british invasion: tri-c exports employee training program to the uk


Most businesses flourish upon the bedrock tenets of leadership, team building and project management. Even with that doctrine in place, those within any successful corporate environment must continue to grow and learn, believe the leaders of Corporate College.
 
The business development and training division of Cuyahoga Community College recently tested this ideal with a field trip to the United Kingdom, sending senior training specialist Hugh Littleton to coach up executives from Smithers Group, a scientific testing and consulting organization based in Akron.
 
Littleton spent five days last fall in Shawbury, England, training members of Smithers University, the company's employee development division. He schooled two dozen managers and owners of independent companies operating under Smithers' multi-national umbrella, teaching such critical concepts as time management, effective communication and accountability.
 
The curriculum-based training model used role play, lectures and group discussion, with interaction being the watchword for the week. "Everything we did was around real-world scenarios," says Littleton, a 20-year training industry veteran.
 
Littleton placed his charges in particular circumstances -- dealing with a disgruntled employee, getting a promotion -- and taught them to manage both the good and bad of the daily grind with calmness and aplomb.  
 
"Managerial skills encompass doing the right thing whether nobody's looking or everyone's looking," Littleton says. "Good leaders can empower their employees to handle any situation."
 
Inevitable office conflicts in particular need to be handled with tact. "Conflict is like a gnat; it won't go away if you swat at it," says the Tri-C training specialist. "You've got to learn to be an effective communicator."
 
The transmission of these skills supersedes any cultural boundaries Littleton might have encountered during his trip, he maintains. "The experience was unique, but the transfer of knowledge was easy," he says. "My participants were eager to learn."
 
Come on Over
 
The Smithers Group was similarly enthusiastic about having Littleton train a group of its UK-based rising stars, says Michael Polovick, company vice president of human resources.
 
Smithers oversees 625 employees on three continents, coordinating five major businesses that test products in such industries as plastics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Through Corporate College, Littleton has a long-standing relationship with Smithers' Akron HQ, and understands the high-ethics, high-integrity brand of business the company operates under.
 
"We consider Hugh a part of the family," says Polovick. "He knows what we live in every day. He's our renaissance man. Everyone likes him."
 
"Smitherizing" business concepts has sparked the group's success over its 90-year existence, Polovick says. Still, a culture of accountability built around a set of guiding principles can always use some maintenance.
 
Corporate College "has a willingness to know our practices and core values," he says. "It's like any relationship where you're finishing each other's sentences; that's what we have with Hugh and the college."
 
Meanwhile, Back at Home...
 
Jet-setting to England was a special scenario, notes Corporate College president and CEO Robert Peterson. The school's main focus is acting as a resource to Northeast Ohio businesses via a roster of training experts. Littleton alone has partnered with Lincoln Electric, Lubrizol, American Greetings, Tremco, Terex, Graphic Packaging, Olympic Steel and Schwebel's.
 
Leadership training and team building is one way to assist companies going through change. Another facet of training is data analytics, a fancy way of determining the efficiency of a business. Corporate College trainers use Lean Six Sigma, a managerial concept combining process improvement techniques.
 
"It could be something as simple as moving product from one side of a plant to the other, or examining the frequency and length of phone calls received at a call center to determine proper staffing levels," Peterson says of the concept.
 
Corporate College also trains companies through a health information technology program, a particular need in an era of electronic medical records, Peterson says.
The school doesn't just work with big business; the public sector needs training, too. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland division of public utilities all have called upon the college for one-off or multi-year engagements. A session at the airport, for example, had trainers coaching custodians on soft communications skills, as these workers are often the first to touch base with customers entering the concourse.
 
"These are hands-on situations," says Peterson. "We're not just lecturing in a classroom."
 
The Corporate College leader calls Littleton a "rock star" among a stable of strong trainers. Last year's reverse British Invasion was a rarity, but that doesn't mean it won't happen again. Meanwhile, Smithers might bring employees from their international offices into Cleveland to receive additional training later this year.
 
The UK trip "was a great showcase for our capabilities," Peterson says. "It showed our services are in demand."
 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.