Page Updated on January 27, 2023
Welcome to the Trainer’s Spotlight series.
If you are new to this series, here I ask you, the trainers, about your background and experiences as trainers, and to share your expert tips, thoughts and ideas on training. Want to be in the series? You can contact us here.
Interview with Jon Britain, from Upskillgroup.co.uk
It is a pleasure to be able to add the first of our trainer profiles series here live, starting off with experienced freelance trainer, Jon Britain, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry. Jon’s Linkedin.
1. Tell us about your background Jon
My background is in agriculture!
Growing up on a small family farm I developed a strong work ethic, encompassing traits including determination, co-operation and having a sense of purpose.
At the age of 13, I carried out fieldwork such as ploughing and driving the combine harvester. Then I studied agriculture in Norwich, UK, where an early encounter with beer resulted in me abstaining for three years!
In 1994 I was awarded the tenancy of a 280 acre arable Cambridgeshire County Council farm. I entered the County Farms Estate competition three times, winning two awards including the prestigious ‘Best Managed Farm’.
My Early L&D (Learning and Development) Years
Like many farmers in the late ‘90’s I needed to diversify into other activities to supplement my income.
Over two years, while still running the farm, I studied to become a National Proficiency Test Council (NPTC) Assessor for the Safe Use of Pesticides, a Fork-Lift Truck Instructor and a Business Management lecturer in a Cambridge College.
Assessing, instructing and teaching took me away from the farm several days a week to counties all over the country, working in sectors including agriculture, leisure, science, manufacturing.
Teaching in Bangkok, Thailand
In 2001, I relinquished my farm tenancy and a sabbatical ensued commencing in Bangkok.
After three months of travelling, I returned and the chaotic and charismatic ‘City of Angels’ became my home for five years.
Initially, I worked ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’ (TEFL).
Then I taught Business English at The American Embassy and Hotel English at The Pathumwan Princess Hotel before my last job, as a Learning and Development Manager at Bangkok Resort & Spa, a 5 Star hotel the size of a small village.
Marriott training is highly regarded, and I was fortunate to gain many Marriott International Awards.
However, it was while delivering courses such as Sales, Teamwork and of course Customer Service Excellence that I realized that helping people to do new things and do things differently was my calling and so I returned to England, initially to teach Health & Safety.
My facilitation style comes from my own learning and experiences while instructing, assessing, teaching and training in varying situations.
I combine these experiences with my Toastmasters public speaking skills and my people skills to engage stakeholders and learners.
Where possible, I engage with these stakeholders to identify the learning gap between the present knowledge and skills, and the desired level.
I was also a Chartered Manager with experience in many business sectors, so my learning is practical and related to real-life situations, so learners can easily apply it.
I draw out and build on the learners’ existing knowledge, getting good responses from even the most resistant and grumpiest learners.
To summarise, my approach comprises lots of ‘e’s, it’s engaging, experiential, enjoyable and effective!
2. Tell us a little about your own personal interests.
My daily routine includes briskly walking 4-5 miles for fresh air and exercise, often whilst plugged into business podcasts such as The Bottom Line.
Second, to walking, I love reading, especially books by my favourite author, Patrick Lencioni, who tackles work-related topics using his wisdom, humour and insight.
During 2019, I spent more time cooking less in the elaborate style of Mary Berry, and more in the practical style of The Hairy Bikers.
I am a middle-aged rocker! Although in 2019 I went to Hard Rock Hell in Ibiza, these days it’s usually local bands and a pint of real ale. My aim in 2020 is to see Whitesnake in concert, spend more time playing my four guitars and continue my support for The Princes Trust.
3. How did you get involved with Freelance/Corporate Training?
Yes, so the move into learning and Development in 1999, from farming, when I did the assessor training was really the start of it all.
However, it was three years later as Learning & Development Manager of Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa that I became absorbed in workplace behaviour and people development.
Almost 20 years later, I retain my enthusiasm for developing the capabilities of management, team, and Individuals, resulting in engaged and productive employees who take pride in their tasks and enjoy going to work.
4. What subjects do you provide training on?
The areas I provide training on are:
- Personal development
- Assertiveness skills
- Presentation skills
- Time management skills
- Organization skills
- How to deal with stress
- Interpersonal skills
- Building relationships
- Communication skills
- Train the trainer
- Team working skills
- Collaborative working
- Managing Narcissism in the workplace
For sales training, I also offer:
- Customer service skills
- Face-to-face sales skills
- Introduction to sales
- Successful telephone skills
In terms of management training, I provide:
- Change management and employee engagement training
- First-time manager skills
- People management skills
- Performance management skills
5. Your one tip on how to be a good trainer
My one tip is ‘Engagement’.
Like many websites, mine lists courses such as Assertiveness, Time Management and Telesales, because that’s what managers and employees feel they need. They may be right, the training might be a tick-box exercise, we don’t know.
If possible, engage with the stakeholders to establish if the training is the answer to their problem. This discussion increases the chances of the training being a success and developing a long-term relationship with the organisation also.
Simple questions such as:
- What is happening/not happening that you think is a problem?
- How will ‘Customer Service’ training help?
- How will you know the training has helped?
Engage the learner by telling them:
- what the learning will involve, such as content and style of learning
- the reasons why, such as changes taking place or career development
- how it’s designed to help them, linking the learning to the application
Get their attention from the start. Engage them with a question, quote, statistic or anecdote, and spell out the benefits of their learning.
Engage them in the middle through a variety of activities, exercises, pair/group work and moving around the room – we learn actively, not passively.
Engage them at the end. I use KISS, a practical feedback framework, giving them the opportunity to tell the group what they will keep doing, improve upon, stop doing and start doing.
6. Second tip on advice for new trainers
My tip is to get as much experience as possible.
Trainers need to demonstrate many things, including competence in their skills and subject knowledge.
They need patience, empathy and the ability to connect with learners of varying motivational levels and much more.
If you’re ‘in-house’ you should easily be able to start by delivering a short course of an hour or so to a small group of say 6-8 learners.
If you’re a freelance trainer you could persuade a contact with the promise of an hour’s free training or contact a charity such as the Prince’s Trust to discuss mutual benefits.
The more experience you have, the easier and more enjoyable it will be for you and your learners, and you’ll be more effective too.
7. What does upskilling mean to you and how can this help new managers?
Many organisations have flatter structures nowadays, though larger organisations may still have four basic levels of management: top, middle, first line, and team leaders.
However, first-line managers can make the most significant impact because they are the lynchpin of most organisations and often see problems.
- untrained staff
- poor quality materials
- machinery breakdowns
- or new procedures that slow down production. Good managers will ensure costs are kept low while productivity is kept high.
Despite their importance, First-line managers get bad press, and many employees say they have a lousy boss. Half the UK workforce has left their job due to strained relationships with their manager, and I’m sure we all know the phrase ‘Employees don’t leave their companies; they leave their boss?’
Of course, there are some genuinely bad managers; however, in my experience, they may be doing their very best, but if they never had a good role model or any training and lack experience, they will struggle.
This seems a very unfair and massive mistake for such a key role. These managers are often promoted from their position as subject matter experts.
Still, they lack the essential people skills to build good working relationships, manage team dynamics, and manage themselves. Being a manager is a tough job but, without the skills needed to deal with various people and tasks, they cannot do their best.
Five things training will do for your manager.
- Give them practical skills to make them a better manager
- Help them increase their influence and motivate their staff
- Aid them to engage their team, improving their performance
- Enable them to identify and understand their management style
- Boost their confidence and increase their ability to get things done.
Managers want training, and it makes sense to give it to them!
You can contact Peterborough, UK, based Jon via:
- His site: www.upskillgroup.co.uk
- LinkedIn here.
Dr Paul Symonds
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