What can businesses looking to develop their colleagues put in place to support the professional growth of individuals?

Submitted by Amelia O'Hanlon | 20/05/2022

Many businesses are looking at how they can develop and train their staff amidst the current skills shortage. But this isn’t a new concept for us at Vertas.

Our Associate Director – Operations, Liam Swift, comments: “I am a prime example of how Vertas has invested in employee development and training.

I have held three different positions – looking after regional business, before moving onto national business and finally now, my current role of Associate Director of Operations.

Even now, after climbing up the career ladder, I still look for ways and opportunities to develop my skills and continually improve myself as a leader.”

Read more about Liam’s journey as part of Learning at Work Week.

You are never too experienced or senior to stop developing your skills, and I am a strong believer in developing employees and making sure colleagues feel valued and secure within their roles. Coming out of a pandemic, we are now in this great boom – ‘the candidate led market’ – so it’s the perfect time to consider how to avoid high colleague turnover and place emphasis on employee retention.

For the business, developing colleagues adds stability and security in the medium-to-long term. If we already have people in the organisation who can do the job you need, then that means you don’t have to go through an expensive recruitment process and have to deal with the colleague shortage in the interim. You are also able to develop someone in your business who already understands your core principles and values – providing time efficiencies.

One option is to retain great colleagues by increasing their salaries in the hope they stay with you or for them to want to join you. That isn’t 100% sustainable however. More importantly, we should be focussed on getting colleagues to understand the long-term benefits of working for the business and not just to chase after money.

Retaining and developing employees also means that clients are reassured that they’re working with individuals who they are confident and comfortable with. Rather than high colleague turnover and dealing with multiple different people, client relationships and customer service is strengthened which ultimately supports business stability and growth in the longer term.

I often look at how we can invest in people. Do we need to provide more training? More structure? At Vertas, we see the importance of offering more formal training through internal development programmes or apprenticeships, giving people the option to learn alongside their role.

So, the question is what practical ways can businesses support colleague development?

My career development is one example of where Vertas has got this right. In fact, since I have been with Vertas I have successfully progressed through three different roles, initially looking after regional business, before moving onto national business and finally my current role of Associate Director, Operations. Even at my level, I understand that there are still development opportunities available for me.

If we, as a company, are providing you with training and development programmes then it shows that we are investing in you. It gives you a feeling of being valued because we are investing in your expertise in the business. It’s a confidence boost and also enables an individual to feel confident to take the next step in their role. However, it is a two way street and there has to be commitment from both employer and employee. Colleagues need to see the value of the business that they work for and want to achieve that progression moving forward. Fostering that buy-in is essential and opportunities need to be forthcoming. This enables employees to visualise their individual progression, particularly in leadership and management roles.

At Vertas we have online learning and leadership programmes such as our ‘Aspire to Inspire’ programme, and we also put an emphasis on mentoring. Mentoring is hugely beneficial to both sides. It gives more senior staff the opportunity to hear concerns from teams as well as offering some insight from a senior level to a colleague.

Instead of typical appraisals, we have ‘Continuous Conversations’, which don’t focus on anything negative. We ask: what do you enjoy doing, what do you care about and what are your goals? It’s an opportunity to find out how someone is feeling and what they want from their role.

As a Director, it is obviously important to also balance the development of colleagues against the needs of the business. I know we have to invest in people to keep the foundations firm within the organisation, but those we are investing in also need to feel comfortable stepping into new roles. That is for their own wellbeing and confidence, and also for our clients so they have total confidence in us.

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