Learning and development practices in Skipton Building society

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Skipton Building Society

George Kendell founded Skipton Building Society in 1853, which is currently the 4th largest Building Society in UK. It is a joint venture, so the owners are its members; however the strategic decisions are taken by board of directors at the top level. Originality and creativeness are encouraged as the shareholders aren't there to service, when the company earns profit. All the profit and the earnings are invested again in the Society in the interests of its members and are reused to expand their economic produce. (Skipton, 2010)

After completing one year of their organisation they had around 190 customers in 1984, and when we look at the figure today, there are more than 860, 000 customers. The Society has total 8000 employees working with it, deployed at the headquarters and at the 90 different branches spread from Aberdeen to Plymouth. They implemented an unfamiliar diversification strategy twenty years ago, which is as per Ansoff (1988) is a way of thinking out of the box from the conventional approach by producing new goods and entering new marketplace. They were able to make a profile of distantly run supplementary organisations across a variety of industries. They are unique from others as they have 21 supplementary companies from financial organisations to estate agencies. They crossed £1 billion mark in 1987, which proves they were growing rapidly and constantly and their asset value currently is approximately £10 billion. (Skipton, 2010)

The Society makes sure that ample financial help and support s provided to any newly attained industry. According to Chris Worts the head of HR and learning and development "We don't come in and impose all our Skipton standards on it, but we do look for that reciprocal opportunity for doing business". Additionally, ample significance is provided for preserving employees by providing career opportunities according to their related field of interest. As per Skipton Building Society website, employee's input is well acknowledged by the organization. Skipton offers a wide variety of benefits to retain and motivate employees some of which are stakeholder pension and life insurance, paid course fees to maximize their competencies, membership to the staff association and much more. This way, they are planning to engage employees in the business by creating an immense emotional bond amongst them. (Skipton, 2010)

Here are the internal and external factors which affects the learning and development practices in Skipton Building society.

Internal and external context

Skipton Building Society has a three year business plan which emphasises on development of its business and progress of its employees. They have realised the right approach to do that, which is by moving traditional HR practices to Learning and Development one. (Skipton case study)

The most critical aspect which is affecting HR and L&D department in Skipton is that there is no HR director. According to Price (2004) human resource management needs to merge all people management actions and also has to support itself according to the business policy of an organisation to attain its goals effectively. This could be accomplished by keeping regular contact with the board of directors (management). In Skipton Building Society the head of HR and L&D has the freedom to build up human capital strategies but could not utilize them unless it is accepted by the Society's secretary. So, the probability of these suggestions being approved by the top management is very little as these formulated strategies were never united as there is'nt any straight connection with the management. Furthermore, learning and development should be an essential part of an establishment which could be expressed by the loyalty of the management (in our case board of directors).

Skipton has had a vertical integration, which according to Harrison (2009) is where L&D strategies are incorporated and invented in agreement with business strategy to take full advantage of performance at functional and personal level. And he has further argued that vertical integration has some limitation as well. First, it needs absolute contribution with L&D departments but In Skipton Building Society HR and learning and development department were performing their accountability separately. Another disadvantage of vertical integration was the obstructions between human resource department and the operational board. According to the case study and as discussed above they don't have a HR director which means there is a need of commitment from top management, and based on the model that show the different effects from internal and external factor (see fig.1) to the organization in approaching training and development, this need of commitment affected Skipton Building Society to move from a vertical integration to horizontal integration. Going back to the case, they are on the edge of reorganizing and uniting the HR and L&D department which would result in horizontal integration. According to Harrison (2009) horizontal integration is essentially mixture of Human resource activities and Learning and development activities in order to capitalize on the ability of understanding between every human being in the organization to maintain organizational strategy and objectives.

Fig. 1, Cited in McCracken et al (2000)

According Mr. Worts statement they use employ traditional HR practices .The job of an HR was restricted to just taking care of compensation procedure and designing the training rota. The trainings delivered were not in consistency as per the requirement of the business. Taylor et al (1998) cited in Price (2004) has evaluated and highlighted the restrictions of conventional HR practices to that of strategic human resource development. First, conventional HR Practitioners are not in sync with organisation's strategies and objectives. They lack leadership capabilities as they are not well-known with the organization and are more worried about fulfilling their own everyday jobs and that they are reactive than being proactive in giving resolutions. In Skipton case study, the head of HR and L&D department can only be practical in preparing strategies but can put into practice until they are accepted. This approach was like a hurdle in overall development of HR and learning and development within the Society. It is because of same reason, Skipton Building Society is moving from a conventional HR approach to a SHRD (strategic human resource Development) approach. Which according to Schein(1985) cited in McCracken et al(2000) is an approach that discovers alterations in the organisation and the environment and then reacts to it in the course of learning and development exercises.

