No matter what the barriers are, invest in people

Mashpi Lodge

Photo credit: latour.com

In 2001, former mayor of the Ecuador capital city of Quito embarked on an ambitious journey to transform the Andean forests, which had suffered from deforestation for many years, into a global tourist attraction.

As a lover of nature, I recently watched a BBC TV programme with my jaw anchored to the floor. Roque Sevilla, former mayor turned businessman turned environmentalist, shared his personal multi-million dollar project with us; the incredible Mashpi Lodge and Reserve. It’s a striking structure which provides a holiday home for just 42 guests, placing them in the middle of the tropical forest just outside of Quito. It’s constructed almost entirely out of huge glass panes in an attempt to place its visitor’s, as-one, with nature in a way they’re unlikely to have ever experienced before. I was in awe.

As you’d expect, delivering such an ambitious project would never be plain sailing. Roque had several obstacles to overcome, including a machete-wielding local!

Jose was a farmer who lived in the nearby village and farmed in the Mashpi Reserve. He worked for a logging company that had moved into the area in the 1990’s for a lumber concession so spent his days hacking through the dense woodland.

So, how did Roque deal with this? How would you deal with this?!

Roque offered him a job.

Upon meeting Jose for the first time, Roque brought along an orchid expert. It was a brave move. As they talked and walked through the forest, the idea was to re-channel Jose’s thinking; to remove any negative thinking, to re-imagine his surroundings; to really open his eyes and look at the positive things which lay before him – to not only see what good the forest can do for him but what he can do for it.

Jose admitted to never noticing the colourful and fragrant blooms before. He was blinkered, channelling his anger and frustrations at the innocent trees. However, through this intervention, Jose quickly built a trusting relationship with Roque, and now, thanks to this new found knowledge, he quickly took up his offer of employment as Village Chief (that’s a resident tour guide to you and me).

Thriving in his new role, Jose not only welcomes and chaperones guests to the Lodge, he’s now a botanist; cultivating and blooming a personal collection of orchids in the newly developed tourist village.

Mashpi Lodge has firmly inked itself a place in my bucket list, but in reflection I was thinking how much Roque had achieved with Jose and Quito’s wider community.

Jose

Photo credit: mashpilodge.wordpress.com

In some ways, Bromford has its similarities. Our coaching approach allows us to get closer to our communities in ways we’ve never been able to do before. Much like in the case of Jose, if you truly want to make a difference to peoples’ lives you’ve got to get to know the person first; what are their hopes, their dreams, their hurdles and their barriers.

When we recruit we’re looking for the right person, with the right skills – not just for today, but for tomorrow too. We offer a job with a good salary that has an excellent benefits package. We offer excellent in-house training with opportunities to grow and develop. It’s a two way thing; we’ll show what we can offer them – but equally we want to know what they can do for us.

Mashpi Village didn’t just happen overnight. The money helped, of course, but it took time to develop – and by that I don’t just mean physically. The natural habitat and the local community had to be considered and respected. By simply ousting Jose, for example, could’ve had catastrophic consequences. Instead, time was invested into him as a person and because of this both parties reaped the rewards.

So, whether you’re recruiting for a vacancy, coaching someone through life, or building a luxury holiday lodge in the middle of a mountain forest – make sure you take the time to invest in people.

A message to my younger self

shutterstock_475291216

Dear Andy (aged 24years, 5months),

 

I know you’re only a few weeks into your new job, and the archaic computer system you’re using with the black screen, green text and ‘tab’ navigation is a little cruddy; but trust me, this will get better.

 

The repairs call centre that you’re working in; you see it as just a ‘stepping stone’ to bigger and better things. But listen, today the customer service centre (as it’s now called) handles a multitude of queries – everything from rents to repairs, home moves to house shares, they’re even handling social media queries and talking to customers whilst they’re watching Bake Off on a Wednesday evening. My apologies, Bake Off doesn’t even exist yet does it, let alone Twitter and Facebook!

