Tuesday, 29 November 2011

What can individuals and organisations do to effectively combat the skills shortage in the UK?

With the new year just around the corner, now is the perfect time to assess your current skill set and begin exploring opportunities for the development of knowledge and skills that are required by your company or organisation.

The Government's Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has recently acknowledged a shortage of relevant business skills in the workforce. Such skills are not only essential to an individual's successful career progression but also to the growth of the UK economy. Individual learning and development initiatives are most effective when they respond to the direct needs of businesses.

In this training update from CAPITA Learning & Development we will look at some of the positive and proactive steps that you can take to ensure career progression within your organisation and the job market in general.

1. Begin by discussing and identifying any gaps in your knowledge and skills with your line manager or HR manager in addition to exploring potential gaps or new requirements for development within the general organisation.

2. After identifying your learning and development requirements assess and complete any of the relevant professional development programmes and/or practical skills training courses that are available to you. Capita Learning & Development offers a wide choice of training courses and professional development programmes both approved and accredited by educational institutions like ILM, CMI and EDI.

3. If appropriate, gain membership to a professional body. For example, Capita's PEEL Club, a professional membership body for HR and Personnel Experts in Employment Law, offers regular training opportunities and unlimited access to specialist knowledge sharing and networking opportunities with fellow members.

4. Concentrate on your field. Don't try to be a jack of all trades. Enhance the skills that are most relevant to your job. You will soon be identified as a specialist in your field, which will open the doors of career progression.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Mistakes to Avoid When Giving Employee Feedback

Feedback from managers is essential in engaging employees in their role and it is a part of a manager’s responsibility in developing (and retaining) employees. However, all too often, managers will fail to give feedback fearing that they will upset employees or change the status quo of the team.

Good managers consider feedback as an ongoing process and will communicate with employees about their performance at regular intervals, commenting on both the positive and negative aspects and producing an action plan to correct issues as and when they appear.

This article examines some of the most common mistakes that managers make when providing employees with feedback:

Waiting until the annual appraisal before giving feedback

Feedback should be seen as an ongoing process. Providing feedback (positive and negative) at regular intervals throughout the year allows employees a chance to correct any performance issues ahead of an annual appraisal. Waiting until the annual appraisal to give feedback is counter-productive as employees may come to fear the occasion and additionally, there is a chance that small problems are not dealt with initially resulting in them growing into much bigger issues.

Adopting the “Feedback Sandwich” style

A “feedback sandwich” is initiated by issuing praise, softening any issues that follow in the feedback giving stage. The conversation is concluded with more praise or a positive outlook. This approach is not to make the receiver feel good about the conversation but rather to help the manager to deliver difficult feedback and to reduce the chances of a defensive or confrontational reaction.

Using this technique often will result in employees getting to know that immediately following praise comes criticism and whilst they are still focused on the negative the praise is not effectively communicated.

Not communicating expectations

If employees do not know what they are expected to achieve from the start they are more likely to be confused when they do receive feedback. Ensure that employees receive realistic and achievable performance targets and that the feedback correlates with the performance areas that the employee is being graded on.

Fear of addressing the actual cause of poor performance

Many managers simply do not like providing employees with honest feedback for fear of upsetting them, instead opting to “sugar-coat” negative feedback which ends up confusing employees. To be an effective leader providing constructive and accurate feedback is essential, adopting a discussion-based collaborative style will ensure that employees are given time to talk about their own experiences in relation to the managers expectations allowing the employee to engage in open and honest communication, making the entire experience more positive.

Lack of preparation

Many managers do not spend enough time preparing for the feedback conversation. Both parties should come prepared and start off by reviewing the expectations set at the previous meeting, additionally, managers should document employee’s accomplishments and areas of poor performance throughout the year so they have an accurate record to refer to.

These are just some of the common mistakes that you need to avoid when giving employees feedback, if you have any other mistakes the managers make, please share them with us on Twitter or by adding a comment below.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The changing face of learning & development (70:20:10)

Learning and Development is changing. As an organisational function, it is having to become far closer to Operational delivery and to Internal Communications than to Human Resources.

As a concept, organisations are beginning to realise that Learning & Development is far wider than the formal training which has, up to now been the primary focus of investment.

Over the past 40 years, research has consistently indicated that:

  • 70% of learning & development activity takes place from real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem-solving.
  • 20% comes from feedback and from observing and working with role models.
  • 10% comes from formal training.

(See: Princeton University's Learning Philosophy)

As an example see the recent report from Best Practice on how managers learn (pdf).

The Learning & Development function within an organisation has a role to play in supporting each of these aspects, whilst, at the same time, understanding that control over the learning experience becomes devolved to the end-user for much of the time.


In a rapidly changing work environment, employees need a range of tactics to help them adapt to different situations.

These will often include:
  • Asking someone who might know “the answer”
  • Searching for (and finding!) information that will help them work out “the answer” – both from internal and external resources. (There is a strong relationship here with a knowledge management function)
  • Trial-and-error
  • Using a job-aid that has been prepared for this situation

Learning from other people

Employees will maintain a network of peers, who can provide answers to questions, feedback and modelling of best behaviours.

These may include their managers in a coaching relationship, but, more likely will be their direct peers, and, more often these days, will be people both inside and outside the organisation, with whom they have a virtual relationship.

Formal training

The goal of all formal training is to change behaviours to match the organisation’s stated values. Here there is a strong relationship with internal communication and external marketing – to ensure that the messages going out to clients and shareholders match the reality of how the organisation works.

Formal training may include:
  • Classroom workshops
  • Lectures
  • Online webinars
  • Direct communications from “the centre”
  • Designed learning experiences, such as simulations and tutorials
  • Assessed activities
L&D departments need to recognise these different ways of learning, develop ways to support them, and learn where to focus their investment to give the most return.

That's probably the subject of another post, but, if you can't wait, read Clive Shepherd's book: The New Learning Architect

This article was first published on my personal Learning Conversations Blog. 

Mark Berthelemy is a Solutions Architect at Capita Learning & Development, he also runs the popular learning blog - Learning Conversations.