Fig .2, cited in McCracken et al (2000)

According to McCraken and Wallace (2000) model of strategic human resource development (See Fig .2) cited in McCracken et al (2000) Skipton was at 'training' stage back then, where HR in Skipton Building Society was not at all involved in any dealings with the top management, this means that HR activities were certainly not associated with management and also not much significance was provided by HR to estimate efficiency of instructions given which presented no learning environment. Currently they are at 'human resource development' stage where the head of HR and L&D does have the top management support from the Society secretary and have the freedom to prepare and can only pass on designed strategies and events which shows a fragile learning environment. According to the case and based on McCracken and Wallace (2000) Skipton Building Society is heading in the direction of a more 'strategic Human Resource Development' stage in which they will have a top management leadership and they will build a strong learning environment among the employees in the company where their plans is associated with the company's plans to make best use of their presentation and attain their organizational aims and objectives.

According to the case study, Skipton Building Society is dedicated to the growth and maintenance of active employees; they are doing this by revising the learning and development plan as per the existing circumstances and requirements of the business which will enhance their proficiency. They are following a practice of internal hiring where in candidates are hired from within the organisation (in our case Skipton) to fill up the top positions. Klaff (2004) has further surfaced the benefits of internal hiring. Firstly, it will provide inspiration to the current employees. Secondly, it will help the company to manage the staffing procedure whereas reducing the expenditure of hiring a search agent or consultancy .The same practice is adapted to build up the HR and the L&D department from within the Skipton Building Society.

As per the case study, HR department does not have sufficient manpower. This resulted in assigning their everyday jobs to the line managers. They were skilled in the required HR skills to act upon them efficiently. According Hendry C et al (1988) cited in McCracken et al, (2000) the most important feature which contributes to constructive training environment in an organisation is the intensity of devotion which top management demonstrates. Line manager plays a very important role in an organization to move towards training. Having all the accountabilities of their workforce, line manager's role is significant since they need to comprehend and recognize their needs and in order to develop and accomplish their objectives, they need to be accountable for their workers to achieve and capitalize on their output. This shows that Skipton Building Society rely on their line managers to inspire and construct a learning environment amongst their employees.

IIP (investors in people) is a leading people management standard providing unsophisticated and flexible constitution, helping companies of dissimilar sizes and sectors, to progress their business performance (Investors in people, 2009). Skipton Building Society received the IIP quality standard in 1996, which is given to a company which has taken full advantage of its presentation throughout learning and development agenda. According to Linda, the learning and development manager "The model has given us focus in terms of how to move things forward in future. The main benefit we have found was that the model gave us an opportunity to benchmark the management training and development against an independent standard." (Skipton, 2010). This award is a proof of the standard of L&D activities carried out in Skipton. This standard is subject to re-evaluate and was last evaluated in 2004. The standard is based on three principles; these are developing policies to develop the standard of the organisation, taking actions to progress the performance of the business and assessing the impact on presentation of the organisation (CIPD, 2010).

An effort was made by Down et al (1997) to determine the benefits of IIP standard. First, importance is given to constant assessment of training and evaluation according to IIP standard. This results in more purposeful expenditure on training programmes. The benefits of reduced financial cost and efficiency in performance were reaped by Skipton Building Society as it is affiliated by IIP standards. Second, the level of communication in the establishment can be improvised with the help of IIP. According to Down et al (1997), to suggest solution for different problems and needs and to increase the openness amongst all the different levels right from the top manager to supervisors and employees. As per the Down et al (1997) "A significant benefit, therefore, of improved communications is perhaps the improved understanding among employees of their value to and role within the organisation in achieving business objectives". Moreover, the IIP standard promotes efficiency, multi skills and value which would help to lessen the number of labour force engaged and dropping the manual labour outlay.

In this component of the assignment I would like to propose two learning methods for Skipton Building Society which could help develop their erudition and development agenda. Thses are the two included in learning methods that I would like to recommend for workplace learning and coaching.

Workplace learning

As per the Tinnabutr (2009) "Workplace learning is a practical approach to developing employment-relevant skills, for the benefit of individuals and organisations. In addition to being a practical approach, it also has the merit of being, in principle, a collaborative model in which employers and employees can jointly address skills development through a process of social dialogue in relation to the workplace". According to Mumford's typology there are three types of workplace learning. Informal, this kind of learning takes place in regular operational surroundings and is not deliberate. Formal, has a reason to achieve a rank of progress and it takes place in a training room rather than on the operations floor. Integrated, is a learning method which occurs by maintaining the balance between what needs to be achieved and growth of an individual (lecture slides). Work place learning has become an applied and practiced means to improve business productivity; both business organisation and educational institutes have acknowledged the significance of learning with knowledge at an authentic place of work.