 

I hear your cries about the training events you keep being sent on; classroom event after classroom event. You’ll love what we have now. That earlier point about computers; those have been replaced by colour screens, they’re super-fast and can even go wireless…and all that classroom training you’ve got coming up; all that can fit into these tiny little devices no bigger than your notepad! You’ll be able to access all that resource material, all that expert knowledge and all you’re learning records in just a few clicks of a button.

 

I know you don’t have the time to spend all day talking to them, you have queues from others trying to get through. I appreciate you don’t have the website we have where customers can watch ‘how to videos’ and report repairs online, nor do you have engineers going out to do regular service checks on our homes like we do now – all of which can help reduce those large volumes of calls; but every one of our customers have their own story, they just need to be heard.

 

That’s why we’re changing the way we’re working. We believe that establishing the right kind of relationship with every customer can help them get the best from their home, our services and their communities – so we’re introducing neighbourhood coaches. They have smaller patches to work with, around 175 customers each, a far cry from the 500+ they had back then ‘eh?! This means they can get closer to those customers who most need it, dedicate more time to them and help them to do more for themselves; manage their money, their relationships, get into work or college.

 

So, think twice about looking elsewhere. That call centre (as you know it) has some exciting changes ahead. Bromford is going to evolve and create some fantastic opportunities for its customers and colleagues.

 

Be brave and stick with it. Make a difference and add a bit of you. But remember; there is no spoon. Don’t worry, that’ll all make sense when you join me here in 2016!

 

All the best, Andy.

 

from,

Andy (aged 37years, 4months)

Engagement Specialist at Bromford

 

P.S. Being a Dad is awesome!

Simple. Engaging. Fun.

Hand pulling out wodden block.

Image source: Living in Jenga Land | Irrefutable Success

Games, don’t you just love them!

I’ve not long returned from a wonderful family break in North Wales, and despite a topsy-turvy few days of weather – we made the most of our time away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

We stayed in a beautiful caravan (paid a little extra for a newer model with central heating – just as well) and the site boasted some fantastic facilities; go karting, crazy golf, arcades, Segway’s, and a large entertainment complex with live shows every evening which catered for both its younger and more mature guests. But do you know what? Despite all of these fab offerings it was the simplest things that we enjoyed most.

Pass the Pigs, Jenga, cricket on the beach – yep, all of those. What ticked the box for me was the coming together of us all; we could all get involved, all have a say, and all had a chance to release our inner-competitive egos. These games kept us gripped for hours. We all wanted to play. We all wanted to win. All 10 of us – from my daughter of 5 years old right through to my dad of 70 years young.

You see, with games as simple as these everyone can play a part.

And that’s the approach we’re taking with the learning we’re creating at Bromford. Keep it simple, keep it inclusive and keep it fun. There’s still a stigma associated with traditional e-learning that gets people twitching and wincing like they’ve just bitten into a Haribo Tangfastic for the first time. We’re going through a constant debate in L&D at the moment; do we drop the name e-learning completely or simply change its landscape? That’s for us to fight over. But whatever we choose we consciously keep to the 70:20:10 model.

Our approach is to have all colleagues’ needs and styles in mind. If a colleague prefers to go through an online course, sit within a classroom or pull up a chair next to our desks – we must be able to cater for all. Whatever their method of choice, we should always inject a sense of fun, personality and delivery of message in an easy to understand and inclusive way, irrespective of your background or prior knowledge of the subject.

There was only a few of us that had played Pass the Pigs before – but those who hadn’t soon picked it up.

Jenga is a strategic kind of game which requires silence and patience in abundance – but every single one of us wanted a piece of the action.

The game of cricket had us all on our feet and running havoc on the beach – even my parents – and was won by my 13 year old niece who, with little to no persuasion, swapped her mobile for a cricket bat and put the rest of the family to shame!

Each game was different.

Each one had a hook.

