IT staff turnover and absence have been cut at Bridgend County Borough Council since it adopted the BCS career development scheme.
Bridgend Council's IT department joined a list of nearly 50 organisations which have achieved the BCS information systems quality at work award after introducing the society's career development framework.
Four years ago the department lost several key staff, leading IT director David Sutherland to launch an initiative to "grow his own staff".
"We lost an awful lot of our organisational knowledge," Sutherland said. "Many of those who left were our most experienced staff, so we looked very carefully at how we were going to replace them and develop the overall team."
He decided to create a culture that fostered staff retention and development and increase the department's appeal to prospective recruits. He also encouraged the skills development of existing staff to meet the council's needs.
Offering individual career development programmes and introducing a scheme enabling staff to move quickly through the ranks if they gained qualifications proved to be great attractions.
In the two years since the career development framework was introduced, only one person has left the department; in the two years previous to the scheme, five people left. Take up of the scheme has grown from 22 staff to 56, including administrative staff in the IT department.
The council's IT staff are now better trained than before and employees are progressing through the grades as a result. Sickness levels in the department are less than half the average of other council IT departments.
Another major benefit highlighted by Sutherland is that the professionalism and profile of the IT department have been raised.
"The attraction of the BCS approach over other models was the opportunity to introduce professionalism to the IT department, similar to that in other professional groupings in local government, with direct links to chartered status," he said. "External validation of the scheme was also an important factor."
Even so, Sutherland said gaining staff acceptance of the formal career development scheme was challenging until staff saw the benefits in action.
"Acceptance grew with the introduction of a new career grade structure, which is unique in our local human resources arrangements. Staff are accelerated through the grades, which are based in part on the career development framework," he said.
Rory Simmonds, Bridgend's career development framework co-ordinator, said, "The most significant result is that a formal, online system for staff development is provided, under which they are regularly reviewed. Staff cannot ignore it and its external validation is credible evidence to others of its success."
This was first published in September 2003