Tom - Helen, thanks for taking to time to chat with me about your services. Tell me in a few words what it is you offer to businesses.
Helen – Thank you for asking me to contribute Tom. People Spark motivate and inspire managers within businesses, to understand their role and how to become great at it. We work closely with our clients to identify the gaps in skills and knowledge and create solutions that lead to a more engaged and invested environment. Not all the solutions are delivered by us, there are many simple, straightforward things that organisations can do by themselves. Sometimes it is miscommunication or lack of embedding of values and competencies that can be fairly easily dealt with, once it is identified.
Tom - Excellent, what type of company would benefit from your services? Do you work with a specific sector?
Helen – I am not sector specific, people management is people management regardless of the business generally. I do find that most of my clients tend to be in a growth phase, adding in a new layer of management or increasing their numbers.
The business needs to understand that they may need to make changes to how they do things. We don’t believe that “sheep-dip” training works, it has to be followed up and implemented back in the workplace to have any lasting impact.
Tom – And what is the usual “format” when you are contacted by a company (free consultation, questionnaire etc?)
Helen – I always do an initial free 30-minute consultation. Sometimes training and development isn’t what the company is ready for.
I then spend a day or so in the business, understanding what outputs they are looking for, their business plans and strategy and getting a deeper understanding of the business to ensure that any solutions meet their needs.
Part of this can be a Training Needs Analysis – an online questionnaire that managers complete to establish their current level of experience and skill.
Tom – Pretty much every business has been impacted by Covid-19, clearly some worse than others. I have noticed recruitment is scaled back, more often than not stopped completely with large scale redundancies. What patterns have you seen when it comes to training?
Helen – All face to face training stopped back in March. The summer was very much about businesses establishing how they would move forward and how they may change so training was still on hold. I did a lot of manager coaching over this time, supporting them to transfer their management skills to a remote style rather than face to face.
Businesses had just started to look forwards again when we were encouraged to go back to home working so things slowed down again.
The managers role has changed hugely over the past six months and many of them are still struggling to adapt and change – there is a lot of uncertainty and dealing with morale and engagement during this time has been very difficult.
I now do much shorter sessions with smaller groups and focus on very specific areas for businesses.
Tom – So, would you say businesses realise they need to hang on to the people they have and train/upskill thus training and development are largely unaffected?
Helen – Not at all, I think many are only just realising how battle scarred their people are from the summer, whether they were furloughed or working. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty amongst teams at all levels with the threat of redundancy and restructure.
Training is always one of the earlier casualties of economic downturn, businesses often cut “non-essential” costs – but those that invest in training in difficult times usually come out stronger.
Tom – What changes have you had to make to your business? Was People Spark born out of the necessity to change your offering?
Helen – People Spark was in the process of being born from the end of last year. We almost paused but decided that we might as well emerge from the ashes of lockdown with a new focus and a fresh approach. The business is unchanged in itself; it is a new name that makes more sense to the clients we work with than ANPR – that remains a camera services business!
Tom - And over what timescale do you typically work with companies?
Helen – Now that has changed massively! It used to be 3-12 months, programmes that focused on long term and sustainable changes to the business and culture.
Now it is much faster – I might do a Training Needs Analysis where I am only involved for a week or so or I might work with a business for up to 3 months but the pace of change has escalated!
Tom – How are results measured
Helen – In a number of ways depending on the outputs the client is looking for. It may be a pre and post course questionnaire, it may be based on improvements in certain factors such as internal satisfaction surveys or attrition rates. For a long term programme it might be the number of promotions or the income generated by a specific project.
Tom – Training tends to be one of the first casualties when companies are cutting back spend, what would you say to a company who said they could no longer afford to pay for training?
Helen – Can you afford not to train? What people want from a job is changing, and although there will be an increase in people staying where they are even if they are unhappy, due to fear of unemployment, in time the confidence will come back and they will go where they feel valued.
58% of managers don’t receive training within 18 months of getting the job and 57% of people quit because of a poor boss. If it costs @£25k to recruit imagine how much you can save by making sure your managers are capable!
Tom – Would you say Online is the way training will be delivered in the future or will we see a gradual move ack to classroom style?
Helen – I think the future will be a blend of both – the best insights from a face to face workshop often come over coffee or lunch! Not that I am suggesting I don’t add any value! The opportunity to engage with people in a similar role, who have the same problems creates a different level of engagement that purely clicking on answers online. We are human and we love socialising – and we learn better when we are having fun!
There is definitely a place for online and access to instant solutions to issues but I can’t imagine it being the best way to learn how to have a challenging conversation!
Tom – care to share your “best” success story?
Helen – I did a 12 month Leadership Academy with a Pharmaceutical business – we took 12 potential managers through a programme covering all aspects of leadership. There were two great results 1) Four people were promoted into manager roles during the programme. 2) Part of the programme was internal projects that worked across different departments over the year. One project resulted in £58k cost savings and another one generated £18k of additional revenue in the year.
A definite return on investment!
Tom – what is the best way for anyone interested to contact you?
So, there you have a brief insight into how utilising external training and leadership support can deliver exceptional results and help you retain great people.
A big thank you to Helen for taking time out of her busy day to give us an insight into her business