Boud (1999) has further highlighted the three major benefits of workplace learning in his book "Understanding Learning at Work". Firstly, it helps a company and its workforce to execute in a better way and more efficiently. Secondly, it promotes individual development and learning for a human being which will be beneficial for his whole life. Thirdly, it develops learning as a social investment and helps the company to get ready for speedy modification in the future.

WH Smith is one of the leading retailers in UK; they have around 565 high street stores and about 490 Travel outlets at hospitals, airports, train stations etc. Currently they provide work to over 17000 staff (wh smith plc, 2010) and have take up workplace learning as a training means in their learning and development programme. WH Smith organised a learning week for their teams at the head office. In the entire week internal tutors presented lessons on extensive collection of knowledge like, Leadership, Assertiveness, Computer skills, presentation skills, finance and marketing. British deaf association arranged a work shop for their workforce on learning and understanding of sign language (campaign for learning, n.d). This was a learning activity which took place particularly for their active employees. Related session can also be organised for new hires, employees who were being transferred from one department to other and individuals who were being promoted within the company.

By looking back to the case study, If Skipton Building Society can accomplish the same results as WH Smith. By Organize such conduct will not only help in developing skills of employees but would also demonstrate the commitment of Skipton Building Society headed for its employees. The clandestine to business accomplishment is through its individuals. A desired level of integrity among its workforce can be achieved by skipton along with the help of Workplace learning; this result in that one can complete their set of objective without a supervising arrangement in the organisation.


Downey (1991) cited in Parsloe et al (2000) has defined coaching as "Coaching is an art in the sense that when practised with excellence, there is no attention on the technique but instead the coach is fully engaged with the one who is being coached and the process of coaching becomes a dance between two people in harmony and partnership". (Ulrich, 2008) has further explained that Coaching is all about focussing on the one who is being coached and not the one who is providing coaching. Helping that individual who is being coached to identify his/her strengths and weaknesses and find the way to get better results, which requires the coach to be the catalyst and not the owner of change. Coaches can not directly bring changes in an individual; they can only provide directions, background and situations which can support them to develop. An individual who is being coach needs to have a positive approach towards the feedback given and should have confidence in his coach. The critical aspect for coaching to be successful is not just the proficiency and knowledge of the coach but the method they use to coach. Smartest and most theoretically skilled coaches are not necessarily best coaches.

CIPD (2003) cited European coaching institute report (2005) carried out a research to see the effects of coaching on the company and its employees. Firstly, it promoted wholistic development of an organisation by polishing skills of its employees at all levels. Secondly, it helps in building better relationships amongst the colleagues while encouraging a learning environment in the organisation. Thirdly, Coaching facilitates an organisation to prepare itself and helps an organisation to become accustomed to the changes. Fourthly, in a training process promotes engaging employees by making them feel that they are valued and encouraging a sense of dedication in their employees. This research additionally exposed that it supports an organisation to execute better by dropping labour cost and encouraging excellence which results in customer contentment.

There are lots of flourishing businesses who have employed coaching as a part of their learning and development programme. NHS Fife is one of them; it was created in 2003 and currently has 9000 staff. NHS-Fife is a health organisation which has acknowledged the effectiveness of coaching and supported the expansion of coaching skills among its managers. They have engaged both external and internal coaching to bring up to date their managers with coaching skills. NHS -Fife have external coaching for senior management, they are being coached through taking part in high-profile leadership programme 'Delivering the future' run by the Scottish government. Moreover, they use internal coaching to develop their middle and lower level staff and managers. This is given by the managers who are already trained through external and internal coaching or someone who has achieved proficiency with experience (CIPD, 2010). Managers were also interrogated to measure their coaching as a training technique. They assumed that coaching is all about the learner who is being focused and it gives them a freedom to plan their own schedule and can choose a way in which they want to learn without compromising on the benefits that an organisation expects from it. Additionally, they even found out that they can utilise similar methods to coach within their team. (CIPD, 2010)

By looking at the case study and as per the discussion above managers in Skipton have a very significant role to play. If they are coached externally they could bring in fresh methods of coaching not only to the company but even to their coworkers in their teams. The transmission and distribution of learning at a steady speed would make sure the overall progress within Skipton.

Skipton Building Society can accomplish a stage of brilliance by inculcating these two training methods in their learning and Development programme.' Growth' is the word which sums up the society's life cycle till today, which was possible only because they realised the importance of employees in order to achieve it. The shift to horizontal integration and SHRD would help them have a successful future. Diversification is another reason that promotes growth of its employees via comprehensive and developing L&D programme to achieve the objectives, common benefits and targets of the society and its members.