At television news provider ITN,Martyn Hurd oversees both the HR function and production studios. Now he hasjust completed a skills and technology revolution – without a trainingdepartment. By Lucie CarringtonITN, the news provider for ITV, isjust about to complete a massive technological overhaul that will shift newsproduction from traditional videotape to a browser-based system. As a result,any journalists with a PC can now access and edit stories on their desktops,while production staff on different programmes can share the same pictures.But this has been more than atechnical revolution for the company. It has also involved massive structuralchanges, plus a rethink of how ITN serves its clients – terrestrial TVcompanies – and secures its business future. New departments have been created,extra staff recruited (up from 787 to 955 in 12 months), working hoursrestructured and a new union agreement thrashed out. In addition to implementing amassive technical training programme, the process has forced ITN to rethink itsapproach to management training, succession planning and staff development.Director of resources Martyn Hurd,who heads up both HR and the production studios, has been in an ideal positionto steer the project. He brings together both the people and the technology andequipment they use.According to Hurd, ITN had no optionbut to introduce some radically alternative technology to the business. Thetechnology it was using was old – between 10 and 20 years – and neededreplacing. In addition, the pressures on the media business meant ITN had tocome up with some serious expansion plans. “Because of the way ITN isstructured, we have no ways of increasing income by more than the retail pricesindex, unless we diversify,” Hurd says.As a result, ITN is involved in anumber of growing businesses including a news archive service New Media(itn.co.uk), and ITN News Channel – a 24-hour news service launched on 1 August2000. Both of these have demanded changes in technology and working patterns.Radical thinkingThe immediate pressure was to getstaff up to speed with the technology – journalists had to be skilled in usingthe revamped computer system in the newsroom and production staff needed to getto grips with the Inspirations editing system that was replacing traditionalvideotape. It was a hefty training project that required some radical thinking.ITN has no formal trainingdepartment, having got rid of it someyears ago. Senior managers assess company-wide training needs and departmentsand managers work out their own specific needs. They use a trainingcoordinator, who is based in the HR department – to help source and deliverthat training. “We now, as a company, identify our training needs and bring inthe people we need to deliver them,” Hurd says.But ITN decided that buying intraining skills wasn’t the whole answer in this case. It decided instead to useexisting staff to train their colleagues and embarked on a training thetrainers programme. It wasn’t hard to identify potential trainers. The Inspirations system has a lot incommon with traditional cut and paste film editing, only it uses a light penand screen. There were still people in ITN who remembered the pre-video daysand were keen to pass some of this on to colleagues. “We took a number of senior editors– not necessarily managers of people – who had expressed an interest andtrained them as trainers,” Hurd says.Tip of the icebergITN had realised some time beforeintroducing Inspirations, that when it comes to technical skills, formalcourses are just the tip of the training iceberg. People really learn by doingit, Hurd maintains, and on-the-job support is vital. For example, when it came tointroducing newsroom journalists – some of whom had never used a mouse – totheir new PCs, ITN used the keener journalists to help bed the system down.“The more on-the-job support we can give, the more successful [training] is,”Hurd says. “So we identified people who really took to the system and used thema lot to provide on the job support.”ITN didn’t just second staff astrainers. Hurd also picked out a resources manager from the production studios– and seconded him to oversee the training programme and liaise with thetechnology department and system suppliers.Inadvertently, this has helpedrevitalise middle management structures and establish an embryonic successionplan. Someone had to be appointed to carry on the manager’s day job and anassistant manager was appointed internally to step in. It was a big break withITN’s existing management structure. “In the past there have been supervisorswho’ve tended to be staff reps,” Hurd says. “But not any more.”It worked so well that Hurd decidedto appoint deputies for four other resources managers. Again they were internalappointments and they received basic management training, such as accountancyfor non-accountants and staff management courses. Now ITN has a group of people readyto be promoted when the opportunities arise. And so successful have theseassistant manager posts been that other departments at ITN are thinking offollowing suit.Structural changes in the businesshave had serious implications for management training further up the line. Themajor challenges managers have had to cope with have been changes in workinghours – everyone is now expected to work nights – and the demands for a greaterpooling of resources and information.Upgrade trainingIn an employee attitude surveycarried out last year, managers themselves identified the need to upgrade someof their training, Hurd says. They especially wanted more help with softer,communication skills.But Hurd wanted to take it furtherthan just a simple management skills programme. He and the rest of theexecutive committee recognised that structural changes in the company requireda different leadership style. “We believe as a company that we are open and webelieve in discussion and managers discussing issues with their staff,” he says.However, he recognises that there isa conflict between managers listening to their staff and acting on what theyhear, while also meeting the demands of deadlines and budgets. So Hurd has turned to the LeadershipTrust’s public programme to help resolve it. “The Leadership Trust’s style isto be open, honest, free with praise and free with constructive criticism anddebate,” he says.Not all of the dozen or so managerswho have participated in the programme liked this. Some find it hard to havetheir self image challenged in this way, although most agreed some months laterthat it had been useful. Nor is Hurd convinced that the company as a whole hasseriously bought into this consensual approach to management.Perhaps this is why Hurd and hiscolleagues have found it hard to convince all those who should take part to doso. Hurd prefers to think that it’s because as journalists they simply don’tlike being away from the action.He hopes that if a member of theexecutive committee takes part it might give the Leadership Trust programmemore internal credibility and he is looking for a volunteer. Hurd himself hasnot taken part yet. “But I will,” he insists.Spotting stars of the futureNow that the technology is in place,Hurd says it’s time to focus on the organisation’s skills needs in a broadersense. An internal attitude survey has shown that staff want to know what’s init for them and their careers.So ITN has embarked on atalent-spotting exercise. It’s understandable that ITN, with a staff of lessthan 1,000, cannot satisfy all the career needs of its workers, but it can tryand identify tomorrow’s stars, in all disciplines, before the BBC or Sky poachthem.There are several strands to ITN’stalent-spotting campaign. It is expanding its trainee scheme. In addition tothe half dozen editorial graduate trainees, ITN last year took on fourproduction trainees and three outside camera trainees. It tried to recruit threeengineering trainees too, but the standard of applicants was not high enough,Hurd says. As a result it is considering sponsoring some engineeringundergraduates through their degree courses.The editorial training scheme isabout to undergo a radical overhaul too. Its recruitment criteria in the pasthave favoured young people who have done some form of post-graduatequalification. But, Hurd says, this has limited theintake to those who could afford what is fast becoming the luxury of continuingtheir studies. This meant ITN was missing out on a huge pool of talent. Now ITN intends taking peoplestraight from their undergraduate degree courses and building postgraduate-type studies into the training scheme.There are plans afoot to spot andnurture talent already in the organisation, for example, through the company’ssecondment scheme. It’s not a new idea – but needs new life breathing into it. “The current approach is bestcharacterised as dumping or squirrelling,” Hurd says. Departments either dumpthe people they don’t want or squirrel away out of site the people they want tohang on to. It’s madness, he says.Finally, he intends developing ITN’smentoring scheme. All trainees have a mentor assigned to them from further upthe organisation, but this can be extended.“We don’t make enough use of thevast experience we have within the organisation,” Hurd says. “There area number of people with amassive amount of experience who are coming to the end of their careers. Wewant to make sure these people who are close to retirement don’t take all theirinformation with them.” Previous Article Next Article This is the newsOn 1 Jan 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed.