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Archive for February, 2012

Roger Francis, MindLeaders services and HR director, explains why well organised performance reviews integrated with our talent management solution mean a lot to MindLeaders.

I picked up on another sad statistic the other day. A recent survey of over 4000 workers revealed that one-third have never received a regular Performance Review

So, millions of workers in the UK are neither receiving regular  feedback on their performance  nor being advised as to what is expected of them.  How on earth can we expect to compete effectively in the global economy if so many people are in that situation?

At Mindleaders, Performance Reviews are part of our DNA and we have just started on our annual round of  discussions. Within the next few weeks, every single person will have held an in-depth review with their line manager to discuss their performance in 2011. They will then agree a set of Business Goals (which will be closely aligned to the overall needs of the business) and will put together an individual development plan designed to help them achieve the business and any other personal goals.

All of this information is recorded within our own Talent Management system (we like to practice what we preach) and progress is tracked and reviewed on a regular basis. It’s not a one-off box-ticking exercise – it’s a living, breathing tool that is now part of our culture and is valued throughout the business.

Of course, effective Performance Management doesn’t just happen by chance.  Meetings need to be carefully planned and thought through beforehand and both managers  and their people need time and space to talk through issues and agree plans for the future.  10 minute discussions at the end of a long day simply won’t work.

So does all the effort and planning  have any measurable impact on the business? The answer is an emphatic “Yes”. Every year we carry out a staff survey and once again, the results this year were excellent. However there was one particular statistic that stood out for me. 96% of our people say that they fully understand what is expected of them. That figure has improved significantly since we introduced our Talent Management system and I have no doubt whatsoever that there is a direct link between the two.  It also compares with another recent survey which showed that only 54% of employees understood what was being asked of them.

Our own results would therefore appear to be way above the norm and leaving aside all the many other benefits of a Talent Management system, if we can be assured that nearly every single person in our business understands exactly they need to do and how to do it, then our business is in a great place.

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Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, services and HR director at MindLeaders

An important statement was released on the Skills Funding Agency website last Thursday. It confirmed what many of us had believed since the Government released its “New Challenges, New Chances” strategy document last November, that Functional Skills would be funded as standalone literacy and numeracy qualifications from 1 September, replacing the Adult Basic Skills (or Skills for Life) funding stream.

This statement has huge significance for everyone involved in the adult literacy and numeracy field. Until this point, we knew that Functional Skills would replace Key Skills within the Apprenticeship framework from 1 October 2012, but no commitment had been made to replace the Skills for Life programme which was ending at the same time.

We now have that commitment and the growing number of employers who recognise the benefits of upskilling their staff in literacy and numeracy can now put their people on funded Functional Skills programmes.

However (and when dealing with government funding initiatives, there always seems to be a “however”), there are still several unanswered questions which need urgent clarification.  Until now, workplace literacy and numeracy has been funded through two totally different programmes – Key Skills within the Apprenticeship Framework, and Skills for Life (SFL) as a standalone qualification. Whilst purporting to achieve the same uplift in skill levels, these programmes were funded at different rates (c£175 for Key Skills and c£500-600 for Skills for Life). Now we have a single qualification but no information whatsoever has been released about the funding levels available when the programme kicks in on 1 September.

One can only assume that as a far more robust and complex programme than either Key Skills or SFL, Functional Skills will be funded in the £500-600 region.  But will the same rate apply to Functional Skills within the Apprenticeship framework?

I find it very frustrating that once again the government has released a major statement about the funding of adult literacy and numeracy programmes without providing the necessary detail which will allow employers and training providers to plan out programmes which must now start in less than 6 months time.  Training providers are already grappling with the complexities of delivering Functional Skills and it is imperative that they receive the financial information which will enable them to deliver cost-effective solutions.

At MindLeaders, we have been delighted by the response to our Functional Skills solution and are now talking to many different organisations about delivering Functional Skills programmes. However, like everyone else, those discussions are being hampered by the lack of clear funding guidelines and we need that information now – not in 6 months time.

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Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, MindLeaders HR & services director

Last month saw the publication of a report by the World Literacy Foundation which makes depressing reading for those of us attempting to address this issue.  The report highlights the fact that in the UK, six to eight million adults are functionally illiterate. This means that although they can read and write simple words, they cannot apply these skills to accomplish tasks which are necessary to make informed choices and participate fully in everyday life, such as filling in a job application form or reading a bank statement.

Moreover, the problem is self-perpetuating as illiterate parents tend to have lower aspirations and expectations for their children. They cannot teach them to read or encourage a love of learning.

The cost to the UK economy, according to this report, is in the region of £81 billion per year. When one considers that almost three times as many adults lack functional numeracy skills, the total cost to the economy is likely to be far higher.

There will never be an easy single solution to a crisis of this complexity, but there is no doubt that the introduction of Functional Skills into the Apprenticeship programme represents a significant  step  forward.  Functional Skills is designed to enable learners to adapt their learning to different situations rather than simply applying some basic knowledge to their current role.

It is therefore worrying that a number of organisations are still lobbying the government in an attempt to delay the introduction of Functional Skills or to dumb down the robust Assessment process.  Their argument is that learners will find Functional Skills too difficult to complete and will therefore lose interest in their Apprenticeship programme. But is that really their concern or do they simply want to maintain the status quo because they know that the discredited Key Skills alternative is easy to deliver and can therefore quickly draw down government funding?

Our experience to date with Functional Skills has been extremely positive. First-time pass rates have been exceptionally high (and continue to improve) and learners love the additional challenge presented by a course which genuinely stretches them and provides them with real learning opportunities.  Moreover, our clients report that Functional Skills learners are more confident and more highly motivated than their Key Skills counterparts and likely to progress more rapidly through their Apprenticeship programmes.

So let’s embrace Functional Skills with open arms rather than trying to fight or delay its introduction. It provides UK Plc with a genuine opportunity to develop the skills required to enable us to compete globally whilst at the same time reducing the massive cost burden to the economy.

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