Why now is the time to invest in developing your people

Why now is the time to invest in developing your people

An interview with Andy Nicol, former Scottish Rugby Captain and CEO of ABSTRACT, specialists in business improvement through people, on the reasons why now, in the middle of a global pandemic, is the time to invest in developing your people to enable your business to survive and thrive.

How important is ongoing personal and professional development?

Very important. Public and consumer confidence and trust in many companies and professional organisations was very low after the financial crisis. And, although it is slowly recovering, improving standards of professionalism, conduct and behaviour in business will help to restore confidence – and give the people within these businesses the framework and skills they need to be effective in the eyes of their customers and their colleagues.

The pandemic is accelerating changes to the way that we work, to customer propositions and the ways that we interact with our clients. This is changing the skills needed to thrive and be successful as we emerge from lockdown and in the future.

The ability to adapt and change has never been more important. And investing in personal development is critical to individual and organisational success – and in some cases survival.

How are businesses embracing professional development?

Sadly, most businesses are still offering what we call ‘tick box’ training, a programme of superficial courses that neither have the person’s requirements in mind, nor that of the overall business, but allow the business to say they offer training and development opportunities.

Even worse, many businesses make their people undertake training outside of working hours, demonstrating the lack of value they place on the outcome for the business.

Culture is vital to business success and there’s a huge advantage for businesses that embed a culture to nurture and grow their employees. The research proves it. It’s a real missed opportunity for the majority of businesses that do not have a culture of supporting and developing their people.

Since Covid-19, I would say that many businesses have re-engaged with professional development. They have or are in the process of quantifying what their people do well and what’s missing. Their appetite to provide ongoing support for their people in a time of crisis is both reassuring and commendable. The cynics would say, they should have been supporting regardless of the pandemic but, whatever the catalyst, the trend is really encouraging!

What are the emerging trends in people development?

For certain there has been a huge shift from conventional training towards coaching, as well as a more strategic approach to training for the business as a whole – through in-depth management training and proactive career management for progression and succession planning.

Cultural transformation and employee engagement also seem to be much higher on the business agenda than ever before. We’ve also seen a strong take up for our judgement and decision-making coaching, not just for business leaders, but throughout the business.

It’s fantastic to see diversity and inclusion taking centre stage for many businesses. Long may this continue. The research has shown the benefits. It’s time for businesses to take notice and act on the data.

The biggest surprise for me is the re-emergence of soft skills. For years these have been viewed as a discretionary spend by business leaders, whereas now, they seem to be valuing them as critical pieces of the workplace puzzle.”

What should businesses be doing now to ensure their success?

Businesses need to invest in their people, give them the skills, the information and the frameworks they need to be truly effective in driving growth as we come out of lockdown.

The three Cs are critical areas for businesses to focus on right now:

  • Communication that connects, informs and inspires your people
  • Culture that listens, foster fairness and collaboration
  • Coaching to develop skills like resilience, confidence, the benefits of change and career management and fulfilment

The businesses that focus on these will be best place to compete in the marketplace.

What challenges has the Covid-19 pandemic thrown up?

It has certainly been an unusual time. There have been numerous challenges, too many to mention. But that’s not where the focus should be. Each individual has had their own blend of chaos to deal with and as always, with great change comes great opportunity.

Using our world at ABSTRACT as an example, we’ve seen so many opportunities emerge that we have grabbed with both hands – and it’s been the same for our clients.

Our face to face training couldn’t continue during lockdown, but we were already developing a blended model that harnesses the technology available to enhance our people development programmes. Covid-19 meant we needed to bring forward our deadlines, but it gave us the opportunity to really test out our new models and make sure our virtual learning would still engage, inform, and inspire our delegates.

We have been thrilled to see our clients old and new, embracing live online learning and the feedback has been tremendous.

For our clients it has provided irrefutable proof that they need to invest in developing resilience, confidence and decision making throughout their organisations. it has also provided a real opportunity for them to identify and nurture natural talent.

Covid-19 has been a huge test for the business community in the UK and globally. As with any crisis, it has given everyone the opportunity to see how their colleagues, competitors and communities behave under pressure. Ethics have been laid bare and those who did not believe they were important before, have hopefully seen the light.

For more information visit the ABSTRACT website.

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