Three tips for a great sustainability training

March 2018

This article has been written by Ruben Brunsveld, our Head of Culture & Leadership. You can also find it on LinkedIn. 

How do you create sustainability training with lasting impact? That is the question we ask ourselves each time we build a new training module. During the last one in Zambia in February 2018 we once again raised the level. Here are 3 key tips on how we did it:

1.    Bring it to life

We started the module with a brief introductory session on stakeholder engagement. Not the sexiest sounding topic. But after a bit of theory, our participants quickly had to bring it to life.

To bring it to life, we decided to bring in a real company. And not just any company: Zambeef. The countries largest private company, known for feeding the country from field to fork; producing everything from corn and feedstock to chickens, pork and beef.

Our participants in the training consisted of 24 managers from 5 African countries. We divided them into 4 groups:

  • Labor
  • Business Development
  • Supply Chain
  •  Governance & Compliance.

After some time to study the annual report and the website of the company, it was time to deep-dive into the company. That meant bringing in real stakeholders. Each group had 1.5 hours to interview employees, suppliers, management team members and other stakeholders of Zambeef. Through the interviews they got a good understanding of the company and the expectations of the people that worked for and with it. The morning interviews were followed in the afternoon with a site visit, so the participants could see if the stories the stakeholders told them matched the reality on the work floor. The next day we gave them a short training in presentation skills, 3 hours to prepare their recommendations and then it was time to present to the Management Team including the incoming CEO. They knocked it out of the ballpark and added real value to the sustainability thinking of Zambeef.

2.    Trust your participants

A training experience like this can only be successful if you utilize all the knowledge in the group. It is not about you telling them how it should be done, but about getting the best out of each and every participant.

By dividing our participants in groups, which (as far as possible) correlated with their field of expertise and/or work experience they could coach and inspire each other and use their backgrounds to come up with innovative ideas and strategies. In our case that meant we had to trust that our participants could come up with great recommendations in a very short time, which they had to present to an external party including an incoming CEO! Was this scary? Absolutely! But by using their skills and knowledge as key input for their own training module and by facilitating the process the right way we knew we had everything in place for optimal results.

3.    Create shared value

Make sure the company or organization you work with gets real added value in return for their participation. Communicate clearly that the only way they can receive that full benefit is if they participate fully and transparent. They must be willing and open to share not only their success stories but also their challenges. If necessary you can have the participants sign NDA’s to make sure the company representatives and stakeholders feels safe and secure to share the real story.

We also focused not only on the content (making sure the participants gave good content feedback) but also on the process (providing them with presentation skill training just before the delivery). This ensured that the feedback our participants gave to the company were well formulated, relevant and of real added value.

Our conclusion?

It was incredible inspirational to see how the participants managed to understand the DNA of the company and its operations in such a short time. In two days they managed to come up with 12-16 strategic sustainability recommendations, which can help Zambeef to elevate their operations from a national to a regional level. We are very grateful to Zambeef and all its stakeholders for trusting us to run this training with them and for allowing us to look into their kitchen and add some extra spice.

This module was a clear example of the amazing results you can achieve in a training if you:

  • Bring it to life
  •  Trust your participants
  • Create shared value

If you want to be the next company that partners with us for a training or if you would like us to create a tailored training with impact for your organization, you know where to find us!

– Participants thanking the Management Team of Zambeef, Kenya style!