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Starting from Scratch


Two years ago Panasonic UK over-hauled its training and development process. Development Manager Graham Borley says the results have been a more motiivated workforce and a 40% reduction in costs. In the first of two articles, Graham explains the reasons behind the review.

Business commentators and senior managers are often heard to say that people are the greatest resource that the organisation has at its disposal to generate wealth.

However, even in a business environment where almost everything is accounted for there is no generally acceptable tool for measuring and tracking improvements in this human capital.

The Matsushita Industries group, of which Panasonic UK is part, has long held the view that its people are fundamental to the long-term success of the organisation.

Its founder Konosuke Matsushita established a corporate mission statement in 1932 that included ‘we make people before we make products’ as one of the key values.

This has underwritten the organisation’s desire to make a consistent investment of significant resources in the development of people that has been sustained over many years.

Understanding Development Requirements

Two years ago Panasonic UK began a comprehensive review of training and development to see if things could be improved.

Steps have since been taken to gain a real understanding of the development requirements of its people and then put mechanisms in place to track development progress.

The introduction of a competence based development review process has allowed the creation of individual development plans and the training programme to be run in a totally reactive way.

This has allowed a much closer match of training support to individual needs, an improvement in quality plus over 40% reduction in costs.

Starting Point

The key starting point was to create a mechanism that would allow a critical review of development needs with the ability to create individual development plans.

Previously the organisation had managed a traditional annual training curriculum upon which people followed defined, sometimes progressive career tracks.

There was no way to account for individual’s current level of competence.

So from the company’s perspective the process became one of offering a ‘sheep dip’ of indoctrination to everyone, and from the individual's view one of attending seminars to ‘collect the stamps’ required for consideration for promotion.

In common with many companies the organisation put a lot of effort into planning its development requirements for the financial year as a whole approximately six months before the training schedule began.

With this system even the best plan could not take account of the frequent changes to the business and the speed of reaction required to properly support people in meeting business objectives.

Radical Change

A review of the processes that existed at the time showed that the appraisal processes for development and performance review were not supporting individual or business needs as well as they might and leadership succession plans were filed in the HR director’s office rather than in place as a workable plan.

In January 2002 Panasonic UK tore up the old schedule and began to create a new procedure that would offer a radically different way of managing the development of its people.

The organisation’s wish list for the new system included the need to provide individuals with the tools to manage their own development, the ability to effectively track development and show proper return on investment statistics.

Also required were the need to link individual performance to corporate performance and show how individuals could contribute.

The California Strategic HR Partnership (CSHRP) results showed that ‘lack of challenge’ and ‘lack of growth’ are the new leaders in reasons given for leaving a job, any new system would have to address these issues.

As the new system was developed other requirements were added like the ability for the organisational leadership succession management and business critical role reviews.

These outcomes and more were achieved in an intranet based solution that offers all of the above with some additional benefits.

* Graham's second article will be published next Monday (16 February).


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