12 May 2022 Supporting Professional Development: ‘Consultancy Skills’ Training for new Ecologists
At BSG Ecology we recognise the importance of training and development for ecologists at all stages of their career. For new recruits we have a structured and comprehensive programme which is complemented by external training and mentoring. ‘Consultancy skills’ is a core element of this training, and is essential in helping new staff understand the culture of the organisation. It is also key to their professional development as ecological consultants, as it is aimed at equipping them to do their job as effectively as possible.
The training is delivered over four days, and is typically all delivered within a few months of new employees joining the company. Modules covered are:
- Planning Policy Wildlife and Environmental Law
- Effective Communication & Project Delivery
- Business Development
- Ecological Assessment & Reporting
Content of Consultancy Skills Training
The initial training session covers how current biodiversity policy and legislation has evolved, and how it shapes what we do. The role of guidance and industry standard practice, and the expectations of decision makers and clients are also considered. The intended outcome is that attendees understand the roles these various drivers have in determining the advice we give to clients.
During the Effective Communication and Project Delivery module attendees are challenged to consider what the function of an ecological consultant is in delivering successful projects, what characterises good communication, and why it is important that they communicate well from the perspective of the company and our clients. The aim is to encourage them to think very carefully about the importance of the advice they give and how to communicate most effectively in order to deliver projects successfully.
The module on Business Development starts by setting out what is meant by the term. This helps to emphasise to new starters that a lot of effective business development can be done in a natural way through project delivery. The training covers the variation in client base and sector work between offices, and the importance of both repeat and new business, helping attendees understand more about the company they have joined and the opportunities available to do varied and interesting projects. This is all set in the context of our vision, which is based around delivering rewarding and challenging work while helping our clients achieve their aims, and securing the best outcomes for the environment.
Good consultancy reporting is clear, concise and accessible to people with varying degrees of ecological understanding. The final module of the four sets out some fundamental reporting principles, before providing an overview of the different types of report we may be asked to produce as consultants, and the internal and external guidance available to staff when planning and writing them. Probably the key take-away message, however, is that producing a report can and should often be a team effort, and that there is support available at every stage in the process, from initial planning to final issue, to help ensure the output meets the brief.
All of the training modules are delivered in an interactive way, with regular group exercises and discussions. This helps the new starters get to know each other as well as the experienced members of staff involved in their delivery. As a result, new recruits build a network of people across the company they are comfortable talking to. This gives them the confidence to draw on the collective skills of a wider range of people to identify and resolve potential issues and formulate good advice.
The Consultancy Skills training is delivered as part of an initial wider training programme for new starters that covers all aspects of protected species survey, mitigation and licensing, the practicalities of biodiversity gain (including application of the UK Habs and using the Defra Metric) and how we manage data in GIS. This helps us ensure that we approach survey work, data collection and analysis consistently across the company.
A further module of training, concerning emerging policy and its implications for ecological consultancy is typically delivered in their second year of employment with us. This covers topics including the evolution of biodiversity (net) gain (and environmental gain), ecosystem services, natural capital accounting and landscape-scale re-wilding projects.
In addition to this in-house training, further training needs and opportunities are identified through the annual review process and regular meetings with line managers and mentors.
The Consultancy Skills training is delivered internally by BSG Ecology Directors and Principal Ecologists, all of whom have worked in the industry for many years. Some of the trainers have worked for local planning authorities, statutory nature conservation agencies, and both large and small consultancy companies, resulting in a wide range of expertise that has been drawn from in designing a training package specific to the company.
Anonymous feedback, aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the training, was obtained from new starters attending the modules in early 2022. They said:
“I found the effective consultancy training extremely useful and is a fantastic way for new starters to achieve a baseline level of understanding of the core elements of ecological consultancy to ensure a consistent approach across the business. The training is pitched at the right level to allow ecologists who are new the profession and those with experience to improve/refresh their skills and knowledge in the topics covered. It’s also a great way for new starters to get to know each other, particularly in the last year when we have all been largely working from home. This is a unique program that I haven’t seen at other companies and really shows BSG’s commitment to staff development.”
“The internal training was hosted by highly skilled ecologists and subject matter experts, forming a perfect foundation for early career ecologists and for those who need a recap. In the 4 years I’ve been a consultant I have never received such detailed and structured training!’
“The ‘effective consultancy’ training received upon starting at BSG sets out the foundations of how to achieve the high standard of consultancy work which is consistently delivered within the company”
“Starting with BSG has included some very professional and thorough training, taking us back to basics to ensure that we know what is expected of us as representatives of the company.”
You can find out more about what working for BSG Ecology is like here: Would You Like To Be A Part Of Our Team? – Working For BSG Ecology