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Francis Marshall

Cegos (UK) Ltd

Managing Director

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The importance of the personal touch


Elearning and tablets may be on the rise, but Francis Marshall believes that there's plenty of value to be had from the face to face experience.
Despite the continued problems across Europe and economic and corporate difficulties in countries such as Spain, Italy and France, one form of L&D seems to not only have emerged unscathed from these financial difficulties but continues to grow - business coaching.
The latest pan-European survey, which was carried out among 2,800 employees and 600 HR directors/training managers in six european countries, found coaching to be the fastest growing training tool across Europe with 47% of learners saying that they had benefitted from it over the past year– more than a 10% increase on 2010. In Germany, 43% said they had benefitted from coaching, 57% said they had in the Netherlands and UK, 52% in Spain, and 48% in Italy.
The survey also finds that coaching has more than met people's expectations. When asked whether coaching had met expectations, over 90% of respondents said that it had fully or partly met their expectations. Furthermore, in countries, such as the UK and Italy, this figure was as high as 95% and 93% respectively.
"It's clear that the human touch takes priority among learners today and you can't get a stronger human touch than in coaching."
The result is that coaching today is the second most popular training technique across the majority of European countries – behind classroom learning but ahead of elearning and online distance learning.
What does this tell us? In my mind, despite the focus on technologies and proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers, it's clear that the human touch takes priority among learners today and you can't get a stronger human touch than in coaching.
The fact that classroom training remains the most popular mode of learning, with 90% of trained employees having benefitted from it according to our survey, is again testament to the human touch.
It is the pre-eminence of personal styles of training, such as classroom-based and coaching, which are also leading to such high satisfaction levels in training. Our survey found that 93% are satisfied with the courses they have taken of which 36% are 'very' satisfied. The highest levels of satisfaction are found among UK employees with 47% being very satisfied with the training they have received, a further 49% quite satisfied, while only 4% were found to be dissatisfied.
Furthermore, when asked what types of training organisations should focus on to continue to meet training expectations over the next three years, 87% said face-to-face classroom training (either absolutely or more or less agreeing) and 77% said training that offers coaching and personalised support.
So, why has the personal touch – through classroom training and coaching – proved to be so popular in these difficult economic times? I believe it's down to a number of factors.
Firstly, I believe that face-to-face and personal training is ideally suited for when times are difficult. When profits are down and companies have had to downsize, personal training can play a crucial role in helping business leaders think clearly and keep their heads.
What we are seeing today is that coaching is having a very positive impact among senior executives and this is now increasingly filtering down organisations. Senior executives are coaching their managers more effectively and line managers are coaching their teams more effectively resulting in a whole host of benefits for individuals as well as the organisation.
A key benefit of coaching in today's economic climate is that it can offer that level of reassurance and intimacy much needed by today's managers and support them in having those difficult conversations. Such conversations can include everything from presenting disappointing financial results to the board through to telling your line manager that they will be facing budget cuts or making enforced redundancies.
In such circumstances, personal training, such as classroom training or coaching, can help leaders pass on bad news but also help engender optimism in the company and the future for those left behind.
A crucial element of face-to-face learning, which is yet to be effectively replicated with new, emerging technology tools is the art of discourse and interpretation. While webcasts are starting to rise to the challenge, the give and take of an initial interactive face-to face classroom discussion or coaching session is immensely valuable. Learners appreciate this. More personalised and customised training can also play an important role in helping employees adapt to new roles.
The economic difficulties over the last few years has led to a number of layers of management being stripped out and individuals seeing much greater leaps in job levels and responsibilities. In such circumstances, training with a personal touch can play a vital role in helping individuals embrace these responsibilities and understand individual differences and group dynamics. Coaching and classroom training are very well suited to providing the experiential element of learning by providing a more effective forum for role-plays - practicing chairing meetings or taking appraisals for example – than technology-led learning can offer.
"More personalised and customised training can also play an important role in helping employees adapt to new roles."
Finally, another key benefit of classroom learning or coaching is the fact that it can be relatively distraction-free. It can create a place when you can feel calm and think calmly and when you are calm, you are more creative and make better decisions.
It is this ability to help maintain motivation and develop skills that will guide organisations back to economic recovery. Training again plays a key role in this, with our survey showing that the majority (65%) of employees see their desire to improve their personal and professional skills and to do their job better as their main motivation for undergoing training.
The fact that classroom training and coaching continues to be embraced across Europe, as our survey shows – and this against all the gloom particularly within Eurozone countries – is a great tribute to the effectiveness and long-term future of both approaches.
Francis Marshall is managing director of Cegos UK, part of Europe’s largest learning and development provider. In addition to his responsibilities as MD, Francis is an NLP practitioner and is active as a senior level consultant within the fields of management, leadership and executive coaching. For further information visit

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Francis Marshall

Managing Director

Read more from Francis Marshall

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