Pauline Henderson, corporate personnel consultant at Nationwide Building Society,explains how two levels of interactive training were key in preparing itshomeworking strategyWorking Smarter at Home and Managing Teams Which Work at Home Designed by: Waterman’s Training, The Abbey Brewery, Market Cross,Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 9AS Phone: 01666 825123 Fax 01666 825233 Weblink: www.watermans.uk.comHomeworking is one of many flexible working arrangements that NationwideBuilding Society has offered since the early 1990s. However, take up wasextremely limited until a combination of circumstances at the end of the decadeled to a interest from employees and the business. Nationwide was finding it increasingly difficult to recruit, particularlyinto technical areas and in our head office at Swindon, where there is a highdemand for good-quality people. We also had space constraints. Our head office building is approachingmaximum capacity, so additional recruitment raised the issue of expensiveadditional space, and the upheaval that would entail. We considered thatpromoting homeworking as an option would be a way of extending the pool fromwhich we could attract staff without increasing office space or equipment. Atthe same time our employees were increasingly looking for opportunities tobalance their lives between work and outside work activities. They were muchclearer about the possibilities and potential benefits of more flexibility andwere actively pursuing the idea of homeworking with us. Converging forces These two converging forces led us to put together a project team, toinclude all stakeholders, and to undertake a pilot homeworking scheme. Trainingand development was a milestone within the project plan. We believed that it was high risk to implement a significantly different wayof working without the appropriate support and development for everyone involved.In fact, when the project was in its earliest stages, our senior managementwanted to know about the specific type of support that was to be provided. At the highest level, training, development and support was viewed as a highpriority. When we began to consider the issue in detail, we felt an externalprovider would be better placed to help us develop the skills, behaviours andmindset. The emotional detachment of an external provider can be invaluable, withoutthe distraction of day-to-day operational issues that so often become a featureof internal workshops. We involved Waterman’s at quite an early stage in our thinking. In January,Waterman’s interviewed a number of homeworkers, line managers, project managersand non-homeworkers to gather information on their perceptions and experiencesof homeworking and managing homeworkers. I talked with them at length about ourHomeworking Framework and the relevant policies, practices and procedures. The company then used this information to help shape the format and contentof the workshops. We felt this consultation phase was vital and resulted in courses that weregenuinely designed to address all the issues emerging from such a significantchange in working practices. Work smart It quickly became clear that we needed two levels of training – one for thehomeworkers and one for the managers. We also felt the managers’ course shouldaddress the issues faced by project managers as well as line managers, becausethere were distinct differences in the two and, if anything, this would presentmore challenges in the working relationships. The key elements of the Working Smarter at Home course address all thechallenges of this method and strategies for dealing with them. This obviouslyinvolves a lot of time management, advice on managing interruptions, how tomaintain motivation and how to address the many communications issues. The courses are designed to be extremely interactive, which is particularlybeneficial as we have a mix of employees, some of whom have a range ofexperience in working at home and some who are completely new to thearrangement, so there are opportunities for cross-learning. Whereas the course for homeworkers was quite focused on the individual, themanager’s course, Managing Teams Which Work at Home, had a broader approach andlooked at the impact on the whole team or department. The first workshop was a pilot from which emerging issues were used torevise and update the following workshops. One element of the course is a videofeaturing clips of interviews with homeworkers, managers and non-homeworkersfrom which tips are distilled and compiled into a top 10 list. The video hasalso become a library item for the Learning Resource Centre. Powerful results We believe the managers achieved some powerful results from their workshop.They realised that homeworking was not only an innovative and highly suitableway of working flexibly for some members of their team, but that it also hadenormous benefits for the business. It also enabled managers to develop a different skill set, therebyincreasing their own knowledge and experience. All the issues that needed to be considered with this new way of workingwere identified and addressed as part of the workshop experience. We believe itis essential for all managers to attend and we are delighted to know that thistarget is well on the way to being achieved. Waterman’s has