Council turns to Hollywood for themed training events

A Welsh council has turned to the movies to draw out Oscar-winning
performances out of its managers and improve public services.

Last week, Personnel Today featured Rhondda Cynon Taf council on the front
page after it came under fire from local politicians for sending more than 200
senior managers on a Star Trek-themed training day, costing £5,000.

But county borough HR officer, Tony Wilkins, defended the programme, saying
fun has been a key factor in training managers to create a shared corporate
vision, which has helped to pull the council back from the brink of bankruptcy.

Wilkins said the organisation had been "a council in crisis" four
years ago, when it was created from the amalgamation of three borough councils
and half a county council.

The themed training days form part of the council’s quarterly professional
development days – which bring the entire senior management team together – and
provide them with a mixture of classroom learning and experiential training.

Wilkins said the training days give senior management an opportunity to
create a forum for ideas that could be shared across departments, and in turn
create a shared identity and vision for the council.

The ‘Starship Endeavour’ staff training day was the latest in a line of
‘blockbuster’ development programmes, which have included ‘Songs from the
Movies’, and Lord of the Rings events.

The Star Trek training programme included such events as ‘If we are to leave
the Delta Quadrant safely, Katherine, we must plot a careful course through
Borg Space’ – training about the importance of having good financial and
performance management processes.

Managers have responded favourably to the new approach with 97 per cent
rating the themed events as good or very good in terms of relevance to their
jobs, compared with just 59 per cent in July 2002 under the old training

Wilkins believes the management training has improved leadership across the
council and has also helped the participants to engage with the business.

"We are taking away painful days stuck in a room and replacing them
with an atmosphere where people get stuck in and talk," he said.

"The light-hearted approach is incidental to the content, doesn’t cost
any more and enables managers to be creative and still focus on what is
important," he added.

The council’s innovative approach to training is reaping rewards. This year,
it was praised by the Welsh Assembly for the progress it has made in improving

By Michael Millar

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