Lee Bennett is PCC’s Learning and Development Business Partner. We sat down with him to discuss the many programmes he’s involved with at PCC, while also getting down to the nitty gritty of what his favourite biscuit is, and why he doesn’t want to get stuck in a lift with Harry Kane.
Who are you and what do you do?
I lead the training and development function across PCC UK, Ireland and Luxembourg, including things like Paragon Learning, Quantum, Ignite and the Young Paragon Network.
That entails lots of glamorous administration – owning the LMS, for example - right through to delivering training for senior leaders. I also help all our staff on their development journey, from apprentices to senior managers. I love my job. I’ve always been passionate about helping people to grow and be the best they can be. Part of that is that I like to see change, people developing, and giving them opportunities.
A very comprehensive answer! So, what’s your background?
Well, I’ve been with PCC coming up to three years now. One of my first jobs was working for Haven Holidays as a Haven Mate (a competitively priced alternative to Butlins), which I did straight out of school. To be honest, I loved being the centre of attention and that’s still the case today! I did that for three summer seasons, and in the winter I worked at a pub. I wanted a ‘real’ job, so went to IFDS for nine years and eventually became a team leader, and then applied for a job in training.
What are you working on at the moment?
We’ve got another round of Paragon Quantum happening, with about 17 people from across the business. Paragon Ignite and the current Levy Transfer Scheme is also really big on my radar at the moment. These are both great because it’s about giving something back – there’s a lot of youngsters out there who’ve finished college, university or school, and they’ve not had an opportunity because of Covid. With Ignite, they’re given an opportunity to come into our workplace, and with the levy transfer we’ve given them the opportunity to go into other businesses who may not have been able to do it too.
Now you’re a seasoned veteran, what’s changed in the world of training?
New tools. Everything used to have to be classroom-based. Now we can do more eLearning through something like Microsoft Teams. There’s advantages and disadvantages, depending on people’s learning styles. Some people require that human touch while others can just get on with it. Overall, I think people learn better virtually because they’re in a safe environment. There’s less pressure when they’re not in front of a whole group. On the other hand, trying to induct somebody into the business virtually is hard.
We’re doing this interview over Teams and from my point of view it’s going swimmingly. What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love the variety. I get to be involved in so many different things – one minute I’m talking to our Board, the next day it’ll be a conversation with a group of young learners who are 16, 17 years old. No two days are the same. But now, fingers crossed, I’m looking forward to getting back out there and meeting more Paragon people on the road.
Speaking of which, what do you think makes a ‘Paragon Person’?
Paragon people like what they do, and they’re happy to pull together. Nothing has proved this more than during the last 18 months, how we’ve come through this pandemic. The camaraderie has been fantastic.
That’s great to hear, and your cheque is in the post. How have you got on personally during lockdown?
Well, we’ve been rebuilding, rewiring, and redecorating our house, and we’ve spent the whole time doing that. I’ve really enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t do it again. At one point, my dad was really ill with Covid, while at the same time I was demolishing an extension. So getting to wield a sledgehammer really helped take my mind off it. He’s fine now, and is helping us out with more renovations, so if anyone local to Essex is looking for a decorator or gardener, I can heartily recommend Colin Bennett.
Nice one. Anyway, we’ll move on to the more important questions. What did you have for tea last night?
A few members of the HR team went out for dinner last night. Some people had quite posh dinners, but I had a burger and chips. Followed by a few cocktails.
Sounds great. We all know how crazy HR staff can get, so I imagine it was a wild night. What’s your favourite biscuit, and why?
Cor, that’s a cracking question!
Thank you very much. I do this professionally.
It’s got to be the bourbon biscuit. Why do I like it? It's just a great biscuit and satisfies the small chocolate craving when you need a quick fix. Our child has devoured all the actual decent chocolate in the fridge - wait - does anyone else put chocolate in the fridge? My girlfriend thinks I’m weird for keeping chocolate in the fridge.
Personally, I think it’s weird to keep chocolate in the fridge, unless it’s a very hot day and you’re trying to avoid a melting incident.
I think we need to do a poll at the end of this interview. Chocolate - to fridge or not to fridge.
I don’t know if that’s feasible but I’m sure people will find a way to get in touch about it, one way or another. Do you keep tomato ketchup in the fridge?
Yep. Everything goes in my fridge - if there’s space after the beer has been added. I even keep the squash bottles in my fridge to make my juice.
Who would have thought that through this one simple question, we've discovered something new about you: you're obsessed with putting stuff in the fridge. Anyway, which celebrity would you not like to get stuck in a lift with?
I’m a mad West Ham fan, so any member of the Tottenham squad, but in particular Harry Kane.
I’ll stay out of that one. Any irrational phobias, other than when things aren’t kept in the fridge where they belong?
I’m petrified of snakes. I can’t even watch them on telly.
I think that’s fairly rational. Luckily, you’re not likely to encounter one in Essex. What’s the best holiday you’ve been on and why?
Definitely Vegas. Me and my friends went to America and we did a tour of the grand canyon, then went through San Francisco, Death Valley, and then Vegas. I met Ed Sheeran in a casino there.
Finally, who’s your hero?
My dad. After everything he’s gone through with Covid, he’s come out fighting. Before that, he’d got made redundant from a law firm where he was facilities manager, but he’s now back out doing odd jobs for little old ladies (PCC’s Head of HR for Service and Transactional Alison Jackson can recommend him).