Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guest Post: Be Creative About Staff Development

Guest post by Karen Wise

Recently I have been thinking about how we develop our staff and ourselves. This subject seems to weave it's way into almost every aspect of my work at the moment: I've been delivering appraisal training to several different organisations: a staff's Personal Development Plan is discussed as part of the course; I recently delivered a break-out session at a Coaching conference on Continued Professional Development; and I'm going to be delivering a practical developmental seminar for coaches next month.

In the course of this work, through discussions and feedback from participants, I've begun to realise that there's a real need to change the way that managers approach the development of their staff.

Traditionally, when a manager writes a Personal Development Plan (PDP) as part of their staff's performance appraisal, external training is identified: some kind of taught course, a conference, further education resulting in a recognised qualification.

But at the moment, with the recession still biting at our heels, the organisational development budgets are not as large as they were a few years ago. Managers now need to start considering how to develop their staff in a cost-efficient way. So I'll give you an example:

A junior manager pulled me aside on a training session. He wanted a piece of advice on what course he could send a member of staff on who needed training in how to manage difficult conversations - there were no more places left on the in-house conflict resolution training, and all external courses cost more than his departmental training budget would allow.

So I asked a question: "Who do you know, more senior to you in this organisation, who is able to manage difficult conversations?" The junior manager was quickly able to identify someone.

So I said: "How about you approach this person to ask them if they could support you in developing your member of staff? Let's develop a plan."

  1. Your member of staff and the manager will need an initial meeting - to make sure they can work together for this specific development need.
  2. Your member of staff will then attend a couple of meetings to observe the manager managing a difficult conversation.
  3. The member of staff will meet with the manager again and talk through his observations. The manager will in turn talk through some of the techniques they use to manage difficult conversations.
  4. The member of staff will return to the workplace & apply their learning.
  5. The member of staff and manager will meet again, perhaps one or two times to consolidate learning: identify any challenges, reflect on application to date, and measure the progress made.

It's quite simple really - and all it will take is the resource of time and commitment from the manager and the member of staff. Some might say that this is a form of mentorship - and I suppose that they would be right. However, this mentor relationship is defined for a specific need, and is time limited. The key benefit is that this form of development opportunity has high impact and is sustainable. The added benefit is the networking opportunities that it creates for the member of staff, and the exposure to a wider range of issues beyond their current sphere of work.

In essence, this idea is based on one of my key principles that development and growth is natural, given the right conditions. Choosing the right role model and having the opportunity to observe, then reflect and discuss with them their approach can happen in any organisation, anywhere. The example I give is just one way that a manager can demonstrate creative thinking when identifying the appropriate learning method to meet a development need.

When you're next completing a Personal Development Plan for a member of your staff - try and think creatively.

About the Author

Karen Wise, MCIPD is an Organisational Development Consultant and Business Coach, with over 12 years’ experience of working in Human Resources roles up to and including Director level. Karen now runs her own consultancy and coaching business, with a particular interest in maternity and wellbeing coaching.

Karen is a co-founder of Minerva’s Mind: an organisation that supports women to become leaders in their own lives, by exploring what leadership means today in every area of life. (www.facebook.com/minervasmind)

Karen is based in St Albans, 25 miles north of London, England, where she lives with her husband and two small children. She is also currently undertaking a Masters Degree in Coaching / Coaching Psychology at the University of East London.