In 2008, Rowland partnered with the Department of Transport and Main Roads to design and deliver a program aimed at improving communication competency across the Department.
The four-day course has become a powerful tool which is transforming department leaders into more active and capable communicators.
The comprehensive program incorporates four intensive training modules over four full days with the objective of equipping leaders with the communication skills they need and of improving capability and confidence levels. It also provides participants with a number of „how-to-guidesÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½, checklists and templates, developed to support the learning outcomes articulated in the program.
To date, more than 140 leaders from within the Department have attended the course, and participant feedback has been exceptionally positive. The course consistently achieves the maximum score in feedback from participants.
Follow-up one-on-one coaching sessions with participants allow the training team to see first-hand where and how people have integrated their learning upon returning to the office.
A clear trend is emerging – when one member of a team within the Department attends the program, other team members sign-up and attend subsequent sessions of the program, creating a tangible improvement in team confidence levels.
From an organisation that started life connecting outback towns to rail lines, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (formerly Department of Main Roads) now manages QueenslandÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½s largest built community asset – the Queensland state-controlled road network, responsible for more than 33,000 kilometres of road and valued at more than $35 billion.
Typical of many large and geographically dispersed organisations, the Department was facing some challenges around internal communication. Research undertaken by their Organisational Communication Unit showed that leaders' communication effectiveness varied considerably throughout the organisation.
Therefore, the overarching recommendation of the review was to focus on building communication capability internally.
The need was clear – team leaders and managers within the Department had to become aware why effective communication with internal (and external) stakeholders was so crucial.
Rowland, together with the Organisational Communication Unit within the Department, designed a training and development program that taught communication and influencing skills, and ultimately, provided participants with a skill-set that could lead to improved day-to-day functioning of teams.
The result was a multi-faceted training and coaching package, which would provide the foundation for people to create a communication change, initially within their teams, and ultimately, across the Department.
In June 2007, the Department conducted a review of how it communicated with stakeholders. The results provided a communication health status report, supported by detailed qualitative and quantitative evidence. This research informed the scope of the program and effectively assisted Rowland and the Department to formulate the course content.
Below are the key findings of the review:
The target publics identified in the research as requiring improved skills were broadly identified by two roles – Team Leaders and Managers – both in Brisbane and in the Queensland regions.
However, these publics could be further categorised by their roles, to include District Communication Officers, Project Officers, Engineers, Project Managers, employees in Professional Officer and Technical Officer roles, and in A04 to A07 roles.
While these publics were the focus of internal advertising for the „Communicates with InfluenceÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ program, the program was not exclusive of other employees. Nominations to the course were accepted regardless of their role within the organisation.
In collaboration with the Department, Rowland designed, then piloted to 24 participants, four communication competency modules. These modules were supplemented by one pre and one post-coaching session per participant.
Because it takes courage for people to put themselves under the spotlight for a training activity, Rowland created a positive learning environment that gave participants a sense of challenge and success.
The program was based on adult learning principles, which acknowledge that adults:
· Need to be shown respect (acknowledge participantsÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ wealth of experience at the beginning of each workshop, and encourage them to add value to discussion throughout the workshop)
· Have ego involvement (advise participants that the program is a „safe placeÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ where no one feels judged, and that feedback is offered in the spirit of self-improvement)
· Appreciate clearly defined goals, objectives and timeframes (goals, objectives and timeframes are always articulated very early in the workshops. Participants have an opportunity to state their own objectives at the start of the workshop)
· Are relevancy-oriented (we use narratives, examples and illustrations to demonstrate how theories apply in the real-world, tailoring content, examples and exercises to the Department)
· Need regular feedback.
Our approach to delivery was grounded in experiential learning techniques where participants learn by doing, and through group discussions, reflections and case studies.
Furthermore, participants problem solved, role played, and engaged in facilitated discussion to draw out the wisdom of the group so participants learned from othersÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ experiences.
For every practical activity, facilitators gave honest and robust feedback, working with peopleÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½s strengths and encouraging them to achieve higher levels of confidence and capability.
The program was a great success, with the pilot program receiving an average satisfaction rating of 6.0 out of 7.
The program, then delivered on a bi-monthly basis on four consecutive work days, is outlined below:
For details about the guides and checklists prepared by Rowland to support the course learning, please see Appendix A: Supporting materials.
At the end of each of the four days, participants were asked to complete a feedback form, providing valuable qualitative and quantitative feedback on the program.
The pilot program scored an average score of 6.0 out of 7 from the 24 participants. Feedback from pilot participants was used to modify elements of the program, prior to rolling it out to the next 120 participants.
To date, across the six programs delivered, the program has received an average score of 6.1 out of 7 in feedback, from 144 participants.
Anecdotally, the program has an excellent reputation within the Department, and feedback has been received that many staff in their annual Achievement Planning have requested the „Communicates with InfluenceÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ program form a major part of their training goals over the next 12 months.
Below is a snapshot of participant comments:
As the program is in its first year of delivery, it is too early to accurately measure change within the department, however there is strong anecdotal evidence which demonstrates behavioural changes are taking place.
Noel Davis, Main RoadsÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ Acting Manager Organisational Communication stated:
“Participants have told us they received an enormous amount of value from the training Rowland facilitated on our behalf.
The program offered very practical tips and techniques that people could take away and put immediately to use. Hands-on exercises throughout the program gave participants an opportunity to try new skills in a safe environment first.
Programs are filling up quickly due to word of mouth from pilot participants, who are implementing strategies from the training program, and finding that those strategies are working for them.”