The professional development debate must address issues of supply and demand

The feedback on EP’s research into the landscape of professional development bodies has received strong support and highlighted a number of issues to consider, allowing some potential solutions to emerge for further discussion

The overall picture emerging amongst industry leaders in response to the EP research into professional development is one of strong support and that we are at a ‘moment in time’ at which to develop a meaningful agenda for change.

There is a new generation of emerging leaders who want to see change, and address some of the perceived imbalances in relation to ongoing leadership development throughout their career. Equally, the demand from employers toward industry associations to provide such opportunities has been a major discussion point, and will be explored further as part of the argument for evolution.

The debate is about ensuring that the landscape is fit for purpose. It is not a critique of industry associations, but it is clear that the impact of 156 bodies all wanting to be heard loses impact and results in disengagement.

EP is currently preparing to take the next step in face-to-face engagement as part of this process, with the involvement of industry associations, established leaders and emerging leaders.

So what has been the feedback from industry?

The feedback on the research has been one of general acknowledgement of the findings and recognition that there is a need to act in order to support future generations of leaders. Some of the comments EP received are provided below:

“Just read your observations – they make sense, congratulations in taking the initiative. It is not always about changing what is, but creating what is not – imagining what it should be rather than accepting what is possible.”

“As you quite rightly point out there is an urgent need for all the industry bodies linked to professional development to look at the bigger picture, save money and deliver real results.”

“My experience with so many initiatives, private and public is that the problem is less the suppliers, initiatives and opportunities, it is the demand. The supply side may be fragmented but perhaps this is an excuse. We need the industry demanding the professional development – if that happened the supply side would fall into line very quickly.”

“This is an excellent piece of research, well done to all involved.”

“I really have no desire to network with my peer group.”

“Most people would accept that the image and skills is an issue for the industry, but it’s important to remember that the consumer is in power now and they will tell you when something is not right. Establishments that are not up to standard will slowly begin to wither on the vine.”

“I thought I would just drop you a line to congratulate you on your thought provoking piece. The results of the survey don’t surprise me in the slightest and only confirm what I and many others think. I think you have articulated very clearly concisely what is the problem with our industry and more importantly backed it up with evidence. I almost feel guilty that the current generation/emerging leaders don’t seem to have access to the same schemes that I did. The disparate nature of the industry associations and their initiatives, is probably a consequence of how the industry has changed. The same Associations were around when I was younger but now the large companies don’t seem to invest nearly as much in staff development. The Associations now need to now fulfill a different role and not act purely as membership “clubs”. They need to take the lead and plug the development gap. However they are probably not able to do so, due to lack of funding.”

There are a plethora of excellent initiatives to encourage leadership development within the industry, right up to board level, at an industry and employer. One of the key comments related to the willingness of industry leaders to support industry-led initiatives, compounding the finding from our engagement that emerging leaders have limited awareness of what exists in the current professional development landscape. Some have said that it is up to employers to build the right environment for leadership development and ‘do it themselves’, and again there are excellent examples of companies taking on board this strategy. However, this also points to a need to increase the effectiveness of communications amongst industry associations to raise awareness of their major initiatives. So what can potentially be done about this? And what will drive the ongoing discussions?

Building Solutions

Two of the solutions emerging are:

  1. There is a need for industry associations to work together to have a process that allows industry to hear their message. One view which has arisen as a possible outcome to this debate is the creation of single communications platform to promote programs in professional development.
  2. One of the most common quotes we had during the research was “why should I develop my people for the competition’s gain?” Equally, another senior leader made the point that their generation had taken and not given in return. So this raises the question that leaders too need to consider their approach and demonstrate commitment to developing their people across an entire career spectrum. As one leader noted to EP last week:

“I’d rather have a well trained team member who left, than a poorly trained member who stayed.”

Next Steps…

As part of its continuing engagement strategy, EP will be hosting an invitation only event on the 23rd of November as the first step in building a sensible and constructive debate, for leaders, emerging leaders and industry associations.

This has been a fascinating period of time for EP and it is very encouraging to have harnessed industry support from a number of areas. Our objective is to act as a catalyst for discussion and debate that supports leaders of tomorrow.

Related Posts