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Staff training vital to business success

Any analyst worth their salt will tell you that good leadership can make or break a company. Recent events have brought into sharp focus the fact that strong leadership is even more critical in turbulent times and has a particular relevance for those in the mortgage industry.

One of the most important things a leader can recognise is the influence they have over their team. In a business world buzzing and humming with BlackBerrys, emails and telephones ringing, it’s vital that companies continue to invest in developing strong capable leaders who can steer the firm through change.

There is a tendency in the corporate world to cut training when budgets are squeezed, especially long-term leadership development, but there is a need to ensure that are consistent with long-term strategy.

Employee engagement – how loyal, passionate and committed staff are – will determine whether they will go the extra mile for their employer and ultimately have an impact on the quality of what they do. Continuously striving to improve quality and effectiveness is something people have to do themselves and not something which is done to them by others. In other words, quality and continuous improvement need engaged staff and great leadership is about engaging them.

Service companies are increasingly making use of techniques from industry such as Six Sigma – originally developed by Motorola to improve quality and reduce costs by identifying flaws in business processes.

They work by involving the staff who carry out the work in problem-solving and quality management. They use regular feedback and coaching and as a result are also great tools for empowering and engaging people.

Leadership development has to include all areas of leadership – for example, profit, client satisfaction, effectiveness and engagement. The development programme aims to change company culture and values to deliver long-term strategic goals. The design of development programmes is based on some fundamental principles about learning. These include:

  • Everyone learns differently and needs a mix of learning styles through the programme.
  • Everyone has different learning needs, starting their journey in a different place and ending up in a different place.
  • Learning is done more quickly in a real environment and through actions.
  • Development is more focussed if it is ‘owned’ by the individuals themselves.
  • Development is more effective if line managers have been involved in identifying the learning needs of participants.

    A structured development programme needs to cover a number of aspects of leadership. We use four core knowledge modules, each with a set of defined objectives and learning outcomes, and these combine to form the overall objectives of the programme. As part of a buy-in process, participants agree their own learning needs and objectives with their managers, who provide individual and group coaching. Each training session is divided into smaller groups for the coaching and self-learning aspects of the programme.

    The structured training elements of each module can often make use of the knowledge and talent in organisations, which is cost-effective and gives senior staff the opportunity to disseminate their expertise to junior employees. Other sessions are provided by outside experts, such as those on effectiveness, including the Lean manufacturing tools and techniques, which focus on eliminating waste and providing value for customers.

    Some experts are able to introduce an industry perspective to these sessions. Add to this self-directed learning, reading and group coaching, and the programme is able to accommodate every learning style and facilitate the transfer of learning to organisational and job performance.

    The success criteria for the development programme are aligned to corporate goals, meaning participants are measuring and improving company performance in terms of efficiency, profit and engagement.

    Accreditation ensures the organisation, manager and individual are all focussed on developing key knowledge, behaviours and skills and benchmarking these.

    In tough times the quality of staff and the potential to improve their performance may be a firm’s main competitive advantage.

    Human resources management takes on a new complexion and must be regarded as a key component of an organisation’s activities.

    It is not just the responsibility of the HR department but the business of all leaders. Ensuring managers have the right skills, behave in ways which drive company values, are able to engage their teams and focus on continually improving quality is critical to long-term survival.

    Indeed, for many companies the battle for customer loyalty is waged not by the chief executive or directors but by teams of staff on the phones dealing with clients every day.

    They need to have the skills and confidence to be able to deliver a consistently high quality service and be able to seek improvements in what they do every day. They need leaders who can provide an environment in which they learn those skills and feel engaged to go that extra mile.

    Ultimately, the goal of leadership development and training is not altruistic. It recognises that a well managed, skilled, committed and motivated workforce is key to success. And that means looking after the bottom line.

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