What I learned observing the Business Expertise Advisor Curriculum


In between my wintery road trips and getting stuck in an elevator last week, I was actually in Toronto for work.

Last summer, while I was still an acting consultant, the opportunity to observe and/or facilitate this course arose. The initial plan was that two sessions would be held, one in January and one in February.

I would observe the course in January with an eye to facilitating it in February. Unfortunately, the second session never materialized. It may not be until next year that I’m able to try my facilitation chops out on this course.

It’s a long time to wait in the wacky world of facilitation.

Here’s what I learned:

1. The course is a very demanding one for facilitators.

Class1One of the facilitators, who had actually delivered the course once in the past, said she didn’t want to facilitate the course again. It’s a fairly cerebral course, and a lot of material is packed in to four and a half days.

The course is intended to be an introduction to the basic duties of an advisor and as such, it covers working on a virtual team, change management, interpersonal relationships, providing advice and guidance, teaching adult learners, and workload/time management. Things are pretty tight and there’s not a lot of room to wiggle. It’s difficult to keep on track.

Because the course starts Monday morning, the facilitators and participants must travel in overtime (something management frowns on), and the facilitators can’t get into the room until the first morning of training. I prefer to prepare as much as possible in advance and to keep activities queued up and flowing well. Having an hour or an hour and a half for set up would be demanding. It also means that I’d have to come in earlier and stay later each day to stay on top of activities and exercises.

2. The course is something that every new BEA should attendClass2

And, the sooner the better.

Many of the attendees of this course had been BEAs for years and had had the course on their performance and learning agreements for years as well.

As a result, we had a lot of great discussion about our quality control processes, technology, communications, and training. I don’t know that a class of entirely new BEAs would have been half so dynamic.

We also had a varied group of participants from different business lines. One of the big questions I had when I started out as a BEA was what other BEAs elsewhere in our organization did and how those duties compared to my own.

Even though I knew there was a BEA course, it was being redesigned when I started as a BEA and was only piloted to select groups of participants in the next couple of years.

In the positions I’d held previously, there was training, weeks of it. Plus post-training monitoring. I learned the role of advisor by doing it, which is fine because it works with my learning gestalt, but I’m sure for others it was a bit of a culture shock.

After the BEA level, most of the training is piecemeal and you have to actively pursue those courses if you want to take them. Task or competency-based training is not mandatory once you’re out of production.

3. The BEAs in attendance thought the course had value for them

Class3This was a concern, because, after one of my colleagues attended a pilot of the course years ago, she did not have many positive things to say about it.

The BEA Curriculum is a course where you derive benefit proportional to the time and effort you invest.

It’s also one in which the participant should have clearly defined goals and expectations of the training. When the modules of the course that hold the most value for them come up, participants are more likely to play a more active role in their learning.

I presented a short exercise about performance management. I prefaced it with Cathy Moore’s flowchart: Is training really the answer?

Once the advisor has determined that neither training nor monitoring is the answer, what do they do? They perform a needs analysis to identify learning gaps and see if they can devise a plan, working with management, to bring the employee’s behaviour into line with the employer’s expectations.

I asked them to come up with some scenarios from their own experience, and once we had a few, divided them up by business line to review a tool in the training package and see if it would help them in those performance management situations.

Several of the participants told me they thought both the flowchart and the checklist were great resources.

So while the BEA Curriculum was not an unmitigated success (I forgot one of the groups in a breakout room and they didn’t return until after everyone else had left—bad Mellie!) I think it was a good course and one that I’ll enjoy facilitating in the future. If I can remember all the tips and trick I learned this time around!

Do you have any facilitation stories to share? New courses learned or delivered? Lessons learned in the delivery?

Do share.

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4 thoughts on “What I learned observing the Business Expertise Advisor Curriculum

  1. What a great post, Melanie! The class sounds fascinating and difficult. I’d hate to have to do my train-the-trainer a YEAR before teaching it. You have my sympathies there. Good luck!

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