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Paul Devoy

Investors in People

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Five lessons from Investors in People award winners

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Many businesses benefit from investing in their people, but we believe that the best of the best should be publicly recognised for their efforts. That is why Investors in People (IIP) holds an annual awards ceremony that celebrates the companies who manage and develop their staff most effectively. Through these awards, we aim to create a forum that gives the most forward thinking businesses the chance to showcase how they develop and empower their staff to outperform. It is also an opportunity to inspire great people management in the wider business world.

With this in mind, we have pulled together some key learnings from this year’s champions.

1. Recognise and reward inclusively

High performing organisations are inclusive. They make an effort to enforce a strategy that includes all key employees, acknowledging the business benefits when everyone develops new skills and behaviours. Supporting people to excel then recognising their good work builds confidence and performance – it’s a virtuous circle that contributes to growth and productivity.

Reward and Recognition winner, The Lovell Partnership, is a company where all employees, regardless of their position, can make their mark.

Melanie Holl at The Lovell Partnership said: “Because the majority of staff are high performing, it’s important to differentiate between those who are performing and those who are outperformers.”

Lovell puts KPIs in place to track outperforming staff, encouraging a culture of continuous improvement. Its managers recognise staff publicly for going above and beyond, in addition to regional directors, commending those who have performed well in internal communications.

Because the majority of staff are high performing, it’s important to differentiate between those who are performing and those who are outperformers.

Melanie continued, “All of this creates an environment where recognition is given and deserved, an environment where everybody can prosper.”  

2. Know what people want and inspire them

Taking time to understand what people want to achieve and what their goals and ambitions are pays dividends.

This includes finding ways to inspire people to believe they are capable of promotion to a bigger and broader role, or even to do something completely different. Steve Foster, of the Community Gateway Association, achieved increased staff and customer satisfaction in this way.

He explains: “By promoting the importance of continuous development and ensuring all members of staff have one-to-one meetings with their managers, all staff can voice and realise their ambitions and are empowered to reach their full potential.”

These conversations not only help employees, they benefit the whole company. Foster added: “Truly committing to your team and seeking additional development activities to grow and develop each member is key to maximising their performance.”

3. Make the most of your people’s USPs

Truly committing to your team and seeking additional development activities to grow and develop each member is key to maximising their performance.

From speaking Cantonese to understanding the motivations of specific consumer groups, every member of every organisation possesses a different and unique blend of strengths and skills that help them to stand out. Each individual should feel that they contribute in their own individual way with their own talent.

Leader of the Year, Hugh Kelly, found success by encouraging managers at Newtownabbey Council to look closely at the talent in their teams. He says: “It’s important to ensure that leaders have a sharp eye for talent. When people are good at things, they tend to have passion and nurturing this is in the interest of everybody.”

It’s also key to nurture an atmosphere in which difference is celebrated.

“Rewarding and publicly recognising this talent means that the whole organisation’s values permeate through the culture and people learn from each other,” he continues.

4. Create a strategy to develop and retain talent

Understanding that talent development is an ongoing process rather than a knee-jerk reaction is key. High performing organisations are always looking ahead to how their talent needs will change, then build a plan to deliver against those needs. They make sure managers are aware of the overarching goal for the business and ensure they know how they need to support, develop and even recruit people to help them achieve it.

isos Housing Association, winners of the Best Newcomer Award, raised its own aspirations in order to develop its teams.

We introduced a pathway for career progression, achieved by putting in place senior roles which were ringfenced for the team to apply for.

Jennifer Flint at Isos Housing said: “The organisation was struggling with a high turnover in the Customer Services Team. To tackle the problem, we prioritised boosting call handling as a career in itself. We introduced a pathway for career progression, achieved by putting in place senior roles which were ringfenced for the team to apply for.”

This reduced staff turnover and increased satisfaction considerably. The organisation applies this principle to all areas of the business and have developed career moves for many individuals.

Jennifer continues: “We’ve found that this approach really works. We have seen a work scheduler who shadowed a surveyor and then completed his BTEC L3 in Construction subsequently secure a surveyor job, and a finance officer who job shadowed a housing officer did their CIH Level 2 and is now a housing officer. Looking at the bigger picture means staff are truly loyal and turnover remains low.”

5. Create a coaching culture

The best way to develop talent is to focus on coaching rather than ‘telling’. Anna Cain, at Best Newcomer The Boxing Academy, says: “Letting people find solutions to problems and bring forward new ideas gives individuals the confidence and sense of ownership they need to fulfil their potential. As they’re closer to the ‘coal face’, with the right coaching they will often find the best solutions.”

The organisation practices a ‘no-blame’ culture. As a result, people feel empowered to give new ideas a go, the senior leadership are effective, middle management are engaged and efficient, and all staff have input into the daily operation.

Anna continues: “Our staff tell us that they appreciate and enjoy the nurturing and supportive environment that we provide, and it allows them to collaborate, plan and learn in a way that maximises their ability to do their jobs.”

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