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Garry Platt

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“Government spending: Civil servants’ chocolate treat” Trifling with Truffles?

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"The "Chocolate Teambuild" event, run by the Bournemouth-based company Chocolate Delight, involves: "A three-stage chocolate demonstration; hands-on truffle making; tempering demonstration; variety of packaging to create the new product line; all the chocolate made; and free chocolate fountain to enjoy during the teambuild," according to its website." "The website notes: 'The event can be used as a fun exercise or can be used to help personal development, either way everyone will love it and the chocolates they produce.'"

The issue for me is not what they did, or how or what they did it with, it all boils down to three questions:

1. I wonder exactly what needs analysis was done (if any) other than an inconsequential chat and half baked discussion about what had to be addressed within this team and to what extent the issues could be resolved by this type of event?

2. I wonder how the design of this was tailored to meet these needs?

3. And finaly, I wonder how they determined the success of this; how they intendend to evaluate the spending of my £5,000 tax money on this?

10 Responses

  1. Interesting?

    It is odd isn’t it; there are many more "serious" training companies and business schools whose websites note that they are suppliers to Government Departments and no one thinks to question the selection process for them or their courses, but the minute something "frivolous" like chocolate is mentioned it raises a suspicion that the buying process was somehow less professional. 

    There is no more or less evidence of a needs analysis, tailoring or evaluation in this instance than there is in sending a senior executive on a six week mini MBA at a serious business school (cost; probably a lot higher than £5000)~the question arises solely because the vehicle for learning seems less serious; in this case, chocolate.  Somehow a common puritanical streak seems to suggest that unless something has a stern-faced gravitas it is of questionable value.

    I’m not a great fan of firewalking, morris dancing, drumming, ATV driving days, paintballing or similar for the purposes of teambuilding, in the public or private sector, but done well and professionally they are no less effective than any of the more gravitas- laden approaches.  They are also generally just as, if not more, memorable, and frequently no more expensive. 

    It may be that this was a junket and a gross waste of public money, but it just interests me that this type of vehicle is always singled out for question, I’ve never seen a newspaper headline screaming that the Civil Service spends money on sending people to University for training, even though I have never yet seen a rationale for paying someone more to be an Equality and Diversity Officer just because they possess a Masters degree.

    Rus Slater

     

  2. Sum & Substance

    Hello Rus, I did say; "The issue for me is not what they did, or how or what they did it with-" I take your point though I don’t share your convictions regarding these training mediums, especially when you write:

    "I’m not a great fan of firewalking, morris dancing, drumming, ATV driving days, paintballing or similar for the purposes of teambuilding, in the public or private sector, but done well and professionally they are no less effective than any of the more gravitas- laden approaches."

     I have a case study with ROI figures for a ‘serious’ team build event we did earlier this year with a high value brand retailer. I would be happy to let you have a copy for private review Rus. Have you got similar or equivalents for firewalking, morris dancing, drumming, paint balling and ATV driving to support this statement?

    I must also add that I agree whole heartedly with you that training events with ‘gravitas’ guarantee nothing. I should also add that I have yet to see one convincing analysis/case study/evidence for any of the above approaches creating anything other than a transitory feel good factor. And when I say evidence I mean identified, recorded performance gaps being measured, tracked and subsequently closed.

  3. In response to your reply…

    Hi Garry

    I can’t furnish you with any ROI for the firewalking,morris dancing etc: one of the reasons that I’m not such a big fan of these events is because (and my "evidence" is purely anecdotal) what tends to be remembered is the fun/pain/unusualness of the activity, rather than a series of valid and transferable learning points it produced. 

    My point is solely around the image of different activities….how much of the taxpayers money is actually wasted on more "serious" training interventions but is never subjected to public scrutiny simply because it doesn’t have the word "chocolate" in the brochure?

    Rus

  4. Good Point

    I think you’re right Rus when you state:

    "My point is solely around the image of different activities….how much of the taxpayers money is actually wasted on more "serious" training interventions but is never subjected to public scrutiny simply because it doesn’t have the word "chocolate" in the brochure?"

    It’s an astute observation.

  5. Confused

    "My point is solely around the image of different activities….how much of the taxpayers money is actually wasted on more "serious" training interventions but is never subjected to public scrutiny simply because it doesn’t have the word "chocolate" in the brochure?"

    I’m confused by this discussion. Not all training needs to have a measurable outcome. Even if it did "measurable outcomes" can be flawd just as any, if not most statistics are. Ask anyone in Fire, Police, Education or Ambulance how accurate the target statistics are.

    Sometimes activities like the "chocolate" day out or a "treasure hunt" in a nearby city don’t look good on paper but provide a feelgood factor that make working for your employer seem more of a pleasure than a chore.

    I believe Google let their employees go to a play room 1/2 day a week to be creative…not sure if they measure its effectiveness but Google always comes top of the best places to work. I know quite a few Virgin employees and they all love working there…not because of being "measured" but because they are well managed and respected. Same goes for Mars…it all boils down to being managed and treated well and sometimes this might include making chocolates. 