Each one got us involved.

Simple. Engaging. Fun.

If you have any thoughts on how to make learning fun and exciting, or if you’re willing to share any ideas that you or your company has implemented, please do share them below or on twitter.

Hack traditional learning, embrace digital

Hacked

Well hello there, I’m back! Truth is, I’d never really gone away but I had taken a side-step from my blog whilst I reflected on things, re-evaluated and sharpened my saw.

To mark digital learning day I originally wrote this post for our website on behalf of our learning and development team. We are taking steps to hack our education here at Bromford – something 13 year old Logan Laplante talks about brilliantly in this TEDx talk from 2013 (please spare yourself 11 minutes to watch this and be inspired by Logan’s story of why he quit traditional education to be home schooled by his mom.)

The way we deliver our learning to colleagues has gone through some changes, something not everyone reading this will be aware of. Traditionally classroom delivery was favoured but as our organisation has grown the difficulty of achieving this when you have around 1200 employees was becoming more and more apparent.

As digital and social learning grew around us we wanted to piggyback on this opportunity and have a slice of this for ourselves. And Be.Bromford was that very opportunity.

Be.Bromford is our own learning platform that’s built by, and for, our colleagues and their learning journey begins with us way before they’ve even popped on their name badge for the first time!

We give successfully recruited candidates access to our Onboarding site (which sits within Be.Bromford) up to four weeks before their start date and this allows them to see and hear, first hand, what it’s really like to work at Bromford. They will hear from colleagues and senior leaders through video and written article pages, and understand our expectations of them and what it takes to really embrace our special culture.

The Onboarding process does a really good job of speeding up the induction period but what it also does is give these new colleagues an early insight into Be.Bromford and get a feel for how it works and what the navigation feels like. When day one comes around for the colleague they’ll get full access to the rest of the site. From here-in they’ll have access to the rest of the site.

Colleagues will use Be.Bromford to submit their one to one’s and annual reviews and use the site to explore a wealth of articles on various learning topics. We have animated and traditional learning videos, games, resources, screencasts, leadership tools and a social learning community for colleagues to share and support each other with their learning queries and experiences. We’ve also introduced a fantastic new tool called getabstract which helps colleagues find, extract and digest business books’ content in less than 10 minutes.

All of this is helping us to shape and build our next big learning project: something we’re working on we’ve called Job Ready Pathways. These pathways of learning are packaged up for colleagues by job role. It allows new starters to go through all the content they need to get them job ready and prepared to deliver their role and focusses on clarity and consistency for all.

24/7

Be.Bromford is slowly changing colleagues’ behaviours and the way we deliver our learning. We recognise traditional classroom training still has a very key place but what digital learning is doing for Bromford is complimenting the experience. Colleagues can access their pre-learning through Be.Bromford 24/7, share thoughts and ideas, research content and even help write and deliver it for others.

Digital learning for Bromford isn’t about taking anything away from what we currently do it’s about creating more learning opportunities for colleagues. It’s our enabler. It’s our Google.

You can watch our Be.Bromford video by clicking or tapping here.

It’s great to learn, socially

Funny Monkeys - courtesy of Afranko.com

Funny Monkeys – courtesy of Afranko.com

I mentioned in my previous post how my new role has seen me move into a new team and help with the build of our brand new learning platform. Being part of the colleague development team we need to have our fingers firmly on the pulse and actively seek new ways to engage our colleagues and pull together the next great piece of content.

In this new team I have the pleasure of working alongside a wonderful colleague by the name of Jo Mason (please do me a favour and say hello to her next time your online). Jo is something of a learning and development guru here at Bromford (she’ll be pretty embarrassed when she finds out I wrote that). That said Jo is so humble and honest in her ways that she’d quickly tell you that she is always learning and striving to hear more of what others have to say.

So, a few weekends back we put that to the test. Jo and I hitched a little plan and decided to reach out to our twitter audience in the hope that the people we know could help shape some of our learning content for us.

