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Lessons Learned with… Andrew Manasseh, Managing Director, Formative Communications

This month we interviewed Andrew Manasseh, MD of Formative Communications. Andrew has worked for over 25 years across Europe, SE Asia, the Middle East and Africa in management and training. After a 15 year career with the British Council training (UK government agency) he set up Formative Communications in Brussels and London.

Andrew shares how the pandemic played a pivotal role in the expansion of Formative Communications, his thoughts on the future of work, important lessons learnt throughout his career and the best advice he has ever received.

Can you briefly share your professional journey which has led you to your role now?

You either follow your parents’ footsteps or deliberately avoid it. My journey started when I was about 8. My mum built a successful secretarial college in the 1980s in Oxford. During the holidays I would help set up the classrooms for the new term. After training in retail buying, I ended up travelling the world teaching English. I then got a career job running the British Council English teaching centres in Bangkok, Prague, Milan and then Brussels for 15 years before setting up Formative Communications in Brussels and London.

What has been your career highlight?

The Pandemic. Last February our order books were booming, business growth was gathering pace and then within 3 unforgettable days in March we lost it all to zero.

We told ourselves we can do all this online (can’t we??) and then we told our key clients that we could train groups remotely, provide e-resources and one day combine this with in-person training. By June 2020 we were trading at pre-pandemic levels. By September we expanded by training clients beyond Europe in Asia Pacifica, Latin America and across Africa.

Who has been impacted by the COVID pandemic the most in the working environment?

The working from home experience has been unequal. Those fortunate enough to have an extra room for the office and a garden have managed easily. I bought some space saving and folding furniture a couple of staff members who need solutions for home. IKEA has caught onto the WFH very quickly.

Pre-pandemic we had an office in the EU quarter in Brussels and location was vital for ad hoc networking. I used to bump into people all the time – catch up over coffee and lunches which was all valuable for business and relationship building. We’ve lost this element which is a shame.

How do you think the future of work will evolve over the next three-five years?

I am an optimist and think that the pandemic will impact work in ways we don’t even know yet.

Fancy offices, cool lighting and expresso machines have never really changed the habit of clocking in and out that came from the age of Victorian factories. I think this pandemic working from home ‘experiment’ may have changed all that. I think there’s a big opportunity to reset where and how staff perform their work. Imagine not feeling guilty about fitting your work around school, avoid the rush hour, come together for meaningful in person meetings and efficient online meetings.

What important lessons have you learnt throughout your career?

You get out of your career what you are prepared to put in. It’s fine if people want to work to live - a healthy work life balance is crucial.  I am teaching my teenage daughters that the three skills that they should develop are creativity, communications skills and emotional intelligence.

What skill sets do you think businesses within the communications industry will be looking for in the coming year?

My top choices are all very focussed on internal working:

  • Emotional intelligence to understand staff in cross functional teams and executives
  • Leadership skills – particularly leading as coach and mentor to cross functional teams. We can coach staff to develop content that is more fit for external communications
  • Communications with cross functional teams (internal)
  • Executive level communication skills – use their language and state what is crucial for decision making.

What is the best advice you ever received?

“Our company should be good to join and good to leave.” My boss at the British Council upon his retirement.

What are your company’s objectives for Diversity and Inclusion?

We are satisfied that we already offer a balance of gender. But as we work with clients more in Latin America, Asia Pacific and Africa we aim to attract trainers from more diverse backgrounds.

What do you think companies within communications can do to drive diversity and inclusion within the workplace?

First of all, call it out. We get a snapshot of different sectors and I am sometimes disheartened how backwards some are. My old employer, the British Council were acting on Equal Opportunities and Diversity 15 years ago. I see some companies are just starting this journey – it’s 2021 already!

Second – act on it. Design change strategies that will move executives and staff to act. Monitor progress and report it back. Take the successes, but don’t allow other departments to rest. Achieving acceptable diversity and inclusion is not a one hit project that your finish.  

Posted on 09.06.2021

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