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Delivering training in Tanzania

Imagine working for a bank in Holland. As part of its international outreach, you’ve been offered the opportunity to deliver a commercial training course at NMB, Tanzania’s largest bank. All you need to do is put together a three-day course in relationship management for commercial representatives. Hard to say no to, right?

Juliette Stevenaar and Marenne Heijning at Rabobank certainly didn’t. Instead, they organised support, developed the course, and eventually boarded a plane with plenty of training material. We ask them about their approach and their overall experience. We also find out some of the cultural differences they came up against and the impact they feel they’ve made.

Where to start when developing a training programme?
‘Encouraging fifty account managers to start thinking more commercially and improving the performance of an entire group. It sounded amazing!’, Juliette starts off. ‘But questions started to pop up after our initial enthusiasm. This would be our first commercial training abroad and we still had to figure out the content. How could we do this within the space of a couple of weeks and alongside our day jobs?’

Taking a collaborative approach
‘We felt really comfortable putting together the more practical elements of the training. We understand what it’s like to be an account manager and we know what it takes to be successful. But we were much less familiar with the other elements relating to soft skills like negotiation, sales techniques and behavioural styles. We decided we needed help and got in touch with Nol van Aalst, Organisational Development Manager at Schouten & Nelissen. He was immediately excited about working with us.'

Mixing theory with practical examples
Developing part one wasn’t particularly difficult for Marenne and Juliette. It covered topics like how to organise a client portfolio and how to prioritise certain accounts without impacting other client work. They put together case studies and examples to showcase how these questions are answered in the Netherlands.

Adding theory to your practice
Nols’ colleague Roderik added a useful theoretical perspective, including the Customer Pyramid Model used for prioritising clients. Juliette and Marenne included this in their slides and absorbed this new information themselves. ‘Why do we do the things we do? It can be helpful to occasionally ask yourself that question.’

Return on investment
‘Roderik provided us with insights and relevant course material’, says Marenne. ‘He also helped us prepare for our future role as trainers. Like how to respond when your group asks a level of detail you didn’t quite prepare for. His tip to place people in small groups and let them work out practical applications for the theory themselves was really useful. Before we travelled to Tanzania, we got together twice. Schouten & Nelissen felt it was their way to give back after having provided training to Rabobank for all those years. It was lovely working together on that basis!’

Cultural differences between Tanzania and the Netherlands
‘We'd never been to Tanzania before’, says Marenne. ‘We didn’t know much about the country and it was tricky getting a feel of the level most participants would be at. Would we be able to hit the right notes? That’s why kept our training quite broad. Once we got started, we noticed there were quite a few cultural differences between our countries.

  • Ask any group in the Netherlands a question and you’ll get at least one person who answers before anyone else had a chance to raise their hand. That wouldn’t happen over here. Everyone expects to be given their turn. Nobody will put themselves above anyone else.
  • Putting your head above the parapet isn’t quite so usual in Tanzania. That can be a challenge if you’re looking to change the culture of an organisation. For that, you need leaders who can inspire others.
  • Dutch people are direct and open. For example, after mentioning our age during the introductions, we were told that was quite an unusual thing to do in Tanzania for a woman.’

Juliette and Marenne feel the training surpassed their expectations. The 2 x 25 trainees described their course in relationship management as spot-on and practical. ‘They were able to apply it straight away as part of their jobs. The use of role play was also considered very useful. Even though theory can make a lot of sense, the reality is sometimes very different’, says Juliette.

Educational experience
‘Initially, we were concerned we wouldn’t have enough material to cover 2 x 3 days, but in the end that wasn’t an issue. We were able to teach both groups how to work more effectively and it was very satisfying to see participants enjoying the course. We also discovered we like being trainers and providing this course abroad has given us a number of additional learning points. Like instead of presenting an off-the-shelf course, you need to find new ways of thinking and delivering.’

The freedom to choose
‘It’s best also to allow enough wiggle room in your programme. Although we ended up including too much material, it actually gave us some space to decide what to cover and what not. Conclusion? It’s certainly possible to come up with a tailored training programme. It does require time, effort and expertise, but it has a real impact!’

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