Career file: Inside view of innovation

Senior
training and development manager Karen Coleman, 36, on motivation and ideas at
the Churchill Insurance Group – voted one of The UK’s 50 Best Firms to Work for

How
long have you been in this job?
Five years

How
long have you been with your organisation?
Five years – the same time as this job.  

What
does your role involve?   
Identifying and fulfilling training and development needs across the group
to ensure a competent workforce and to meet current and future requirements.

What
are the best and worst things about your job?
I enjoy working in an environment that positively encourages innovation –
thinking outside the box – and that constantly challenges the status quo. The
worst thing is that there is never enough time in a day to do everything I want
to.

What
is your current major project?
The provision of a centralised training and development function for the
Churchill Group, following Churchill’s acquisition of NIG last year. Our
company never stops expanding, so over the past five years, my client base has
grown from under 900 to more than 4,500.  

What
is your preferred terminology – training, development, education, learning?
“Development” because it doesn’t sound institutionalised. It encompasses a
number of different experiences – from job, to home, to relationships – and is
all about continuous improvement.

Favourite
buzzwords?
Emotional intelligence, values

Most
loathed buzzwords?
Performance management, knowledge management

Are
you good at self-development?
Yes. I use forums such as the Henley Partnership and Cranfield HR
Excellence Network, and I frequently take on board new challenges that will
stretch me outside my normal boundaries.

What
self-development have you done in the past six months? 
I have become Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Steps 1 and 2 qualified. And,
working with the CEO, I have designed, developed and implemented a major
leadership programme for the group.

What
was the most useful learning experience you ever had?
Designing, developing and implementing Arista, Churchill’s latest
leadership programme. Two courses that have given me the most benefit in recent
years are a facilitators’ programme and becoming MBTI qualified.

What
was the worst course you ever went on?
I gained little value from my CIPD diploma course (other than it looking
good on my CV) because it was run by individuals who were clearly out of touch
with industry practices and commercial businesses.

Which
of your qualifications do you most value and why?
The MBTI programme because it has enhanced my self-understanding,
motivation, strengths and potential areas for growth. It is also a tool within
Churchill that has supported management, leadership training and teambuilding.

What
have you read that has changed your life?
Global Challenge – Leadership Lessons from The World’s Toughest Yacht Race.

Where
do you want to be in five years’ time?
Enjoying the job and still having fun. Hopefully, I will continue to
horizontally develop my current role – evolving my current role as Churchill
expands.  

How
did you want to make a living when you were at school?
I wanted to be a Norland Nanny, but at 14 years of age changed my mind and
set my sights on the hotel and catering industry.  

What
was your first job?
Assistant catering manager, at Cromwell Private Hospital, Kensington.

What
was the best career decision you ever made?
Accepting the position at Churchill!

How
many minutes is it since someone senior in your organisation said, “People are
our greatest assets”?
At least two years! At Churchill we believe it is more about people
creating value and enjoying their work.

Evaluation
– holy grail or impossible dream?
It is important to be able to evaluate, to constantly review everything you
do to ensure it is adding value to the business. As a developer, the challenge
is always to link training and development costs and initiatives to tangible
and measurable business results.

What
do you think the core skills for your job will be in the future?
– Fostering the expression of enthusiasm, energy and creativity
– Developing frameworks for setting, linking and balancing individual and
organisational objectives
– Creating systems for identifying and selecting managers
– Designing mechanisms to measure and evaluate performance
Qualifications are important because they show continuous improvement. Equally,
it is important to be able to demonstrate that you have cross-functional
skills, ie at some point in your career you have worked in business
environments other than HR.

How
would you like to be remembered by your colleagues?
I would like my colleagues to think of me as stretching the boundaries,
working hard but always having fun.   

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