How do you measure learning?

How do you measure learning?

How many times do you actually read the instructions and ensure that you understand them before you go ahead and do something?

Part of my work involves marking work for students so that they are assessed against a given criteria decided upon by awarding bodies such as Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) or Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD). If the student meets the required standard they then get a recognised qualification. This is often valued by many of the people I have the pleasure to work with and the reason they are attending the programme.

However it never ceases to amaze me that people, who appear to be competent and literate, do not read instructions!! If you are asked for 2 examples of something, why only give 1!!! Or you are asked to explain something and you describe it…these are two different activities.

Reading and understanding the instructions or the criteria against which you are being assessed is fundamental to the process of accreditation. It means that people like me, and lets be fair, there are a lot us out here, have a benchmark to which we are measuring a person’s work.

Interestingly if you as a trainer or a manager, or both, have not identified why the person needs to attend a training programme how will you be able to measure the success of that learning event once it has been completed?  This is why there is much more emphasis on accredited programmes now because companies can set a level at which they expect people to attain.  It is also why a lot of government money is available because it can be measured and therefore the expense can be justified.

So, if you are attending a training programme or planning to run one for your team or individuals within it, ask yourself: “how will I know that the training has been effective?” Ask this question to the people you are thinking of hiring to run that training or put your own measurement criteria together.  But remember to be clear about what you are asking people to do and then make sure that they actually understand what is being asked of them.

The assessment criteria needs to be clear, measurable and relevant to the subject and must be accessible to all.  Then depending upon how many people will be completing this assessment, how do you ensure consistency in the people who are marking this work?  This is especially true in the intangible area of leadership and motivation, so you as a trainer, or as a manager need to set clear expectations of what you are measuring and be able to provide examples for the learners.

So, if the instructions are clear & understandable for the learners it will make marking of such work fairer and more equitable for people like me!  It will also mean that the money you are spending on the learning will provide you with a measurable return.

Off to do some assessment now!!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

What does your voice say about you!


One of our most important tools as trainers or managers is our ability to vary the pitch, speed and passion of our voice, be it in meetings, tool-box talks or at presentations.  Your voice is a wonderful tool and should be used in all its varieties throughout the delivery of your session.

Interestingly I was in church just recently and the key message was about managing what you say!  It made me think about how such a small part of our body can manage to get us into so much trouble sometimes!!!  It is the strongest muscle in your body, proportionately.  So you need to manage both your tongue and the words that come out of your mouth with as much effort as you put into other forms of communication. Consider this…I bet you think about the report you have to write for your boss for considerably longer than you think about what you are going to say to your team!!

How often have we been in meetings, presentations or training sessions where the person presenting the information has been so passionate and alive about the subject you come away feeling inspired and motivated.  Equally we have also had the opposite experience…how do you want your delegates or team members to feel when you are talking?

I encounter many managers who bemoan the fact that they have to have team meetings and they never get any response from their team.  I question this: maybe this is about how you deliver your messages?  Your role as a manager or trainer is to ‘sell’ the concept, idea, new process or procedure to your audience; if you sound bored or non-committal what do you think will be the outcome?  What ideas do you use to liven up your team meetings? How do you get your team involved in the meeting?

Whatever your reason for speaking to a group of people you need to be convincing, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, passionate so that you get your message across.  You need to take time to consider exactly what you are going to say and where you are going to put the emphasis so that you keep your audience engaged.

Remember the old saying; “think before you speak”.

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

Belated birthday celebrations!

Here at Rubus Associates we have celebrated our 12th birthday!!

12 is often used as a sales unit as we buy a dozen red roses for loved ones; there were 12 apostles of Jesus; there are 12 animals in the Chinese horoscope and 12 signs of the zodiac along with 12 months of the years and there are 12 basic hues in the colour wheel and 12 people have walked on the moon!

So how are we celebrating being 12?

