Staff Development Policy
Staff Development Policies (SDP’s) aim to bring all these staff development opportunities into a clear, logical framework where progression may be identified. They are also effective means of conveying the commitment to staff development both to those inside the organisation and those without. They provide a way in which opportunities can be offered to all in a fair and open manner. They may also allow the organisational learning opportunities to be structured into the organisation in a clear and coherent manner.
Policies take a variety of shapes, but a typical policy may begin with a statement about the ethos of the organisation and its commitment to developing its staff and end with the date or timeframe for policy review. It may also contain sections on recruitment and proceed through induction, probation, performance appraisal, supervision, in-service and external training and other opportunities. It will almost certainly contain details of the organisations equal opportunities policy and how it is implemented within the staff development framework. It might also explain how the organisation hopes to learn from its staff and indicate ways in which this might take place.
Policies may be prepared and made available to the workforce, or policy development may be approached as a staff development opportunity in itself with staff being directly involved in developing and periodically reviewing the policy. Staff groups may in this way also be actively involved in making decisions about budget priorities for staff development. Once a policy is developed, either by a top down or bottom up approach the organisation may want its commitment to staff development externally recognised. There are a number of ways in which endorsement may be achieved.
Investors in People
One way of endorsing an organisations commitment to the development of its staff is through attaining Investors in People (IIP) status. This involves inspection of the organisation together with interviews with a random cross section of staff. In order to achieve IIP status an organisation must be able to demonstrate, through the inspections and interviews a consistent commitment to planning of, action on and evaluation of staff development processes. If an organisation can effectively demonstrate this, and its corollary, effective communication, it will be granted endorsement for a three-year period, after which time it will need to be reassessed.
OFSTED inspection schedule states that within local authority youth and community service there is a further impetus for ensuring adequate staff development opportunities, as they form part of the Office for Standards in Education inspection schedule. Within the OFSTED framework good staff development is achieved when “the best possible use is made of their skills and experience so as to foster the social education and development of young people. Their roles and responsibilities are clearly identified and understood. Staff are well supervised and supported, have sufficient opportunities to meet and work in a variety of team settings, reflect upon their strengths and weaknesses, and participate in appropriate training and professional development” (OFSTED, 1997:9)
Unsatisfactory staff development exists when “responsibilities and workloads are rarely reviewed. There are few opportunities for and take up of in-service training” (ibid. 1997:9). Thus OFSTED places considerable emphasis on staff development within its inspection framework and unlike Investors in People, which is a framework with which organisations may choose to engage, there is statutory basis for OFSTED inspections. It is therefore an area to which all organisations need to give attention. However it is important to appreciate that OFSTED in all its inspections “stresses outputs and outcomes rather than processes and this will remain our primary, non-negotiable focus” (Banbury, March 29 1999). This has implications for how evaluation of individual and organisational learning, or the creation of a learning environment is conducted within the OFSTED framework.
There is also a new commitment from the DfEE that relates to this “We will increase the number of OFSTED inspections and introduce a more robust follow up system. Where local authorities continue to cause concern we will carry out re-inspections. We will introduce an annual local authority self assessment return, which OFSTED are developing, to encourage a culture of self assessment… We will also introduce a common framework for local authority Youth Service planning” (DfEE 2001: 18).
Parts of the OFSTED inspection will now also relate to Best Value, a 1999 Government initiative designed to ensure that local authority services represent “best value” to local tax-payers. Best value is judged on responses to 4 indicators;
1. Challenge – why and how are you providing your service? Could any other service do it as well as you? Has the service developed in response to identified need? How effectively are you reaching your priority groups? What is the unique contribution your service makes?
2. Comparison – the need to compare the performance of the organisation against others, against national benchmarks. Need to collect data. Need to have strategies understood by all staff for ascertaining whether the organisation is giving value for money.
3. Consultation – do you consult with others about your service with a view to developing it effectiveness? Do you consult with other complementary organisations when prescribing your organisational boundaries?
4. Competition – questions are asked about the efficiency and quality of the organisation in order to determine its cost effectiveness compared with other organisations and as you can see each of the indicators requires a management response to ensure staff are equipped to participate in the process, although some responses may be more instrumental than developmental. For example challenge requires an understanding of prioritising, identifying needs, participatory work practices, monitoring and evaluation.
Thus, although Best Value is not designed as an endorsement of staff development, without a policy and programme in place it becomes more difficult for authorities to achieve Best Value status.
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