We’d hoped that posting a few tweets would be enough to get a few responses and help shape how we pull this together, what happened next was phenomenal.

More than 30 people got involved with over 70 responses in just 1 day! We had people sharing personal thoughts, ideas, suggestions, web links and pictures. We’d really struck a chord. What’s great is that people gave up their personal time to help us out. Some replied early morning, some during lunchtime and others into the evening – oh and did I mention this was on a Sunday too?!

The point is that people are willing to share and learn from one another at whatever time suits them, at whatever pace and in a style that they feel most comfortable in using – whether that’s through type, file sharing or imagery. This is social learning working at its best – for you!

Thanks again to everyone who got involved in #stresslesstips – click on the link below to see what we produced with all of your wonderful creations.

Andy and Jo

http://www.haikudeck.com/-stress-less-top-tips-how-to-presentation-YBYSgrHBKF

If you’ve any #stresslesstips of your own, or have an idea for a piece of learning we could work on in the future, please let me know in the spaces below.

Business lessons from a toddler!

Last Thursday I had the absolute pleasure of being part of Bromford’s final Future Fifty event with guest speaker, CEO and founder of Ella’s Kitchen; Paul Lindley.

The day was the finale in a series of events that we hosted and it marked the anniversary of Bromford’s first ever Board Meeting in November 1963. In reflection of this we brought together old friends, colleagues and board members to hear from Paul, our CEO Mick Kent, see the launch of our YouCan Foundation and listen to some inspirational stories from a couple of Bromford’s customers.

Paul seized his opportunity to reflect on the significant milestones of the past 50 years and talked us through what he felt had changed, and hadn’t, during this time. You can watch the live-stream of the event again through our YouTube channel. But one of the highlights for me came in the second part of Paul’s presentation where he talked about the future of entrepreneurship and leadership. This was it for me, this is the thing that hooked my smile and I think caught everyone’s imagination around the room.

Is it the childlike behaviour or the Superman baby-grow that does it?

Is it the childlike behaviour or the Superman baby-grow that does it?

So here are Paul’s 6 business lessons from a toddler (with a few descriptions from me):

Never give up
How many times have you said to your children, or heard others say to theirs, to stop doing something – yet the little ones continue in their quest to do as they originally intended. Nothing will get in their way! For me, the determination of these little humans is unparalleled.

Be creative
Just this weekend I took delivery of a few Christmas presents that I’d purchased from an online book store. When my daughter copped her eyes on the said box her immediate reaction was; “Daddy a robot”. No, she hadn’t gone mad. She’d seen the cardboard surround as much more than just a box, she wanted me to turn it into a robot suit that she could wear. Don’t you just love that creative spirit?!

“Be childlike not childish in your work; have fun and be creative” ~ @Paul_Lindley

Get noticed
Kids are the life and soul of pretty much every family gathering. They stand out in every supermarket, are the main reason we make so much of Christmas and you’re likely to hear them before you’ve even seen them! Kids quite simply like to get noticed – no different from all aspiring colleagues and businesses I guess.

Be honest
Sometimes we don’t like to hear the truth, but if we’re not prepared to listen how can we possibly learn and move forward? Similarly we need to be honest with others, if they ask for feedback, are looking for advice or want your opinion – tell them what you really think. Toddlers have to be some of the most honest people you’ll ever know – they’ll tell you how it really is.

Show your feelings
Much like the honesty point above, it’s not often we will say to others how we really feel – but we should. We should open up more to other people, let them know if we’re feeling low and when we’re not ‘in the room’. A child is much the same, they will tell you when they’re hungry, when they are hurt and when they’re feeling poorly and could do with a hug – now, how good is a hug!

Use different strategies
Why do we continue to do the same things in the same ways time and time again? We tend to know what our objectives are and yet, despite our commitment to get the best result possible, continue to go about it in the same way we always have. Now, how often do we see children climb over things, go under things and around things that we say they shouldn’t? Is it really so wrong or should we just allow them to take on a new challenge just as we would want for ourselves and our customers?