Well we have re-vamped the look of our website, not quite finished but nearly there, comments welcomed: (  We have also reviewed our portfolio of courses and are busy developing new material around key subjects that we specialise in such as training trainers and developing HR personnel in the area of talent management.

We are delighted to be able to report that we have now delivered over 1,020 days of training in the last 12 years with over 12,292 people learning & developing with us.  Many of our delegates stay in touch with us and it is great to hear their progress in their chosen field.  I recently heard of a graduate who had been on one of our programmes 9 years ago who is now running his own department with a team of 8 – great job!!

We are also growing our coaching business with a number of private clients working with us to develop their own businesses as well as themselves in their corporate roles.  It is a really interesting way to develop people and much more learner centred than a training course can possibly be just because it is so personal.  The targeted learning that comes out of a coaching session is much more powerful than attending a course with other delegates because the trainer has to meet everyone’s needs, when it is coaching the coache’s full attention is on one person and on their specific needs.

I believe that coaching has had quite a lot of bad press so if you are thinking of using a coach always check out their credentials.  Have they got past experience that they bring or even better are they recommended by previous clients and have they got formal qualifications which gives them credibility?  We do not advertise ourselves as coaches as we find that people will seek us out based on our reputation and personal recommendations.

So what does our 13th year look like?  Well the start of our teens has been great so far and we look forward to a busy and exciting year ahead, may be working with you!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

The dog ate my homework!!!

Well it is one excuse for not getting your work in on time! As you know I deliver accredited programmes for both the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and in order for the delegates to gain the qualification they have to complete assignments or homework.

I recently sent a chivvying email to a number of these delegates to encourage them to complete the assignments. The variety of responses can compare with all the excuses that teacher friends of mine get on a daily basis. It is also interesting how many people just ignore my email in the hope that I might go away!!

It is just such a shame that many people do not complete the work as they lose out on the qualification. I wouldn’t mind but in most cases their companies have paid for them to attend and the government have part funded the programme to encourage the development of managers. I appreciate that people have pressures both personal & professional but there is also a responsibility of the delegates manager to encourage this development.

Part of the role of a line manager is to develop the people in your team, in fact you should be trying to develop your successor. You also have budget responsibility which is wasted on people who do not complete the qualification and this is not a great demonstration of leadership!   So how are you being measured? How are you measuring your people.  If all you measure is ‘yes’ they have attended the course that does not mean that the learning has happened it just means that the person attended the course. What you should be doing is ensuring that whatever has been learnt has met the originally identified training need.

If you complete the circle like this I will be a lot busier marking work that your people have completed!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

I’ve got to the 21st Century!

So here I am, the proud owner of a brand new mini iPad!!

As I am an experiential learner I thought I would test out it’s usability for a small business like mine, so here I am on the move writing to see how doable this social media stuff is!!!  I am also testing out access and making sure that what I am doing on my iPad is being saved and I can access it from my desk top….and yes it works!!!

Now I know for all you techie people out there you knew that this was going to work but as someone who has to learn from experience I had to check it worked….and it did!!

I decided on a mini iPad as I found the original iPad too big, cumbersome & heavy to carry around. The mini is much easier to do this and is even small enough to get into all the handbags I use for work days! I know that is very girly but we are 50% of Apple’s target market so it is important.

One of the best bits about the whole IT set up is how everything is connected so that I have all my bookmarks from my desktop  here with me on the move which is just fab!! It means that I can keep in touch with my social media connections and also to maximise the use of my time.  Being someone who hates wasting her time the ability to keep up with blogging,tweeting etc on the move means while I am waiting for a meeting to start I can do a bit of connecting.

So how has it travelled? Well it’s easy and as long as there is an Internet connection, it is as good as being at my desk!  I have also taken it for a cover which amazingly Apple have not got round to making…so I’ve opted for one by Belkin which is great and allows you to read it at an angle etc and it is protected so I am confidently carrying it around and using it in some unusual places….currently in the kitchen!  Don’t think the bathroom will be wise but I now fully understand how everyone has got hooked on them!

