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Blog : Development is not just about training...


Development is not just about training...

Jo Harley discusses the results of the learnpurple engagement survey, have you done yours yet?

So far nearly 400 people have logged in and completed our free engagement survey, (join the purple revolution and do it at no cost for up to 100 people today!). We always practice what we preach and so ran it ourselves, with a 100% response rate. Pretty good we thought, especially as a survey by People Pulse found that average response rates for anonymous internal surveys are 30-40% and sometimes as low as 10%.

At our last company meeting we presented and discussed the results, otherwise, what's the point in doing it in the first place? We are all for sharing any issues that we might have. We were expecting positive results - after all, employee engagement and retention are our reason to be. On most issues we were better than, or at the least reflecting the overall averages (i.e. average scores of all respondents regardless of organisation). Even I was impressed with the ease of use of the survey and how easy it was to view the results and benchmark learnpurple's responses against the overall averages of the other participants.

However, we are not perfect, which is great because we love a challenge and life would be terribly dull if we were. There a couple of areas that we're going to be working on over the next six months. The first of these was in response to the question 'Ideally, what's next for you?' Nearly 60% of learnpurple people responded that they are 'happy as they are though would like more development'. 'More development?' I asked Jane (MD of learnpurple) 'How can this be? I thought that we offered lots of development to all the purple people?'

We looked at our score against the overall responses and many respondents feel the same way. So what to do? In our experience, this is a common occurrence; business leaders think they are offering development and then the people that work in the organisation either want more or are not aware that it exists. Even so we were pretty shocked that even we hadn't got it right. Cobblers mend thy shoes! When discussing the results, most of our people did feel they received development and knew it was available to them but the key was that they weren't driving it themselves and were waiting to be asked to undertake some development.

We have regular appraisals and reviews and discuss aspirations and development needs. However our business and the world in general, move fast and so something needed to change. We offer people the opportunity to go on any of our public courses. They can go on any half day management development courses; they can go on any 90 minute learning bite they wish. As a matter of course we induct them using two psychometric tests (iWAM & SDI) and use these to coach and guide them throughout their time with us; we ask them to go to seminars relevant to their job roles; we do a training session/workshop at every quarterly company meeting; we have two bookshelves brimming with books on every aspect of development you can imagine; three people have completed their coaching/NLP qualifications whilst working for us; one is off to the IOD to learn how to be a Director; we are in talks with another about completing CIPD; I don't think we have ever said 'no' if someone asks to do something pertaining to their development; they have mentors, so where are we going wrong, and what more can we do?

We concluded that, for us, there are there two reasons why people may believe they are not getting enough development (and this may apply beyond the purple palace). Firstly, like pay, it is something that most achievement and results driven people always want more of if given the option, and we recruit specifically for achievement and results driven people, uh oh, it is our fault! The purple people are always after new challenges, most of them are high change and high options people and with that comes new development, so I guess it is something that we should come to expect, and learn how to manage, and celebrate that 60% of the people that work with us are interested in personal growth and want to do it whilst they are with us.

This brings me on to the second reason that people may feel like they are not receiving enough development, and this is to do with the fact that we are a very flat structured and self managing organisation. We expect that people will drive their own development and will ask for it rather than waiting to be asked; we have now reiterated that this is the case and will continue to do so very regularly as a part of day to day life here. So, for example, in any of their weekly one to one meetings they will feel free to bring any development ideas to the table. Perhaps too many people are waiting for their managers to say to them 'what development would you like' especially those of us that are a little bit older and not as 'go getting' as generation Y.

It's understandable that in the current climate people might be reluctant to push for personal development. However there are a myriad of ways that development can take place without employees having to take too much time off the job or costing an arm and a leg, that will make line managers see that they take their roles seriously and are committed to the company and want to learn more. In fact, most managers that we talk to are keen to hear from their people exactly what it is they want and that they have already thought of inventive ways of getting to the end goal.

The Corporate Leadership Council highlighted seven key factors that need to be in place for an organisation to form an attractive value proposition, not surprisingly development is one of these, and our engagement survey is already showing that it is an area that, unless defined by the manager and the employee very early on, can be misinterpreted and viewed as not being delivered when actually it could be given a slight change in perspective and some clear communication. It is interesting that our last talent toolbox benchmarking report shows that at least 42% and up to 89% of people that participated in talent toolbox (over 8000 people) had had training since their last appraisal. We are now working with many clients to open up development to mean more than 'training' and we are definitely seeing a trend in person specific development within organisations rather than blanket training. I'd be really interested to hear other people's experiences within this area, oh, and any suggestions on further development we can offer our very clever, very enthusiastic, learning hungry purple people!

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