As the recession chews on the job market, stress levels rise at a time when success is harder and more important than ever. Many businesses are turning to corporate trainers to ease the pressure and increase performance.

Bernadette Smith, vice-president of learning solutions for the Canadian Management Centre, provides management and leadership-development training at all levels. CMC works from Halifax to Vancouver to the Yukon, and has offices around the globe.

“If you’re talking about a new manager, one of the important things is helping them transition from an individual contributor role to managing people, potentially their peers,” she explains. “We create self-awareness so they know what their styles are and how they impact people around them. In so doing, we allow them to develop appropriate communication skills so they can deliver their messages with impact.”

Much of the training is designed to improve staff performance, via setting expectations, creating constructive dialogues and coaching message-delivery to maximize results. High-performing individuals build up to high-performing businesses, Smith says.

“The difference is results. Ultimately, by equipping employees with skills and knowledge, it helps them to perform their jobs better ... and delivers the results required by the organization.”

Corporate trainers can tailor sessions to a particular company, using the firm’s procedures and case studies. “They are given the opportunity to build those skills right in the classroom and apply them directly to their job once they leave the training. Rather than having employees make their own connections of what they’re learning to their jobs, we make that process easier by creating their environment in the classroom.”

For their facilitators, it’s a lateral career move. Most first achieve a reputation in their business field and are then recruited to lead courses — it’s not something people set out with as a career ambition.

Alice Waife founded Ontario’s ARMI to focus on anger-management training. “Organizations will send their employees over to us if they’re struggling with communication and aggression issues,” she says.

The first step is identifying aggressive employees, including managers. HR people and management aren’t necessarily trained in psychology and may find themselves out of their depth in dealing with serious problems.

“It takes away the ignorance of not knowing how to skillfully deal with such conflicts. We find there is a huge benefit ... for the bottom line of the business.”

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