Constructing and implementing such a policy

What are the main elements of a staff development policy? How would you set about constructing and implementing such a policy? A Staff Development Policy is an agreed framework and procedure for maintaining and improving the performance and job satisfaction of each member of staff through organisational, task and individual development. It offers a structure for good and creative management as well as meeting specific needs relating to staff support, appraisal and training in order to ensure more effective service.

As a consequence all staff should receive an adequate and appropriate introduction to their job, followed by regular appropriate support and training linked to annual appraisals and on-going reviews. Throughout the construction and implementation of a staff development policy, it is important to keep in mind the individuality of organisations and their workers and services. This individuality will provide different requirements useful for compiling a policy specifically for the organisation.

The commitment and skills of an organisation's workforce enables continuing growth and success. Organisations recognise that their ability to meet strategic objectives depend upon highly motivated and high-achieving staff. A thriving organisation values the link between staff development and performance both in theory and in practice. Kolb (1975) demonstrates through his model of experiential learning the continuous links between concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation.

The model is a four step circle demonstrating experiential learning through doing, analysing, theoretically and then practically improving. Use of this model can begin at any of the 4 stages and continue indefinitely. The ability to encourage and inspire commitment from diverse and talented staff must be evident at all levels throughout the organisation as long term success depends upon being able to nurture and sustain workers present skills, whilst enabling the development of new ones.

Throughout this essay I shall use the Epilepsy Action Staff Development policy as a working example of a policy and its effectiveness when put into practice. Staff training and development is imperative to an organisation and its workforce. Peter & Hull use what they term the 'Peter Principle' to demonstrate the necessity of continual learning. The 'Peter Principal' is the notion that in a hierarchal organisation, every worker will rise to his / her level of incompetence. In order to become proficient in their role again, they must receive new training which helps them rise to a new level of competency.

After a while as their role / duties expand workers will once more find themselves out of their comfort zone and they will have reached a level of incompetence. Here training must take place again. Providing regular and adequate development opportunities ensures workers will be competent in their jobs. Those who are beginning to reach a level of incompetence and identify training needs will receive the necessary assistance. A structured plan of training and development opportunities is developed through analysis of organisational, departmental and individual needs.

It must be agreed by all and then put into practice demonstrating a mutual commitment to professional development between employee and employer, encouraging a cohesive, cooperative approach to developing, planning, delivering and participating in professional development activities in the future. It highlights development priorities for the organisation and its workers over a set period of time. These are evaluated and reviewed at regular intervals. Furthermore, it clarifies the organisation's approach towards further individual and group training suggestions should they arise and reiterates the commitment expected of its workers.

Implementing an up-to-date staff development policy creates the learning opportunities needed to maintain and develop services sufficient to meet the changing needs of its service users. The learning opportunities within it should attract and retain talented staff members. It is designed to develop the potential of all staff so they can be as efficient as possible in their roles whether their duties remain the same or change over time. By encouraging personal and professional development within the organisation's structure, the organisation will be a productive place of work.

It is easier to design a constructive and realistic staff development policy if it is based on detailed analysis. Input must be received from those involved at all levels so that detailed and objective information about the individual and group skills required for a project, job or task that will performed, or is currently being performed, can be obtained. In addition, they may be further analysed in terms of specific procedures and the skills, knowledge and personal qualities required in order to carry them out efficiently.

An assessment of skills will measure, record and identify the skills and knowledge of an individual or group, allowing an organisation to understand the skills they require for each role, the actual skills each employee has and therefore any training and development that needs to be undertaken. This information is essential for highlighting areas for improvement and, where there are training gaps, clearly defined development programmes containing realistic and achievable goals can be set in place.

With a greater understanding of the skills required for each post, recruitment campaigns are better-defined and more likely to result in the most appropriate candidate. Training needs can be assessed by analysing four areas: the organisation as a whole, job characteristics, needs of the individuals and demographic needs. Analysis will ascertain which of the organisation's aims are not being met. Training and development gaps can be identified and recommendations made as to which training programmes should be mandatory and which are more specialised, designed to develop particular skills for specific departments, individuals and job roles.

The training that individuals feel would benefit them, professionally and personally is stated and methods suggested for the provision of this training and development. Epilepsy Action fits into Rashford and Coghlan's (1987) framework for participatory levels within an organisation; LEVEL 4 - ORGANISATION - Epilepsy Action Nationwide LEVEL 3 - GROUP - Epilepsy Action Regional Services Teams, LEVEL 2 - TEAM - Epilepsy Action Local Branches LEVEL 1 - INDIVIDUAL - Epilepsy Action Branch Volunteers Each level requires separate detailed assessment of needs in order to maintain and improve services provided, and all levels are interdependent.

The aims of an organisation reflect the needs of its service users and are the guiding force for its staff development policy. They demonstrate the purpose and ultimate benefits of staff development to the organisation, its staff and service users. Constructive views from service users involved in an organisation must be taken into consideration during analysis and when reviewing the current policy. As new ideas emerge, relevant staff development strategies need to be adapted. Input from service users regarding the development of staff within an organisation they use must be acted upon.

Likewise the views of people who could benefit from the services provided but refuse to do so are just as important when constructing staff development strategies. Questions should be asked to find out why they are not accessing the services, what would make the organisation more user friendly and what specific needs they feel the organisation is failing to meet. By evaluating first the needs of service users, it is possible to see whether needs are being met successfully, unsuccessfully or not at all. Development packages can then be improved and new ones devised to ensure satisfactory service improvement.