Case Study: Training Professionals Coaching Development Centre

1. Introduction

We all know that training is important, but we seldom give training enough attention. Excuses like too busy, no money, we will do it later, are sometimes used to validate the lack of attention to training. However, when things go wrong on the job, the lack of training sometimes becomes the scapegoat. In this Case Study, the Training Department was blamed for things going wrong on-the-job. However, the Training Department was not blameless in the situation. They however, realised that they had to get their own house in order and "grabbed the bull by its horns".

2. Company and Context

The client company is a multi-national company in the manufacturing industry, with a few thousand employees in South Africa. With the international economic environment still in "crisis" mode, it is important that the company achieve high productivity levels. To achieve this, the per person delivery of product is very important. Shifts influenced by work-stoppages have a significant negative impact on productivity. Although many factors influence work-stoppages, injuries and other human mistakes are some of them. These are impacted by the levels of competence that the employees have. Although competence levels are the primary accountability of line managers, the Training Department creates the infrastructure needed for employees to improve and maintain their competence levels (productivity).

The Training Department, in conjunction with line managers, identifies the various functional skills every manning point in the plant needs. Every plant employee's skills are compared with the skills required in the manning point that the employee finds him/herself in, and an Individual Development Plan is drawn- up and agreed upon with each employee and his/her line manager.

The Training Department is accountable for relevant training material to be available and to be presented on-time, and for formative and summative assessments to take place timeously. The employee's records must be up-dated on SAP with the assessment results, acquired unit standards and certificates/ licenses to accurately indicate every employee's skill level. The employee's recorded skill level influences the manning points he/she will be used in, as well as the annual pay increase he/she will receive.

3. The Problem

The Training Department consists of 163 employees (approximately 40 in senior positions), but not all chose to be in the Training Department. Some of the employees were transferred from other departments after restructuring and other organisational interventions. Apart from some training employees seeing their current position as just a job to get paid for, differing levels of competence existed amongst the people in the Training Department. Some employees were highly competent, and some not. A situation existed where some training employees put in extra effort to ensure things get done as they should be, while other employees were not even aware of certain tasks that were needed. This resulted in various symptoms.

Some of these symptoms were:

• Plant employee licenses to operate certain machinery expired. This meant that the specific employee cannot perform his/her usual duties. This led to the employee not receiving pay and line managers experiencing staff shortages per shift.
• Inaccurate employee records. Employee skill levels were not captured timeously and correctly on SAP leading to inaccurate employee profiles.
• Assessments were not performed timeously.
• Available training material was not necessarily in-line with what was required on the plant.
• Employee Individual Development Plans were not accurately drawn-up and agreed upon between the employee, the line- manager and the Training Department.
• Training schedules were not always sent out in advance, negatively impacting line managers' ability to plan for training.

Line managers lost trust in the Training Department and started to blame the Training Department for almost everything that went wrong on the plant. The training employees became re-active administrative clerks and felt like helpless victims getting blamed for everything.

4. The Solution

The challenge was to not only up-skill the training employees, but also to enable every training employee to understand their current strengths and their current areas needing development relating to what was expected of them in their current positions. Every training employee should also understand the impact they have on the plant's overall productivity. It was also required that every training employee took ownership of their own development instead of waiting for the company to force development to take place.

It was decided that a Coaching Development Centre (CDC) would be designed and implemented for the Training Department.

A Development Centre is a formal process during which simulations are used to identify a delegate's current areas of strength and areas needing development in relation to competencies important for effective job performance. During a Development Centre learning takes place during the Centre and after the Centre. When a Development Centre is Collaborative (Coaching), the delegate would perform a simulation, attend a de-brief with the other delegates and then collaborate with his/her coach on evaluating his/her behaviour during the simulation. The delegate would receive coaching from his/her coach after every simulation enabling the delegate to immediately apply what he/she has learned during the next simulation.

The reason for deciding on a CDC was that the training employees should experience what is required of them in real life, as well as the consequences if they do not deliver. This should take place in a "safe" environment where mistakes are allowed and used as learning opportunities. CDCs are based on principles of adult learning (experiential learning – delegates do not get lectured to, they perform tasks and learn from that) and continuous feedback.

Another key feature of a CDC is that delegates identify their own development areas and in conjunction with their facilitator, draw-up their own Development Plan. After the Centre a feedback discussion is facilitated between the delegate and his/her line manager. The delegate gives feedback to his/her line manager, with the LEMASA representative in the role as facilitator. During this discussion the delegate's Development Plan is finalised. The premise of the CDC is that the delegate takes ownership of his/her development Plan and actively drives its implementation. Every six to eight months the implementation of the Plan is followed-up with a Follow-up Discussion, again facilitated by LEMASA.

A prerequisite for the particular Centre was that all the simulations should be very life-like – they should resemble what is expected of the Training Department's employees (high fidelity) in the client organisation.

