Notes and news

David Pollitt (David Pollitt)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 2 February 2015



Pollitt, D. (2015), "Notes and news", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 47 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Notes and news

Article Type: Notes and news From: Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume 47, Issue 1

Financial-services company banks on e-learning

A company that helps US banks and credit unions to launch and market new products decided to deliver its training program online after demand for it increased significantly.

New Market Partners (NMP) provides operational and sales training, including how to serve customers and how to use technology and other outsourced services to perform customer transactions. The program targets front-line tellers and branch employees.

NMP acquired a US-based banking client with around 1,100 front-line staff in some 300 branches in a contract that illustrated how NMP is increasingly partnering large banks. Foreseeing that it could be training more than 50,000 learners in the next two to three years, NMP realized that it needed to use online learning. It therefore put in place a scalable model for its training program. This prompted it to employ Docebo, an e-learning software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions provider, as a technology partner.

“Our clients – US financial institutions – are highly regulated and sensitive to the state of the economy,” said Mario Marin, NMP's chief operating officer and chief financial officer. “Information security is therefore vital for everyone we deal with. We need to prove to them that the learning management system (LMS) provider we select can keep all the training content and the learners” information secure. We also need to be able to show that no information about the client ends up on the LMS provider's database.

“In Docebo's case, not only are we able to prove this but we can also point to the firm's US-based client list to give the company added credibility with our clients.”

The first 1,000 users are now on the system. They are typically field personnel, such as tellers, head tellers and branch managers, although some are personal bankers, regional managers and commercial-sales executives.

Mario Marin continued: “We see our relationship with Docebo as a partnership rather than as a client and vendor. The platform and support services are important components in our future training operations and have much to offer our client financial institutions.”

NMP is based in Atlanta, Georgia. A particular line of business is helping banks to add alternative financial services such as cash-based or immediate-payment services and, now, mobile and digital banking services that were, traditionally, unavailable from banks.

Unison achieves harmony among its community of learners

Europe's largest public-service union has launched an online learning community designed to facilitate the exchange of ideas, actions and success stories among its 1.3 million members.

Unison's social-learning site originally targeted the UK union's 1,800 activists and staff, but is designed to enable its entire membership to share knowledge, learning and experiences. The platform enables participants to share content, have discussions, ask experts and seek support from peers. Learners can bring offline, informal learning experiences into the community to share not only best practice but also success in the organizing space.

Roger McKenzie, Unison's assistant general secretary, said: “For the first time we will have a dedicated online resource that properly supports and advances our ability to deliver effective trade-union organizing right across the union. This is a crucial tool in facing up to the challenges of the modern industrial-relations landscape, building a stronger, more sustainable union for all our members.”

Charles Gould, chief executive of Brightwave, whose learning platform is at the heart of the scheme, said: “The key features of our platform that enable effective sharing and collaboration are perfectly placed to support the diverse needs of the Unison community. It is proving to be an exceptional example of next-generation learning in action, encouraging the sharing of content that is innovative, creative, flexible, interactive and dynamic.”

BP's learners get a global view

New technology is helping to bring petro-technical training experiences to life and encouraging knowledge exploration outside the classroom at BP.

A new application, named Learning Lens, encourages visitors to explore the oil giant's learning center at Sunbury, UK. It brings static exhibits to life, creates new exhibits and generates new 3D interactive structures to be explored, such as deep-sea drilling sites. This augmented-reality smart-phone and tablet technology helps the organization to inspire learners to engage and learn both inside and outside the classroom.

An interactive table displays a 55-inch world map that draws learners in to explore BP projects across the globe. Multiple users can zoom, swipe, share and interact with the table simultaneously. Over time, layers of content can be built up to include course-specific tutorials, challenges and success stories.

These two developments mark industry firsts for this type of technology in the oil and gas sector and will be used to educate petro-technical staff and visitors at BP's new learning center.

Carl Uminski, co-founder and chief operating officer at Somo, which created the technology, commented: “We have answered BP's call for innovative and pioneering learning tools and technology, mirroring the company's modern approach to training. Across the world, education continues to evolve and move further away from the traditional desk-and-paper approach. Somo continues to work hard in this area to ensure that future generations are provided with new, effective and exciting ways to learn the skills they need to succeed.”

Unity Kitchen combines the ingredients for success

In all, 20 apprentices and trainees have received their catering qualifications gained through a scheme for the disabled run by Unity Kitchen, the social-enterprise arm of the Camden Society charity.

The owner of London's L’Anima restaurant, award-winning chef Francesco Mazzei, presented certificates at the Unity Kitchen Cafe and Events, housed in Timber Lodge at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.

Five of the seven graduating apprentices have already found jobs as a result of being on the scheme. They are among 32 people with disabilities who have come through the apprenticeship scheme since it began in 2010. Unity Kitchen opened its first cafe in 1985 and has seen 128 students gain National Vocational Qualifications with Unity Kitchen in the last three years alone.

Over the last 12 months apprentices from Unity Kitchen outlets at Tooley Street, Firepower, St. Luke's and Flapjacks have worked in all sections of these busy cafes. They have been learning the skills needed for their chosen careers. Some have excelled in customer service while others have demonstrated culinary flair, all essential ingredients for the NVQ Level 2 diploma in hospitality services. They also attended Westminster Kingsway College one day a week to achieve their functional-skills qualification. In addition ten trainees working at Jacksons Café and Firepower have achieved the Level 1 and Level 2 NVQ diploma in hospitality services. The apprentices are currently making career plans with the support of the Camden Society's employment teams.

Franceso Mazzei commented: “Catering and hospitality are a tough but rewarding life. All the Unity apprentices and trainees should feel proud of their achievement in gaining their qualifications as a step along the road in their chosen careers. With the help of Unity Kitchen's imaginative scheme many of them have battled against the odds to get these qualifications. They deserve every success that comes to them as a result.”

Unity Kitchen is a chain of eight catering social enterprises run by the Camden Society. The outlets provide training and apprenticeship opportunities for people with learning disabilities. Profits are used to fund further training and employment opportunities.

Unity Kitchens are run in partnership with community and public-sector organizations in public buildings, community centers, libraries and museums. The first café on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is operated by the Camden Society and is named Unity Kitchen Café.

The Camden Society campaigns for the rights of people with learning disabilities and supports them in living full and independent lives. It delivers housing support, employment and community services across London and in Oxfordshire for more than 600 people a week. It established Unity Kitchen in 2010 as a sustainable and self-sufficient way of generating money to fund the charity's work while providing employment and training for people with disabilities.

Sodexo brings the generations together

Sodexo, which claims to be the world's largest services company, has launched an employee network to raise awareness of generational differences in the workplace.

The Generations network is a group of multi-generational employees who are focusing on the diverse age range of Sodexo employees.

The United Nations categorizes the working-age population into four generations – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y – each with different expectations and experiences of the workplace. Sodexo's Generations network aims to support employees in understanding the personal and professional development needs of these groups and how they are affected by each other.

To mark its launch the network devised the GenMatch game, an informal way for Sodexo employees to start learning about the different generations and each other's experiences. Around 2,000 sets of the GenMatch game are being delivered to Sodexo teams across the UK and Ireland.

Generations is one of six areas Sodexo is focusing on as part of its approach to diversity and inclusion. It becomes Sodexo's second employee network after Wwomen Work, started in 2008, which strives to achieve gender balance in the business.

Sean Haley, managing director of service operations and executive sponsor of the Generations network, said: “Sodexo employs and serves a broad spectrum of people in a diverse range of workplaces such as stadia, prisons, hospitals, schools, universities, barracks and offices. It is important that we recognize everyone's background and values to help us to give our employees a rewarding career and support them in delivering the best service to our clients and customers.

“Our latest employee-engagement scores are 12 points above the national average, but the results do reflect a wider, external trend which shows that employees in their twenties are the least engaged. The first priorities of the Generations network will be to understand why this difference exists and to explore how we can encourage the different generations to learn from one another.

“As many of our employees are based on a diverse range of client sites the GenMatch Game has been designed in a short format to be played in a relaxed environment to get people talking and thinking about the differences in the four generational groups.”

Visionary boss stresses the importance of focus

Company managing directors should ensure that every employee of their firm has a clear understanding of its short and long-term goals and is focused on the same thing. Failure to do so will result in confusion and areas of the business falling out of synchronization.

So says Matthew Goodchild, managing director of Visionary Advertising, who continues: “The top manager should be a coach and a team player, providing guidance while simultaneously gaining respect from colleagues. That way, you create a focused and loyal team that will go the distance.”

He believes that team leadership and entrepreneurship hold the same principles at heart. Arsenal football club fan Matthew Goodchild commented: “Football is what unites us on a global scale. Spectators apply an underlying pressure for a good performance. Like in business we want our customers to keep all eyes on us. The way we deliver that expectation of a great service is similar to those winning goals that are received with the upmost respect and satisfaction. A united front provides a strong foundation and openness for great ideas to be passed around.

“Each individual within a company has his or her own goals and ambitions. As a team leader it is important to listen to ideas and value those accomplishments. It is those small differences that take you from boss to a coach. To get the best from somebody you must earn his or her trust initially.”

Matthew Goodchild emphasized the importance of battling for hearts as well as minds. “People should have a passion about what they do and their seniors should be coaches rather than bosses,” he concluded. “These core values that have created a strong foundation for Visionary Advertising, which possesses a passion and drive to be built upon.”

Hairdresser calls for better policing of training standards

A hairdresser and her apprentice have highlighted the challenges salons face when it comes to getting good-quality training for young stylists.

Wendy Cummins, owner of Quiffys salon in Southampton, UK, and apprentice Hayley Robertson, went to the Houses of Parliament to give evidence to a commission examining the future shape and structure of apprenticeships.

