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Institute of Leadership and Management Level 5 Diploma in Management

Introduction

The following looks at the development needs of an individual for whom I have responsibility at work. I devise, justify and describe the monitoring of a personal development plan to meet their needs.

My organisation is Westminster Drug Project, a vibrant, dedicated and innovative charitable organisation committed to assisting people who have drug and alcohol related dependences.

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The organisation has been in existence over 21 years, and was started in the London Borough of Westminster. Westminster Drug Project (WDP) has grown in size and reputation over the years and presently works across a number of London boroughs and some counties in the south east of England.

The purpose of the organization is to provide support to those affected by drug and alcohol use in local communities, and also to share knowledge acquired in the carrying out of this purpose to a wider audience, so as to have a highly informed society. WDP is committed to ensuring that they provide excellent services to all their stakeholders, from service users to the commissioners. They are committed to providing treatment and support to services users, and to overseeing their successful progression through the various stages of the treatment programme.

The organisation is not adverse to change; rather it structures its services to embrace any change (legislative or otherwise) that might have a positive impact on the treatment journey of its service user. This can be evidenced by the expansion made to some services in order to meet the many stages of a service user’s treatment journey.

Over the years WDP has showed itself to be an organisation which has a passion for its goals. One of the main objectives of the organisation is to develop the potential of its people so as to ensure that everyone is fully committed to the organisation and that they possess the appropriate personal resources in order that the mission of the organisation can be fulfilled.

My role at WDP had progressed over the 5 years I have worked for the organisation, although I have always worked in a financial role. During my time at WDP I have developed and progressed through a number of financial related roles within the finance department. My current position is the Financial Accountant of the company. In this position, my main duties include:

Coaching, mentoring and supervising the Finance Administrators
Supporting the Financial Controller, colleagues and other managers in the management of WDP’s finances.
Devising and implementing effective systems and procedures for the organisation to ensure good governance
Control of WDP’s financial resources in order to provide timely and accurate information to support the organisations decision-making and growth.
Overseeing the day to day operations of the team and having a direct impact upon the development and growth of the team.
Maintaining the integrity of all the sub ledgers and assisting with forecasting and budgeting.
Producing finance reports to senior management and external stakeholders

Since I started working at WDP, I have acquired a vast knowledge of the misuse and or abuse of drugs and alcohol. An important aspect of my Job is to ensure that relationships between the organisation and external stakeholders are not compromised, as well as promoting a healthy working relationship between both parties.

Evaluation of Individual Performance Within an Organisation

This section sets out a performance gap analysis with one member of my team. Performance Gap Analysis (sometimes called Gap Analysis) is a tool which can be used to identify gaps in (amongst other areas) employee performance. By identifying gaps clearly, it is thought that they can be more accurately and speedily addressed. PGA allows an organisation to assess possible improvements in employee performance, to understand why the gaps exist and plan interventions to address the gaps (Van Tiem et al., 2012). Performance Gap Analysis can take various forms. Typically they identify the different components which an employee needs to possess in order to do his or her job well. Then, for each component, there is an assessment whether that skill or ability is critical or non-critical (non-critical components are useful, but not essential to possess), whether the employee currently possesses that skill (and to what level), and therefore where there exists a gap which needs to be filled by training and/or education (Q Finance 2013 [online]). I am using a model which combines categories from CPS (2007) with the suggestions made by Q Finance (2013, online). There are many versions of PGA tools, but I chose this one as I felt the competencies discussed match the requirements of the job in question very well.

The member of my team is Amanda M (please note, a pseudonym has been used)]. A Junior Finance Assistant, she is one of the most junior in the department, and has been with us only 4 months. She joined the department directly from education, so has not had any relevant work experience before. I met with her for 40 minutes to discuss the different aspects of her job, and identify her competency in each. I explained the purpose of the analysis, and she was very enthusiastic about the technique. As she had been with us for a relatively short period of time, she has not had another formal review of her job, and has expressed to me on several occasions that she would be interested in finding out how she is getting on. Both Amanda M and I particularly valued the way that the tool offers a physical record of the meeting, which both allows credit to be given for areas in which the employee is performing well, and also helps identify areas in which the employee is underperforming, while allowing improvements to be tracked over time.