LEMASA partnered with the client organisation's Subject Matter Experts to identify the training competencies, as well as the simulations needed to elicit behaviour linked to the competencies. LEMASA also fully partnered with the Subject Matter Experts to design the content of the simulations. In some instances the policies and procedures were taken directly from the client organisation and minor changes made to fit in with the fictitious company created for the Centre simulations.

The 11 competencies used during the Centre are clustered into the following areas: Achievement, Solution Creating, Interpersonal Skills, Communication and Implementation competencies. Three simulations were used during the four- day Centre. The simulations were a Presenting and Facilitation Meeting, a First Consulting Meeting and an Analysis Exercise. A Career and Self Development Discussion with each delegate was also conducted.

Seven Centres were conducted during January to April 2012, each attended by six delegates (from the client organisation), three coaches and one administrator (from LEMASA). All delegates' Development Plans were finalised during the Feedback Discussions and are currently being implemented.

5. The Results

Delegates' immediate reactions differed. Below are some of the comments directly after the Centre:

• "Eye opener on situations you think you cannot handle and some you think you can."
• "Stressful, but very informative. I learnt a lot about myself and would recommend this to everyone."
• "Gave good insight to what to expect in the working world and how to handle the situation."
• "Very, very informative. I have learnt a lot and will definitely apply it in the workplace. Now I know how much I did not know, which I thought I knew."
• "I actually feel that I can play an important role in my organisation. I'm not just another number..."
• "An eye opener. Made me aware of myself and whether I still want to be in the Training Department. The attitude, skill, knowledge I have and what I need to develop."

During the Feedback Discussions anecdotes shared were that on-the- job changed behaviour was already implemented and have had positive consequences.

The managers in the Training Department also started to report improved job performance from most of the training employees. Apart from the training and development interventions agreed upon in the Development Plans of each delegate, other initiatives will still follow as a result of the Centres. As example, it became evident that the training managers' span-of control in some instances was too wide; that the Training Induction Programme should be up-dated and that all training employees know their line-client's plant processes. A selection process for appointment into the Training Department should also be drawn-up. The managers in the Training Department also attended a CDC for Managers of Others. Each manager now also has a Development Plan of their own to implement. Their plans address management-leadership competencies.

6. Concluding Remarks

It is still too early to really expect major changes on-the-job. However, the process of changing behaviour has started. Every senior employee in the Training Department has insight into his/her own behaviour and what is expected of him/her in their role, has a tailored individual Development Plan, has agreed to implement the Development Plan and is in the process of implementation. In eighteen months time the real impact will be visible.

The Mentoring Game - Gamification to Accelerate Mentor-Mentee Bonding

1. The Challenge

Many organisations implement formal mentoring programmes in an attempt to address challenges such as theengagement and retention of employees, the acceleration of learning and the building of succession pools. Mentoring is therefore an important part of their learning and development offering to employees.

However, even though we might all be aware of the possible advantages that a mentoring programme offers to an organisation and to individuals, we often struggle to establish and maintain an effective formal mentoring programme. How can this problem be overcome?

1.1 The Mentoring Relationship

An important element of the mentoring programme is the relationship between mentor and mentee. Most mentor-
mentee relationships require a clear sense of purpose and a defined goal, which the mentee wishes to achieve. The clearer that goal is, the more focused later discussions will be and the easier it will become to relate day-to-
day issues to the larger goal (Clutterbuck Associates, 2002).

Furthermore, communication preferences, problem-solving methods, trust and conflict resolution, and time management are all aspects that need to be clarified within any relationship, and therefore also in a mentor-mentee relationship. All these aspects should be addressed during the contracting and bonding stage of the relationship.

What is the contracting and bonding stage?

Judy McKimm, Carol Jollie and Mark Hatter (2003) state that 'the contracting stage is the first stage in the mentor-mentee relationship, which is about creating an alliance, and consists of preparing for the relationship, forming and agreeing a contract to enhance preparation and constitute the agenda for the meetings'.

1.2 Ways to Achieve Contracting and Bonding

Mentors and their mentees could read about the various aspects to be addressed during the contracting and bonding stage. However, even though the issues that should be addressed during this stage are too important to leave to chance, there is no guarantee that the reading will in fact take place and that the issues will be sufficiently addressed in the relationship.

Another alternative is for mentors and mentees to attend lectures about the various aspects that should be addressed during the contracting and bonding stage and to afterwards implement the knowledge they have gained in their relationship. However, merely listening to a lecture does not mean that learning will automatically take place and that these important aspects will be sufficiently addressed.

Experiential techniques can be used in a mentor-mentee relationship

In the past, experiential learning techniques were used to ensure that these aspects are sufficiently addressed during the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentors and their mentees attended a one-day workshop during which some theory was shared and then immediately applied in their relationships. About two weeks after this workshop, the mentors and their mentees attended a day-and-a-half outward-bound experiential learning experience. During this outdoor experience, each mentor-mentee team had to solve various problems or face various challenges. The learning that took place during these experiences was then consolidated and positioned into the mentor-mentee relationship. The combination of the one-day, indoor workshop and the day-and-a-half outdoor experiential experience was very effective in establishing the contract and bond between mentors and mentees.

