According to Gordon Swanston, currently a Site Manufacturing Manager based in Avonmouth with the bakers, Hovis – part of Premier Foods Ltd, one of the benefits of applying facilitation tools and techniques is that both the facilitators and those who are ‘facilitated’ become much more engaged. He observed that, when he was working for British Bakeries and introduced regular facilitation into the corporate culture, “the workers were impressed that not only were they being asked what they thought about issues but their views were being acted upon. It greatly increased both worker engagement and motivation.
“Moreover, this approach was a great help when management were negotiating with trades unions because we could demonstrate that we were listening to all the staff and involving everyone in running the business,” he added. “Moreover, the whole process was coming up with business-improving ideas.”
Gordon then spent a while working for a company in South Wales that makes cakes and puddings, chiefly for Marks & Spencer. Having been asked specifically to improve the company’s 1,000 or so strong workforce’s operating performance, Gordon introduced facilitation tools and techniques. He explained: “The business had been – and continued to be – profitable. However, in the recession, the prices of ingredients were rising and margins were under attack. At this point, the application of facilitation tools and techniques paid off by helping to improve the quality of the work that was being done; thus providing extra value for money for our customers.”
Gordon returned to the bakery business and the south west of England – this time with Premier Foods Ltd – running a business programme aimed at improving manufacturing efficiency. This involves bringing together groups of people – and that requires a well-developed level of facilitation skills. He added: “I’m more than happy to recommend the benefits of facilitation training, having benefited from and used the skills and approach in more than one business over the years.”
Subsequently, APMG-International – the provider of specialist qualifications for knowledge-based workers, including PRINCE2® and ITIL® – has launched a certification scheme in Facilitation skillswhich is based on the methodology behind the tools and techniques that Gordon uses – and which was developed by Tony Mann, of
Resource Strategic Change. Teaching candidates how to design, apply and use specific processes and tools to increase the success of programmes and projects, APMG’s scheme enables facilitators to be trained, assessed and certified in a similar way to project managers with Foundation and Practitioner qualifications.