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Why personal development matters

Personal development is, by its definition, personal. We came to that revelation after a recent period spent reflecting on our own development journeys. Our inspiration was Sofia’s recent personal journey and we wanted to use this to inspire others across the team. In essence, we wanted to bottle this energy and apply it across the business.

It was clear to us that personal development is something that’s very specific to an individual. We all have different interests, circumstances and inspiration. So we decided to do a pulse check across the company.

This exercise would give us the opportunity to really understand how we’re all growing as individuals. Similarly, it could provide Entec Si with a roadmap that would enable the right kind of structures and space to nurture continual personal development.

Developing during a pandemic

The backdrop to this has, of course, been the COVID-19 pandemic. The disruption caused by the event has meant that more traditional forms of learning have been sidelined. Alongside this, we’ve been acutely aware that many members of our team have had very different experiences throughout this episode. For example, some have been fully utilised for five days a week, whilst others have been on furlough. This range of experiences very much informed our approach to personal development.

About our process

After working up a set of key questions, we agreed that video calls were the best method to gather our information. We hoped that this medium would facilitate more open, natural discussion with our colleagues.

It was always our intention to gather a 360 degree view of the topic. Therefore this led us to approach a broad cross-section of the team. Whether new starters, long-serving staff, junior employees or senior leaders, we were interested in their perspective. We asked the group three specific questions:

  • What does personal development mean to you?
  • How will you achieve a personal development goal over the next month?
  • Tell us your top tip for personal development?

What did the team learn?

The outputs from the exercise made for fascinating viewing. What was really interesting was how each team member had all independently been assessing their own personal development. It seems that we were merely tapping into a process that was already taking place. Although every person’s journey is unique, there were some strikingly common responses to each question.

There was definitely a recognition that personal development is a softer skill, something that is different to professional development. The team saw personal development as a process that can be developed outside of the work environment. It very much serves a dual purpose that enriches the individual, but also benefits the business.

Planning (as you’d expect in a consultancy firm!) was very much a theme, and was evident in two ways. Short-term planning, simply looking ahead and planning in time during a week, was popular. On the other hand, we saw a strand of thinking that recognised that personal development is a lifelong journey that needs to factored in.

We also saw an understanding that personal development is not something that’s limited to work time. Learning new skills can happen anywhere, anytime, and this should be understood as being vital. Similarly the team was careful to point out that personal growth doesn’t just happen in front of a computer. As individuals we can use life experiences and other resources as tools for developing ourselves.

Personal interest was also a recurring theme. The team was clear that personal development works best when it’s driven by a person’s passion or inquisitiveness. This is very much at odds with a ‘one size fits all’, top down approach.

How can this help the business?

One of Entec Si’s core values is care, and this is especially true when it comes to our staff. This has been clear in the different initiatives we’ve provided over the years, from our Academy Practice to our Mental Wealth Working Group. Similarly, our recent personal development work has also had real, tangible impacts.

Within our recent operating model, we’ve put in place a support and learning function. The purpose of this is to look at our company-wide skill set and really drive forward personal development. In this way we’re embedding a positive cultural recognition of the need to continue growing our team’s knowledge and skills.

We’re also seeing the impacts of personal development on day-to-day basis. For example, junior consultant Ben Brown recently successfully managed a web project for a client. Key to this success was Ben’s knowledge of website accessibility, which he had gathered by reading around the topic in his own time. This knowledge ultimately led to us winning more work from this client.

What advice would we give other organisations?

As personal development is unique to each individual, then it’s also unique to each organisation. This means they need to try different approaches to find what suits. That said, there are some basic guidelines that we think are useful to other organisations looking to embed personal development:

  • Understand that your people are your greatest asset and invest in them
  • Actively engage with staff to find out what they are interested in
  • Provide the structure and space to encourage individual growth
  • Avoid a dictatorial approach to knowledge transfer
  • Recognise that skills come in all shapes and sizes, not just formal qualifications

The takeaway

We’ve both found this exercise immensely rewarding. It’s been truly inspirational to engage with colleagues and their excitement and energy has been infectious. We’re thrilled to see that we’re not only galvanising each other, but are having a positive impact on the organisation’s investment in personal development.

