This month’s reviewers are Jo Somerset, training manager at Manchester City Council currently on secondment to the Prince’s Trust, Helen Whyte, training officer at Britannia Life and George Parker, training & development manager, Dixons Contact Centres
Helen Whyte reviews
Health & Safety in the Office
Video plus workbook
Price: video £120,
support book £25
From: TV Choice, 020-7379 0873
This half-hour documentary-style video outlining the key health and safety issues of working in a modern office environment looks beyond common risks such as slips, trips and falls.
It opens by challenging the perception that working in an office is safer than working on a building site or in a factory and goes on to highlight a wide range of specific problems such as call centre working, hot-desking, sick building syndrome and RSI. It also looks at how the office culture causes problems such as bullying at work, reduction in resources, high performance culture and stress in the workplace.
The video addresses legal issues, the employer’s responsibilities and the role of trade unions. Mainly an awareness-raising approach, it reinforces its messages with discussion points and "stop-the-tape" questions.
There are no stated objectives for the course so the trainer is free to reinforce the key messages they wish to put forward.
The useful supporting workbook contains case studies, a synopsis and the full video script.
My only reservation is that the focus is on the employer’s responsibility after the fact, and it fails to highlight the responsibilities of the individual under the legislation.
Nevertheless, this is a good value package which effectively exposes the myth that the legislation applies only in a factory environment.
George Parker reviews
Sales Training Games for Sales Managers and Trainers
By Graham Roberts-Phelps
Book ISBN 0 5660 8206 3
From: Gower, 01235 827730
This is a useful addition to any development toolbox thanks to the "open content" approach of most of the exercises, which enables you to make them relevant to most working disciplines. They are also easy to customise so that the trainer or facilitator can deliver them in their own in-house corporate style.
Roberts-Phelps asserts that a trainer’s most important role is not to tell people what to do but to get them to do what they already know. If the trainer is confident enough of their skills to facilitate the outcomes of the activities contained in it, they will find this book a useful investment.
It contains a diverse range of development activities including ice-breakers and energisers, subject-breakers, quizzes and questionnaires, role plays, practice sessions, case studies and skill boosters, which I particularly liked.
The success of using these developmental activities will depend on the ability of the facilitator to help the participants develop and realise their own solutions and the ability of the individual to transfer their learning into effective action during their working day.
Although the exercises have a strong sales bias, they can be applied to other communication and service environments.
Jo Somerset reviews
E-mail based "idea-zine"
Price: £99 for 10 instalments
From: GNP, 0500 125126
Team Theme is an e-mail-based magazine produced by Northumberland management development company GNP, which promises to "share tips, techniques and ideas for running team-building events."
Unfortunately, the first issue degenerates into a marketing exercise for GNP. While receiving the instructions and resources for a simulation game run at GNP’s Top Team 2000 competition is valuable, I would also expect a magazine to have a variety of news, comment and features.
I was not really sure how to read this magazine. Using new media is not straightforward. On the screen the language is clear and easy to read, but sitting in my armchair with a printed version I found the language too simple and the sentences too short.
On the other hand, although the on-screen resources and photographs were high quality, I had no idea how long the document was – there was no contents page or back buttons and too much unbroken narrative.
I would also expect an on-line publication to provide more links to other sites, rather than only to GNP’s web site.
Despite these criticisms I give Team Theme the benefit of the doubt, if only for the training materials it contains.
If teambuilding is one of your top priorities and you have £99 to spare in your budget, subscribe to 10 issues of Team Theme over the next year, or you can get one sample copy for £15. You can pay more and receive a hard copy but I suggest you spend the money on getting e-mail installed instead and subscribe on-line.
If Team Theme develops, it could be a forerunner to virtual teambuilding for virtual teams.
A final plea to GNP. Please change the name to something more upbeat and fitting for the 21st century.
George Parker reviews
Fundamental Assertiveness Skills and Assertiveness in Practice
Two CD-Rom courses
Price: £899 and £399, or £1,199 for both
From: Xebec McGraw-Hill, 0800 585889
This learning programme is well designed and a very useful investment of time for anyone looking to develop or review their communication skills.
The structure offers users different ways of accessing and using the material to suit their own needs. You can begin by completing a self-assessment questionnaire to establish which modules you most need, browse through the material or register as a student and progress by working through each module in order.
The first CD-Rom, Fundamental Assertiveness Skills, is split into five modules – difficult situations, how people behave, what is assertiveness, becoming assertive and additional assertiveness skills.
The programme is effective in the way it challenges you to assess how you would feel and think, what you would say and how you would behave when presented with a range of different situations.
The program asks you for your interpretations and reflections of different situations and video clip scenarios. This helps to identify what appears to be your "natural" response and either supports your instinct, or suggests more assertive behaviours. Additional assertiveness skills, under the headings of Probing, Discrepancy, Replay and Exit, act as a good introduction to the second CD-Rom, Assertiveness in Practice, which looks at the specific cases of giving criticism, deal with complaints, make requests and participate in meetings.
The material is delivered in an engaging way which encourages you to evaluate your current approach.
As with all self-directed learning material, it would benefit from support in the form of effective debriefing of the learning objectives and on-going coaching with either a mentor or a designated coach or manager.