New media mogul

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Head of training at the BBC Nigel Paine will deploy an array of modernonline methods to boost the corporation’s ambitions to be the most creativeorganisation in the world, writes Simon KentAppointed in April this year, Nigel Paine’s enthusiasm for his new post asthe BBC’s head of training is not simply a factor of ‘new kid on the block’.Certainly the size of his new employer – and the training resources available –would be enough to put a smile on any trainer’s face, but Paine has a visionfor training to match the vision of the BBC’s own director-general: “GregDyke wants to shake up the BBC and make it the most creative organisation inthe world,” says Paine. “I want to prove to him that he hasn’t a hopein hell of delivering that vision without strong training and development forall staff.” Describing himself as a ‘learning technology specialist’ rather than a‘generic training specialist’, this is the first time Paine has been in chargeof the training function within a large organisation. Having spent the past 20years working with diverse organisations around the world he admits his newposition will require him to show he can deliver the learning initiatives he’sbeen advising others on: “In some ways I am now putting my money where mymouth is,” he says, “I’ve spent time with big organisations saying youshould do this or that and now I’m giving myself my own advice. It’s a chanceto focus those ideas and make a big impact.” The BBC’s current position within the broadcast industry means that impactcould and should be international as well as national. With licence fee fundingguaranteed until 2006, finance is assured at a time when the organisation iswinning ratings and critical acclaim around the world. The training functionalready performs well, delivering almost 38,000 trainee days across 25,000 peoplefrom within and outside the organisation in the last year alone. Training has been delivered across the world from Bosnia to Afghanistan toparts of Africa – through an arrangement with the World Service Trust – andthis is likely to expand. Last year the learning intranet – learn.gateway –reached 14,000 staff. With four television and seven radio studios dedicated totraining, the BBC is the only training organisation offering cutting edgedigital and new media technology in a dedicated training environment. All thisand a training department with 340 staff, including 90 specialists in theonline environment. MissionPaine’s mission is not only to marshal these resources and activities in a waywhich will power the BBC into the future, but to build on them, boosting thestatus of training itself and delivering a ‘just-in-time, just-for-me’resource. Informed by an approach which gives equal importance to learningcontent, support and management, Paine wants to build a blended learning systemoffering mass customisation (tailored for entire corporation departments) aswell as individual customisation. He wants to see training courses introduced ahead of demand, predictingskill requirements rather than responding to needs. He wants better knowledgemanagement across the corporation, where the expertise of permanent staff and10,000 regular freelance workers is shared through diverse media. A tall order, but not impossible. And certainly, there are points whereaction can be taken immediately to realise this goal: “We should look toour customers,” says Paine. “We haven’t always done that in the past.We need to look at how we cluster training programmes, particularly for internaluse to bring them together in clear learning programmes.” He cites management training as a prime example of this. Currently there arehundreds of courses relevant to management at new, experienced and seniorlevels. Lack of structure, however, means these appear simply as a collectionof courses. By listening to feedback on skills required from BBC staff andlinking with external organisations such as Skillset – the TV and film SectorSkills Council – courses will be restructured in such a way as to offerdiscernible career paths. Paine will be able to ensure there is appropriatetraining for everyone in a management position. “We should put our efforts into aligning ourselves more closely withthe organisation,” Paine continues, “We’re reaching a point now wherewe can just about guarantee that if one course is filled by a certain divisionof the company, we can customise that course for that division.” Whileoffering a closer match of skills for departments, this ‘mass customisation’may also be key to the training function winning additional resources for itsactivities: “I’d like to see customers both inside and outside theorganisation buying their own training and making a clear commitment to theactivity,” says Paine. While this suggests a ‘demand-led’ training supply, Paine also notes thedepartment must be predictive in its provision, anticipating the coursesindividuals and departments require. “I never want anyone to say they hadto tell BBC Training about a new technology for which we need to provide training,”he says. “I want a large number of new programmes to be in development sowe’re ahead of the next wave – we need to be ready to run whenever the traineesare.” Booking courses will be technology-driven, giving customers the power toaccess learning events directly. At the same time, both intranet and internetplatforms will play an important role for training delivery itself. Painebelieves he has the country’s largest dedicated online training department andis determined that it should produce the most exciting and gripping multimedialearning content possible. Online accessOne of his immediate pledges on taking this job was that he would provideaccess to online learning resources outside the BBC rather than keeping thematerial behind the BBC’s firewall, accessible only from organisation machinesas is currently the case. “I can’t stand up in public and say we have to provide access totraining 24-hours a day, seven days a week, if we don’t offer access to our ownresources outside the BBC,” says Paine. “And I’m not prepared to putit out on CD-Rom when there’s a massive infrastructure which can be used to doit.” Part of the reason why it is so important these online resources are madeaccessible is the proliferation of freelance workers across the industry. Whilethe BBC can still develop employees from low to senior roles along conventionalcareer routes, a scan through any programme’s production credits shows actors,writers and other creative workers are working freelance. “I think we havea moral obligation to share information with freelance workers,” saysPaine. The use of technology will not stop at the PC, however, as Paine is keen topioneer training and knowledge resources delivered across PDAs and even mobilephones. He speculates on making safety procedure checklists accessible forworkers in the field or even managerial text messaging. “I want to buildthe five-minute learning experience,” he says. “We’re good at long-and medium-term training, but not at the short-term.” Alongside this groundbreaking activity, Paine also wants greater importanceattached to training evaluation – checking on the impact of learning on anindividual’s skills and work a month or so after the event rather than justtheir immediate reaction. There is limited data in this area at the moment but,says Paine “I need to focus on what we can contribute to the businessbecause, very soon, Greg Dyke is going to ask me exactly that question.” With such unique resources it could be argued that the BBC’s training functionis in an ideal situation to become a separate business entity, creating revenuefor the organisation by supplying top quality courses. But realising this isnot straightforward. “On one hand, the BBC should not necessarily besubsidising Carlton or Granada or anyone else,” says Paine. “But alsoit should not exploit its monopoly position. We are forced to charge a fairmarket rate within the marketplace. At the same time, the BBC’s role in societymeans it should put something back to help the survival of the broadcastindustry as a whole.” Masterclass ‘Putting something back’ is a theme which links back to Paine’s approach toknowledge management at the BBC. He wants to see top level employees from allfunctions taking time out to give advice and skills to those moving through theorganisation. “Michael Parkinson did a masterclass for us aboutinterviewing techniques,” he says. “He did that in front of anaudience and we recorded it and turned it into an interactive module which has nowbeen accessed by thousands of people. He loved doing it but if we offered him afull-time training course it’s unlikely he would accept.” A similar approach is being taken at senior management level and Painereports that the idea of giving a few hours of a manager’s time to provide alearning resource has been viewed favourably. “I’d love young trainees tobe able to learn from the experts,” he says. “It would raise theprofile of training and give it the status it needs – not as a bolt-on, but asan integral part of the business.” Paine’s philosophy is as outward looking as it is inward. He is well awarethat he is a relative newcomer to both the industry and organisation and wantsto use this to facilitate links with external resources and organisations,allowing BBC training to energise the industry and be energised in return. “The broadcasting industry is managing to keep the skills base alivedespite the fact it relies on a large number of freelancers and smallcompanies,” he says. “There’s no longer the sense of ‘we’re not goingto train people because they will be poached’, rather a genuine willingness toshare. I’d like to extend that wherever possible. I’d be happy to do jointcourses with Channel 4 or Carlton in the future because we have nothing to hideand plenty to share. “That way we can meet the Government’s skills agenda and the needs ofthe industry.” CV – Nigel Paine 1980s A variety of research and consultancy work with the OpenUniversity and the Open Tech Programme in the field of Open Learning. Ran amajor research project in Scotland looking at analogues of the Open Universityfor sub-degree education and flexible learning provision through emergingtechnology.1984 Won a Thyne scholarship – spent three months in Australialooking at distance learning programmes and their use of learning technologies.1986 Established the Open Learning Unit in the Scottish Councilfor Educational Technology (SCET).1988 Appointed assistant director learning systems in SCET.1990 Chief executive of SCET, worked with organisations aroundthe world building learning systems. 1993 Member of the Anderson Committee looking at training of FElecturers in Scotland.1994 Appointed board member and then deputy chairman of theboard of Anniesland College in Glasgow1997 Member of the Secretary of State’s Committee establishingthe UFI in Scotland.1998 Appointed a visiting professor in New LearningTechnologies at Napier University in Edinburgh.1999 Chief executive of Technology Colleges Trust, London.Focused on establishing the Specialist Schools Programme and, in particular,helping schools maximise their use of technology in education. This includedbuilding the first broadband network for schools in partnership with ICL andNTL.2001 Director of Science Year. Worked with David Puttnamdeveloping and delivering science and technology resources to young people.Built dedicated website which gained more than 1 million hits a day. Previous Article Next Article New media mogulOn 1 Jul 2002 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more