A self-confessed enthusiast for employee empowerment

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Written by Fay Sharpe on 22 October 2014

The recent party conference season saw both the government and the opposition put skills at the forefront of their policy announcements to the public. ‘Training’ and ‘apprenticeships’ are now buzz words on the tips of every business owners’ tongues when it comes to reviewing company strategy across the UK.

I’m very much of the belief that companies which fail to invest in training programmes, either incentivised by government or internally, suffer from long-term staff retention problems, lower self-esteem amongst colleagues and a more fragile structure where the margin for error can be squeezed very tight.

I’m often surprised by how slow businesses are to lap up training opportunities, especially when it is so easy and the rewards are so massive. Successive governments have made it simpler than ever to implement and fund development programmes and it sadden me to see how slow many are on the uptake.

Perhaps it has something to do with a lingering, outdated perception that training is a static, classroom-bound exercise? If this is the common perception then the companies who hold it only have themselves to blame!

It will probably burst a bubble or two but there is no off-the-rack, one-size-fits-all package, programmes need to be empathetic to both the target sector and business. It’s about tailoring the experience, giving people the opportunities to roll up their sleeve and get their hands dirty, immersing them in programme practically, through everything they do.  

I only have to look at my own industry of hospitality and events to see that this is the best approach.  In a sector where careers are predominantly hands-on, practical and often client-facing, it’s all about producing unrivalled customer experiences. As such, the training needs to have this approach at its core but be also immersive, engaging and, above all fun!

I am a passionate advocate of work-based learning and have developed and implemented our own programme to recognise, reward and develop our amazingly talented workforce. Our Zhd scheme is an annual development programme which results in an internal qualification, salary increase and cash bonus.

The Zhd is achieved through a candidate’s detailed knowledge of the organisation, clients and role of an individual’s team. Alongside recognition and renewed confidence in their abilities, it has been especially useful to further employees’ familiarisation with the company. Since its launch in 2012 it has proved wildly popular with 50 ‘graduates’ to date.

Training and workplace development is very much about discovering people’s natural ability and nurturing it. It’s all about providing a healthy mix of the exiting, engaging and educational, backing up the practical with knowledge based learning through webinars, one-to-one mentoring as well as carefully nuanced assessments and projects to track developments.

There is definitely a voracious appetite workplace education as employees see the great personal benefit it brings to themselves and their company as a whole. Speaking as a managing director myself, it’s pretty clear that most people want to be developed so they can develop, advance and enjoy a better standard of life in the workplace.

At the end of the day it really is a no-brainer, introducing training within a company is proven to benefit the business, so come on, what are you waiting for? 


About the author
Fay Sharpe, MD, Zibrant

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