I have just had the pleasure of spending a couple of days at the National School of Goverfnment (NSG) in Sunningdale, courtesy of one of my clients.

I have just had the pleasure of spending a couple of days at the National School of Government (NSG) in Sunningdale, courtesy of one of my clients.  It was Ascot week, which made the visit all the more memorable, because not only was I able to indulge in my favourite pastime of people watching, it was made all the more memorable because of the eclectic mix of people.  Youngsters (by my standards anyway), mixed with the 'more mature' and a few elegant ladies dressed up to the nines (my guess is that those were the Ascot racegoers).

I was impressed by the range of programmes on offer - from 'The Leadership Launch Pad',  to programmes which seem to be spot on in the current work climate such as 'Leading people through continuous change' and the more niche offering of 'polarity management' - what on earth is that?  Having heard on the radio that day that the public sector spent some £2.8 million on consultants in the last financial year, I was left wondering if they are needed to do some work whilst public servants are taking up the wonderful array of training programmes on offer.

My client was using the venue for a senior management awayday - 30+ of the most senior people in the organisation, pay upwards of £55K p.a.  From inspecting the badges of those in the coffee area and restaurant, there was a mix of those like the group I was with as well as those on NSG training programmes.  I was impressed by the level of investment in people and left wondering what real benefit is derived from the huge investment, not only the direct costs of the training, accommodation, expenses etc, but also the indirect cost of time spent away from the office for all the people there.  What is the return on investment for those organisations using the facilities?  How well are people prepared for the event?  What learning objectives are there?  What encouragement to put that learning into practice when you return to the office to find 101 emails to respond to, unless of course, you have been able to do so on your Blackberry as a diversion during the event.  Amazingly frequently (even senior) people say unspecific things like they have been making contacts and building relationships (and very important they are too) and have had a good dinner or two, but what of the investment in learning?

People need support to change the habits of a lifetime and put that learning into practice when they are back at the ranch and in the old routine - that is where coaching can provide very useful follow up to training investment.  It is tailored to the needs of the individual and can help reinforce changes in behaviour that an organisation is seeking to implement.  How often do you agree to your people going on a learning event as a result of a leaflet dropping on their desk?  What do you do to ensure a return on your investment, both for the individual concerned and for your organisation?  Yes, even one nugget of gold from a learning event can deliver a change that turns a business around, but all too often that is the exception rather than the rule.  Make the most of your investment by ensuring that you clarify with the person attending the benefits that can be derived from attending training and follow up with them afterwards what the key learning from the event was.  That interest in itself will be encouragement to put the learning into practice.  Or alternatively you could ask what the most unusual outfit at the event was - that in itself merits a visit to NSG during Ascot week, so get your booking in for next year!

This article appears in the July 2007 edition of Cambridge Network magazine www.cambridgenetwork.co.uk


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