This led to the following gap analysis (presented below):

Skill/

CompetencyCritical or non-critical (desirable)Degree to which skill/competency possessed (out of 5)Skill gap / Action
Technical ability (financial expertise required for job)C3Will take some time to fully understand technical aspects of job. Reassess in 6 months
TeamworkC4Works well in team
InitiativeNC2As expertise builds, offer experiences which build confidence in using initiative
Work standardsC4Conscientious. Could check more. Recommend daily checking of work at end of day
Customer / client focus (ability to liaise with clients)NC3Lacks confidence with service users. Recommend confidence-building course in next 6 months
Understanding of organisational ‘vision’C5Committed, understands aims of organisation.
CommunicationC3Written communications good, verbal communication needs work. We identified need for confidence building on speaking to groups. Training to take place in next 2 months.
Decision-makingNC3Reassess in 6 months, still building expertise in role.
AdaptabilityC4Flexible. No further action at moment.
Planning & OrganisingC4Well-organised. No further action at moment.
Conflict managementNC3Finds conflict difficult. Reassess need for extra training in 6 months.

Table 1: Performance Gap Analysis with Amanda M

In summary, both Amanda M and I found the gap analysis a useful tool for assessing strengths and weaknesses and planning SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) objectives (Williams 2011).

Implementing a Personal Development Plan for an Individual in the Organisation

The Personal Development Plan

As well as conducting a gap analysis with Amanda M as described above, I also (with her input) devised a personal development plan (PDP). The detailed discussions which were involved in developing the PGA raised a number of key objectives which fed into the PDP. The plan is presented in table 2 (note, this is written from the viewpoint of Amanda M:

Objectives
(What do I want to be able to do, or do better?)Success criteria
(How will I recognise success?
How will I review and measure my improvement?)
Actions
(What methods will I use to achieve my learning objectives?)

Implementation
(How will I practise and apply what I learn?)
Full understanding of the accounting procedures within the Department

By being able to take on more responsibility outside my current job description

This will be reviewed during supervision and measure against my performanceBy shadowing those already currently doing the job.

Also by reviewing completed tasks and comparing them with mine.

By reading relevant literature.By undertaking more work within the department.
Time planning and workload – getting things done on time and on schedule

By meeting my targets within the specified time line of the finance timetable.

By measuring current time taken to carry out tasks, and comparing with future timescales.Review current work process and look for ways to improve them

To practise reflective learning (review tasks after completion)Break current tasks into constituent parts, assess (alone, and with peers / manager) whether any can be done more efficiently.

Think about daily tasks and assess whether I am doing them in the best way.

Compare how I work with others, both within firm and beyond.
To be able to do budgeting and forecasting

When am actually able to produce a budget for a new service and also when senior managers are confident enough to come and ask me questions about existing contracts

I will have my budgets reviewed initially by line manager.Looking up old budgets done and trying to understand the basis on which they were set up

Going on courses for budgetingWorking on hypothetical ones so as to have an understanding of what is involved

Manager will set me task of doing budget, and will closely supervise and talk through my process.
Improve communication skills

Improve the quality of my communication skills i.e. written and verbal skillsPractical training, courses in written communication, verbal communication.

Identifying weak areas with manager and ‘role play’ new approachesRoleplay with colleagues. Use checking techniques to make sure I am understood.

Will assess my confidence re: communication at 6 month review.
Take lead and use own initiative

By implementing new ways to work better within the department

Reducing my need to ask for assistance before acting

Conduct analysis of current situation, i.e. number of times (per week) I ask for help making decisions currently, number of times (per week) I initiate new ideas or act independently. Compare this with situation in 1 month, 3 months etc.Short course in confidence building

Seek detailed feedback from peers and manager about instances in which I take the lead and use initiative

Use analysis of current situation to see where I could act more independently. By identifying these situations, responding more proactively to them in the future.

Peer to peer mentoring – work alongside confident colleague who will support me in taking lead

Use identification of possible situations for using initiative to act when I recognise these situations in future.

Table 2: Personal Development Plan

Delivery of the Personal Development Plan

The employee identified a number of objectives she would like to achieve. Each of these objectives involved a slightly different means of delivery. Please see table 2 for details of delivery methods. One area which it was important to take into account was learning preferences. I found the ideas that there are different ways of learning and that different individuals are happiest learning in different ways very useful in this situation. The idea of learning styles was developed by Kolb (1984), who suggested that people prefer to learn in different ways, with four main styles:

The accommodator: learns from experience and trying things out for themselves, as well as from other people. Intuitive rather than intellectual. Prefers teamwork.
The diverger: prefers thinking and analysis to practical tasks. Good at things involving ideas, and may be sensitive and like the arts. They like people, are emotional. Good at team work.
The assimilator: uses reflective observation and is abstract and conceptual, not as keen on working with people or experiencing things directly. Logical, rational.
The converger: combines an abstract, conceptual approach with experimentation. Solves practical problems through thinking or learning. Good at putting abstract ideas into practice.

(Evans 2006).

This model helped me understand the best methods for Amanda M to achieve her objectives. I felt that she was closest to the assimilator model of learning as she takes an abstract and conceptual approach, and enjoys learning from textbooks. This not only explained the areas in which she most needed development (fitting in with the time constraints imposed by others, communication, taking the lead and practical action) but helped me plan ways to help her address these objectives. I felt that taking courses would help Amanda M understand the concepts behind the objectives, and would feed her desire for learning. I also felt that working with colleagues to address issues would help her overcome her slight resistance to working with people and direct experience.

Another area which needed to be taken into consideration in devising the PDP was the organisational culture. Organisational culture has been defined in many different ways. A common notion is that an organisational culture “reflects the ideologies, shared philosophies, values, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes and norms of an organization” (Martin 2005, p. 490). It can also cover the usual ways of doing things which new employees have to familiarise themselves with. Organisational culture is transmitted through a range of methods including direct verbalisation, symbolism and unspoken ways of doing things. I feel that the organisational culture at WDP is relatively forward thinking and socialistic rather than influenced by capitalist values. Collaborative working and openness is prized, and values are collective rather than individualistic. There is a large emphasis upon the organisations commitment to social equality, and to employees understanding the vision of the organisation.For this reason, when devising the PDP I felt it was appropriate to emphasise shared activity and working with other people, and downplay individualistic material rewards as a learning tool.

From a slightly different perspective, one aspect of the organisational culture that I feel is counter-productive to personal development is the current situation with regards to reviews. New employees currently have to take part in three probationary reviews, one after 5 days, one after 8 weeks and one after 20 weeks, with the last review being key in determining whether the individual passes probation or not. However, I feel that the current final review relies upon outdated tools, and that it fails to assess the correct aspects of an employee’s ability. For example, currently a large part of the probationary review consists of a formal test of accountancy skills. While this is relevant to some extent, I feel a review which looked at whether the employee had developed the skills required in the job, not simply accountancy ability but wider ranging skills like teamwork, as well as the ability to apply formal knowledge to our particular work situation. Currently, the review also fails to look at the extent to which the probationer has understood, and is in agreement with, the wider aims of the organisation. Given the nature of our work, I feel that this is a key area, and that it is extremely important for employees to be ‘on board’ with our mission.I would like to see changes here.

Learning environment was also relevant. I feel that WDP promote learning as part of the environment. They are proactive in assessing training needs, and take training and development of employees seriously. They promote in-house, on-the-job and off-site training where possible. Weiss identifies several principles which can mean an organisation promotes the best possible learning environment, and I feel these describe the culture at WDP fairly well. They include (Weiss, 2012):

the promotion of self-learning (helping people be open to learning and giving them the tools to learn in different ways). WDP are generally positive about learning, and promote learning opportunities.
giving responsibility to both leaders and employees for learning WDP train managers to think about the learning needs of their employees, but also offer ways for individuals to identify and address their own learning needs.
‘just-in-time’ learning – making it possible for learning to take place whenever it is needed and wherever it is needed. WDP recognise the need to be adaptable and flexible regarding learning. For example, as a manger I am encouraged to think of innovative, quick ways to address employees’ learning needs once identified.

