Moving Mountains: re-skilling the firm Part II

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A previous post on the subject of staff development discussed how to establish through gap analysis the competences that need improvement in the firm. This post discuses how a manager might go about bridging these gaps with planned development activity. It also discusses the levels of success that one might hope for in making large-scale staff development change – just how big a mountain can one move?

There are two approaches to this problem: individual and collective. In the individual approach, the manager works one-to-one with his or her staff to establish what developmental actions will bridge specific gaps. If an electrician is to move from a Supervised Practitioner to a Practitioner, taking on team leadership and sole responsibility for large jobs, perhaps he or she needs to go back to college to gain a further NVQ or BTEC qualification. Perhaps they also need private study with discussion groups on the latest edition of the Wiring Regulations. But perhaps also they need increased exposure to larger jobs with a programme of increased responsibility and mentoring from the Expert electrician. The move will not be made in one simple step. It will take time – maybe one or two years. And it will need long term commitment from the principal and the electrician.

Gaining commitment to development is complex. It needs the manager or his development consultant to commit time to drawing up a Personal Development Plan for each employee. Some employees will be grateful for the opportunity and time spent on them and will see the personal benefit and will commit willingly. Others will not.

The second approach is the collective approach. Here the manager identifies gaps that can be bridged by action that the whole firm or specific groups within the firm can undertake together. Collective development lends itself to cases where there is benefit if all participate together, particularly where discussion is part of the activity. Examples are in quality improvement or health and safety management. Collective development is also effective in workshop activities such as report writing and writing bids and tenders where collective practical exercises are a key part of skills learning.

So what change might we expect? What degree of engagement and hence learning might we expect? There is no simple answer but the following is a broad guide. About 25% of staff will achieve great things when engaged in personal development. The other 50% will make more modest but tangible movement. About 25% will not commit and achieve little. To an extent therefore, personal development is about picking the winners and linking people with the gaps to be bridged. Some gaps will not be bridgeable and the solution will lie in redundancy and recruitment. The picture is similar in collective activity.

The key thing to recognise is that staff development is a long-term activity with a mix of individual and collective actions. The competence gaps need to be established and the development plans targeted to fill these. Then the competence measurement needs to resume again to measure progress. Progress manifests in lasting change to key metrics such as wastage, accidents, sales and indeed net profit.

TimelessTime has extensive experience in competence development. To learn more, contact us for to arrange a meeting when we can discuss your options for change. See for more.

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