5 staff training ideas that actually work

Regular training and learning experiences can help employees refine their skills and continue to improve their talents over time. A fulfilling job is usually one that evolves with the team or individual, so it’s important to keep your workforce moving forward.

Creating training goals is relatively easy, but the difficult part is finding a training method which is actually going to work. Whilst it might have been common a few years ago, the chances are that passing around a PDF or presenting a Powerpoint is not the best use of your time.

Here are 5 alternative training ideas to help inspire:

1. eLearning

With busy diaries and shorter attention spans, finding the time for learning and enrichment activities can prove tricky. That's why eLearning, and particularly micro-learning, can prove so effective. By breaking down training into segments from between 3 and 10 minutes, you will be able to engage employees to learning at their own pace and in their own time.

The CPD Certification service is naturally a big backer of eLearning and says that; “online courses provide flexibility and convenience, allowing an individual to plan their learning around their other work priorities, instead of the other way around.”

2. Hands-on shadowing

If you’ve ever read anything about being a good teacher, you’ll have heard this before: If you tell someone how to do a task, you may not be as effective as if you ask that person to do the task themselves, whilst you run through it step by step.

By using a shadowing process, you can ask employees to apply learned skills in real time and translate them to their daily tasks very quickly. This will help new team members find confidence with bigger responsibilities, all whilst controlling the risk.

3. One-on-one meetings

Structured, regular meetings between employees and managers can be a very effective training method.

By showing that your management staff have time to dedicate to more junior members, you’ll be helping to build trust and an acknowledgement that the team as a whole is worth the investment.

By committing time to help your colleagues, they’ll start to appreciate that you are not just out for yourself.

4. ‘Lunch and learn’ sessions

Not everybody learns in the same way. And some employees could associate learning with being at school and being ‘talked down to’. Therefore, you might consider making the teaching less formal by introducing a relaxed environment.

Many business are adopting ‘lunch and learn’ sessions as a method of more casual teaching. In these events, you might provide some food – not even a whole lunch – and invite a speaker to engage with your audience. Often these sessions will invoke group discussions and brainstorming techniques to get the ideas flowing.

5. Video recordings

Whilst live training sessions can certainly be engaging, you can run the risk of the employee forgetting what they've learned after it's over. Recording any of the above sessions and and making them available to your team can serve as a great refresher, or as a convenient ‘catch-up’ for those who missed the meeting.

Making your training stick

It’s important to convince employees that training programs are for their benefit, just as much as yours. The best method of doing so is by asking them for feedback on your initiatives and tailoring future programs to suit your different audiences. By adapting your training to your employees, they are much more likely to retain the information you are trying to share.

6 things you should remember to help you master your interview

If you’re lucky enough to be offered an interview, then you’ve probably worked hard to get this far. Your brilliant CV has obviously captured the attention of the hiring manager – congrats! You are well on your way to getting your dream job.

However, don’t rest on your laurels. There is still some prep to do. But where do you start? And how will you ensure you present yourself in the best light? What happens if you fluff it up? It’s very easy to work yourself into a sweat before getting in front of what could potentially be your next boss.

Here are our top 6 things to remember:

The more prep you do, the more likely you’ll get the job

We’ve all heard that before you interview, you should do some research into the company, study their website and job description, familiarise yourself with the job functions etc. But, you might want to go above and beyond to make an impression. If there are multiple candidates being interviewed, what can you do to stand out from the crowd? Can you find out more about your interviewer’s job history? What are the company’s financials like? Have they been in the press lately? Do as much as you can to put yourself in the best light.

Interviewers want to find out more about you

The hiring manager must have read your CV, otherwise you wouldn’t have been invited in. It’s clear they think that you have the potential to do the job and contribute to the success of their business. So, keep reminding yourself that you should be here and you could get the job. You didn’t get the interview because they want to be nice.

Interviewers want you to do well

Many of us assume that a job interview is a test, which we’ll be lucky to pass. Your palms might sweat or you might get flustered answering simple questions.