On reflection I do wonder how I ever ran my business in the ‘old days’ without all these gadgets!!  Do you remember memos and real post!! It is all part of the evolution of the workplace and it makes being connected and in touch with your clients and world events so much easier.  However, it does not make you a better sales person, trainer or business leader.  That still comes down to how you develop your skills, behaviour and attitude to the people around you.

This is something we have to consider as the digital native generation (born from 2000 onwards) move into the workplace….they might be very savvy about the technology and connected to everyone via social media but when it comes to managing people that is still a face to face relationship (even via Skype) and comes with all the foibles that us humans have.  So thankfully developing managers and leaders to be better at what they do will still be required!!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

30 minute training sessions

So here we are in 2013 with the prospect of the economy bumbling along much like last year…so what do you do as a manager who is trying to develop your people?  You only have so much money in your training budget, if any!

So how do you decide which is the best way to deliver the required training to your team?  Well in many organisations ‘tool box’ training is done on a regular basis, say once a week and takes only 30 minutes with the whole team. This is ideal in a shift environment at the beginning of a shift or at a team meeting or huddle as some people call them!

So what can you cover in 30 minutes I hear you cry…well quite a lot if you have planned your session well:

  • Clearly defining what you want your team to ‘know/explain/list’ etc. after the session is crucial
  • Ensure that all your people are engaged and involved…do NOT (yes I am shouting) talk AT your people for 30 minutes….get them involved in short, impactive exercises; get them discussing the issue…they might have a great solution that you have not thought about!!
  • Put some form of assessment into your session at the end like a quiz so that you can check that the learning has taken place

We ask people on train the trainer courses to run a micro-teach for 30 minutes and you would be surprised at what you can learn in that time.

So yes, in these time constrained and cost restricted situations learning can take place, you cannot use excuses, your people still have to be developed.  Why not get them involved in sharing their skills & knowledge with the rest of the team especially if you have spent some of your precious training budget sending them on an external course….get them to run a resume of the learning for the rest of the team.

If you do not help your people to learn & develop in their role with you when the market picks up they will go elsewhere because you have not developed their potential, which for you as a manager is your job!!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

Too many cooks!!

It is quite interesting how different training organisations operate when planning ‘open’ courses.  For example we are involved in delivering a leadership course for a large group of people for an international partner in the coming weeks and it is amazing how the course content is decided upon.  We have been asked to deliver what is effectively 4 one day sessions in one day…so does this mean we reduce the content or extend the day?

The difficulty of this situation is that we are working through a third party for whom English is their second language, who are not learning specialists and who think that ‘chalk & talk’ is the ideal way for people to learn.  As you know we mix our style of training based around the needs of the learners and get our delegates to practice their learning through the use of exercises.  This has been a proven way of ensuring that the learning actually transfers to the workplace.

So how do you manage everyone’s expectations?  Very diplomatically is the answer!! This is where the skill of the trainer is critical to the success of the learning event as they should be able to flex the input and depth of the subject for the benefit of the learner.  What you cannot be in this situation is the sort of trainer who just runs a course based on a script and who does not have the depth of subject knowledge to go deeper or wider as the learner’s need.

The lessons here are:

If you are a buyer of training you want to buy trainers who have a great depth of knowledge of their subject and who can give you proven references of delivering on this subject on a number of occasions.  You want to ensure that you have clarified exactly what the learning outcomes you want from the training are and ensure that the trainer provides the learning programme to meet these and not what they want to deliver.

If you are a trainer you need to only deliver on subjects that you are an expert on so that you can go deeper as the learner needs, as well as wider on related subjects so that you help the learner learn.

The best example I had recently was delivering a time management course and we got onto the subject of performance management…not completely unrelated but not normal bedfellows! I have a wide & deep knowledge of both of these subjects so we were able to have a valuable discussion on managing performance, which the group found very useful and did not detract from the key learning of the day, but assists your credibility as a trainer.

So get involved in designing what you are delivering as early as possible and ensure that you are able to competently deliver on all the subjects!

