Staff development policies

In order to be productive, organisations must continue to attract and provide good quality staff for its service users. Identifying the training that all staff must complete in order to fulfil the organisation's current and future professional development needs is the first stage to a training and development policy as they provide a solid foundation. Such training can change attitudes and inculcate the culture of the organisation in all staff.

These 'foundations' may change slightly, or even dramatically, as the services provided by the organisation, funding and legal requirements and the skills of its workforce change, so must be reassessed at regular intervals. Determining mandatory areas of training and development essential to the whole organisation provides all staff with clear guidelines relating to the organisation ethos and mission statement.

All other training should reflect the aims and objectives of the organisation. Training and development must use methods which focus on delivering value to the workers. Unless it is perceived that staff training and development offers both personal and professional value, increased participation is unlikely. Maintaining this focus on delivering value will assist staff development programmes and strategies to respond to changing needs for information and skills over time.

A well planned essential training package will enthuse individuals to work constructively and welcome future training and development programmes designed specifically for their departmental, task and individual needs. Smaller organisations with few management levels may prefer to offer all their staff the same training opportunities, with the manager / managers obtaining supervision and further training from external sources. The staff policy will reflect this. As the organisation grows, the staff development policy should be adapted.

The ways of analysing the staff training and development needs are varied and some methods may be more beneficial than others. It is also the role of the organisation to identify and provide selected and targeted development activities which support the requirements of workers and the organisation and include relevant existing and future legislation. For example, technological change which creates the need for new equipment and processes may necessitate the provision of new skills and updating of existing skills.

Restructuring within the organisation also calls for further training for staff affected, in particular individuals preparing to take on different roles or promotion. Recent changes within the South West region of Epilepsy Action have meant restructuring of posts which will necessitate training for both new workers and workers whose responsibilities have altered. In an innovative move, two long standing town branches in Cornwall have amalgamated to become the South Cornwall Epilepsy Action Branch.

With the branch covering a much larger area, funding should be easier to obtain and support and information provided to many more people in South Cornwall than would previously have been possible. A committee has been elected consisting of new and old members. All committee members will require the mandatory training provided by Epilepsy Action along with further training regarding working with people in rural areas. Individuals may also feel that specific training relevant to their role would be beneficial.

This need will be assessed and decided by the chairperson (line manager) and regional branch manager (head of department). The analysis of organisational needs is concerned with issues such as the long and short term organisational goals and their implications for training, available training resources, and the general climate for training (that is, the workers and supervisors commitment to participation in the training program. ). It also considers training needs that are the result of internal and external factors affecting the organisation.

Surveys / questionnaires may be used to determine employees' opinions regarding the need for training. Determining whether managers' expectations regarding organisational training needs are consistent with organisational goals is important. Departmental analysis will focus on the aims and objectives of the department within an agreed timescale using the organisational guidelines. Training deemed necessary to maintain and improve department services must be identified. Within this, the individual skills required for the department to succeed are approached.

Job and task analysis ensures that relevant training and development can be provided. This analysis, usually undertaken by the manager, identifies underlying attributes and core requirements such as the need for autonomy, team working and flexibility. It provides objective and detailed insight into any issues and problems that may be hindering performance. It is better to solve problems on the basis of data and evidence rather than on speculation or by reliance solely on things that have worked in the past.

The more specific and concrete the criteria are, the better the assessment will be. It is the responsibility of departmental managers to ensure that all new members of staff have a thorough induction into their working environment and to identify staff development needs for individual members of staff and their department as a whole. Managers provide formal and informal feedback on performance and by using such techniques as coaching and mentoring to encourage performance improvement they can identify any training gaps.

The Epilepsy Action staff development policy is theoretically designed to give the same training and development to all branches nationwide. However, it is my opinion that inadequate analysis has been undertaken into the varied needs of local branches. Rurally isolated branches may need training in outreach services due to the lack of public transport whereas an urban branch may need training in order to provide services to the large numbers of people in its catchment area. These needs are not currently being met as detailed analysis has not yet been done.

The recent changes to Epilepsy Action Branches in Cornwall (formally Camborne and Truro Branches, now known as the South Cornwall Epilepsy Action Branch) demonstrate the importance of detailed analysis in all areas of an organisation. These changes came as a result of local people speaking up about the lack of suitable local support services for people with epilepsy. It was realised that the branches had become very insular and unreceptive to new members. Adequate services were not available and there was no support at all for young people in Cornwall.

However, no data had been collated showing these failings and so in reviews, no training gaps were uncovered until disillusioned members and non-members brought the problem to Epilepsy Action's attention. As a result, volunteers at the South Cornwall Epilepsy Action Branch will soon receive specific training in rural issues and epilepsy awareness for young people. Branches in the South West region have been assured that there will be improved monitoring and evaluation of their needs from now on. The process of training and development is most effective when each individual takes responsibility for his or her own learning.

This includes taking an active role in planning one's own personal development, undertaking agreed development activities, and evaluating the effectiveness of these. Self assessments of training needs help build employee commitment to the training programme. Workers' training needs will be examined by individuals and their line manager. Together they must analyse the worker's capabilities and decide whether the requirements of his / her specific position is currently being met and what training and development opportunities would enable him / her to work more effectively.

The knowledge, skills, and abilities and other characteristics that a worker needs to perform a specific job effectively are closely examined. The information is obtained from a detailed job description then translated into basic components of knowledge and skill that can be incorporated into a training programme. Individuals should be encouraged to be proactive in identifying their own development needs and in seeking help and support to achieve these. This will in turn improve the quality of the training they receive.

There is a need to address the range of performance issues that can arise at various stages of a member of staff's working life within the organisation e. g. induction, probation and later stages. Support is required both for the individual member of staff and at a higher level for the manager / leader. It is important to remember that individuals at all levels throughout the organisation need developmental support. Managers should be given appropriate levels of support when undertaking a management / leadership role. 'People Management Skills' are required in order to ensure realisation of all staff and organisational performances.

Those at the head of the organisation may find it necessary to receive outside supervision and training. Effective staff development policies embrace all aspects of personal and professional development and training for its workers. Staff development should enhance the ability of individuals and teams within the organisation and enable staff to develop skills beneficial to their current and future roles. Support and promotion of training and development for all staff, paid and unpaid, is essential and improves the quality of services provided by the organisation.

The policy should be constructed with input from all staff members and service users. It should also act as a conduit to discussions and subsequent decisions about future staff development opportunities. Formalised and systematic appraisal schemes enable a regular assessment of the individual's performance, highlights problems and identifies training and development needs. The basic objective of performance appraisal is to improve the performance of individuals leading to improvement in the performance of the organisation as a whole.

(Mullins, 2002). It is important to remember that staff development policies should benefit the individual as well as the organisation. If this is the case, commitment to the training will be greater than if the individual sees no development, either career or personal, for themselves. Training needs identified during an appraisal or assessment of an employee's work are essential when analysing a staff development policy and are a way of development for the member of staff and the department.

Individuals within an organisation will normally find training opportunities encouraging and essential to their personal and professional growth. Nicholson and West (1988) describe how important it is for individuals to update their personal and professional skills in a society where the aims of organisations are constantly changing. 'There is a constant pressure to update skills and knowledge... How can one be sure that ones lifetime accumulated skills will be needed tomorrow as they are today? ' It is a significant point which confirms the importance of evaluation and reassessment in organisations.