The success of the BCS Professional Development Scheme (PDS) among IT staff at drinks manufacturer JBB (Greater Europe) has won the company this year's Alan Taylor Best PDS Implementation Award, writes John Kavanagh.
JBB's staff turnover has fallen, the IT service has improved and employees have a clearer view of their careers as a result of the scheme, which provides a formal way of planning, monitoring and recording people's training and personal development.
JBB, which has 800 UK staff at two bottling plants and eight distilleries, introduced PDS as a three-month pilot in April 1998. The voluntary scheme was a success, with 11 of the 14 information systems (IS) staff opting to join.
The business aims were to improve staff retention, boost morale, improve the reputation of IS in the company, bring salaries into line with industry standards, and more clearly define the notion of professionalism in IT.
"The scheme benefits staff by helping them to focus on their career development, identify training needs and take a broader look at career options using the BCS Industry Structure Model," says Marysia Williamson, general manager of IS at JBB.
The Industry Structure Model defines IT roles and related activities and recommends training, qualifications and experience at different levels.
"PDS also gives staff a quality job description, which helps them and the company understand what they have to do," Williamson explains. "Meanwhile, the company gets a better IT service because we use PDS, the Industry Structure Model and job descriptions to ensure everyone has support and cover," she says.
Williamson is delighted with employees' response to the scheme. "At our quarterly participants' review meetings I am always very impressed with the high level of involvement," she says. "Everyone has views on potential changes, problems and solutions."
She attributes this to the impact PDS has on people's career paths, in terms of the focus on development, training needs and career options, and the provision of clear job descriptions.
Staff also point to ways it has affected their careers. "Using PDS changes your way of thinking about what you do from day to day," says systems analyst Pat Brogan. "Instead of thinking, 'this is just part of my daily routine', you reflect more on what you have done and ask, 'have I gained any new skills or knowledge in the process?'"
Analyst programmer Ciara Hughes adds, "Over the six months of my career development plan, the scheme helps me focus on my objectives.
"It is really easy in IT support to get distracted and lose sight of project work, but the scheme helps keep me on target. It is also good for making sure that I schedule training."
Network administrator Allan Latona highlights the value of the PDS log-books that people maintain. "It is good to have a record of everything in one place. In fact, that is one of the best things - keeping a history of what I've actually done," he says.
Details of the Professional Development Scheme are available. Most of the forms, guides and other information are also available online.
The value of commitment
The Alan Taylor Best Established PDS Organisation Award has been won by the General Register Office for Scotland for the second time in four years.
"This just goes to show that continued commitment to an excellent scheme can pay dividends," says training and development manager at the General Register Office, Arlene Chalmers.
The General Register Office for Scotland, which administers the registration of Scotland's births, deaths, marriages, divorces and adoptions, has all its 57 IT staff in the scheme.
"There is a strong commitment to it at all levels," says IT manager Dave Brownlee.
"The PDS follows the same principles as the organisation's appraisal system, setting personal objectives which relate to the specific objectives of the department, and reviewing progress against targets on a regular basis. It has encouraged staff to think more carefully about their career direction and their professional status in the IT specialism.
"There is considerable benefit to the organisation in having a training and development scheme which establishes and maintains appropriate standards, and is conducive to the development of a high level of skills amongst participants. We can identify training needs more easily and ensure that the training being planned is relevant both to participants and to the department," he adds.