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Precision Development - Part Two

In our previous blog post we explored the ‘what’ and the ‘who’ to develop ( ) your company. The next step is to decide ‘how’ you are going to develop individuals in your organisation. This is a quick guide on what you need to consider.

Be precise about how to develop

In order to be precise, and to have an impact, your approach needs to match the requirement. You’ll need to consider what it is that needs to be developed (knowledge, skills or attributes?) and the readiness of the individuals to learn.

If it’s only knowledge that needs to be developed on-line learning can be a quick and relatively cheap means of delivering information. A second option is formal training (classroom style), which offers the additional benefit of giving the employees an opportunity to meet in person and discuss the information they need to learn about, receiving immediate feedback. Alternatively, if the knowledge exists in the organisation and needs to be shared, options include mentoring and internal knowledge transfer programmes. Both help to create ‘buy in’ for those involved, resulting in higher engagement levels and a sense of ownership for developing each other. Whatever the approach, when developing knowledge the aim is to get employees not only understand new information, but to also be able to assimilate it with what they already know. It is rare that development is purely only about acquiring new knowledge, it is more likely that there is a need for developing the skills in applying it too.

Developing skills is most effectively achieved when individuals have the opportunity to experience what it will feel like to perform them. This way they can test them out and see what does, and doesn’t work. Again, it is ideal if someone internal can train up the employees. However training is a skilled job in itself, with the need to deliver information in a palatable way, identify when it has/has not hit the mark, alter the style of delivery accordingly and provide an environment conducive to learning (i.e. fun, upbeat and emotionally ‘safe’). You’ll need to ask yourself - do the internal trainers/mentors have these skills? If not currently, can they be up-skilled or developed themselves to be able to deliver this training?

The third thing to consider is attributes - do you have to alter people at a fundamental level to make the desired development changes? It is neither ethical nor possible without a great deal of input. The key is for the employee to look at their motivations, attitudes and personality attributes, identifying the ones that are helpful, and those that are not helpful, in achieving what is required in their role. This takes a particularly skilful intervention and is best conducted in a one to one arena with an experienced coach.

Often it is all three aspects of knowledge, skills and attributes that need to be developed - bringing them together and selecting the most appropriate developmental methods can be a challenge. Our research shows that those who have done this the most successfully typically follow an academy type programme using a wide range of planned interventions ranging from; coaching and mentoring; soft-skills training workshops; action learning sets, to additional role responsibilities or special projects. The benefits include a well structured process which offers a clear path of development according to the needs and requirements of both the individual and the organisation. There is status associated with the different levels or pathways of development and the purpose of the academy is clearly communicated, valued by, and invested in by the organisation. Our experience shows that organisations who use academies outperform those who don’t by 20%.

Whatever the approach, whether as part of a streamlined Academy programme or a one off intervention, it is only if the employee realises that a change is required and wants to make that change that the development will occur. Identifying the stage of change that an individual is at and then targeting the intervention appropriately is crucial. For example, training is not appropriate for individuals in the Status Quo stage as they are in denial over the need to make a change. What they need is the time, space and tools of self reflection (Building Awareness) to be able to make the step to the next stage -

Preparation to take Action. Again, investing in assessing employees, for example using tools such as 360 surveys, psychometrics or assessment centres to identify specific behavioural capabilities and preferences, is a useful way of building awareness of what stage they are at . This way, the type of intervention can be better matched to their needs.

Be precise about the ongoing support

Ways to support the employee after development include putting a plan in place to ensure they can, and do utilise the development. The mistake many organisations make is thinking that training is the end of the story. In fact post-development support is almost as crucial as the intervention itself - training plus coaching afterwards is over 70% more effective than training alone.

Learning is an iterative, cyclical process which needs testing out in order to be fully embedded, i.e. learn something, try it out, get feedback, identify what does and doesn’t work, ask more questions, learn something extra, try that out etc. Having the opportunity to reflect back on the learning and how it is working makes the chances of long term implementation far more likely.

Ways to support the employee after development include:

  • A follow up workshop with the tutor. This ensures that there is some accountability for the employee to report back as well as giving them an opportunity to ask questions, clear up any misunderstandings and identify why something hasn’t worked. In addition it gives the opportunity to share success stories, learn from each other and from what has worked.

  • Creating learning support/buddy groups in pairs or small groups also has the same benefit but lacks the tutor’s expertise.

  • Challenging projects, supported by a mentor, that enable the employee to use their new knowledge, skills or attributes.

  • One-to-one or group coaching. Often coaching doesn’t do anything more than speed up the process of change. This doesn’t sound like much until you consider that some people might not ever change without it – unwittingly going round their continuous cycle of confusion instead.

Be precise about the measuring impact

For you, measuring and monitoring the impact of your development interventions is essential. It ensures that the interventions are working in precisely the way you intended and will help you to secure the budget you need. It gives you the reassurance of knowing you have made the right decisions.

At an organisational level measuring the impact, and Return on Investment is vital. Understanding how an intervention has impacted upon sales, customer retention or productivity provides a clear message about the success of the interventions. However, in addition to considering the more obvious hard measures such as sales, revenue and productivity, it is also important to utilise softer measures such as talent retention, customer satisfaction and engagement scores. We know from the service value chain model, that an organisation’s profit is linked to employee engagement via high levels of customer service. Engagement results from feeling valued, having a sense of pride and job satisfaction (amongst other things). So measuring employees’ commitment and satisfaction with their job, manager and development opportunities for example will also be an indicator of how much discretionary effort you are likely to be getting from them.

It is important to not only find out what difference the intervention has made but also how, so that you can enhance and improve the intervention and maximise its impact. Kirkpatrick’s learning evaluation theory² outlines 4 stages of measurement. Whilst the fourth level seeks to understand the impact on the organisation, the first three levels seek to understand: what the participant thought and felt about the training; the increased knowledge or capability; and the extent of the behaviour and capability improvement and how this has been implemented back in the work environment. A word of caution though: Be careful when assuming causality on ROI measures - for example, if sales have gone up, is this because of the customer sales training the employees experienced, or because the economy is picking up and everyone is experiencing better sales? People and situations are too complex to definitively attribute a ROI to a people intervention alone so a range of measurements should be used wisely.

In summary

So, to recap, in these difficult times it is even more important to be precise in order to ensure maximum and efficient return on investment. Have a good look at your organisation. Do the decision makers have the skills and tools to make precise and objective decisions about who, what, why and how to develop your employees? If not, ensure that those who are invited to help are experienced practitioners with a track record in helping organisations change and develop, using a wide range of assessment, design and delivery methodology to map the interventions. In practice this means they are likely to have a grounding in business psychology coupled with many years of business experience.

GFB's team includes experts in psychology, high-performance coaching, data analytics and business, who’ve been working with organisations like yours for over 20 years.

We make it easier for you to profile candidates, identify talent, conduct 360 degree feedback and use psychometric assessments to understand how to develop each individual so they can achieve their potential. If you would like to talk to us about how we can help please either email or call +44 (0) 333 090 2580.

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