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Facilitative leadership skills delivered via blended learning

Brooks Automation, a leading equipment supplier to global semiconductor manufacturers, is training its managers worldwide in facilitative leadership skills, using a blended learning programme from Balance Learning.

The programme comprises an online learning module, a complementary classroom workshop and post-event workplace activities. Called Leadership and Teamwork, it shows how leaders can use facilitation skills to improve teamwork and meet objectives.

"Our business had experienced cutbacks and downsizing, as a result of a severe industry downturn," explained Tom Kristoph, Brooks’ Director of Development and Training. "As we began a return to profitability, the senior management team held open-forum meetings with staff members to find out what we could do to train people, improve skills and instil a new sense of teamwork. One of the responses showed that we needed to train our managers in facilitative leadership skills."

After evaluating Leadership and Teamwork, Tom Kristoph asked Balance to run an initial programme of the complete blended learning solution for 15 of Brooks’ managers.

"The content of Balance’s Leadership and Teamwork really met our needs," he said. "It complemented our existing leadership and management programmes and this made it easy for us to position it as the next stage in our leadership development curriculum."

The programme begins with an online learning module which provides around two hours of practical learning with interactive exercises and video scenarios. It highlights what it takes to be a facilitative leader; how to adopt a facilitative style; how to improve group dynamics and develop team trust, as well as how to set guidelines for performance, establish clear goals and grow a team through its stages.

"Balance’s online learning module is outstanding," said Tom Kristoph. "We have over 500 online courses but this is easily the best online training I’ve ever seen. It is interactive, engaging and content-solid. The managers on the first programme said the learning from this module was excellent and highly relevant."

As part of the programme, Balance Learning provides all the resources a trainer needs to run an accompanying classroom session, which builds on the online module. This includes customisable PowerPoint slides, hand-outs for exercises and role plays, a facilitator’s script in Word format and video clips to provoke discussion.

For Brooks’ first programme, a trainer from Balance Learning ran a one-day workshop for the participants, concentrating on skills application.

"The participants liked the combination of learning through the online component and then having the opportunity to work through that learning in a workshop setting," said Tom Kristoph. "It meant that the classroom session could be shorter and more focused because everyone was coming in with the same level of understanding of the subject."

Balance Learning also provides post-training activities and assignments to facilitate the transfer of learning back to the workplace. The participants from Brooks’ first programme are currently working through these activities.

"Follow-on activities are so important because if the learning doesn’t get reinforced on the job, then it’s going to get lost," said Tom Kristoph.

Balance Learning is preparing to run a ‘train the trainer’ session in which it will train and certify three of Brooks’ trainers. Brooks will then be able to deliver the programme - and run the classroom workshops - independently to train managers in North America, Europe and Asia.

"From the outset, Balance have been very co-operative and collaborative," said Tom Kristoph. "They’ve proved that they’re
willing and able to work in partnership with us."

Brooks will monitor the effectiveness of the training by surveying the programme participants and their managers, to get a sense of what difference the training has made.

"Balance’s approach to blended learning is high quality, time efficient and cost-effective," said Tom Kristoph. "Using a facilitative style, our managers will be better equipped to engender motivation and trust. This will create a behavioural change that we believe will contribute to improved business results."

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