Our second group of EJWP participants is preparing to wrap up their two-year journey with a final Training Week in Frankfurt, Germany, beginning on 12 December. The week will be hosted by DECHEMA, organization of EJWP2 participant Andres Lucht Uribe.
This final gathering is of course a moment that will see intersections of what has been accomplished along with speculation on what can be expected in the future. EJWP trainer Jennifer Cronick shared her expectations for the week and the value of development programmes like EJWP for the water sector and organizations.
What are your goals on development for the upcoming final EJWP2 Training Week in Frankfurt?
It’s going to be the last meeting for this group, so we’ll reflect on what has been learned, while they’re also focusing on finishing their project on a dissemination strategy for a model on water stress index. The group is thinking about what comes after EJWP, like possibilities of continued cooperation in the sector. How can they best apply the knowledge, skills, and the networks they built? It is a complex, but interesting moment.
We are looking if we can create a warm atmosphere wrap-up like we did in Norway with the first group, to instil the feelings and personal/professional bonds going forward. Along with completing the project, we will be assessing the range of outcomes over their two-year journey. There’s a lot here to process!
We will look at networking, and how to maximize future contacts and make the right choices to be productive in actions. We will closely consider what networking is. Reaching out with strategy or chatting more simply on a topic? Can I offer something to you? Can I ask something from you? There are challenges in this that we should be clear on. Another thing is that I would really enjoy seeing water events in the European sector become more about really meeting each other, rather than just knowledge showcases. If workshops that may be boring for some could have a more active exchange of ideas and new steps in working together, then I think it would benefit all involved. This would also require different ways of meeting and interacting. This is something we’re looking at.
What is the expected outcome from these participants in the development activities?
Ideally, they will take on the challenge of doing something big in water sector through leading, visible roles. We have addressed this in the program, and I know that they need to be clear on their ambitions and expectations in relation to their responsibilities in their current jobs. I hope that this development program will have a lasting impact in good ways. Some may carry this momentum forward in new directions, while others will take some valuable benefit and remain on their current path.
The value is that they each have their own great talents and there’s still a merging challenge within a team framework, and this is also a real workplace challenge. They are strong individuals that were at one moment pointing at each other in a less-than-fluid manner of working, but now they are asking more what their role is and how they have impacts in various situations. It’s a matter of finding harmony in working together.
Why is it more important now to train early-career professionals in personal and professional development skills?
Previously, in many organisations with highly educated professionals, people were concentrating only on their knowledge base which was considered most important. Later in their career, they faced learning some skills when they took up roles for example in project management and business development. Now I see people needing skills like personal leadership much earlier in their career. To enable success in increasingly multiple roles, they may find themselves in a “pressure cooker” situation to develop the skills, whereas they may have progressively acquired abilities they needed over time and experience. What was expected in capacities at about 7-10 years in an organization is now seen at about 3-4 years. There may also be staff shortages in changing workforces where people are needed to fill the gaps.
How is EJWP different in its approach to development and skill building?
Most development programs in the sector are focused on one company. EJWP is for different organizations with people of different backgrounds. To bring them together like this is unique, and to have them working on really complex sector projects is maybe tougher, and definitely different from other training programs. This can be challenging in aligning expectations and needs, like working across organizations in the sector.
A big challenge is to prioritize one’s own development during trainings. We need to remember that organizations are supporting their staff to participate in our trainings, so it’s really important for the company as well. Another thing is that I see the participants in the projects focused on arriving at a certain result. But it’s also about a learning process on the way to the result. If you can explain what you learned from it, that may be more valuable than the result they are aiming for. Participants often feel pressured under expectations, but they should realize that it is first a learning and development program.
How does focus on development benefit organizations and the communities they serve?
I think the organizations benefit because employee growth is a good way to retain their young professionals so they are more engaged to their full potential. It is also a positive to have a better mix of younger staff with a fresh view bringing new ideas and innovation as well. New ideas turn into new processes and products that benefit the users and society. What I like about the people that we have in the groups is that they are professionals from their organizations, and they are part of society themselves as well as end users. They take into account their own behaviors in how they use water and the impact that has.
There are real-world lessons even in this. We can expect something to be a certain way but you need to be able to enjoy a certain chaos within a structure and to influence what you can, but to go with the flow at the same time.