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Talkcoach launches into world of work

Anne Ayre and Louise Wright | 01.12.2008

Drawing on their work with BAE Systems, SLTs Anne Ayre and Louise Wright have started a new company targeting the workplace.

Louise Wright (left) and Anne AyreCommunication is the key to business success yet traditional stammering therapy hasn't tended to focus on the workplace. We all know talk is at the heart of every organisation and work is often where most spoken communication takes place. We have founded Talkcoach to provide innovative services that focus on this world of work to ensure that employers don't miss out on the talent and diversity of employees who stammer. In a difficult economic climate people are the most valuable asset any business has.

Many people who stammer will perform very effectively in their jobs and have excellent spoken communication skills. However employers may be missing out on the contributions that talented individuals can make because their stammer and/or attitudes surrounding stammering prevent them from realising their full potential. A growing body of research supports the view that many people who stammer believe their stammer has a negative impact on their employability and job performance. It has been suggested that therapy "needs to include goals and outcome measures that specifically address the impact that the stuttering is having on the client's career" (Klein and Hood, 2004).

Ramesh Summan (Speaking Out, Summer 2008) highlights the benefits of being open about stammering within a supportive workplace. Unfortunately there are other examples where such support is not apparent and the BSA keeps us up to date with employers' responsibilities in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Award winning work with BAE Systems, by us, demonstrated that raising awareness, among HR professionals, managers and colleagues can lead to changes within the environment and to a more positive and supportive attitude.

Our research with BAE showed that working with managers helps them to realise that some people who stammer may turn down job or promotion opportunities because of concern about their stammering: "I have gained patience with stammerers (and others!) who do not respond instantly in conversation. The course opened my mind to the inner turmoil and suppressed ambitions." Colleagues find out that individuals could be held back by the negative attitudes of the people around them, usually due to ignorance. They gained confidence in how to support their stammering colleague: "We have all learned to be more patient and understanding. The problem is no longer a taboo subject."

Programmes for employees who stammer

Working with people who stammer in the workplace has given us insight into the range of challenges they can face and how to address them effectively. Involving managers and colleagues can support the successful transfer of new skills into work, ensuring a positive contribution to the whole team's achievement of business objectives. One employee said: "Best place to do a course like this, at work, because it gets to the central part of the problem."

Our new company Talkcoach designs bespoke programmes for groups within single organisations, or for individuals who need a highly personalised and flexible programme to meet their demanding schedule. We have also developed a range of open targeted personal development programmes. These programmes include a two day introduction to effective confident speaking at work, and a series of one day modules at foundation to advanced levels. These target, for example, effective telephone workplace skills and communicating effectively within meetings. All programmes are followed by an e-talkcoaching package to provide ongoing support.

Next year there will be a 5 day residential programme developed in partnership with Skern Lodge, a national provider of management and leadership training. This outdoor based learning programme develops a practical understanding of leadership skills and explores team dynamics providing opportunities for practising new speech skills through problem solving and negotiation.

Our approach is solution focused and supportive with opportunities for individual coaching alongside group activities. All programmes are designed to be funded by employers as the benefits spread beyond the individual, to their team and ultimately the performance of the business.

Customer focus

Talkcoach also offers training for organisations targeted at providing customers with communication disabilities with the high quality service they deserve. We also remind businesses of their need to comply with the DDA in relation to customer service.

Details of all our programmes can be found at www.talkcoach.co.uk

From the Winter 2008 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 12.