Norwich Union Life is claiming significant efficiency improvements in its IT department after adopting an industry-standard skills framework to reorganise the way it manages 850 IT staff.
The Aviva-owned life insurer is using the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) to dispense with line managers, in favour of a matrix of managers responsible for different aspects of each IT employee's work and career.
Over the past 12 months the new model has allowed the company to offer its staff better career planning with clearer objectives, and also manage performance more effectively, said Paul Briggs, head of practices and skills at the firm.
"The bottom line for individuals is that it improves their CV by focusing on professional development. That may seem a strange way of putting it, but people with improved CVs will want to continue working for us," he said.
The company, one of the first adopters of the SFIA, said the old system of line managers responsible for setting pay and career development, as well as day-to-day tasks, led to inconsistencies in the way IT staff were managed and developed.
"Because of mergers and acquisitions, we had a lot of inconsistency in the way we did things. People were focused on here-and-now delivery rather than looking at future needs. We did not focus on career paths," he said.
Under the new structure, task managers are responsible for managing IT staff's day-to-day work.
Norwich Union now uses resource deployment managers to focus on how to deploy skilled IT professionals most effectively, plus professional development managers to manage each individual's training and career development.
The firm is also investing in defining and communicating best practices in a range of disciplines, including project management, testing and business operations. It claims the programme has helped raise standards across the company.
"Each process has an owner, and we have an infrastructure that drives continuous improvement into that process," said Briggs.
The skills framework helps staff compare their performance with the ideal benchmark.
"People have conversations with their professional development managers to understand where they are positioned in relation to the ideal model. Training or tasks can be assigned to bring them up to that level," he said.
Norwich Union said that, as well as improving staff retention, the new structure is making it easier to attract new recruits. "We run recruitment days and when we start explaining the whole approach we get a very positive reaction. It has certainly made it easier to attract people to the organisation."
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This was first published in October 2006