On the spot
Woodward, D. (2004) ‘On the Spot’ [An Interview with Nick Wright], Learning & Development, November, p7.
Nick Wright, Learning & Development Manager for Tearfund, an international relief and development organisation.
DW - You've been redesigning training and development at Tearfund. Was there any theory behind the changes you've made?
NW - We've been looking at ways to broaden the training and development function at Tearfund to include what we call internal learning consultancy. The learning and development team felt that an internal consulting model would add greater value to the organisation than conventional training and development methods. Two members of the team conducted research and the results confirmed our instincts.
DW - And what were those instincts?
NW - That if we work alongside leaders at a strategic level to determine what human factors effect Tearfund's capability to fulfil its mission, that would be a more effective approach than simply being a 'training provider' within the organisation. In the past where we might have been more event-oriented, we now work alongside Group Leaders (the directors) and Team Leaders (the line managers) as learning business partners.
DW - What kind of reaction have you had from staff?
NW - The feedback to date has been incredibly positive. People are telling us that they have gained a new perspective on what's possible.
DW - Is there a marked difference in training needs between normal corporations and non-profit organisations?
NW - In some senses they are very similar, but we do find that many staff are very highly motivated by the mission of the organisation per se. While this is often beneficial, some are so enthusiastic that they could burn themselves out. We therefore need to balance motivation and task assignments very carefully.
DW - As a charity, is it more important to ensure an adequate return on investment for the project?
NW - There is no significant demand to demonstrate the financial impact of the changes we have made. We are keen, however, to demonstrate the net impact on organisational effectiveness. We are conducting an impact evaluation and the results should be out in a year. At the moment we are more concerned with helping people to progress their capabilities than making a financial difference.
DW - The project was thoroughly researched before implementation. All in all, a fairly academic approach?
NW - The team researched the notion of internal consultancy as part of their studies. That involved internal interviews and external surveys. Three team members have now studied learning and development to masters level and we’ve combined their learning with our practical experience to good effect.