    I also know someone who works for a well know motoring organisation..he attends training regularly to improve his performance…from what he told me he is about to be the most productive person on the planet and will look great on any spreadsheet…the training certainly has been effective in terms of ROI but the look on his face tells me he is about to tell them to stick their rotton job where the sun don’t shine!

    Anywhere that is constantly measuring staff to provide statistics to the board doesn’t realise that people are a bit more complicated that numbers on a spreadsheet!

  6. feelgood factor is worth what?

    Hi Steve

    I agree with your assertion that the feelgood factor is in fact worth a lot, even a temporary one.  There are two issues here for me; one relates solely to this thread and the other to the wider arena of measurement.

    As relates to this thread there is a certain element of "backlash" in the current economic climate regarding perceived wasteage of taxpayers money to the perceived benefit of individuals on the public payroll…eg no one questioned the fact that Prince William was burning thousands of gallons of aviation fuel learning to fly a Chinook….but the minute he landed at his girlfriend’s house there was an outcry.  No one questions the money spent by the civil service on sending people to university to obtain a degree but send people on something enjoyable like a "chocolate teambuild" and there is a reaction that "my tax pounds are being wasted."

    With regard to the wider arena all organisations push for greater efficiency, for the benefit of their customers, shareholders and staff.  The people who hold the purse strings (the Finance Directors) are always very influential (ie have you ever heard of an organisation where the FD wasn’t on the main board?).  The people who perhaps recognise the value of the feelgood factor tend to be the HR or Training managers (there are many organisations where these roles are not represented on the board) I believe that someone once defined accountants as "people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing".  The response to this is to try to put some form of measurement on the value of the training interventions, which requires measurement….without this logical argument to back up training spend it will be the first thing to be questioned or cut.

    Rus

     

  7. Sums it up perfectly

    ""people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing".

    Couldn’t have put it better myself!

    In my experience, as soon as you start measuring anything the tape measure starts doing its own thing to get the measurement you are looking for.

    I used to work in Engineering and could quite easily make 232mm look like 230mm, especially at the end of a long nightshift. A nurse recently told me that she takes peoples temperature in the waiting room every 2hrs so it looks like they are not still waiting and look good in the statistics.

  8. The Cost

     

    Where as my position is that HR is not an extension of the entertainment industry and should not be undertaking interventions solely for the purpose of generating a short term ‘feel good’ factor. Its time and energy would be much better spent determining why people feel de-motivated and listless in the workplace and addressing those issues which are at the heart of the matter, rather than piddling around with symptoms; rather like putting sticking plasters on the weeping pustules of a bubonic plague victim.

    Rus’s analogy of Prince William is a good one as it illustrates my point perfectly. Whilst Prince William was training to fly Chinooks he was following a training programme refined to equip him with the necessary knowledge and skills to do his future job, I however do not count this as ‘wasting’ aviation fuel. The purpose of the training was to equip him to fly the helicopter; it had clear organisational intention and measurable purpose. When however he starts visiting his current squeeze we definitely move into short term ‘feel good’ territory and that decision in my opinion was rightly criticised. Know any other pilots who can waz the Hercules over their Mums house for a ‘fly by’?

    People can use the HR function for what ever purpose they want and doubtless while some people attending the chocolate factory felt good, some doubtless felt it was a complete waste of time and money. We all have different perceptions of what ‘fun’ is, rather like this drumming undertaken during a workshop run by DEFRA

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7989945.stm

    Here some vets complained possible because the workshop was run during the middle of one of the biggest TB outbreaks in the country, but hey, some people enjoyed hitting a bongo drum so that was OK?

    Any sponsored MBA that does not result in improved effectiveness and efficiency is a complete waste of time, agreed, however if it does deliver against objectives it can be a success and some do. I have yet to see and no one has supplied any evidence that ‘feel good’ training is worth anything in real and signficant terms.

    And whilst Rus appears to view accountants as people who ‘know the cost of everything and the value of nothing’ there are far too many Trainers / Coaches / Developers out there who ‘know neither the cost or value of anything’ and consequently undertake training of no real or even perceived significant value other then delivering a ‘feel good’ factor.

    No wonder in a recent survey commissioned by Capita, 100 of the UKs top 500 companies (by turnover) produced some depressing results about the state of some L&D departments in the UK, just look at these dire figures:

    70% see inadequate staff skills as barrier to growth
     

    55% claim L&D failing to deliver necessary training
     
    46% doubt L&D can deliver
     
    less than 18% agree that L&D aligned with business

     

    Not surprising though.
  9. Two points…

    "And whilst Rus appears to view accountants as people who ‘know the cost of everything and the value of nothing’ there are far too many Trainers / Coaches / Developers out there who ‘know neither the cost or value of anything’ and consequently undertake training of no real or even perceived significant value other then delivering a ‘feel good’ factor."

    1. I didn’t say I held this view; my sister and father in law are both Accountants and Finance Directors, I’d get lynched.

    2. I am in violent agreement with you Garry…..if the training people cannot justify the value they bring to the organisation they will be the first up against the wall when the day of the cost cutting revolution arrives, hence they must be able to produce evidence of value; ie ROI.

    Rus

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Garry Platt

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