“Some advice to new business: always, always be a toddler” ~ @Paul_Lindley

Being a parent to a 3 year old I totally get these points from Paul. So let’s cut through the waffle and the jargon and align our approach to business through the eyes of a toddler.

I’ve come up with a few extra of my own which I’ve turned into a Haiku Deck. What do you think? Are there any that you can think of that you’d like to add? Go on be honest, be creative, show your feelings and get yourself noticed!

Just to remind you that the recording of the live-stream from the event is available on our YouTube channel where you can see all of Paul’s presentation. You can also see the launch of our YouCan Foundation, hear from two of our customers whose lives have been touched by the work that we’ve done, and see an ‘interview in hashtags’ with our flamboyant leader; Mick Kent. You can also follow the tweets from the day in the two Storify’s we’ve put together here and here.

 

If you’re interested in reading more from Paul Lindley, his new book “Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler” is available to order now from Amazon.

The Bromford DNA, Let It Be

This is my latest post that first appeared as a guest article over at All Things IC courtesy of Rachel Miller (thanks again Rachel). I hope you enjoy it.

*The Fab Four - can you name them?

*The Fab Four – can you name them?

I wonder how many of us could name The Beatles? My guess is that most would name the Fab 4 without breaking a sweat, right? Now, how many of us could reel off our company’s mission statement, vision and values without hesitation? Not so easy is it.

Anybody that follows me on twitter, reads my blog or knows me personally would have almost certainly heard me bang on about the company that I work with and how much I love it! Like The Beatles we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary here at Bromford and it’s been during this milestone that we’ve opted for a cleaner and more leaner approach of inspiring people to be their best.

We’ve ditched the tradition of a mission statement, a blurred vision and an exhaustive list of values. Instead we look for colleagues to work with us who share our newly launched DNA; Be Good, Be Brave, Be Different and Be Commercial, our very own awesome foursome!

Our very own 'Fab Four'

Our very own ‘Fab Four’

Just this week, 6 months since their launch, a number of leaders from across Bromford (including me) were presented with a challenge; to go and investigate our DNA and then feedback to a wider audience what we found. We were asked to visit other teams, see how colleagues are embracing ‘the Be’s’, look at how they are bringing them to life and to, well, Be Nosey!

The day arrived and we had our usual army of tweeters and yammerers (is that the right word, do we even have one yet? If not let’s invent one!), who were on hand to pledge their support and give real-time updates to those who couldn’t be in the room. We were treated to a great variety of presentations ranging from videos to Haiku Decks, a specially built website to a live recording of a podcast! The session was absolutely brilliant; not only did it showcase the wealth of talent we have across Bromford, it also gave us insight into our teams that may have only surfaced previously during lunch breaks and through team meetings.

So for me, someone who relishes a challenge and wanting to #BeBrave and #BeDifferent, I prepared my findings in a unique and inexpensive way. I presented back through our first ever Bromford comic book.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

The comic’s content is taken from video screenshots of our HR team’s away day. What really stood out for me is the fun and engaging way in which colleagues were able to represent and demonstrate the respective Be’s from their team’s viewpoint. Inspirational lyrics, poems, amateur dramatics, avatars and future gazing – this team had it all, and don’t forget they were talking about something that had just replaced all that corporate jargon we used to have!

Now, how many of you reading this can honestly say that your mission statement, vision or values truly enable your colleagues to bring them alive in this way? Will they still be circulating like the Beatles are now; 50 years since they formed? We certainly hope that our new approach will stand the test of time and who knows, we could still be talking about our DNA come our 1st century!

If you’re interested in hearing more about our DNA and the #BeNosey challenge, visit our website and keep checking back for updates as they are released.

*Credit for The Beatles image goes to artist Meredith Kresge. Prints are available to buy here.