What Sort of Training is Most Effective

Organisations are turning more and more to external training companies to develop the 'soft' skills of their staff. With so much expertise available what do people need to look for to get the best from the training they buy in? At Impact Factory we have evolved a way of working with our clients which produces truly effective training programmes that take into account different and changing needs all the way from the briefing process right through to the delivery of the training itself, and beyond. There are three stages that go into the creation and delivery of effective training: it has to be specific to an organisation, the group of people to whom the training is available and most importantly the group to whom the training is delivered.

Here's how we see these three objectives broken down There must be a good initial briefing reflected back to the client in order to ensure that the objectives are understood. The more detail the better, so that everyone is clear how the training will fit into the goals of the company. Companies who go to the trouble of providing well-detailed briefs, should be presented with something better than 'off the shelf' courses by the training provider. There should be a period of consultation with the client and prospective participants whilst the training is being designed. This is to ensure that there are a number of different perspectives heard, which can be taken into account when creating the training. Input from a variety of people helps present a broad picture.

Now most really good training companies achieve these first two objectives. It's the third objective, however, that truly sets excellent training apart from the good. It is the function of the trainer in the room when the training is delivered.

In the same way that training companies can provide off the shelf programmes, so trainers can deliver courses in a proscriptive and inflexible way. In other words, they may be good trainers, but they follow their training manuals step-by-step even when something unplanned would be more appropriate. Every Impact Factory training ever designed has a clear set of objectives and a manual which will include a series of processes, exercises and games to fulfil those objectives. Beyond that, however, Impact Factory trainers are rigorously trained to be able to create, develop and modify these processes to fit the needs of the people on the day. For instance, after a series of tried and true communication exercises there might be a session given in the manual only as "An hour on Added Value". The processes for this session would be developed by the trainer based on the dynamic of the group of people in the room and what would most benefit them.

That level of flexibility keeps every training session we run alive and relevant. Here's an example We ran a Team Event for a group of 18 software support and customer service staff. There were eighteen people who were giving up their Saturday just before Christmas. We had created a one-day programme for them to include 'team building', creativity and a look at how the future of this department might develop. They clearly said at the beginning of the day that they wanted 'fun', but didn't want any 'role play', but they also clearly demonstrated during the day a desire and ability to play hard and well. This resulted in a process where three natural teams, or groups, within the department created a tongue in cheek political manifesto for running the department.

It was then followed by a party political gathering where each group electioneered, made promises, bargained and generally tried to get the others to vote for them. It was tremendous fun, helped people deal with serious issues of agreements between the groups, but most important of all, suited this group of people down to the ground. This approach may look dangerous and cavalier at first glance. Indeed, if attempted by untrained people it can easily turn into a disaster.

However, when run by experts it is very safe, very effective and produces comments like "this is the best training I have ever done". Impact Factory trainers work hard to give participants a relevant experience as opposed to just delivering a training well. Our skill is in providing the appropriate training to fit the group of people who are there at the time. When you think about it, if we took this training, which was developed on-the-spot for these software people, and made a reluctant, non-playful group go through the same process it would not produce the same result.

The experience is what is important. When you look at the reason that role-play is so universally disliked it's because people have had, or fear they will have, a difficult or humiliating experience. Impact Factory trainers and trainings don't use set piece role-plays or inflict role-plays on unwilling people.

We look for ways to introduce 'real life re-enactments' using situations or examples brought in by participants. They may well end up 'playing them out', but are likely to say afterwards things like 'How did they get us to do that?'. This way of working is entirely dependant on the ability of the trainer in the room being able to assess the people, create the processes and 'bounce' the participants into willingly taking part. Our trainers will always deal with the experience that people are having rather than trying to give people the experience the manual says they are supposed to have. This is how Impact Factory creates effective training.

Jo Ellen and Robin run Impact Factory a training company who provide Public Speaking, Presentation Skills, Communications Training, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching for Individuals.

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