The job market has been changing in recent years, and the pandemic has only accelerated this. Organisations and employees are far more fluid in their approach to work now. This is evident not only in working patterns, but also in the way that individuals understand their careers. The days of working for one company are long gone.

This means that organisations must do more to not only attract talent, but also to retain it. Fundamental to this is the space for employees to grow their personal development. Organisations that recognise this and put it front and centre will be the ones that flourish and grow.

Luke and Sofia

Meet the consultant… Charlotte Stanyer

1. How would you define your role?

Assistant consultant is an important and dynamic role, that facilitates the smooth progress of a project. It involves plenty of monitoring and coordination to ensure all activities run to the planned timescale and stay on budget.  

A keen eye for detail is important too, to ensure no risk or opportunity is missed.

2. What makes an outstanding assistant consultant?

Someone who is proactive above anything else. Being an assistant consultant is like spinning several plates at once, so being flexible and adaptable is essential.

There are always opportunities for progression and self-improvement. However, being open to constructive criticism and eager to learn are key to becoming the best consultant you can be.

3. What did your route to becoming an assistant consultant look like?

My background in business consultancy enabled me to secure my dream role at Entec Si. Since joining, the business has helped me to step-up my knowledge with the Prince2 project management and Business Analysis Foundation qualifications.

With the team’s ongoing support, I’m excited to see what the next stage of my career at Entec Si has in store.

4. What first drew you to Entec Si?

I first came across Entec Si on social media and felt an immediate connection with their values. It was instantly clear how committed they are to the work they do and this really resonated with what I believe in.

Despite obviously being hugely professional and great at what they do, the team came across as warm and vibrant and I knew it was the right place for me.

5. Your most memorable experiences at Entec Si to date?

Watching the company adapt so quickly to the challenges of lockdown, including the need for remote working, has been inspiring and is something I won’t ever forget. Everyone in the team has been brilliant at supporting each other through their personal challenges and the consideration for staff wellbeing has remained a priority for the business throughout the pandemic.

6. Your biggest achievement outside of work?

In the last year, I’ve managed to purchase my first home. Even without the added challenge of the pandemic, this feels like a huge achievement and is something that I’m very proud of.

I’ve learned so much from the process, including the all-important art of DIY and am even the owner of my very own toolkit!

7. What’s something different that you’ve always wanted to try?

I would love to try my hand at skydiving, either along the Devon coast or somewhere more exotic, like Australia. I have no doubt that I’d be terrified, but as a firm believer in micro-stresses – pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in order to achieve personal growth – I imagine there’s no experience quite like it.

And I would walk 981 miles, and I would walk 981 more

We’re supporting local charity, Thrive Birmingham, by taking part in the virtual John O’Groats to Land’s End (JOGLE) challenge. Since 15th March, 26 members of our team have been walking, running, rowing and cycling to raise funds for the charity’s essential work.

Going the distance

Having already achieved the initial 981-mile challenge, the team has decided to push themselves further. By completing the return journey too, they will have clocked up 2,008 miles.

Over 408 exercise sessions have been completed by the team. These have covered everything from dog-walking to rowing. However, our senior consultant, Craig Eley, truly has gone the extra mile. Craig has walked, run and cycled his way to a fantastic 466.70 miles.

We’ve even had people battle through ankle and hip injuries (and astonishingly a caesarean section) to ensure they continue to add to the total distance! Nothing can stop team Entec Si.

Supporting our community

We’re thrilled to have raised the staggering sum of £690, and as a business we have matched £500. This brings the total so far to £1190. Every penny of this will go to Thrive. This is a charity that uses horticultural therapy to improve the lives of vulnerable people, including those living with disabilities or ill health.

Anna Lane, our senior consultant and CSR lead, said:

“For so many people, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of exercise and fresh air for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing. Taking part in the virtual JOGLE challenge has been a fantastic reason to get active in the great outdoors. All whilst raising money and awareness for Thrive’s important work.”

