Our Global Work
RPfT have been working overseas more than ever in the last few years. Our global reach has widened greatly as a result. Below you’ll find a short interview with the Directors, Fergus and Katerina on how this work has been carried out, its challenges and successes.
RPfT is run by a small team – how can you work on a global scale?
Our actors and project managers are our greatest asset. We’re still a close-knit organisation, but our network of Role Players and Facilitators has really grown geographically over the last few years. Also our actors – who know how we operate and what we expect to be delivered – are our best ambassadors in generating work and also telling us about other people based in other locations who could be equally as passionate about delivering our work for us and with us.
You also can’t underestimate the importance of having highly skilled project managers attached to specific clients. This allows us to specialise in a certain client’s training needs, understanding the implications of holding training in different locations around the world and what in particular will be required in one location as opposed to another.
We’ve worked all over the world – Oman, Singapore, Chicago, Melbourne, Angola and Jakarta to name a few destinations. We also work widely in Europe. The only continent left to crack is Antarctica! Some of the locations have been remote, such as Baku, but we are yet to turn down a client because of the requested location.
Of course, sourcing actors in some regions – like Luanda for instance – has been challenging but skype and facetime mean that even if it’s unfeasible for us to get there in person at short notice, we can still cast jobs and provide detailed briefings to actors in locations such as Taipei and Bahrain.
Why don’t you fly UK based actors to these locations?
Sometimes we do. If the company is predominantly composed of expats then that might be a good fit. However, many countries have such culturally nuanced work environments that a local actor and a carefully cast one at that, is the only option. Using local actors also gives the client value for money. Also – Sometimes, by using locally sourced actors, although the training is delivered in English, the local actors can aid the learning by being able to speak the language of the delegates – thus cutting down on the language barriers that can sometimes occur.
What sort of work have you been asked to do? Does it differ from what is asked of you in the UK?
Some of the work we do outside Europe has focussed on delivering difficult messages, in stressful or emotionally challenging circumstances. We have created crisis simulations in war torn countries where company employees and their families have to be evacuated. We also have a great deal of experience running programmes where employees have to assume an additional role in a crisis and break the news that a family member has been taken hostage or been the victim of a violent assault. Generally the theme is the same – effective, empathetic and robust communication is required. Saying this, we also deliver everything from Performance Management Training to Customer Service Training overseas, so in that sense it’s just the same as what we do here at home.
Also – in terms of dealing with clients – our work is the same wherever the delivery takes place. We have detailed and rigorous consultation with all our clients, so everything we do is bespoke. Everything we offer is tailor-made for the client; there are no off-the-shelf products. In addition, because of our experience we can offer advice and feedback about what methods would work best for that particular delegate group. We then match this against the organisation as a whole, the client’s budget, their objectives, and the size of the group.
What do you think RPfT has that might give it an advantage over local home-grown drama-based training companies?
In some countries the client is looking for very particular training outcomes – and because we have twenty-eight years’ experience delivering here in the UK, that level of expertise is attractive. Also – we continuously innovate on behalf of the individuals we train, which I’m not sure all companies in our field do. We’re crafting bespoke scenarios, forum theatre or scripted pieces for clients every week – wherever they are based, and I think that ability to do design and development work brings clients back.
On top of that, many areas in which we deliver training don’t have drama-based training companies, so we’re delivering something completely new.
The other thing we’re convinced gives us the edge is our actors. They understand the importance of putting the delegate at the heart of the work, being as naturalistic as possible and – the bottom line – they have a passion for helping others improve their communication.
What challenges have you met?
Cultural differences. For example I remember as a young actor on tour twenty years ago, in the Middle East, I shook a woman’s hand by mistake which is not acceptable for me to do as a male. This is why sometimes locally sourced actors are preferable!
Seriously though – we ensure we research the cultural nuances thoroughly so that we provide accurate and challenging scenarios. We always have to consider social relationships and how status, job-role and sometimes social class can have an impact on the dynamic of the delegate group. Our trade is to observe, decipher and constructively feedback on human interactions, but in different parts of the world, there are different social constructs. It is possible to offend people by putting your feet on a chair in a country where showing the soles of your feet is unacceptable.
How do you know what you do works?
Some delegates are visibly grateful. For example we delivered training to a large corporate client in the petrochemical sector about breaking the news of the death of an employee to the worker’s family. This can be a very real issue as there are sadly deaths from time to time. The delegates were relieved to learn that saying sorry and showing your humanity was not forbidden and is actively encouraged by the organisation.
And I guess the most persuasive argument is that we get asked back! We have been working with our oldest global client for fourteen years now.