Whilst, the interview is a test, step back and remember that interviews aren’t like most exams. Your interviewer will actually want you to do well. They don’t want you to waste their time as their vacancy needs to be filled. A few tummy flutters are no bad thing – this usually means the interview actually matters to you – but hiring managers have no interest in putting you down or dashing your confidence. If they ask tricky questions, they aren’t trying to catch you out, they just need to know that they’re making the right decision in hiring you.

The interview is about you, not them

You’re going to be asked A LOT of questions, so don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. The more you can express your personality and convince your hiring manager that you want the job, can do the job, and want to join the team, the more you’ll win them over. You should talk about how you can contribute to the company’s success, not just that you need the money and want to get a foot in the door.

The interview is more like a date than a pitch

While it’s important to sell yourself in a job interview, an overly “salesy” mindset can come across as desperate, or sometimes arrogant. Think of your interview as more like a date. The interview is an opportunity for each of you to confirm mutual interest and determine whether or not that interest merits taking things to the next level. Communicate your interest and put your best foot forward, but do not oversell.

Desperation is never attractive on a date and certainly not in a job interview. Similarly, don’t forget to listen and express interest in the other person. Prepare thoughtful questions and engage in meaningful conversations where possible!

Be honest and be yourself

Your best answer to any question should really be one that you arrived at organically. By all means; arm yourself with some answers to common interview questions, but it’s unwise to put on a persona or be who you aren’t. The interview isn’t a game, so it’s best not to treat it as such. Those who do, rarely win – and if they do, they won’t last very long.

Viewed at its most essential, a job interview is just a chat between two potential colleagues or partners. It’s an opportunity to learn, share ideas and expand your network. Done properly, could it even be fun?!


4 things to consider before making a big career change

Job dissatisfaction can be a huge contributor to demotivation and under-performance at work. If you’re demotivated, and things aren’t going well in your career, everything can seem like it’s working against you. If your feelings continue, you’ll gradually become even less motivated and it’s likely your performance will drop further in a downward spiral.

If this sounds like you, it’s could be tempting to consider changing careers altogether. Especially if your work makes your stressed, unhappy, or any of the above.

But – making that change could be even more stressful - and a big challenge! How will you get interviews for jobs when you have no experience? Will you have to take a pay cut? What happens if it doesn’t work out?

Here are four tips from our specialist consultants to help you decide whether a major career is right for you:

Ask your network

Taking a big career step can be a step into the unknown. But do you have anybody in your network who works in the industry you are considering? Or has good useful connections?  If so, try and utilise them. You could benefit from personal introductions via people who can vouch for your character and skills. They might be able to help a new employer understand why they should hire someone with no relevant industry background.

Test the waters

This is probably the most important. Before making the leap to a career change, and risk being no happier than you were before, make sure you really are going to be happier by getting some sort of experience. Although this can sound difficult, it is vital to understand what your new job could be like.

Could you volunteer in the field you are interested in? Is it possible to shadow someone for the day? If the answer is no, could you try and conduct some interviews with people in the field you are considering? Do everything you can to understand what your new career will be like to get an understanding of your future success.

Can you afford it?

Switching careers can be stressful and high-risk. Therefore, the last thing you should do is jump ship if you are struggling for cash. Be prepared to allocate a lot of mental energy into making your new career work. Otherwise, you might not be able to make it a success.

By ensuring that your financials are relatively stable and calm, you won’t have to worry as much if things don’t work out, or if you have to drop pay for a while. It might be painful to save whilst you wait to build up a cash reserve, but it will be worth it.

Make the transition in steps

If you are looking to transition from, say, an accountant to a landscape architect, consider doing the move in steps. Find an accounting job in the landscaping industry, preferably with a smaller firm, and apply for internal jobs from there. Read up on your subject, landscape your own lawn, take gardening courses. Do everything you possibly can to make yourself employable in your new dream career!

Why having more than one career can help you be happier at work

Ever dreamed about a career switch? Perhaps you sit behind an office desk every day, but you really enjoy gardening? Could being a landscape gardener be the job for you? And could it make you happier at work?

