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Seb Anthony

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Is the residential development programme dead?


Hi all

Being a lurker on this and various other forums, I perceive a trend towards bit size training as a way of "fitting in" learning activities within a busy work schedule. I make no judgement as to whether this is a good or bad trend, know doubt others will defend both positive and negative aspects of this. My question is, whether this trend has moved people away from considering the residential programme as a valid learning activity, with all its direct and indirect costs.
A colleage of mine runs a 7 day residential programme on a yacht in Turkey, followed by three months coaching, delegates espousing the opportunity to have "white space" to reflect on serious aspects of the personal and professional development .
My question is therefore; are residentail retreats dead, not because they don't work (Heather's LifeCraft Experience undoubtedly does), but because there is too much of a cost?

Onwards and upwards.
Peter Mayes

3 Responses

  1. Residential events
    Over recent years there has definitely been a shift towards shorter events – time away from the workplace being an even bigger issue than cost.
    In my experience, more training has become more directly focused on clear work-related outcomes (which is generally a good thing). This type of training has had more attention, is done closer to the workplace than ever before (both geographically and psychologically) and is rightly subject to pretty hard-nosed evaluation.
    Ironically, I think there has been a counter-trend in terms of personal development. This has got further from the workplace (both geographically and psychologically), has become more career focused and has been subject to more of a ‘speculate to accumulate’ investment attitude.
    This year company budgets do seem tighter but I wonder if individuals investing in themselves might be on the increase – I only have anecdotal evidence for this. Overall there does seem to be a place for residential training and personal retreats but it is important to appeal to the big four: people’s minds, hearts, wallets and diaries.
    I’d also be interested in others’ views.

  2. Death Knell? Not Yet!
    I co-facilitate on a series of residential management development programmes for a global organisation. They have a portfolio of courses which they run in strategic locations globally (yes, I do get to travel!). They are intense experiences both in terms of the sheer volume of learning on offer, and socially & culturally – imagine 25 people together for several weeks (1 programme is 10 weeks long, residential!) – from India, USA, South America, ANZ, China, as well as Europe – all keen to change the world! At the other end of the spectrum are effectively first line managers – they also go on a residential programme. Does it cost? Yes. Is it more than a place on a reasonable, open access, week-long programme? Not usually. Is there value coming out of the 11 hrs a day they aren’t engaged in programmed learning? Absolutely.

    The organisation has a clear aim to change its culture globally, and this is publicly supported from the very top. By the way, this organisation is more concerned with time away from work than costs of training.

    The portfolio is currently being reviewed – not to cut, but to maintain alignment. The intent is to run more programmes in the next 2 years.

    I don’t think we’ll see the death of residentials just yet!



  3. The trend is to a portfolio
    The residential course is not extinct but it must evolve. There was a time when trainers were asked to develop a week’s course and they sat around thinking how to fill it (or so I’m told – before my time!) Now training has to work much harder to justify itself in terms of business benefits. At Capgemini, we have a corporate university in France which runs residential courses of up to one week. As well as being packed with training, these courses provide reflection time and a useful opportunity to mingle with colleagues from other countries. On the other hand, we run a very successful programme of ‘Masterclasses’ (maximum 90 minutes, all sorts of topics) and ‘Expresstrain’ (maximum 3 hours, a small number of core, common skills). In between, we have an array of non-residential courses, open learning, reference documents, CBT etc.
    What this adds up to is a portfolio of different learning opportunities. What they all have in common is a dedication to business relevance and return to the business.


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