Thanks for your time,

Suzanne Unsworth

The most wonderful time of the year…

…for catching up on the paperwork!!

I do love Christmas for all the traditional things such as the carol service in our village church, for the annual fight with the sellotape and for a few quiet days where you can catch your breath and do all those little jobs you have been meaning to do in the office.

My biggest bug-bear is filing…I am the one with piles of ‘stuff’ on my desk.  Now to anyone else they look like piles of rubbish, but to me it is an important pile of my ‘stuff’ and yes, I do know where everything is in each pile!!  But getting around to putting it away is just not even close to being important to me when I have lots of work on the go and deadlines to meet, but around Christmas you can catch a few hours and clear those pesky piles away!!

I do know that if I don’t do it the piles get so big they fall over and then the system that I have (stop laughing at my system) is completely destroyed! I also know all the rules of managing your time effectively, come on I regularly run training sessions on the subject.  But as I say to my delegates there are always some things that never get to the ‘a’ list!!!  So while you are tucked up in a warm house ‘between’ festive gatherings it is good to clear some of that clutter away.

So I have now tidied my laptop of the junk which was actually on the desk-top and put a new ‘wallpaper’ picture on to remind me that it is tidy and that ‘s how I should keep it.  I can feel the calling of New Year resolutions but I am going to resist!!

These resolutions that we set out at the beginning of every year are in my opinion a good idea, but only if you have a plan and someone who is going to help and support you to carry them out.  This is especially true if you are trying to kick a big habit like smoking, getting fitter or losing weight.  For me I know that filing will never be as interesting, stimulating or important as designing new courses, talking to clients or delivering to a new group of learners!!

So off to clear a few more piles of stuff,

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

Do you provide good customer service as a trainer?

“We don’t know what good service is… until we don’t get it!”

Then we tell everyone about it…how bad it was, how disappointed we are, the fact that we are never going to shop/eat/visit/use that service again.

So as we are all in the customer service business we need to make sure we don’t take our eye of the most important person to us…the customer.  You might think that as a trainer you are in the business of developing potential, running courses or assessing people’s ability which we are, however we also have to consider that every person who attends our training programme is a customer.  Therefore we have to consider the following:

  • [itemlist]
    • Was their experience on the courses that we delivered a positive one?
    • Where we value for money?
    • Will they recommend us to their colleagues?
    • How would they rate us as service providers?
    • Were you on time and fully prepared to run the course when the first delegate arrived?
    • Did you portray professionalism in your manner, dress and use of language?
    • Were the handouts professionally produced?
    • Was the venue, refreshments & facilities to a good standard


This is nothing to do with your skills and knowledge as a trainer in your specialist field.  This is to do with you and is part of the on-going relationship you want with your customers….so consider these:

  • [itemlist]
    • You should not be exploiting your clients by selling them more days than they need. You are not a rip off merchant!!
    • How easy are you to contact both for the client and for the delegates should they have a post-course query?
    • How helpful are you with questions on the course, not the ones directly about the subject matter of the course, but those that are often ‘off-piste’, but are important to that delegate?
    • Can you prove your professional credibility…how up to date is your CPD? What gives you the right to train my people?
    • What evidence can you provide of successful training courses that you have run before on this subject?


What you must remember is that your training course is part of your sales process.  Unlike selling some products, our key product is ourselves & our knowledge and ability to share that. Therefore there is always an opportunity to develop business whilst you are delivering a programme, but not to the detriment of the course itself.

We have to consider that the training industry is a competitive one and very often your only differentials are you and the price you charge.  Now lets be honest, you don’t want to be the Poundstretcher of the learning world so you have to ensure that the service you offer is worth the money you are charging.

As a buyer of training your client wants to know not only do you have the credibility & knowledge to deliver the subject but you also have the customer care skills too. So the next time you are running a session whether as a trainer or a manager, or both, think, are you giving good value for money and providing a good service to your customers?

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth