Developing an internal training culture is essential to keep employees engaged, motivated and productive. Be the Business spoke to three companies, each of which have taken different approaches to training staff.
Lunch times will never be the same again if you decide to follow in the footsteps of Trusted Media. Managing director Dean Lynn said the company, which has 12 employees, holds “lunch and learn” workshop sessions on either a Wednesday or Friday every week.
“The session is very informal. I don’t think there’s anything here at Trusted Media that you’d call formal,” added Lynn. “The stories that staff over lunch can be about anything from inside or outside work. Not only does this help us to learn from each other, it also helps us all learn more about each other.”
The “stories”, Lynn explained, can range from a new Google update to how someone’s experience of loss has changed their life. “You never know what you’re going to get. I think that’s what keeps everyone hooked,” he said.
It also cements a keen training culture at Trusted Media. This includes soft skills, for which the company uses third-party support from mentoring group Liberty Mind.
“Our team does regular masterclasses on enhancing creativity, communication and embedding a mindful way of working.”
Another business with an appetite for learning and development is architects and civil engineering group BE Design.
“Everyone in the business needs to keep up to speed with new legislation, design standards, materials and the growth of industry 4.0 such as 3D modelling,” explained director Stephen Oakden.
“Construction is a constantly evolving animal. We need to stay alert and aware internally of all these changes. To do this we organise courses with material suppliers and manufacturers, so our employees can learn more about new developments and help them improve their performance. Just last week we had a manufacturer come in to talk to us about new multi-slab technology and automated robots running around a warehouse floor. It helps our team develop their design and engineering skills in new and relevant areas.”
It also runs, every two months, knowledge sharing lunches where the 30-strong architect and engineering team discuss projects they have worked on and lessons learned.
“It takes the structure of a discussion forum, where we share knowledge – be it technical or design led,” he added. “We also have softer knowledge sessions where the directors discuss more strategic developments with the team.”
BE Design is further focused on upskilling staff and improving the training culture by paying for them to attend university courses. “We’ve got six employees doing it at the moment. They spend a day a week at university and the other four working here. We also sponsor work placement students, with the intention that when they graduate they will come and work for us, and run an apprenticeship scheme for school leavers.”
Following the financial crash of 2008, the construction sector failed to invest in training, believes Oakden. Graduates, he added, moved to other careers and it is now a struggle to find an architect and engineer with five or six years of experience. “We need to start reforming that pool of talent,” he urged.
Also investing in its training culture and development of staff is online property marketplace Hubble. The company’s head of business development, Varun Bhanot, said Hubble allocates a learning and development budget to all its 25 staff – so they can attend courses and seminars.
“There is no specific figure as it depends on the course or workshop they go to. We spent over £1,000 on training up our product managers, but equally spent less than £100 on sending some of our team to various SEO workshop conferences,” he explained. “All the staff need to do is to come and tell us what courses they want to go on. It could be anything really from new technology to marketing. We let them know that there is a budget there for everyone but not everybody feels the need for it. That’s fine. What is important is that it is there, and it shows that we support our people and their development.”
Bhanot believes continued learning is vital in an entrepreneurial technology firm. “People coming to us from elsewhere, perhaps a more structured working culture, need to re-train themselves,” he added. “They need to upskill and recognise the key differences between ways of working. We also look to train up young people. We had one intern who we put on a three-month product management course. They are now our full-time product manager.”
Hubble’s mentorship scheme, where techniques and knowledge are passed down from team leaders, is also up and running. “We have had this overall approach to training from day one. You need to be open to the idea of letting your employees learn and develop personally,” he stated. “It has really boosted their motivation and performance and we are growing revenues.”
Lizzie Benton, founder of Liberty Mind – the business working to develop soft skills at Trusted Media – believes there is a marked rise in businesses adopting internal training and development schemes. “It’s because they work,” she commented. “We all want to feel like we’re using our full potential, and when we’re not challenged or moved in anyway we get bored. It’s precisely the reason job-hopping has risen. But when we create development structures that really matter to people, they thrive and grow, and that’s when they become happier and create their best work. ”