However, this two-and-a half day experience was expensive! Apart from the direct costs involved in accommodating the outdoor experience, the mentors were people who held senior positions in their organisations and their absence from the office created problems.

An alternative had to be found.

2. The Solution

A solution had to be found that delivered similar results, but did so in a more cost- and time-effective way, and so The Mentoring Game was born!

2.1 The Mentoring Game

The Mentoring Game, which was designed as a cost- and time-effective solution, is based on experiential learning (which is part of accelerated learning) and the principles of gamification.

2.1.1 Accelerated learning

'Time is money', and in 2014 people want quick results!
Accelerated learning is 'quickly creating learning that is of benefit to the business, with long-term retention, by honouring the different learning preferences of individuals' (Russel, 1999:5). Accelerated learning is based on the following principles (Meier, 2000:9):

•    Learning involves the whole mind and body (multiple intelligences) – 'head', emotions, senses, receptors.

•    Learning is active (creation/doing), not just consumption (listening).

•    Collaboration speeds up learning.

•    Learning takes place simultaneously at many levels – e.g. the conscious, paraconscious, mental and physical levels.

•    Learning comes from doing the work.

•    Positive emotions improve learning.

•    The 'image' brain absorbs information instantly and automatically.

The SAVI approach to learning incorporates the principles of accelerated learning:

1. Somatic - Learning by moving and doing
2. Auditory - Learning by talking and hearing
3. Visual - Learning by observing and picturing
4. Intellectual - Learning by problem solving and reflecting

In designing The Mentoring Game, the SAVI approach was adhered to in the following way:

1. Somatic – Most of the tasks in The Mentoring Game can only be completed by moving and doing. Each completed task must also be delivered, on time, to the Game Referee. The team members are therefore constantly moving, never sitting passively in their chairs.

2. Auditory – To solve the problems and challenges posed by the various tasks in The Mentoring Game, team members need to continuously talk and listen to each other.

3. Visual – The Mentoring Game is very visual and certain tasks require direct observation and picturing. The three mini-lectures (PowerPoint presentations with voice-overs) are also very visual. The result obtained for each task is displayed on the scoreboard.

4. Intellectual – Each challenge needs to be resolved through problem solving. Reflection takes place once each task has been completed and the corresponding Reflection Card has been filled in.

Another aspect of accelerated learning that should be considered is the need to address as many of the ten multiple intelligences as possible (Russel, 1999). The ten multiple intelligences are addressed as follows by The Mentoring Game:

2.1.2 Gamification

Gamification was used to combine the varied activities that make up The Mentoring Game.

Gamification is the process of implementing game thinking and game mechanics into business settings (Zichermann & Linder, 2013). Gamification is based on game design, loyalty programmes and behavioural economics. Great gamification experiences cultivate a sense of mastery and progression to mastery. Mastery is the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and the ability to demonstrate control in a steady and consistent progression (continuous improvement).

The game design principles were incorporated into The Mentoring Game as follows:

Basic game elements that were incorporated in The Mentoring Game are:

Players have a positive experience as their brains release dopamine while they play the game. This motivates them to continue playing, and 'positive emotions improve learning' (Russel, 1999:5).

3. The Results – Using Gamification to Accelerate Learning

The Mentoring Game has been designed so as to ensure that each mentor-mentee team will collaborate effectively from the start of the game day to solve problems. In wrestling with challenges, the teams (each consisting of a mentor and a mentee) have to draw on their own experiences and existing knowledge to discover facts, relationships and new truths to be learned. Each challenge/problem (task) addresses one of the important issues that need to be addressed during the contracting and bonding stage of the mentoring programme. After each challenge (task), the team has to complete a Reflection Card, which requires them to reflect on what they have discovered and how their new knowledge and skills could possibly be put to use in their mentoring programme.

Points are awarded for the completion of each of nine tasks, as well as optional tasks if the teams feel up to additional challenges.

The team that has accumulated the highest score at the end of the day is declared the winners and receive the winners' trophy.

Apart from strengthened relationships, each team takes away a wooden box that contains their Reading Cards (theory, previously provided in the form of a learner's manual), Reflection Cards (previously incorporated in the learner's manual) and their mentoring plan (clearly indicating their purpose and goal, and how it can be achieved).

4. Feedback from Client Organisations

While participants make comments like 'I did not realise how the time flew past'; 'This was fun, when can we come back?'; and 'This was really valuable in establishing our relationship. Thank you', the finance director just smiles, because the total cost to the company in terms of time and money was far less than that of an experiential learning experience offered over two and a half days!

Reference List

Meier, D. 2000. The Accelerated Learning Handbook. New-York: McGraw-Hill Companies.

Russell, L. 1999. The Accelerated Learning Fieldbook: Making the instructional process fast, flexible and fun. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Zichermann, G. & Linder, J. 2013. The Gamification Revolution: How leaders leverage game mechanics to crush the competition. New-York: McGraw-Hill Education.