“I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in this course. I have been able to relate to all of the contents from every session and I now look forward to taking this into practice next year”.
Canon is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions. It employs 1500 people in the UK and of these, roughly 250 are at management level.
Many of these will have become managers or team leaders, having worked with Canon for some time in front-line positions, excelling in their roles, and wanting to progress within the business.
However, the skills required to manage people, to get the best out of people, are very different, and Canon recognised a need to support these people in being the best people managers they can be.
“We recognised that a big gap in our management community was the ability to connect with team members as individuals,” says Nicola Johnson, People Development Business Partner (HR & Learning & Development) at Canon UK.
“We weren’t getting the best out of people with either developmental or difficult conversations. Many of our managers had come through the ranks. In some cases, they were engineers, solving problems. They have had to transition from working alongside somebody to being their line manager, which isn’t always an easy process. And communicating as a team leader or manager can be very different from the chats you might have as colleagues working alongside each other, often as friends.
Now, rather than complaining about a forthcoming appraisal for example, as we know people do, the manager has to actually deliver it.”
Nicola continues: “We engaged with McCrudden Training to undertake some focus groups with us and our teams around management development – what might we need that could help managers connect with their people? We wanted to go back to basics.”
The focus groups report highlighted several key issues such as 1-1s focusing on tasks rather than the individual; quality of appraisals varying, with staff unsure of their contribution and uncertainty around career prospect. Barriers to effective management were highlighted including skills barriers to tackle challenging issues, lack of opportunity for peer-to-peer support and some scepticism around the value of appraisals and talent profiles.
Nicola approached McCrudden Training to develop a bespoke programme inspired by a book called Five Conversations. Written by Nick Cowley and Nigel Purse, the book details five key conversations: Establishing a trusting relationship; Agreeing mutual expectations; Showing genuine appreciation; Challenging unhelpful behaviour; and Building for the future.
A programme of five modules, each built around one of the five critical conversations, was written by McCrudden Training with a final session led by the Canon team to make sure the message had been embraced.
The course ran from October to December 2020. Five half day sessions were delivered a week and a half apart to 14 managers. Originally planned as face to face classroom events, the sessions were forced to take place virtually providing an unexpected benefit for Canon.
Nicola comments: “We had to change what we anticipated very quickly and McCrudden Training managed it incredibly well. It actually enhanced our experience and the training delivered. Our workforce is spread across the UK. People could now easily attend a half day from wherever they were based without losing working time or family time to travel.”
Not only that, but Nicola also took away her own learning from the experience of online training. She says: “Sitting in on Conversations that I felt like I was watching a masterclass in online training. I even wrote down a few notes for myself from seeing what Nicky did really well.”
When the training was completed, Nicola ensured follow-up sessions were held with each individual who had attended. She says: “We wanted our managers to commit to taking action from what they had learned and they were tasked with producing an action plan with at least one action per module.”
Interestingly, managers who have gone through the programme, have often mentioned some of the tools that came up in the programme and have shared their thoughts with colleagues who did not attend the course.
Nicola says: “Conversations that has proven to be a real game changer for some individuals. I am really pleased by how engaged the managers who attended the course have been and we have had some great feedback. Not only have our managers embraced it, they have talked about it positively with colleagues. That’s an acid test when it comes to programmes like this – because people tend to talk a lot when they don’t like something. We now have managers who didn’t go on it asking if it will run again. There’s a real appetite for that community because they have seen the benefits.”
The Next Steps
McCrudden Training is a tried and trusted partner for Canon UK, having delivered various courses over the years including, presentations skills, project management, Influencing and Negotiation skills training. Although Canon has an in-house team that delivers very Canon-specific training, the company finds outsourcing some elements is crucial in providing a broader perspective. Conversations that has been recommissioned to support middle managers in their roles.
This long relationship between the two companies is a result of the strong rapport built with McCrudden Director, Nicky McCrudden.
Nicola explains: “It is truly a partnership relationship with Nicky and her team. My counterpart in strategic headquarters uses Nicky a lot too. It is so easy to pick up the phone and talk to her. She is our first port of call. We know the quality we are going to get and we know we will get what we want. She will tweak her courses to fit our needs, even if it is an off the shelf package. And if Nicky doesn’t offer a particular course or programme, I can still talk to her for advice.”