businessButIIP alone is not enough. Trainers have to talk the language of business withtheir leaders. They have to talk about cost savings and business performance. AtNatWest, Casey was able to suggest a massive rationalisation programme thatwould leave service levels intact. Thesteering committee approved and training delivery was outsourced, leaving atraining department of two people – Casey and a colleague who between themworked out what training was needed and how to deliver it.It’snot just the board that needs convincing. There are often tremendous vestedinterests and local allegiances further down the line that need to be tackled. Thiswas certainly the case in NatWest, where some people had developed their ownlittle training empires and had a lot to lose, Casey says. There was alsotremendous duplication of effort – such as the 27 different coaching courses onoffer around the organisation. Itwas inevitable that a more centralised system would narrow this down, butmanagers had to be convinced that the new world order was in their interests.Therewere similar problems at Vauxhall, although Roger Woolnaugh is less eager tosuggest that what people were doing locally was necessarily bad – it simplyneeded sharing around a bit more.Vauxhall’straining council and the old NatWest approach will be the envy of many trainingmanagers, but it isn’t the only model for training to use in its pursuit ofbusiness leaders’ support, says learning and development director at theIndustrial Society Andrew Forrest.Forrestpoints to the example of Kent County Council, where each department head picksan annual theme for the business and pledges to support events – includingtraining – that further that theme.Onan even more basic level, it could simply be about persuading board directorsto open a course or participate in an action session. “You don’t need a lot ofsophistication, but you need to think about the connection between individualsand the business,” he says.RolemodelsForrestinsists that the real value directors add to the training function – perhapsmore important than sitting on a training sub-committee – is becoming rolemodels. “In organisations where directors are seen to continue their ownlearning, they set the tone for the whole place,” he says. Ifdirectors are to do this, then they have to be convinced that training pays andthat it is more than just a leap of faith. It’s one thing to link trainingprovision to business strategy, but it also has to be linked to businessperformance. Sadly,although training experts have been banging on about evaluation for years,little progress has been made.EvenCasey admits that at best it is possible to make some link between training andimproved productivity. But, for the most part, selling training to the board isabout risk aversion – the “what will happen if we don’t take trainingseriously” scenario.Thegood news is that the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development isabout to launch a major study looking at if and how training pays. It followsrecent research into the bottom line benefits of HR policies, which has shownthat they have a bigger impact on profits than research and development. Itwill be a tremendous boost if CIPD can produce some similar evidence fortraining.Let’shope this research does come up trumps because without these hard facts andfigures, retaining board level support in times of financial crisis could provenigh on impossible. CasestudyCEO a driving force in staff developmentWhenit comes to a senior commitment to training, you can’t get much more seniorthan the chairman and managing director. But this is car manufacturer VauxhallMotors’ boasts.Giventhat he has been charged with encouraging business interest in the Government’sLearning and Skills Council, it is not surprising that CEO at Vauxhall NickReilly shows more than a passing interest in the training and development ofhis own workers. But it is significant.Itis Reilly’s interest in training that has breathed new life into the firm’straining council – a senior committee charged with setting training anddevelopment strategy for Vauxhall. Thetraining managers – about six people in all – are then charged withimplementing that strategy. “It has been tried before but without much successbecause it has not had sufficiently senior people on board to give it thatimpetus,” says education and training manager Roger Woolnaugh.ChampionsWithReilly’s support it has become a board level group. He has asked the personneldirector and one of the firm’s two manufacturing directors to become training“champions” in the firm. Theynow co-chair the training council which also counts among its members thefinance director and sales and marketing director, as well as Woolnaugh. Thecouncil has had one meeting so far with the second due this month, so it isearly days yet.WithWoolnaugh sitting on the training council, he and his colleagues are expectingto do more than tug their forelocks at the board. Woolnaughis working on some major ideas which he intends to put to them towards the endof the year. “Iwill be looking for their support, especially in their areas of influence,” hesays.Thereare big advantages to having this board-level interest. To start with, it givestraining more clout. It also makes it easier to link training strategy withbusiness strategy because this is what board members focus on. GlobalprioritiesAspart of General Motors, Vauxhall has signed up to GM’s “global priorities”. Oneof these is the idea that GM is one company and so good practice should beshared.Thetraining council can deliver this, not only in the direction it sets but in theway it works. Acentralised, top down training message stops people building up their owntraining empires. “If what they are doing is good, then why not share it withothers?” Woolnaugh says. Soone of the council’s aims will be to pull together all the good stuff that isgoing on in training in Vauxhall.Havingattracted the support and interest of the board, the challenge for Woolnaughand his colleagues will be in maintaining it. Herecognises the problem of competing priorities for board directors in a majormanufacturer, but is fairly confident that he can keep the council on course –afterall that’s what he’s being paid to do. “IfI have been given a job to do, then I have to challenge the organisation tosupport that job,” he says.Fornow he is happy with the interest the council is attracting. Withhalf a dozen directors on board and the CEO requesting face-to-face updates onthe council’s progress it would be churlish to complain. Take training straight to the topOn 1 Sep 2000 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

Agbonlahor hopes for England chance

first_img “We’ve had a tough few years as a team, but the younger players have stuck together,” he said. “The young players have not thrown in the towel, they’ve kept going. “This season, in the first four games, we are reaping the benefits of it. It shows how strong minded the players are that they can go through the tough times we’ve had here. “We’ve had some real lows you know, hopefully now we can keep enjoying our football and get results.” The Villa striker believes the Barclays Premier League club can match his ambitions after he signed a new four-year deal last week. Agbonlahor has not played for the Three Lions since 2009 but has scored two goals in his side’s opening four Premier League games this season. Press Association In-form Gabby Agbonlahor is hoping to follow Aston Villa team-mate Fabian Delph with a return to the England squad. And, after Delph made his first two appearances for England earlier this month, Agbonlahor is eager to join him to cap his new contract at Villa Park. “Yes, it’s always been an ambition. But I’m going to concentrate on Aston Villa and give 100 per cent for them and if England come knocking I’m available,” said the 27-year-old. “I’ve been through good and bad times and I’ve always been an Aston Villa player. I could never see myself playing for another team and wearing a different shirt. “I think the club can go and do things. We’ve done well in the transfer window and hopefully we can keep improving game by game.” Agbonlahor has won three England caps and his winner in the 1-0 victory at Liverpool on Saturday sent Paul Lambert’s side second in the table. They host Arsenal on Saturday before going to Chelsea at the end of the month. Villa then welcome Manchester City and visit Everton in their first two matches of October. Lambert’s side have confounded the critics who predicted a struggle to be among the early pacesetters after three years battling relegation. Agbonlahor, who made his debut for Villa in 2006, is one of the senior squad members and insisted the ability to fight through their problems has been key. last_img read more