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Creating a Culture of Needs-Based Learning


Two years after Panasonic UK over-hauled training and development process. Development Manager Graham Borley says the results have been an improvement of quality and a 40% reduction in costs. In the second of two articles, Graham explains the benefits of starting over.

Around two years ago Panasonic UK undertook an in-depth review of its staff development processes.

It soon became apparent that whilst the existing training offered was well received, there was very little tie-in with the overall business strategy and absolutely no way of measuring the impact of training programmes.

At that time the annual training programme was co-ordinated and delivered by a third party organisation.

The schedule was based largely upon historical uptake of course places in previous years with some ‘finger in the air’ type analysis of future requirements.

A new system was needed to address these issues and also provide mechanisms to track progress.

Writing a New Wish-List

Rather than tinkering with the existing scheme, Panasonic chose to implement a radically new approach, the criteria of which were decided by the management and staff of the organisation.

The management wish-list included the need to reduce their workload during business critical periods, to positively align development to business strategy and the ability to measure the impact.

Staff wanted to be involved in their development, and for this to be transparent and impartial.

New System

An electronic system was introduced that facilitates development reviews on the anniversary of people’s start date, spreading the workload across the year.

We chose a package called Focus from a company called Business Decisions International in Chicago as the base for our new review process.

Not only did it effectively support all our current requirements, it also allowed scope for:
* Job/role profiling
* 360 degree assessment
* Development planning
* Career planning
* Succession planning
* Performance planning
* Training needs analysis
* An integrated learning management system
* Staff survey tools

Transferring to a New System

The introduction of the new system took almost nine months.

The first stage was to work with everyone in the organisation to create a job profile and set of competences that properly described their job.

This was a necessary but time consuming process as it served to get all staff familiar with the new system and understanding where the job profiles had arisen.

We couldn’t afford this to be viewed as just another initiative from personnel, to make it successful the work force had to have some ownership and involvement in the development.

The language used in all of this job profile information and the competence library was standardised and refined to include organisational strategy and aspirations.

Entered into Focus this became the core of the database system.

360 degree Review

The next step was to introduce the notion of 360 degree review to an organisation. This proved to be a lot easier than anticipated.

We felt that some managers might be nervous about the idea of staff offering upward review and that some staff might be concerned about the feedback they could receive from colleagues. However, neither issue has materialised.

Now that the systems are in place, the development review process kicks off one month before the anniversary of the month in which an employee was appointed with a request to revisit their job profile.

This ensures that if a role has changed since the last review the competence set is redefined.

Employees are then sent an email request on the anniversary of their start date to select a team of colleagues to provide feedback on their performance.

Once selected the list is passed electronically to their manager, for agreement.

The 360 feedback review is completed by the assessor team, with a rating scale for all of competences in the job profile.

A final report is then electronically compiled and an email sent to the individual and their manager, signalling the need for a meeting to discuss the results and agree on a development plan.

Development Plans

Once development plans are agreed the individual can interrogate the learning management system to find a suitable learning intervention or make a request for something that is not shown.

Managers are now confident that any training comes from the individual's development needs. They have the opportunity to state exactly how this should impact on future work performance and how the success of this intervention should be assessed.

This information is recorded in the individual development plan and copied to the trainer to ensure the learning event is tailored to deliver the desired impact.

Demand-Led Training

Training events are now only scheduled following a request from someone with a genuine need.

The training team’s aim is to respond to a need with an intervention that is tailored to the individual’s development plan in the time scale that has been requested.

It has allowed training to be delivered much more cost effectively as events are never scheduled unless there is a particular need.


Working in this way and establishing a network of high class training suppliers with whom we contract directly has resulted in a 40% reduction in training delivery costs.

However, this reactive process does cause some issues.

The main concern is balancing the need to deliver training to an individual’s deadline and having enough delegates to make the programme effective (i.e. both in terms of cost and educational standard).

To this end we are developing networks with other companies so that we can stage events with delegates from other firms.

This not only generates great value for money but enhances the learning experience. Any company interested in talking more about this should contact me directly.

We are also able to show some measure of return on the investment in staff development through the ability to track people’s level of competence prior to and following the intervention.

It is possible to put a financial value on the return on investment through this by allocating amounts of the salary package to the competence and tracking improvements.


Panasonic UK is now beginning to see the benefits of the introduction of this programme.

Staff have individual development plans which are linked to individual success and business achievement.

Training programmes can be evaluated to determine the real impact they are providing.

However, the greatest positive gain so far is less tangible but perhaps even more important.

This is the positive impact it has made upon staff morale and the massive steps the whole organisation has made towards creating the culture of a positive learning organisation.

* Graham can be contacted at


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