Conference calls

Harrogate
may be a demure town but it will witness some tough talking at this year’s
conference – and much of it is aimed at the training profession. Simon Kent
tunes in

At
the heart of this year’s CIPD conference is the theme People Mean Business and
throughout the three days, training professionals will be able to hear from
experts and fellow practitioners exactly how this concept can and should be
implemented within training activities across their organisations.

The
conference is expecting over 2,500 delegates with 7,000 visiting the concurrent
exhibition.

Within
the exhibition halls over 350 of the industry’s providers and suppliers will be
presenting leading edge products, services and ideas across training
activities, course and test publishing, and new delivery techniques.

A
keynote address delivered on 27 October by Lynda Gratton, Associate Professor
of Organisational Behaviour at the London Business School, will make the
importance of training and the training professional clear within the context
of the development of human resources management.

Based
on her new book The Living Strategy, she will be developing the concept that
people are an organisation’s most important asset to explain how effective
training is paramount to maximising returns from this asset.

Aligning
people strategy

Gratton
has developed a six-stage process to ensuring individuals are properly engaged
with their organisation, aligning people strategy to overall business
direction. “Organisations need to use visioning workshops across their
business,” she says. “They need to use systemic thinking and effective project
planning.”

According
to Gratton, there is too much evidence that the skills required by
organisations to push forward their business strategy have yet to be developed.
She calls upon the training department to rise to this challenge.

“There
is an enormous gap between the current situation and the skills which
organisations, especially HR departments themselves, require,” she says.

“Organisations
need to invest in the training of line managers and HR staff to ensure people
are managed effectively throughout the organisation.”

If
meeting that challenge isn’t too much to ask, other speakers have yet more
challenges for the training function.

Occupational
psychologist Professor Cary Cooper goes so far as to question the entire role
of the department in the future.

Cooper
will be speaking in a session on 26 October examining the new stresses in the
workplace as he sees them emerging over the next 10 years.

Central
to Cooper’s vision is an ever-increasing amount of freelance work and
short-term contracts. Not only does this mean more employees need to develop
skills in running their working lives as a business – including marketing, the
ability to network and work from home – but according to Cooper, with talent
less likely to stay within any organisation for a significant length of time,
the question arises as to why organisations should invest in their skills at
all.

“An
organisation might decide it’s going to bring in a freelance worker to do a
specific job and it may decide it will offer training in order to make sure
they are up to the job,” says Cooper. “But at the same time there has to be a
fundamental question of why should they train that person if they’re going to
leave the organisation not too far down the line.”

One
possible outcome will be an increase in training provided through community
resources rather than through the workplace – an idea which has major
implications for training providers and suppliers as well as employers
themselves.

While
experts may speculate at the conference on the future of training, companies
appearing at the exhibition are already creating products and services to meet
these challenges.

Celemi
is one company using the exhibition to introduce a new Internet-based product
to trainers.

Tango-electronic
is an Internet-based business simulation program that enables employees to
develop a shared understanding of how a knowledge-driven business works.

Managing
director Ian Windle is also chairing an interactive seminar during the
conference focusing on the subject of knowledge management.

Having
worked in this area for many years, the company has developed tools and
training products to introduce employees, managers and directors to the concept
and how it can be applied to their own organisation.

“We
view Celemi itself as a knowledge management organisation in that we’re made of
people, customers, internal tools and processes,” explains Windle.

Understanding
value

The
company has also developed an Intangible Assets Monitor which enables
organisations to understand where value lies in their organisation and how to
improve their performance through this value.

While
previous training products have included board games and business simulations,
Celemi’s Internet product will offer the added advantage of users either
playing against the computer or against other opponents linked by the world
wide web.

The
Internet is also the prime focus for innovations in the practice of psychometrics
and ability testing. SHL will be presenting their new on-line system that
delivers psychometric tests, OPQ32 and even 360-degree assessment
administration across the web.

PCL
is also demonstrating its on-line assessment kit produced by sister company
Psykey. The company is also running a fringe event at the conference which
studies motivation, identifying 10 “turn-ons” and 10 “turn-offs”.

“You
can train managers and employees at any kind of supervisory or leadership role
to recognise these factors,” says Geoff Trickey, PCL’s managing director. “But
it’s also important from a personal point of view. You need to think about how
your actions can undermine the performance of a group.”

While
knowledge management, psychometric tools and even motivation techniques may
prove key to the work of aligning every employee within an organisation to
business targets, another company will use the exhibition to launch a course
which ties in with Cary Cooper’s concerns.

In
conjunction with a consultancy group, Brathay is to announce a new course
directed at owner managers of SMEs, offering them crucial skills in strategic
leadership.

Spread
of skills

“As
people become more nomadic, they need a wider spread of skills,” agrees
Brathay’s Jill Brewer. “These skills are unlikely to be provided by the
organisation you work for – even entrepreneurs within organisations are rarely
supported.”

Brathay
is also launching a new initiative focusing on graduate recruits to business.

“Many
graduates are trying to get jobs, but there’s a lack of good graduates with
employable skills,” explains Brewer.

Under
the title of Graduates into Business, Brathay is inviting recruiters to input
their requirements and determine what training programmes Brathay can offer to
create the recruits they need.

From
recruitment to upper management, the CIPD conference will see the training
function take another step forward in supporting the strategic needs of
organisations.

With
each move in this direction the department is sure to achieve a greater voice
at board level.

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