Shrewd selection of training is now just as important to the strategy of a business as it is to individual professional development. Jon Masters and Mike Walter report.
Structured training programmes appear to be taking on greater importance to the business plans of many leading contractors and consultants. Professional development is still tailored to the needs and wishes of the individual. But it seems that course provision is now being directed equally towards firms' own strategies for growth and future demand.
Carillon's training programme is a case in point. The company's business strategy is based on securing more repeat orders and developing better long term relationships with its clients. Training for senior managers is now centered on six core values, which the company has identified as essential for achieving these goals.
Various methods of learning are being used to enable the values of openness, collaboration, mutual dependency, professional delivery, innovation and focus on sustainable profitable growth to be spread downwards through the firm.
'How our staff work together and with clients is vital to our business plan, ' says Carillion's learning manager Alison Hunt.
'The six Carillion values are aimed at making our staff comfortable dealing with service delivery. We are keeping this in touch with business reality through team briefings held to discuss how these values have been, and can be, achieved in real projects.'
Hunt says good all round engineering ability applied to projects in the context of the six core values is important for the competitiveness of Carillion's business. Training focuses on developing people who can work in all areas with good technical skills as well as broad knowledge in subjects such as project management and supply chain management.
'We are also running a marketing sustainability training programme for employees who regularly liaise with clients. This will train staff to discuss sustainability issues confidently with customers, and explore how they fit their needs, ' says Hunt.
Carillion is not alone in developing strategically structured training programmes. Consultants Ove Arup, Maunsell and Montgomery Watson Harza are linking training activities with plans for business growth.
Maunsell is organising courses into a three-tiered structure of technical, managerial and commercial training. Employees will progress through the levels of training as their careers develop.
'Each tier has an element of all three types of training, but the emphasis changes at each level, ' says Maunsell's interim human resources manager Ray Baylis.
'Early professional development focuses on technical qualifications with some managerial and less commercial training.
'The emphasis swings around as an individual's career progresses and managing teams and projects becomes more important. This will lead to the third tier in the model when a leading civil engineer, although still needing to keep abreast of latest technical developments, must have extensive knowledge of commercial and business management.'
Baylis says a range of courses will be matched against each stage of the Maunsell training model, for instance strategic management, which is provided by Ashridge Management College in Berkhamstead.
'It is this type of course, with its study of value management, leadership skills and change management, that will be necessary for the next member of Maunsell's senior executive.'
Personal development plans for Ove Arup staff are built around seven areas of competence identified as key to success. Each area, including knowledge, experience and skills, teamworking and leadership, communication and commercial awareness, contains courses from entry level up to senior management.
Ove Arup is looking at introducing sustainability training for its employees and has a two year training programme for around 150 of its directors with the London Business School. Each director is studying four modules on how to lead the business into the future.
Montgomery Watson Harza resourcing and development manager Andrew Bovington says MWH's training programme, which has been active since January 2001, is intrinsically linked to the company's business strategy.
'We provide a complete solution for a range of clients, so we need a wide variety of skills with the emphasis on team building, communication and knowledge of customers' different needs and approaches. These subjects are included in our new course programme, together with a major project management training initiative for current and future managers.'
A competency-based framework has been used to pick out the skills and personality profile that MWH employees must fit to progress as project managers.
According to Bovington, the framework has also identified the project management training needed to supplement MWH's core programme.