been an excellent partner for Nationwide during this project.And, now it has taken the courses developed and delivered for Nationwide,packaged them as part of its scheduled training programme and made themavailable to all its customers. This is advantageous to us, in that we can putmanagers and homeworkers through training at the appropriate time for them. Wedo not have to wait until we have sufficient delegates for an in-house course. Participants’ views Sharon Rothery became involved in the Nationwide homeworking pilot becauseof her passion for netball. The ability to work flexibly, and at home, meantthat work could more easily be fitted around Sharon’s involvement in umpiring,playing and coaching the sport. Having worked for Nationwide for eight years, Sharon started working at homein 2000 and even accompanied Dr Brian Davis, chief executive of the buildingsociety, to 10 Downing Street as part of the Government’s work-life balanceinitiative. In April 2001, Sharon attended the Waterman’s Working Smarter at Homecourse. “The course was extremely interactive and sparked a lot of interestingdiscussion. It was well structured, but presented informally so that betweenthe attendees and the tutor, Kevin Edwards, we developed a set of bestpractices that we could really apply to our own working lives,” she says “At least 50 per cent of the course revolved around practical examples,including the video showing clips of existing homeworkers and discussion orbrainstorming, which made it fun and interesting and really relevant. I thoughtthat both the content and delivery of the course were superb.” Alan Foley, a senior project manager at Nationwide, attended the ManagingTeams Which Work at Home course in March. “I found the course veryenjoyable. The content was extremely well designed and related very much to theway Nationwide worked,” he says. “The management attending were asked to make a video production toreinforce the learning. By actually having to consider, script and then act outthe various elements of homeworking, their importance was emphasised, and thekey content has been easy to retain. We had to select a theme for the videofrom a choice of Hammer House of Horror, western or silent movie – ours wasentitled The Lone Ranger, the Home Ranger and Barry the Baddest Project Managerin the West. We were given a £10 allowance for props, so raided the charityshops of Malmesbury for their entire stock of cowboy outfits! “The course was only one day, but it gave us a real insight into themany and various issues involved in working at home. It gave the attendees anopportunity to compare our own experiences and it provided a framework fromwhich we could develop effective strategies for managing home-based staff andtheir office-based colleagues.” Developer’s view Shan Williams, managing director of Waterman’s, says, “Nationwide’straining is very advanced in its approach, therefore Waterman’s was keen todesign two programmes that would challenge the attitudes, preconceptions andthinking of the attendees. “Prior to carrying out the training, we wanted to find out as much aspossible about the issues to be addressed, hence, the interviews we carried outand the close working relationship we developed with Pauline Henderson. “During the actual design of the courses, our aim was to accommodateall the attendees’ preferred learning styles, and to make the courses work fortheorists, activists, pragmatists and reflectors. This was reflected in themake up of the courses, the materials used and the challenges set. “Our overall aim was to deliver experiential learning, to pass responsibilityto the attendees for their learning, and so to support the overall success ofNationwide’s homeworking policy.” VerdictTaking a 360-degree perspectiveWe thought providing the type and quality of training we wanted for ourhomeworkers might present something of a challenge. We didn’t expect to findscheduled courses we could simply plug into that would really meet our needs. Aconsultative approach was very much what we felt we needed. In this, and in all respects, Waterman’s did an excellent job. Therepresentatives really listened to what we needed, our policies, aims andexperiences and translated them into very effective learning experiences. Theydeveloped two training programmes for us that looked at homeworking from a360-degree perspective, which was exactly what we were looking for. A good measure of the success of the programme was the requests for trainingfrom staff and managers who had missed the initial courses due to othercommitments. When they heard the positive reports from attendees they actuallyrequested another chance to attend. We now have 60 homeworkers, a number we expect to see steadily increasingover time – the majority having attended the homeworking workshops. The real value in the workshops is that they are directly transferable intopeople’s working lives. The learning is immediately applicable and is thereforeused and not lost. Everyone who has been involved talks about the training verypositively and we regard it as a cornerstone of our homeworking project. Overall rating * * * *Key * = Disappointing * * * * = excellent Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Hope on the home frontOn 1 Jul 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.