The case for development

I would like to share with you some of my experience and background in business and learning & development. If you’re wondering why, it’s because I passionately believe in people, and feel with the changing world in which we all live, we are now at a turning point in terms of business change and people development.

In conjunction with Brunel Institute London, I conducted the largest study of Human capability ever conducted in the UK. The results of which I used to provide employees with both short and long-term development plans aimed at the businesses aims, objectives and values. This cemented my views and beliefs on the importance of people development.

Everybody’s job is shifting beneath them, and successful organisations need to realise this and take appropriate actions. Doing nothing is not an option.

I believe organisations have a common goal, which is about more revenue, ROI and being the best etc. I think the challenge is less about whether we develop and learn, but more about how fast we learn!

According to Deloitte, “42% of millennials say they are likely to leave a job because they are not learning enough”

With Brexit looming, we need to do more development for everybody – if people in your business feel unsettled or under-stretched, they may well look outside the organisation for their next challenge. This could have a damaging effect on your business and increase your staff turnover, recruiting new staff is costly and can be difficult finding the right person especially with the increasing shortage of talent in the job market.

From personal experience, I’ve witnessed good capable people leaving businesses because there is no development for them, they become bored, stressed and disillusioned with the status quo, they then look outside the organisation for their next challenge. Or if they stay, their focus may be more on what they are going to do that evening or at the weekend. I have also seen many examples of people handing in their notice to work for the competition. I would argue if these people are leaving to do the same job elsewhere, they are not leaving the job! – There must something about the business they are leaving which they don’t like or is not providing for them.

People choose to learn, and adult learning works with different perceptions and expectations. Experience in business is the richest resource for learning. If we can harness this experience, understand people’s perceptions and expectations, this allows us to capitalise on capability. Therefore, people learn richer and deeper, this promotes a lasting commitment to learning and engagement in the organisation.

I believe the best approach for any business should be on learning, not training

A person has learnt something when either or both of the following apply: They know something they didn’t know before and can show it and they are able to do something they were not able to do before and can prove it.

Training tends to be focused towards specific objectives, it seeks a uniform skill which can be measured. Personal development is much broader – it releases people potential.

I would suggest the largest cost in a business’s profit and loss account is people. I often hear businesses refer to their staff as assets, but in fact they’re not. A business can’t own people, and people are free to leave if they feel they want or need to.

Development for All

When I first had a driving lesson I could already drive a car, all I needed to do was pass my test! My driving instructor knew this and therefore, focused solely on teaching me how to pass the test, and within a space of a few weeks I had passed – first time!

My experience of new starters in business looks like this:

An interview is carried out, this might include using instruments such as ability tests, personality profiling, assessment centres etc. and hopefully, a competency-based interview has also been conducted and people who pass this are then employed – success!

As a new employee, they may attend an induction programme, sometimes lasting for several weeks. This process is often more focused upon the task skills needed to do the job. This suggests a ‘one size fits all’ approach, with a definite start point and a definite end. In other words, a linear process which assumes a common level of understanding, a common way of learning things – in effect filling empty barrels!

I believe business is about one thing, and that’s people, so the focus of any induction should include a combination of task, team and individual requirements.

Going back to my driving experience, I wasn’t an empty barrel, I could drive but I just needed a piece of paper to confirm this. New people into an organisation will bring with them transferrable skills, overlooking this can have a serious negative effect on people and I’ve witnessed people leave the company during the induction due to this issue.

Of course, we don’t learn things in a linear way, there may be generic requirements (common to all), however individual’s need specific input to their needs. What happened to all the information acquired at the interview stage? it may just be locked in a drawer in HR, never to be looked at again. This information will describe immediate specific learning areas which should be addressed and planned for.

Everyone should have a development plan which is hopefully linked to the short and long-term aims and objectives of the business. Development is sometimes offered to people when they decide to leave, it really is too late at this point because they have already seen ‘the other side’ and will more than likely leave anyway.

The only certainty in business nowadays is uncertainty, therefore everyone needs to focus upon both business and individual performance and decide how this is likely to impact upon us all.

I guess it’s likely we will hit some bumps in the road next year, therefore attention should be paid now in helping all employees navigate their way through future challenges. This can only be achieved with real development which is both generic and specific.

Written by Richard Zabiela Pt Learning and Development