Ray Harrison manages a big training operation at a well-known banking and financial business. He explains how he meets this challenge and why he avoids prima donna trainers.
What does your job involve?
I manage a team of 17 qualified learning advisers and training deliverers, ensuring that all new entrants to Barclaycard Business receive a first-class induction. I ensure that the corporate projects are moved from ‘plan to people’ seamlessly and that all 800 staff have the skills they need to meet the demands of their role.
How many courses/events do you organise?
We run at least one training event each week and sometimes four or five. In 2007, we trained 1,928 staff.
How and why did you get into training?
I was working as a young salesman in an insurance company when I was asked by the training officer if I would share my recipe for sales success with the new entrants. I jumped at the opportunity and within six months, at the tender age of 21, I was asked to apply for a permanent position.
What’s the best or most memorable training event you’ve attended?
It has to be my first ever train the trainer course, which covered presentation skills. I really did think I knew it all when I turned up for the event. However, I soon discovered that the camera is one of the most effective mirrors available.
And the worst?
I could name a few, but they all have a common theme – they were delivered by prima donna trainers who had forgotten that their role was to aid the learning process and not embark on a trip of self-gratification.
What’s key to putting on a successful course?
Preparation, empathy, preparation, knowledge of the subject, preparation, excellent training skills and, of course, lots of preparation.
How do you measure the impact of training?
Like many people in our profession, I have struggled beyond the ‘happy sheet’. That said, my team and I have worked hard in the past 12 months to link the training we provide to the corporate measures, such as customer satisfaction surveys, employee opinion surveys and complaints data.
You run a relatively large team. What’s key to managing them effectively?
It has got to be communication with both your team and your customer, especially when both are spread across three geographical locations such as mine. I have reverted to wearing a headset at my desk rather than using a hand-held receiver because of the amount of time I spend on the phone.
When you were younger, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be a teacher, but I wasn’t willing to be a penniless student for three years.
What really annoys you?
The one thing I cannot abide is the view from many in the HR profession that at some point in my career I must have made a mistake that prevented me from becoming a HR business partner. What is wrong with wanting to be a good L&D specialist?
What was the first record you bought?
I seem to remember it was a compilation album called Rock ‘n Roller Disco.
What book are you currently reading?
I have just finished reading Chubby Brown’s autobiography. Hardly a training managers bible I accept, however, Brown was born and raised in Middlesbrough and until recently only lived a few miles from me, hence the fascination.
Who’s your hero?
Two really: Richard Branson and Charles Handy.
What’s the best piece of training/L&D advice you’ve been given?
Speak to express and not to impress.