New Interview

Speaking Success With Karen Venter


15 Sep 2016

Located in Cape Town, Innovate Biz is a skills development company providing training to the community, individuals and corporate sectors, with special focus on soft skill training and inclusion of those members of the community who may be disadvantaged in accessing training to assist them in the implementation of income generating opportunities.

As the founder, Karen Venter, is passionate and committed to assisting in strengthening those individuals who are on entrepreneurial journeys in order to create a foundation for successful and sustainable new ventures. Karen is a qualified Facilitator, Assessor, Moderator and Outcomes Based Learning Programmes Developer. She is a registered assessor and moderator with ETDP Seta and a registered assessor with Service Seta. She is also a certified United Nations National Facilitator for the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) capacity building entrepreneurship program Empretec, which through its National Centre in South Africa SEDA, trains entrepreneurs and SME’s with the necessary competencies as identified by the United Nations to build and grow their businesses.

Know more about Karen Venter : innovatebiz.co.za

1.     What made you choose a career in training and development?

I have a real passion for seeing people develop themselves and recognize and harness their potential. Training in various areas gives people an opportunity for growth and the realization of the gifts which lie within them.

2.     How important is training and development for a work place? Be it a small firm or MNC, other than job related training and certification ain’t targeted HR/People training inevitable for success?

Training and development are crucial for any and every workplace regardless of the size of the company. Aside from the personal growth opportunities which are present as a result of training, there is an enormous emotional payoff which benefits the company. When a company recognizes their staff members, demonstrates to them that they are valued and makes them feel worthy of investing in, the individuals inevitably feel appreciated, become more productive and loyal and the end result is that not only the individual benefits, but the rewards for the company in terms of productivity are inarguable.

3.     As a trainer and facilitator, you would have had plethora of opportunities to meet new people and to travel around the world. While taking pride in ourselves as the most superior amongst all species remaining on earth; our habits, thinking, culture, values, interaction etc differ sharply and are unique for each race (Across countries and continents). How important is it for the trainer to know the audience beforehand so that he/she can have a productive conversation/interaction and to deliver maximum results? Could you share a few instances where you had to adapt to the audience? How different is it across countries or races?

As a trainer, you need to be able to connect with your audience on more than just an intellectual level as it is highly personalized work. In any business, “buy in” happens when people connect emotionally and when they feel seen and heard and this applies particularly in the training environment where a trainer is working closely with a group of individuals. Until people buy in to what you are saying, they will not listen as effectively or absorb as much learning as they potentially could. Trust is the foundation upon which a trainer-trainee relationship is built. The trainees need to feel that they are in a safe, welcoming, non-judgemental environment as this is how adults thrive and learn best. For all of this to happen, the trainer needs to be informed about the group which they are working with in advance in order to know what to do to meet the needs of the group. Each country’s population is unique as each country has a different history and cultural background. When working in India, I soon understood that the culture was totally different to South Africa in the training room. Where I might have to be more formal and guarded in S.A. because we have a conservative and guarded culture, Indian people are warm, engaging, highly receptive and responsive which leads to a less formal environment even though the level of professionalism remains the same.

4.     Observing others through their body language and choice of words in a conversation can reveal a lot about their character and mental state. How important is that professionals master this, when it comes to corporate functions of conflict management and negotiations for better decisions and outcomes?

Body language is a very revealing form of communication, possibly even the most revealing of all. Because body language conveys the emotions and responses of people in an unspoken but spontaneous manner, it is difficult for people to hide their emotions through this medium of communication. Rarely do most people consider their actions before they carry them out. For example, in a negotiation, if you are dealing with somebody who is sitting across the table from you and has folded arms, you can immediately tell that they are not open to the suggestions you are making and you can change your approach. Trainers need to be in tune with the body language of their trainees as this can give them many different clues, e.g. are they engaged in the classroom discussion / activity or are they distracted by something else.

5.     Environment and people influence one’s instant behavior and character if exposed for a long time. We imbibe a few traits. We inherit another few. What is the right way to balance both so that we have a strong character, to become a better human being?

In order to be authentically who you are and not allow yourself to be overly influenced by others, one should a self-confident individual. Someone who is confident will show themselves as they are in front of others instead of conforming to a group. They are not ashamed of their uniqueness; rather they are proud of it and derive a sense of individuality from being authentic.

6.     Do you think technology and extent of social media has fragmented our personal bonds with family, colleagues and friends? We socialize virtually! How do we re-position ourselves to restore warmth on our relationships?