It’s not uncommon to dream about switching to a career that’s drastically different from your current job. But in most cases, it’s rare for people to actually make the leap and jack in all the career progress you’ve made to date. The costs of switching seem too high and the chances of success too slim. With mortgages, weddings, kids and job security being the chief worries that might be impacted by a career change, it’s not surprising that you’ll probably sit behind that office desk until you retire.

Or is it?

Perhaps the answer isn’t to plug away at your one and only job, feeling unfulfilled every day. Perhaps you could do more than one job? Or perhaps you could make a transition from one job to another. Here’s how to do it.

Keep learning new skills

Subsidise your passions by working pro bono or utilising your salary. Say you do want to be a commercial gardener. With no track record of successful landscaping projects, nobody is going to pay you to rip up their lawn. But, if you could remodel your own garden and volunteer to help others with theirs, you could gain valuable experience in a completely new industry.

Perhaps your day job could afford you with the capital you need to retrain in your spare time? With gardening, the best lessons are often learnt on the job. But, if you want to be a web designer, are there any good design courses out there which could be worth investment? Maybe you’ll find that your second job doesn’t need to pay you back financially – it might be rewarding enough to do something you really enjoy and see others reap the benefits from your efforts.

Make friends in different circles

Let’s say you are in banking. It’s highly likely that if you log on to LinkedIn and check your connections, around 90% of your network will work in the financial services sector. You probably know lots of traders, analysts, advisors and sales reps. As a whole, you can build up a view of your industry and make predictions about your business. However, if you really want to work in marketing, and not banking, then your goal to change careers will be much harder if nobody else in your network knows anything about marketing, or needs a marketer.

As part of your new mission to diversify, do everything you can to build up networks in different circles. If you want to be a marketer, go to marketing events, trade shows, learn new marketing skills and attend relevant seminars. You’ll soon build up your contacts in the industry you’d like to conquer in the future.

Discover new innovations

When you work different jobs, you can identify where ideas interact — and more significantly, where they should interact. “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing,” said Steve Jobs, who was the embodiment of interdisciplinary thinking.

When you follow your curiosities, you will bring passion to your new careers, which will leave you more fulfilled. And by doing more than one job, you may end up doing all of them better. Eventually, you might even find that you can switch careers, without any risk at all.

Mastering the interview: 4 ways to avoid making hiring mistakes

We speak to hundreds of hiring managers every year and happily, in the vast majority, it’s rare for a client to admit they've made the wrong hire. As a business, we spend a great deal of time ensuring that any candidates we submit are likely to be a good fit for the prospective organisation. We therefore pride ourselves on the retention rates we can achieve for our customers.

Nevertheless; it’s inevitable that, on occasion, a company’s new starter just doesn’t quite fit the bill. This may well be nobody’s fault – after all, the person may be perfect on paper. However, if a mistake does happen, the origin of that error (assuming it’s not ours) can usually be pinpointed to one particular point in the hiring timeline: the interview.

Here are four tips to maximise the effectiveness (and efficiency) of your interviews and to avoid making hiring mistakes.

1. More tasks, less chat

This tip can seem a little cut-throat, but it could be a vital way of separating the good from the bad. As an interviewer, how often have you walked out the room and thought, “that candidate was great, very engaging and a really nice person, but I’m not 100% sure whether they can do the job?” It’s so easy to have a ‘nice’ conversation for an hour or so, but at the end of the interview if all you’ve deciphered is that your candidate is a good communicator, then you’ll be taking a risk if you offer them a job without inviting them back.

By getting a candidate to solve relevant problems during your limited time together, you’ll reveal a lot more than if you discussed a theoretical situation. Interviewing a designer? Get them to design something. Or an analyst? Give them some data and ask them to tell you what they learned. These tasks can even be done as prep exercises or take-homes and will give the opportunity to ask “why” when the results are in.

2. Have an initial impression? Try and disprove it

As a recruitment company, we completely understand that it’s hard to find great people. Similarly, it’s also easy to miss great people. It only takes a mediocre first call to a candidate to completely write them off – but if you’ve already formed an initial impression, it doesn’t always mean that you’ve got an accurate picture of their talent.

