Bring on the players

As role-play gains popularity in staff training, luvvies are getting in on the act. By Geoff Cotton

Role-play has turned professional. At a time when many companies are devoting increasingly large budgets to the development of their existing personnel, an old training technique has been given a new lease of life.

Some businesses have included role-play in their training programmes for years. But normally these sessions have been in-house exercises, using untrained staff, and many personnel professionals doubt whether they can be effective.

Sarah Macpherson, personnel development consultant at Commercial Union, sees consistency of role-playing as a critical factor. "By using trained, independent people who role-play consistently, we can assess all of the candidates on a level playing field. It's a more realistic scenario for the candidates if they've never seen the role-player before; it's also not cost-effective to use senior managers as role-players."

The growth in role-play suppliers has been stimulated by the Financial Services Act. The new financial services regulator, the Personal Investment Authority, has stipulated that all financial sales personnel must reach a predetermined level of competence by July 1997. This deadline is forcing insurance companies to assess their sales advisers to determine their competence and their potential to achieve the standard. In many cases, the assessments have been followed by restructuring and the development

of long-term training programmes.

Professional role-players have played an important part in these assessments. From its base in Oundle, Roleplay UK has supplied role-players in Britain and Ireland to several major companies, including Commercial Union and Liverpool Victoria. The company has also recently supplied the construction company Balfour Beatty with people for a management training exercise.

Steve Gray of Roleplay UK believes that the role-player must be a trained, independent professional. "If the role-play is between colleagues who work or train together, the psychological interaction between then is completely different from a real-life situation."

Gray foresees professional role-players being used in four key areas in 1996: assessment (knowledge and skills); development (existing skills); training (new skills); staff selection.

This range of applications for role-players is confirmed by another supplier, Roleplayers, based at the Nightingale Centre in south London.

Roleplayers devised the scenarios and supplied the actors for an exercise at the Cranfield School of Management, where MBA students were assessed on their ability to handle "difficult" interviews, which involved redundancy, disciplinary action and passing over for promotion. The half-hour sessions were observed by fellow students and the actors then participated in feedback sessions with the candidate.

Stephen Carver, the school's director of personal communication skills, says: "The professionalism of the actors made the interviews 100 per cent real for the students. This exercise would not have been effective if the role-players had been other students or tutors."

Many companies now use role-play to improve the "people" skills of their personnel. Midland Private Banking recently engaged Stopwatch, based in Southampton, to provide actors for training sessions. The Bank's field staff and sales personnel were observed as they conducted initial client interviews, with a view to selling investment products. The candidates were then given feedback sessions, with comments from observers and roleplayers.

Iain Coleman, the training and development manager at Midland Private Banking, sees many advantages in using professional role-players: "Roleplay is an inherently difficult process and external people make the scenarios objective; the actors are 'real' clients, in the sense that they match the profile and knowledge of our customers. They can also contribute to the feedback sessions, which represent an important part of the training."

Roleplay UK, 01832 275355; Roleplayers, 0181 673 5611; Stopwatch, 01703 780025.

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
science
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before