February Update

February 20, 2014

It’s been so long since we updated our website and blog, that I had to search for the passwords that allow me to unlock them to add new text!

It’s been a very busy time since our last update, with IT Training projects for, EDF energy, Ryder and Reckitt Benckiser, ongoing HR work with Advance Housing as well as the HR support we provide to more local companies across Dorset Somerset and Wiltshire. Now though we have a short period of time to catch up on all things we’ve been putting off. It also gives us some time to reflect on how business has been and where we see it going in the future.

It’s 14 years since Claire set the business up and 9 since Sandy joined in and we changed the name from Claire Mould Consultants to Resource First Ltd. After a period of finding the right way run and promote the company we settled into doing the things we do best, Claire providing HR advice and support from TUPE Transfers to company investigations and contract development and Sandy managing, developing and delivering training for large IT system installations such as Oracle, Microsoft dynamics and People soft as well as bespoke applications, supporting Claire on HR matters and company promotion between the different contracts he gets.

This is a way of doing business that works well for us and we can’t see any reason at this stage to change our approach. We are still keen to work with and for new customers and are always happy to come and visit them in their workplace to discuss what help if any is needed from us to overcome or prevent any staffing issues. It is always good to meet new customers especially as they all now come from recommendations from other customers. We do very little advertising and other than this blog and our website, do not use social media to push our business. I’m just not sure how well #new employment contract or #training lead for large IT installation would trend.

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Our First YouTube Upload

December 10, 2010

We have just uploaded our first file onto YouTube. It’s a five minute demonstration of how you can use LinkedIn to create an email signature with your contact details, logo, links to website and blog as well as having a facility for the receiver to check if you have any contacts in commen.

It’s been made using Camtasia and Swish Max. We’re evaluating Camtasia at the moment and would love to hear what you think of the look feel and content of this first attempt.

The quick link to the demonstration is http://bit.ly/hpfG0m

As budgets get squeezed and businesses prepare for the effects of the government cut backs, one area that is often hit is staff training.

A method or reducing the cost of developing your people is to move away from traditional classroom style of training, where you are not only paying the daily rate of the trainer, but also paying for the room and your staff’s time and costs, to the new style of e-learning/computer based learning/on-line (or whatever you want to cal it!). This is often sold as being not only a great saving, but also very effective and as the best method of getting the message over in the world of blogs, tweets, online gaming, youtube etc etc.

Unfortunately the way that many packages are put together is not new, not effective and no different from giving people a book with pretty pictures in it. I have heard professional training developers calling the producers of such packages Nexters. All they are asking the learner to do is press the next button repeatedly.

If you look back to when you were at school and remember the lessons you enjoyed the most, it is usually because one of three things made them stand out. The subject matter, the teacher or the group of students you were with. It could be because you just loved learning about the Kings and Queens of England that makes you remember it, or the Geography field trip where it was more about discovering things and running experiments with people who also enjoyed messing about in dried up river beds, or just how inspirational a certain teacher was, how they could bring the subject to life. Or more likely still a combination of the three!

These three affects still hold true in training adults, be it in your company procedures, developing their skills or any other training need they have. The e-learning package you use should use must allow them to tap into:

  • Subject or Content
  • Teacher or Expert
  • Class or other learners

An e-learning package that only delivers content, though favoured by the nexters, misses out on allowing the learner to ask their own questions, or interact with other people going through the same process. In the world of message-boards and blogs, tweets and facebook, it doesn’t take much to provide the means to help learners get more out of the process.

Instructional Design

December 3, 2009

What!!??!

Exactly. I hate jargon. I’ve always found it to be a restriction on understanding. As a professional trainer I’m never  going to promote restrictions on understanding. But guess what. I now find that I’m an Instructional Designer!

In the old days when mobile phones weren’t mobile and lard was good for you, I used to write training material. Good interactive training material that made as much use of as many senses as possible to help people gain the knowledge or skill and then retain it. It had questions in it, exercises, activities, explanation for those that liked to understand the why’s as well as the whats, with a nice bit of repetition to help it stick, a step by step climb from the known to the unknown and a way of checking that the objectives had been met.

It fitted in with Blooms Taxonomy of learning, Gagne’s learning outcomes and other research work into how the mind takes information in. As I got better at it, the checks and questioning became more subtle, the activities and exercises got better at keeping interest while still pushing understanding and the explanations became more succinct.  

I’ve moved with the times and I now also put together training material for use on a PC or over the internet. These are sometimes stand-alone and sometimes part of a bigger package (I admit that I did start calling it blended learning, the buzz word for the day but am trying to kick that habit now).

These days when I now look for new training material projects to apply or quote for, I find they are almost exclusively IT based, which is potentially very good, and that they are looking for “Instructional Designers” who can deliver story boards and be experienced in graphic design, which worries me. Story boarding is used in gaming and film making and good graphic designers produce wonderful adverts and sublime looking websites.

My worry is that, what we will see being produced are packages that look fantastic, that have a whole load of great interaction and fun things to do that will keep trainees entertained for hours, but which lose some of the fundamental tried and tested processes that make the training effective.

When people first started pushing e-learning, it had less takeup than was imagined, with companies finding it over priced, with little possible interaction and too general to meet their needs. Now with the costs driven right down by the general availability of products that require little or no programming skills, there is the opportunity to overcome these objections and deliver cost effective, timely PC or web based training that truly meet the need of the target audience. It just needs to be good training practice.

So although using titles such as “Instructional designer” can add a few quid to the daily rate, I’m going to keep parading myself as a writer of training material, and I will use the most effective method of delivery to achieve the goals of the project. If that means it’s using PC’s, the internet or handheld devices, there is software such as Captivate, Articulate, Lectora, Flash, Swish and many others that I can use to deliver. And if the look needs tarting up to a level higher than I can produce? Then I’ll bring in a graphic designer to help.

This is a subject that seems to come up when ever there is a downturn. Whether it is a general economic downturn, an industry wide slow down or just a drop off in the sales ledger of an individual firm.  I remember it being a hot topic of conversation in the early 90’s when the economic cycle was going downwards, and discussed it in the board room under the subject title “Redundancy”.

I’ve always struggled to put forward an argument that you should not cut back, which as a Trainer offering a range of Training courses is a bit of a problem. For me there are a number of different reasons for and types of training;

  • Core skills that people need to carry out their jobs
  • Development training to increase the skills and abilities of the workforce or members of it
  • Feel good activities to help teams bond or as a form of reward

If a training budget is split into these three areas it becomes much easier to discuss and make decisions on what should be spent on which areas and where any savings can be made, rather than just taking a slice off the total budget.

There is no point having someone in a position if they do not have and are not given the skills or knowledge needed to do the job. For the other two areas the decision comes down to judgement. Will that talented member of staff leave if they don’t get the management training they’re after? Is there another way to get a team  to bond rather than sending them to chomp over the hills in Derbyshire.

Maybe in a time of hardship HR and training professionals need to take a broader look at how they advise owners, directors and managers. Less of the tickbox approach and more creative looking at the deeper reasons for a training request perhaps.