A trip down memory lane…my personal history of training

When I started my career there were no such things as training courses or HR departments. I simply turned up and got on with it. I decided to write my personal history of training.

And in the case of my very first job, turning up meant boarding a plane from Gatwick via Miami to San Juan, Puerto Rico and boarding the m.v. Cunard Countess, my new home and workplace! My colleagues showed me the ropes, kept an eye on my progress and generally jollied me along.

Induction? What’s an induction? I wonder whether this was because it was a time of a job for life, the famous gold watch on retirement and changing jobs was seen as a bad thing.
My next job did give me training and lots of it. I was a police officer. Fourteen weeks of learning the law, role play scenarios and lots and lots of fitness training.

‘Why does it take fourteen weeks to teach you to bend at the knees and say “evenin’ all”?’, pondered a friend.

But on returning after a short break, in week 8 something magical happened. Our instructors (all serving sergeants) had been learning ‘facilitation’ (whatever that meant). And our lessons were transformed. No more chalk and talk; no more ‘that’s wrong, get down and give me 10! (push ups)’. Instead we found ourselves breaking into groups to discuss things and get creative with how we shared our learning with other groups.

We were asked to bring the law to life and I remember cardboard boxes and chairs transformed into cars so that we could demonstrate various aspects of road traffic law and much, much laughter along the way. And I still remember the learning today.

Having said that, I still remember many of the laws that we were obliged to learn by heart in the first seven weeks of training too. Theft: To dishonestly appropriate property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it. Grammatically rubbish of course, but that’s another story!
Apart from that one interlude in the Police force, with its regimented and structured training regime, no other job gave me training. As before I was expected to turn up and get on with it guided by my colleagues. ‘Sitting with Nellie’ as it was fondly known.

As my career then took me into the training world I experienced so many different fashions and trends.

The ‘happy-clappy’ training course that took four weeks to explore all the various nuances of customer service and sales training in call and contact centres both home and abroad. Now, I have to say, they were great fun to deliver and by golly were our delegates ready to hit the ground running when they went live.

This was a complete 180 from where my own career had begun. All the delegates skills were put under the microscope, honed, polished, tested and accredited. Their product and systems knowledge likewise. They were fully operational by the time they were released into the live environment. We had training systems that were a complete mirror of the real thing, yet safely divided from the live systems. Everything, in fact, except real customers!

As our economy waxed and waned learning and development flourished and declined. Training is often the first budget to be cut when times are hard.

And ironically it could be argued that it is the most needed budget spend when staff are being asked to do more with less resources. This invariably leads to stress, frayed tempers, under instead of over production, reduced quality and the loss of valued employees to the competition.

When times were hard we were asked to deliver programmes over one or two days, covering six or seven topics as that was deemed good value for money. And it was reactive behaviour by many companies. Not wanting the expense of recruiting someone new, or, in many cases, facing a recruitment freeze, the alternative was to train up the troublesome staff member. Very much treating the symptoms but not the cause. A sad time for training, companies and staff members alike.

But now things are changing. Millennials want bite-size training; companies want 70:20:10 models implemented and training companies want what they’ve always wanted, to help staff, managers and senior teams become the very best they can be.

With the economy starting its recovery, I have noticed that my clients are now able to release a little more budget; can stop being reactive and, once again, can start to plan and structure their development plans in a proactive way. More and more we are seeing a desire to create frameworks and pathways, to give visibility to staff about career opportunities within their organisations.

There is a definite move towards cultures of growth and development. Of careers. Not hatchets hanging over heads any more. Good news all round I’d say.
And me? Well, previously I was delivering the entire Management Development portfolio, now I specialise in Assertiveness and Confidence coaching and training. And I’m wondering what the next 35 years might have in store.

Jo Pogson is an Assertiveness and Confidence coach – pop her site into favourites for hints and tips. And contact her if you’d like coaching.

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