Posted: 20 July 2021

Jon West, Managing Director

How long have you been at Ashorne and what have the highlights been during your tenure?

 I came to Ashorne in mid-2021 after 30 years in the automotive industry. This coincided with the tail end of Covid and it was encouraging to see people returning to learn and meet in a face-to-face environment.  During the two and a half years I’ve been here, we have successfully grown our venue business back to pre-pandemic levels, but we are currently focusing on promoting the excellent learning programmes that we provide in management and leadership across all industry sectors.

We have some exceptional programmes with customers such as Innovate UK and Jaguar Land Rover, but lately we have been working hard to find new customers who can benefit from our blended, award-winning programmes. To crystalise the relationship between all the different parts of our business, we have spent time clarifying our purpose and establishing a  culture that can support and deliver our goals.


Tell us more about your learning programmes.  Who are they aimed at and what do they cover?

 We run programmes for managers and leaders at most levels in organisations, primarily spanning the journey from graduate level to senior management. These are predominantly centred around the human skills required to survive and lead in the modern world. We often augment this by providing end-to-end support to our customers and their organisations, starting with detailed consultancy to understand what their culture is, how they want managers to lead in their environment, and tailoring these findings to unique learning programmes.

When programmes have been delivered, we follow through by providing support to the organisation, and individual learners, to understand whether the learning has been beneficial. Most of our programmes will be a blend of digital, virtual, and face-to-face learning, but the balance will depend on what is best for our client. We have clients from a variety of sectors, from innovation to automotive, to engineering and finance.  Ultimately, our focus is on co-creating vibrant, enriching, and experiential learning to equip learners with the skills and desire to continuing growing and learning throughout their careers.


You’ve mentioned face-to-face learning, but surely that’s swimming against the tide of digital and potentially AI interventions?

Although we are finding that some clients specifically ask for learning programmes that have no online content due to the sense of digital overload, it is less common these days to find a client who wants a programme that is entirely centred around face-to-face learning. We still firmly believe that in person learning has a place in a fully rounded programme. With people working remotely and less time spent informally connecting in a work environment, we find that people value the opportunity to come together when they are working through the aspects of human skills. I worry that people are confusing the benefits of face-to-face learning with outdated methods such as “chalk and talk” or “death by PowerPoint”. When we come together to learn it unlocks benefits that far outweigh what you will get from an online course; the ability to question, the ability to discuss, share experiences, and reflect on learning with others in a safe space. Whilst many companies have concluded that much of their learning agenda can be delivered through scalable, cost-effective solutions, they should be careful not to assume human skills are best learnt in the same way. Whilst we deliver programmes globally, I think here in the UK we’ve paid the price for decades of failing to give learning the same priority as practical experience on the job. There’s no substitute for either.

As AI starts to show up increasingly in every aspect of our lives, we hear a lot of speculation about how this will impact the future world of work. In the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that AI will replace human skills, rather supplement them, and the ability to harness the power of both will give businesses a competitive advantage. We need to develop people to embrace what AI can do and use it in harmony with the human skills that will continue to play a central role in how we do business.

Whilst we believe we have a perfect setting and the facilities to support inspirational face-to-face learning, we can deliver wherever our clients need. We have a network of associates that can deliver anywhere in the UK and in a range of locations around the world, bearing in mind that much of what we do is consumed digitally or virtually anyway.


Your purpose is “to create experiences that nurture and inspire in a natural setting”, so what does this mean?

We are unusual in that we are both a learning organisation and a venue for meetings and events. However, what sits at the core of our purpose is that their experience should inspire them to learn or improve their business to create an environment that allows them to focus and feel nurtured by their experience with us. We have a beautiful building set within 35 acres of parkland with an innate sense of what an Ashorne experience is, and we can create that wherever we deliver our learning programmes.


What is the best thing about Ashorne?

 The team. We have an incredibly dedicated team here who are so proud of the place, but who also realise that everything they do impacts the customer or learner experiences. Every single point along the journey of working with, or at, Ashorne has to be memorable and inspiring, and this is their central focus, day in, day out.