From training to facilitation

Experts say that facilitators who know their job will be worth their weight in gold in the near future.

Russian HR communities, discussing changes in the personnel training and development market, note the interest of companies in strategic sessions, the workshop format, and brainstorming sessions.

So, according to Pavel Bezruchko, CEO of ECOPSY Consulting, there is a demand for sessions (not training, but facilitation) and consulting. Tatyana Ogarkova, Deputy General Director for Human Resources at the Real Estate Agency of the Moscow-Paris Bank, predicts a trend towards the following formats for the development of organizations: “Working meetings, strategic sessions, shorter programs are becoming more relevant now,” Tatyana believes. Marina Korchagina, an independent consultant, states the fact that in working with tenders, “there are practically no requests for trainings, but the demand for holding meetings, strategic sessions, workshops, etc. has grown.”

There are several reasons for this. According to Lyudmila Dudorova, General Director and host of the facilitation training program, “Image Personnel”, “due to the onset of the crisis, many questions arose for people and organizations: what is happening? what to do? Is it possible to use the crisis to reach new heights? And since there are no ready-made answers, you have to look for these answers, generate them by organizing project, problem, strategic sessions and brainstorming sessions with the involvement of the knowledge and experience of various specialists both within the company and external experts. And for such events, specially trained people are needed. On the other hand, now in many companies there is a transition from a system of strict individual management to a team one, when groups of people participate in making managerial decisions. And since the number of group discussions, discussions, meetings increases, then there is a need for people who could increase the effectiveness of these business meetings.”

In all of these formats, facilitation is the key phenomenon, and the facilitator is the key figure.

The demand for facilitators has increased recently. According to the GC “Training Institute – ARB Pro”, 5% of projects (training and consulting) in 2008 were associated with the facilitation of managerial sessions or workshops. “When implementing consulting projects, we involve clients in the process of project implementation and simultaneously provide training. If one of the elements of the project is training in facilitation skills, we conduct it, – comments Evgeny Dotsenko, trainer-consultant at the Training Institute – ARB Pro Group of Companies. “The most common request for facilitator training came from project management conferences hosted by clients.” has a description of a similar project (Learning Adventure for Danone).

Such facilitation technologies are actively used in their daily work by Mars. According to Olga Filatova, Head of the College of Management and Leadership, Mars University, “facilitation improves quality, often reduces decision-making time, increases involvement, responsibility of each for the developed decision. Except for whom, we noticed that facilitation enables participants to get more pleasure from the process. Facilitation develops each of its participants. We use facilitation everywhere: at work meetings, trainings, team building events, focus groups.”

Many experts predict a great future for facilitation.

“This is due to the fact that the technology of facilitating sessions, meetings, brainstorming stimulates the participants of the event to more intense mental work than a training or lecturer’s seminar,” says Yulia Uzhakina, partner of Amplua-Broker. The effect of the session is greater than that of the training.”

The British portal generally talks about making the facilitator a separate profession and predicts a very promising future for it.

It should be noted that facilitation technologies need to be taught separately.

Now new programs for teaching facilitation technologies are appearing on the Russian training market. For example, in January 2009, a program for training a facilitator from among managers appeared, the company said in a press release.

Many managerial decisions are known to the company’s managers, they are in the air, and the facilitator can help them to take a articulated, verbal form.

Speaking about the movement of demand from training to facilitation, Lyudmila Dudorova notes that these methods have different goals and results. “The purpose of the training is to develop skills and learn behavior patterns in interactive communication, gain knowledge and understanding on the issue of training, and possibly influence the attitudes of participants. Product of the training: changes in a person. The task of facilitation is to solve specific business issues – finding solutions, analyzing problems, discussing projects, resolving complex or conflict situations. And the product of facilitation is organizational decisions and proposals that are fixed on paper, in photographs, and which will lead to but some organizational changes.

Who is a facilitator

“He is a professional who offers support to management in the context of operational management. A facilitator is far from being a trainer, who rather conveys skills, knowledge and expertise, and not at all a consultant, whose main task is to propose a solution. The facilitator provides a method and tool to help you find the answer to difficult business operational situations,” says Tony Mann, author of several facilitation books and host of the facilitation workshop at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Wikipedia defines facilitation as a means of motivating a group, a way of leading a group to a solution. Facilitation is not meant to drive the discussion, but it helps to control the process. The facilitator is a neutral leader who makes the process easier and more efficient. It is also called the session leader.

“Facilitation is a professional organization of the process of group work aimed at clarifying and achieving the group’s goals. The facilitation process leads to an increase in the effectiveness of group work, the involvement and interest of participants, and the disclosure of their potential, says Lyudmila Dudorova. – Joint discussion of issues and problems that arise in the daily practice of business often causes disagreement and misunderstanding between the participants. Someone talks a lot, but someone’s ideas are not heard; a lot of time is spent discussing issues that are not related to the main topic of the meeting; no decisions are made… In order to reach constructive solutions, the discussion process must be managed and coordinated by the participants in the meeting. This process is carried out by a facilitator who manages the discussion process, involves participants and structures the work of the group.

There are several types of facilitation in the world. The most famous of them are: group facilitation, Open Space (an example from the Russian practice of using Open Space), World Cafe (there are examples of use in Russia), online moderation.

Terms close to facilitation: moderation, mediation (more often in a legal context). “In our view, there is no particular difference between the concepts of facilitation and moderation,” Evgeny Dotsenko believes. – Both the facilitator and the moderator organize the work in the group and direct it towards the achievement of the set goal. There is an opinion that the moderator should have more knowledge of the subject area in which the discussion is taking place and interfere more in the process than a facilitator, whose goal is limited to inciting action and observing the rules of the discussion.”

“A good facilitator can distinguish between a bad decision born during a discussion and a brilliant one that opens blue oceans for the company. He can distinguish a solution containing hidden problems from a solution that will work in the context of the situation,” Tony Mann describes the characteristics of the facilitator. However, not every trainer, even a very experienced one, can become a good facilitator, because the latter requires a completely different set of skills.