As part of a UK graduate programme, we helped newly employed Graduates from an international logistics organisation hone their management skills.
An element of this training was a community project, which tasked the graduates with the responsibility for the design and delivery of a two-day, outdoor education event for groups of Year 5 pupils from three local schools. The graduates worked closely with the school to identify the desired learning outcomes for the children and came up with a fun-packed programme of outdoor and evening activities to be delivered over two days at The Hollowford Centre.
A lesson in human interactions
“ Working on the community project was more than a learning experience; it was a valuable lesson about the complexity of human interactions.
The planning itself was relatively tricky, given the geographical spread of our 14-member team, which extended from Swindon to Belfast. This was possibly further complicated, both by the multi- cultural aspect of the group (covering eight different nationalities and seven languages), and by the variety of roles that we were all performing on our placements, which meant our schedules were very different.
The early planning stages highlighted the challenge of communicating effectively in virtual teams. I found it difficult to send the right message across, in the right tone, using e-mails. It also took me some time to figure out that some of us did not have frequent access to e-mails, and even longer to realise that not everyone was on a 9 – 5 work schedule. These differences created an uneven workload and tensions that we had to deal with on the couple of occasions where we did meet face to face.
When we arrived at the Hollowford centre the night before, we all had expectations , apprehensions even, but I don’t think any of us had truly realised how much these children the break we had been organising for them.
The wonderful thing about working with children is that you get immediate feedback on your performance, which means that you are able to evaluate the success of the project right away. If certain aspects are not satisfactory, there is an opportunity to redesign, even on such a short project. For example, at the end of the first day we all shared our experiences. This was so beneficial to us that we have now decided to issue a ‘lessons learnt’ document to pass on our experience to future graduates.
I was delighted to see that the children were incredibly encouraging and supportive with each other. They were praising and spontaneously applauding efforts of others without pointing out that they did better than somebody else. During activities, such as high ropes, they were shouting out suggestions to help each other. They are eight years old, and already most of them have people skills that I would like to see in managers more often, like praising and encouraging or constructive feedback. ”
Graduate Participant – Far Reaching Benefits
“ At DHL we are committed to goals that generate benefits for the communities where we work. As a result we are keen to ensure that our graduate training has both an element of reality and corporate social responsibility. Through our partnership with Lindley Educational Trust we have been able to achieve that.
We wanted to challenge our graduates to fast track their development but also to give something back to one of the many local communities in which we operate. For our graduates to take responsibility for a group of schoolchildren for two days, both in terms of enjoyment and learning, is a fantastic experience which we feel sure will greatly benefit all concerned. ”
For more detail you can read all about this graduate development program and the wider corporate social responsibility benefits