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An open letter to anyone who manages staff

Dear manager,

I’m writing to you and every other person who manages staff to remind you of how lucky you are.

Put simply, you have the ability to influence how a human being develops during their time in your team.

Your actions, every day of the working week, can empower a person to achieve remarkable things.

What an opportunity you have been given.

**Reality check**

We are more than halfway through the calendar year. That means your staff should have made substantial progress to improve their skills and experience beyond what is naturally expected from undertaking their day job.

Despite the best efforts of many managers, there’s a reality that we need to face; many businesses have half-baked personal development plans and processes that nearly always fail.

I’ve spent the last month speaking to over 50 UK brands. My snapshot research overwhelmingly shows that UK businesses are failing their staff by not providing adequate tools, processes and training to help employees make a success of their personal-development.

Over 80% of people from over 50 companies say their company’s personal development set-up was either ‘awful’ or just ‘okay’. That’s over 24 million working people not progressing as well as they could be.

Here are some sound bites on how personal development is managed in various companies:

“Commitment from employers is next to non-existent”

“It ranges from shambolic to great depending on the functional area, manager and HR lead”

“Massively short-sighted. Lots of companies are losing chunks of people who are not feeling looked after”

“Basic and generic”

If you are like me and believe the success of a business is built on the talents of its people, then it’s very sad to see so much potential going to waste.

What should you aspire to?

As a manager, you should aspire to help your direct reports achieve their potential, no matter what resources or limited time you have been allocated. It should be one of your top priorities.

I’m a firm believer that personal-development never works unless the individual takes accountability for their own learning, but businesses have a key role to play in creating the right environment for this to happen. The issue that many managers face is insufficient templates, procedures and training options. A few boxes to write the answers to ‘strengths’, ‘weaknesses’ and ‘actions’ just doesn’t cut it. We’ve all seen the ones – uninspiring, archaic and frankly disappointing.

In today’s modern world, we need new ways to bring the best out of our staff.

It’s not all bad news

Some companies go above and beyond in this area. For the lucky few, they will have access to online learning, mentoring schemes, leadership programmes and other such initiatives. Also, there will be a number of tenacious employees who go and find the training, coaches and mentors that they need. But for everyone else, and perhaps for you and your staff, the urgent priority should be finding personal development solutions that will have a positive, long-term impact on your staff and your company.

A final thought…

I write to you to emphasise this point: if your business isn’t currently set up in a way to help your staff flourish, don’t let it stop you, as a manager of staff, from making a difference today.

You can’t always control how much your staff love their job, the results they get, or how others treat them, but you sure as hell can work with them to ensure they have access to the right training and have a plan to start the journey to be the best they can be.

A great boss once told me: “Remember that the people you manage all go home of an evening, sit around the dinner table and talk about the day they have had. How do you want that conversation to sound? What would you want them to say? How do you want them to feel?”

It’s you they will be talking about.

And it’s never too late to change how those conversations go.

Yours faithfully,



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