Social media has impacted the way we live and interact. Things have become less personal and fragmented as you mentioned in your question. It is up to us to keep things balance and healthy. The only way to overcome this is to create a healthy balance between social media and family / friends and interpersonal relationships. It is helpful to limit time on social media by allocating yourself a time limit for this type of interaction, a timeframe which is not going to consume too much of what should be spent on personal interaction.  

7.     Corporations always complain about having hired ‘not-the-right-fit’ candidate for the job or often ‘wrong-fit’ ones. Despite having strong HR assessment tools and umpteen rounds of activities/interviews, what do you think puts the corporation into such a position?

There could be a problem in corporates where they are not taking the “fit” of the company culture into consideration. Perhaps they need to assess whether candidates will be a good fit for the culture of the organisation as well as assessing their competence for the job at hand. The culture of an organisation dictates much of what happens internally as well as the interpersonal relationships in the organisation. Staff members need to be able to fit in with or be flexible in order to adapt to the culture of the organisation. They should include some questions in relation to this when assessing competency and compatibility.

8.     You involve a lot with entrepreneurship training solutions. You have an individual filled with enthusiasm, passion and great plans for the future calling for help. How different or tough is handling the ‘wannabe Steve Jobs and team’ from corporate sessions.

Corporate and entrepreneurship is very different environments and I would say that one of the biggest factors at play is that risk taking for an entrepreneur is most certainly more challenging than in the corporate environment. There is no safety net which one can fall back on as an entrepreneur, often having used all their savings or all resources available to them. Therefore, the pressure to “get it right” the first time is higher than that of those in the corporate environment although there is still not a big margin for error in the corporate world. As a trainer or mentor one has to take this into account amongst many other factors which differ between the two environments. Also when dealing with someone who has their own business, is passionate and has to make things work regardless of what it takes, generally the commitment to training is very high. These are people who have chosen to go through the training to benefit their business goals and they tend to be exceptionally attentive and enthusiastic in understanding the personal benefit to themselves and their businesses.

9.     How important is it to inculcate hands-on activity in a training session rather than a traditional presentation session, then a Q&A to wrap it up? Have you observed personally any result output variations in your training sessions?

 It is imperative that participants are given the opportunity to have some practical experience or experimentation in the topic at hand wherever possible. Adults learn through what they do, not what they hear. What they hear is not always integrated and is easily forgotten but what they do and experience will be integrated and remembered.

10. With MNC jobs and advent of technology, ‘stress-diseases’ have taken up a central stage. Stress fracture, work place stress, anxiety disorder, insomnia, stress and anger management; the terminology is never-ending. Could a share a few personal tips that our readers could stick onto to get over the on-going ‘stress-mania’?

Stress management is a very important topic and one which is often overlooked. I could do an entire workshop just on this topic but in summary and simple terms a few tips would be:

·         Get enough sleep at night: this replenishes your energy and gives you the stamina. It also has a positive impact on your immune system.

·         A healthy diet: Eating junk foods and drinking large amounts of coffee will give you instant energy and put you on a short lived “high” but as soon as this wears off you become tired and sluggish and concentration suffers. Healthy foods will maintain sugar levels, good levels of concentration and the energy to deal with challenges more calmly.

·         Deep breathing: Deep breathing is a well-known stress reliever and has the benefits of leaving you more productive and energetic. Make a decision to focus on your breath for a few minutes of the day.

·         Take short breaks to help you clear your mind. Try to get up from your desk and move about during a break.

·         Plan your day and prioritize: You will reduce stress by identifying your activities in order of priority as well as allocating time to each activity. This way the projects which will have the most impact will be best aligned with your goals.

11. How important is re-training and timely evaluation for developing an industry competent work force? Your suggestions.

Evaluation after training is important so that the company can assess the impact of the training. This will tell you where you might need to make improvements for future training in order for participants and the organisation to receive maximum benefit. It will also help to assess whether the training was beneficial at all. Training should not happen just for the sake of training, it should be aligned with the organisations objectives and this is where evaluation can demonstrate whether the training if effectively equipping staff to meet the organisational objectives. It might take the participants halfway to where they are needed to go with some gaps. Evaluation will help to identify any gaps which need to be addressed.

12. What are your thoughts on India as a HR hub of 1.2 billion minds?

I have read that Prime Minister Modi feels strongly about the possibility of India becoming the human resources capital of the world. With a third of the 1.2 billion population being between the ages of 10 and 24 (according to a UN report), there is tremendous potential for this to happen. With a young population such as this, India being an incredibly tech savvy nation and with technology comes the possibility for services to be delivered remotely – India is well positioned to become a global HR capital.

Many thanks Karen for sharing your insights and time.

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