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Diary: A tough start to the year


diaryTrainingZone has a brand new team of diarists - drawn from our membership - ready to share the ups and downs of what promises to be a turbulent year ahead. From in-house trainer to management-level, in the public, private and charity sectors, we hope we'll achieve a good spread of experiences.

Our first diarist, Nathaniel Wallace, is a L&D manager in the third sector. In this thought-provoking entry, Nathaniel faces an uncomfortable start to the year as redundancies have to be made.

If I am asked what it is that I like about my job, I will invariably relate how much I enjoy feeling that I am at the centre of the organisation, not in terms of power or influence, but through my access to every team, office and division. I get to work with everyone, be they the receptionist or the chief executive and I feel a certain amount of pride that I know everyone’s face and name.

On occasion I will catch myself reacting with mock surprise when a colleague is unable to identify the correct name of say, the person in the marketing team who has been working with us for over six months. And I will quickly put them right in what I hope isn’t too smug a fashion. But I bet it is smug. Super smug. I am being sincere though, absolutely. I genuinely believe that I am privileged to get to work with such a variety of people and I enjoy being able to build a broad understanding of what makes the organisation tick.

"That loyalty and protectiveness I feel for our staff is now being tested to the full. This week we begin a major re-structure of some of our most important services and some redundancies will be made."
Nathaniel Wallace

Thinking back, this is what attracted me to learning and development in the first place. I was in my first office job after leaving university, working for a large pharmaceutical company in London’s Docklands, in a strange administrative position that I never really understood, whilst I tried to figure out what it was that I wanted for a career. I was sat not far away from the HR team and as I watched them come and go, I was struck by the innate sociability of what they did: talking to everyone in the organisation, supporting them and most importantly, getting all of the best gossip. “I’d like that” I thought, but at the same time realising that I didn’t really possess a passion for rewards, benefits and company polices.

The epiphany was thus delayed, but it duly arrived when a new training manager was recruited and I was intrigued enough about his role to contact him and ask if we could meet. He sat me down, told me what he did and explained the first steps I would need to take if I wanted to forge a career in training. I envisioned myself as a wise Obi-Wan Kenobi figure within an exciting and vibrant organisation, holding court in my comfortable office as staff from across the company would come to me for wise words and sage advice. Occasionally I would leave my lair in order to deliver one-day workshops on advanced light-saber use and PowerPoint. This was the career for me.

I’ve yet to get my own office, Jedi-like status is some way off and the truth is that you never get anywhere near the best gossip. But... I do have that sociability factor, that presence at the centre of the organisation, which I love as much as I thought I would.

It can cut both ways though. Last year I facilitated a design day in which a small group of our clients came in to put together a programme of seminars that they would deliver for our staff. We had a tough start, with the clients leading a discussion in which they gave us some very strong feedback on where we needed to improve as a service provider. As they spoke in turn, I felt a ball of tension grow in my stomach. They were hammering our people. How dare they? All these feelings of loyalty and protectiveness kicked in and I had to concentrate very hard in order to stay objective and pick out the value in what they were saying.

That loyalty and protectiveness I feel for our staff is now being tested to the full. This week we begin a major re-structure of some of our most important services and some redundancies will be made. I have worked closely with all of the people involved and whereas I do believe that ultimately they will be OK, that they will go on and prosper, I wish that they wouldn’t have to go through the period of anxiety and uncertainty that they now face.

How do you balance what you feel is the right choice for the organisation, with the rights and feelings of those that are being affected? I enjoy being at the centre of the organisation in the good times, so I have no right to absent myself from all the emotions and feelings when that centre resembles a whirlpool. It’s going to be an interesting month.

Nathaniel Wallace is a pen name for a training manager working in the charity sector.


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