Career file: Neil Porter

This
month Neil Porter, group training manager for Choice Hotels Europe, UK and
Ireland, age 40, explains the challenges of his new job

How
long have you been in this job? 
Since 1 July 2000.

How
long have you been with your company?
Since 1 July 2000!

What
does your role involve?
Designing and running courses, overseeing graduate trainees, assisting in
IIP and managing our NVQ programme.

What’s
the best thing about your job?
The people – all bright, bubbly and keen to learn, hard working and
committed to the company and our guests.

What’s
the worst thing?
The travel and the early start, and time away from my home in Warwickshire.

What
is your current major project or strategic push?
To improve the quality of service and develop revenues through training our
management to become more effective. We are piloting a training programme
called “Learning and Development – the Line Manager’s Role”.

Preferred
terminology?
Learning and development, because the days of sitting in the classroom are
on the way out and this implies that people must be responsible for themselves
through ideas like Individual Learning Accounts.

Favourite
buzzword?
E-Learning – the new way for training delivery.

Most
loathed buzzwords?
Streaming. I don’t know what it means, but it carries a tone of school
days.   

Are
you good at self-development?
I’m getting better – after a year of doing none, I have been on five
courses in three months.

What
self-development have you done in the past six months?
Time management (again), assertive communications, first aid, health and
safety and the new version of the Investors In People standard.

Where
do you want to be in five years’ time?
Taking over from my boss when he takes well-deserved retirement.

What
was the most useful course you ever went on or learning experience you ever
had?
The Coverdale Organisation’s Teamwork for Professionals course. Saville and
Holdsworth’s occupational testing and occupational personality questionnaires.

What
was the worst course you ever went on?
Hatfield Jeffries, HJ5 (training in using their customer service
recruitment questionnaires). Although it wasn’t a bad course, it was a skill I
that have never needed to use.

What
did you want to do for a living when you were at school?
Run a hotel, be a market gardener or a teacher.

What
was your first job?
Basement porter at the age of 16, at the Dudley Hotel, Hove.

What
was the best career decision you ever made?
To join what was then Trusthouse Forte as a graduate trainee in 1982.

What
was the worst career decision you ever made?
Going to join Al Homaizi International Management Company in Kuwait as
training manager in 1996 – not so much the lack of women and alcohol, but the
lack of bacon!

Which
of your qualifications do you most value and why?
The occupational personality questionnaire (Saville and Holdsworth) – it
gives me the opportunity to discuss personality and motive, which fascinates
me.

How
many minutes is it since someone senior in your organisation said, “People are
our greatest assets”?
About five – and they mean it. My boss abolished the word “staff” long
before Asda decided to.

Evaluation
– Holy Grail or impossible dream?
Holy Grail – we would not have achieved IIP in so many hotels without it.

How
do you think your job will have changed in five years’ time?
More e-learning, more working in a virtual office and fewer of us doing
more electronically.

What
do you think the core skills for your job will be in the future?
Flexibility, facilitation, familiarity with IT and multi-media design and
delivery.

What
advice would you give to someone starting out in training and development?
Learn the business needs, be flexible, network, pick brains and never let
yourself get stale.

How
do you network?
Through the Hotel Training Group and by attending CIPD/HCIMA meetings, and
my legendary barbecues.

If
you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
My older brother’s – he was chief operating officer of an Anglo-American
insurance company until he retired (at 50). He now lives on his investments.

Do
you take your work home with you?
Yes, I work there one day a week at least – I also take my home on the
road.

What
is your motto?
Live a little, learn a little.

Describe
your management style in three words or less.
Friendly, fair, firm.

How
would you like to be remembered by colleagues?
The boy never lacked commitment.

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