If you’re asking a candidate a question and they stumble and fluster their way through the answer, it’s easy to assume they aren’t great at a given skill. But; treat this as your hypothesis, and then test it. Ask another question or two to try and understand whether they really aren’t great at the skill you need.

Candidates can get things wrong for a lot of reasons. Maybe the question wasn’t clear. Maybe they assumed something that threw them off course. Don’t give up too soon. Don’t let a good hire get away because you jumped to conclusions.

3. Understand what drives someone

It’s easy to assume that a candidate is applying for a job because they love your company already, they know your brand and they want to work for your amazing business. However, making these assumptions can be a huge mistake. Sometimes candidates can apply for a role and appear great in an interview, even if they don’t want the job. Perhaps they just want a ‘foot in the door’ or they are too lazy to travel elsewhere, or perhaps they just need the money.

Be confident that your candidate’s drive matches the role you are offering, not just their skills, otherwise you could be left with someone who’s unmotivated and uninterested in the tasks required. Be straight with your questioning and ask your interviewee about makes them tick, what frustrates them and where they want their careers to go in 2, 5 and 10 years time. Often; you’ll find that the things that annoy your candidates will be exactly what is expected of them – making your decision a lot easier.

4.  You’re being evaluated too

The most common thing we hear with the very best talent is that they have the most options. This means that, as the interviewer, you are being evaluated too. Countless times, we’ve heard via a candidate’s feedback that they want to work at X or Y company because the hiring manager was super engaged, driven and asked challenging questions.

The best candidates want to know what their boss will be like and ultimately what it will be like to work at your company. They might be attending 2-3 other interviews consecutively, so the interview is your best chance to show how great your company is, using both specifics and intangibles. If you want the best, you need to be the best.

Why it’s time to scrap annual performance reviews

Whilst monitoring career progress has always been a useful reference tool for both employee and employer, the advancement of digital technologies in recent years has significantly transformed the way that individuals and teams can impact business change.

As a result of this continuously accelerating pace of development, a new heightened level of organisational agility is not only desirable, but critical to survival in a growing number of industries. Employees with the highest levels of digital skill will be instrumental in a helping a business to stay flexible and ultimately to prosper. However, the methods of highlighting and managing the best talent are often lagging way behind.

Could employee mental health improve?

It’s no wonder then that some of the largest digital organisations, such as Microsoft, Accenture and Adobe are embracing more regular and informal performance management. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal even reported on how this could improve employee mental health as well as recognition. It seems that reviewing what staff did a year ago (or even six months ago in some cases) is simply not efficient enough in the context of the change which the business needs to master.

Performance management therefore needs to allow for more responsive behaviour changes by employees. By facilitating smaller course changes more often, a higher rate of return is more likely. Deloitte famously discovered that two million management hours annually were being spent assessing staff performance and discussing the outputs of the process. Yet, the majority of staff felt that the results gained by conducting these reviews didn’t match the hours put in.

Deloitte have instead moved to a system that involves regularly asking team leaders about their future actions related to particular team members, helping to ensure consistency. When combined with what they call frequent ‘check-ins’, employee work and productive behaviour can be better supported, ensuring greater clarity, alignment and employee engagement.

Try OKRs instead

A number of other high profile businesses including Google, LinkedIn, Oracle, Twitter and The Guardian have moved to a system of OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results. This methodology for connecting company, team and individual goals and measurable results was originally introduced at Intel in the 1970s. The system involves setting quarterly measurable, definitive objectives at a company, team and individual level, and then supporting those objectives with quantifiable key results, against which performance is measured.

OKRs are often made transparent (at Google for example, everyone’s OKRs from Larry Page the CEO down are available to see on the internal directory) but provide a clear directional focus and expectations, ensure alignment at every level, and a high level of awareness of what others’ priorities are. This brings greater empathy and understanding for individual or team priorities, and giving focus to how an individual might make their own priorities align with someone else’s in order to get stuff done.

Ultimately, whatever performance review methods are implemented within your business, it’s important to keep agile. Reviews should be regular, clear, simple and time-efficient to get the best out of your staff.

This blog entry was adapted by an original post by Neil Perkin at Only Dead Fish.