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How Did I Get Here? Giles Smith, QA


Giles Smith, head of Managed Training Service (MTS) at award winning consultancy QA, explains why learning on the job can be an ineffective and expensive training method.

1. Describe your role and responsibilities
My role is to increase awareness amongst our customers of the Managed Training Service (MTS) we offer, and make sure that the service we provide is meeting their needs. This means working closely with our existing customers to understand the challenges and opportunities within their business and ensuring that the service we’re providing is meeting their needs and delivering above our Service Level Agreements.

I also work with customers who are not yet using an MTS and help them understand how it could support them through targeted learning, and what level of service we could best provide to help their business achieve value from training.

2. How are training priorities set within your organisation?
I believe that trained users are the cornerstone of successful systems, and it’s critical that training is brought on board at an early stage of a project. Where projects are delayed it often means that the time allocated for training is condensed and, if this is not adequately addressed, the quality of performance can suffer. We work closely with our customers to identify training priorities before a skills gap can appear, and to prioritise the training that they need to meet their business requirements.

3. How closely aligned is training and development to the overall organisational strategy?
I believe that training should be very closely aligned to organisational strategy as it’s critical that the skills provided are meeting business requirements in both the short and long term. It’s our role to understand the strategy of our customers, and help them to determine the appropriate learning solution that will support these requirements.

4. How does your department keep your organisation one step ahead?
We work hard to help our customers keep their organisations one step ahead through the training their departments are offering. I think it’s important to monitor market trends and many of our instructors are involved in the early stages of product development for new technologies, so it’s a great opportunity to understand what’s coming up in the future.

This means we can offer a range of training, either helping people get up to speed quickly or those who are starting working with a completely new technology. We’re keen to get involved in leading industry thinking on where training is going in the future, and we’re taking part in this year’s Moving Learning seminar, which aims to challenge traditional thinking on learning and exploring these future themes.

5. How does your training department operate?
We provide a Managed Training Service for our customers, so effectively an end-to-end training solution for organisations of all sizes. This can be used in addition to an in-house training department, or to replace some of the administrative function as well as providing strategic guidance. We work very closely across our customers’ businesses, providing Training Needs Analysis and consulting services, as well as organising and administering the day-to-day training.

We’ve designed the MTS so it can help organisations of all sizes and levels of maturity, so obviously the structure of the service is tailored to the customer’s requirements. This means it gives people access to both a public programme of training courses, and also to bespoke learning solutions tailored to a particular project or requirement.

6. How do you evaluate training and does this vary according to the learning intervention?
We think that evaluation should go deeper than simply asking whether people enjoyed coming on the course and found the training interesting, although this is still important. Evaluation should be more about the impact on performance and the value in the workplace – skills should be instantly applicable but evaluation should also measure this impact over the long term.

We are making sure that evaluation dynamically steers the learning programmes we provide with a three-phase approach. We check that the agreed knowledge and skills have been communicated, we steer the programme with ongoing evaluation, and we challenge the assumptions that gave rise to the training programme so we can make sure that the solution is the most effective. This approach means that the evaluation has far greater value to the customer and their business.

7. Do you feel that training and development is underrated? If so how can training professionals improve its credibility?
It isn’t so much that training is underrated, but that it’s under utilised. Often companies may have an understanding of the benefit of training, but it’s the last thing they consider when planning a project or preparing a budget.

Therefore it’s the awareness of the benefits of training at an early stage that needs improving, and these benefits need to be reflected in cost and time rather than just skills. For example, a technical implementation is likely to be significantly less costly if those undertaking the project have received adequate training in advance, rather than learning on the job.

8. How do you prove the value of your department within your organisation?
As a training company we often have to prove our value to our customers, and we think that measuring the performance benefits against time spent is important. Our planning and evaluation processes measure the individual’s current skills against the training need and the needs of their role. We also align this with productivity, so it’s easy to see how training can make a difference to someone’s ability to do their job effectively.

9. What is the biggest current challenge for your department?
The biggest challenge for any training provider at the moment is making sure they are providing solutions to meet business needs, be that a bespoke learning solution or ensuring that the right range of scheduled courses is available in the right locations at the right times.

This means continuous evaluation of both your customer’s needs and the success of the solutions you provide, so you can learn and improve from each project and course you deliver.

10. What do you see as the main challenges for training professionals in the next five years?
Training professionals need to start thinking outside the box when it comes to the type of learning that is provided. This will mean that providers will need to move beyond the simple public schedule of courses, and aiming to provide integrated programmes to make learning more effective.

By offering a range of different types of learning, they will be able to better meet the needs of their customers. In return, training managers need to consider the different learning styles of their employees and take the time to understand how a broader solution might better fit the varying needs of their business.

11. What influences do you think have had the greatest impact on the training sector in recent years?
The recent competitive nature of the training industry has really improved quality, and it has encouraged companies to think outside the standard delivery methods. As a result of this, blended programmes have been developed that cater to a wider range of learning styles and evaluation has improved.

As the need for accreditation increases, TAP or IITT accreditation is more likely to be requested by customers, who are keen to ensure that they’re getting the quality they require.

12. What is the best lesson you can pass on?
The best lesson I have learnt is to build strong relationships with customers, colleagues and other stakeholders within the business. If a relationship is strong it can overcome any challenges it faces, and people can work together to find solutions that will benefit everyone. To achieve this, think about how you would like to be treated and treat others the same.

Previous career profiles can be seen on the How Did I Get Here? page.


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