“It is fantastic that the commission wanted to find out exactly how difficult it can be for salon owners and apprentices to find training that is going to leave young people ‘salon ready’,” said Wendy Cummins. “In our experience, there is little to no policing of training standards and, as a salon owner, it is really hard to know whether a provider is going to be up to scratch or not.

“The fact that the government has said it wants salons to manage the funding for training providers risks making a difficult situation impossible. Most salon owners will not have the time, knowledge or resources to evaluate providers properly.

“What is needed is a proper, transparent policing system that salons can trust and which will mean that young people, when they sign up to a particular college or provider, know they are going to get a high-quality, relevant training.”

Wendy Cummins is the second National Hairdressers’ Foundation member to give evidence to the commission, following Barbara McNaughton, owner of Elements salon in Oxted, Surrey, who warned that it was important that vocational apprenticeships such as hairdressing did not become devalued as more emphasis was put on higher-level, more academic apprenticeships.

The NHF, in its own evidence to Demos, said schools should do more to promote apprenticeships as a potential alternative to sixth form or college for talented youngsters.

Businesses should help to teach entrepreneurship, says marketer

Businesses should do more to prepare students for the world of work, says UK event-marketing specialist Avant Garde Ideals.

It comments come after an education and skills survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pearson found that 61 percent of employers have concerns about how prepared school-leavers really are to start work. The report also showed that employers want improved development to start at a younger age and not focus on the 14-19-year-old demographic. Some 85 percent of employers urged primary schools to improve basic literacy and numeracy skills, after reporting that these were unsatisfactory among school-leavers.

Avant Garde Ideals encourages entrepreneurship through its development program, which offers event-sales specialists the chance to learn new skills in sales, product expertise and leadership.

According to the company, the benefits of teaching entrepreneurship to younger students include improved attendance, higher academic achievement, greater awareness of career and entrepreneurial options, better understanding of financial concepts and economics, stronger problem-solving skills and more awareness of ethical issues in business.

“Teaching students these skills could see them become the entrepreneurs of the future, which will in turn help the economy,” said Paul Weston, Avant Garde Ideals managing director. “It is important that students be taught the right skills from a young age so that pupils are considering their future options and recognize the importance of studying subjects such as mathematics and English. Engaging with students who are already mapping out their career can sometimes be too late, as many will have passed the point where some of the basic skills are taught.

“Avant Garde Ideals believes that business firms can take on a greater role in school career guidance by offering mentoring and coaching, introducing inspirational speakers, organizing workplace visits and hosting careers fairs. Businesses could forge links between schools and employers and ensure that pupils have information on the full range of education and training options.”

Marketing firm puts the accent on workplace morale

Increasing the focus on workplace morale can bring about higher productivity and better attitudes among the workforce, says MJ Experia Marketing.

“An inefficient workforce can have a serious effect on a business; deadlines are at risk of being missed, the quality of work can fall dramatically and the lack of motivation felt by a select few can quickly spread and affect others,” said managing director Matt Wassall.

The firm, based in Birmingham, UK, has four tips for motivating a sluggish workforce:

  • Respect individuality: a good business leader can easily motivate employees by recognizing each member of the workforce as an individual and respecting his or her differences. Taking the time to get to know individuals and having a genuine interest in them can provide an instant boost to morale. It is also important to understand that different people have different needs. Being flexible with working hours for individuals who have other commitments will have a huge impact on their motivation in the workplace.

  • Allow space to grow: watching over team members too closely will only make them feel like they are not capable or trusted in their role. Allowing individuals the opportunity to work under their own initiative will give a big confidence boost, and business owners may even find that taking the pressure off leads to fewer staff mistakes.

  • Encourage time out: well rested people perform better. Business leaders should be aware of who has not taken time off and encourage them to do so. Through showing that they care about their well-being, business leaders will see happiness levels increase leading to higher levels of motivation.

  • Remember the importance of small gestures: business leaders should show members of their team that they are appreciated. Small gestures such as a regular snack delivery or the freedom to dress down will improve the collective mood of the company and break up routine.

e-Academy continues to grow

An online learning academy run by Teignbridge District Council is offering more learning opportunities for public-sector employees.

Exeter City Council now uses the e-academy, along with Exmoor National Park Authority and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Teignbridge leads the e-academy, an online learning program of more than 200 courses covering topics from business know-how to customer-service skills and from management development to information management.

The council and e-learning provider Nexus launched the e-academy in 2011. Since then Dartmoor National Park Authority, East Devon District Council, Mid-Devon District Council, South Hams District Council, South Somerset District Council, Teign Housing and West Devon District Council have signed up to the courses on offer.

Councilor Mike Walters, Teignbridge District Council's executive spokesman for corporate services, said: “The e-Academy gives staff the chance to develop their skills, provide even higher standards of customer service and ultimately save each organization time and money.

“This collaborative training model means that each public-sector organization can focus its efforts on equipping staff with the right skills to help give their customers or residents the things they want most in the best, most cost-effective way possible.”

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