Monitoring Progress Towards the Personal Development Plan

Part of the personal development plan (see table 2) is the need to identify ways to find out if the objective has been achieved, and ways to review and measure improvements. These are summarised in the table. However, I feel objectives in general, and the objectives set for Amanda M in particular can be better achieved if detailed outputs and outcomes are set, and these should be given a specific time-frame for achievement.Shapiro (2012) identifies different types of monitoring of a project or individual’s progress: goal based, in which progress towards a target is assessed, decision-making, where the aim is to gather information to support a decision, goal-free, where there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ outcome, and expert judgement. The closest to the type of monitoring necessary here is goal-based. The aim is to identify whether the employee has achieved certain objectives, and it can also be asked if the goals were achieved in the most effective way and whether they were the most appropirate goals. A suitable methodology for this type of monitoring is to compare a baseline with progress over a period of time, and indentifying key indicators (Shapiro 2012). To this end I created an excel spreadsheet which has a worksheet for each set of actions associated with a desired objective that breaks down the actions into smaller sections to be achieved, and associates each with a likely timeline. This not only identifies which actions need to be completed for the achievement of each objective, but helps Amanda M see how perhaps daunting larger scale actions can be broken down into small, very achievable pieces.

One issue with monitoring progress concerns institutional matters. That is, an individual’s progress can be hampered by organisational failings. I feel that although WDP support learning in general, and promote it in an abstract way, they could be better at providing the detailed support that individuals need to learn. For example, while the directors agree in principle that employees should be given time off for training, in practice I have been asked to justify letting staff leave the office to do library research for example, and have had the sense that it is sometimes seen as a waste of time.

Summary

In the above I have looked at the processes through which employees’ development needs can be assessed. I have touched upon relevant theory in the discussion, but it has been shaped through devising a gap analysis and a personal development plan for one employee working in my department.

While the case of one particular employee has been used to illustrate how development needs can be addressed, it should also be kept in mind that other members of the financial team are involved in these development needs. It is important to involve more experienced staff in expanding the experience and addressing knowledge gaps of Amanda M. For example, other staff members can offer support through allowing Amanda to shadow them for a day, or by acting as mentors over a longer period of time. Previously, in group meetings, we have addressed issues raised by training new members of staff, and it has been agreed that there is a need for an approach with a broad, team-wide sweep which involves everyone in training the new staff member. However, I also recognise that some individuals may find this easier than others. In my opinion, there is a need for further team-wide training to help less confident members of the organisation develop best practice for supporting new staff.

References

CPS Human Resource Services (2007) ‘Workforce Planning Tool Kit: Supply/Demand Analysis and Gap Analysis’, CPS, Washington, DC

Evans, C (2006 Learning styles in education and training, Emerald Group Publishing, UK

Kolb, D A (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Martin, J (2005) Organizational Behaviour And Management (3rd edn.),

Cengage Learning EMEA, USA

QFinance (2013) ‘Performing a Skills Gap Analysis’, [online] (cited 16th January 2013) available from

http://www.qfinance.com/performance-management-checklists/performing-a-skills-gap-analysis Qfinance ‘Performaing a Skills Gap Analysis’ (2013)

Self Care Connect (2013) ‘Tool 5 – the Gap Model’, [online] (sited 15th January 2013) available from

http://www.selfcareconnect.co.uk/tools_sc4pc/tool5.php Self Care Connect ‘Tool 5 – the Gap Model’. 2013

Shapiro, J (2002) ‘Monitoring and Evaluation’, Civicus, South Africa.

Van Tiem, D, Moseley, J L and Dessinger, J C (2012) Fundamentals of Performance Improvement: A Guide to Improving People, Process, and Performance (3rd edn.), John Wiley & Sons, USA

Weiss, D S (2012) Leadership-Driven HR: Transforming HR to Deliver Value for the Business (2nd edn), John Wiley & Sons.

Williams, C (2011) Effective Management: A Multimedia Approach (5th edn.),

Cengage Learning, Mason, CA

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