Sarah Bowers, regional centre manager at Thrive Birmingham, added:

“The Entec Si team should be very proud of their achievement. Their support is hugely appreciated, particularly at what is a difficult time for many in our community. These funds will enable us to continue making a difference to those who need it most.”

If you would like to donate, please visit our JustGiving page

Personal development – a team perspective

Investing in people is a critical element of any successful organisation. Encouraging the workforce to undertake a journey of personal development will nurture a range of ‘soft’ skills. Not only will staff thrive as individuals, the business will also reap a range of benefits. This ultimately leads to a stronger, happier and more productive team.

Similarly, COVID-19 has caused a radical disruption to the way people now work. Flexible hours and remote working mean it’s even more important that we build in time for our own personal development and support opportunities for people to explore new interests and passions.

Nurturing our team

At Entec Si we firmly understand the value of this approach. We’ve consistently provided a range of opportunities designed to nurture personal development. These have included our new people focused operating model, Mental Wealth Working Group and Academy Practice. So we asked some of our team what they thought about personal development and their goals for individual growth. 

What does personal development mean to you?

“I think of personal development as being not only how you are in the workplace but also how you have resilience, how you adapt change, how you manage your own wellbeing as well.”

Sue

“For me personal development isn’t just for work, it’s for outside of work too. You might not know exactly where you want to be or what you want to be, but under that huge overarching goal there are baby step goals that you keep picking your way through. That’s how I view personal development, as a continuous self improvement set by yourself and driven by yourself.”

Charlotte

“Generally it can mean becoming a better version of yourself. For me personally, I’m trying to figure out at the moment what is it that gives me that drive and what routes I want to go down. I think you can be the best at anything but if you don’t have that drive it is a loss cause.”

Eilis

“For me the journey of personal development is a process of constant learning. Personal development is part of your journey in whatever role you do.” 

Julie

“Personal development to me means being able to develop myself, my skills and knowledge for me. Personal development is learning and gaining experience of skills that I need to have effectively to be able to move forward with my career.”

Ben

“For me personal development all relates to skills, quality and behaviours. I believe everybody has a set of skills, a set of qualities and behaviours. And I believe that everybody would like to improve themselves in a certain way.”

Sofia

What are your personal development goals for this year?

  • Identify my leadership style and working on leadership skills with Jude Jennison
  • Write an article about a piece of client work for social media

Charlotte

  • Build my LinkedIn space to be personal to me and what I represent
  • I would like to complete the internal project that I took onboard at the start of lockdown three and be available for other internal opportunities

Eilis

  • Gain more experience at communicating with clients
  • Pass my apprenticeship exam
  • Learn more about resource management

Sofia

  • Further development of multi-tasking abilities
  • Proactive approach to work and home-life management – finding a better middle ground between home and work-life while working from home

Ben

  • Develop an oxygen mask approach to wellbeing, with personal wellbeing as a priority, to fuel my personal resilience to support those around me
  • Keep checking both my personal and our team priorities regularly – are we on track, what adjustments do we need to stay or track or improve?
  • Have fun and help the team have fun!

Sue

  • The focus I have at the moment is around developing my leadership brand, by producing articles, linking with people through social media and developing the strengths of the Entec brand alongside the Tim brand

Tim

  • Enhance my leadership skills to start to think more strategically
  • Move away from day-to-day management and working with the leadership team to develop the company moving forward

Julie

Start your own journey

We hope that you’ve found our team’s experiences of personal development inspirational. As Julie suggests, personal development is a journey, so explore whatever interests you and enjoy where it takes you.

Moving forward with change in the public sector

For the public sector, change is often viewed as something to fear, with failed transformation projects leading to a negative organisational culture and even reputational damage. However, by gaining an understanding of the key drivers for change, the public sector can overcome the barriers it once faced.

Proof change can be positive

Over the last year, the public sector has been forced to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Innovation has been pushed to the fore, with new technology solutions having to be introduced quickly in order to maintain service continuity while working remotely.

This necessary transformation has shown that change can be carried out successfully, as long as the organisation has the right tools in place.

Shifting perceptions

The move towards a more modern operating model has helped to alter people’s perceptions of change within local authorities. However, to ensure organisations continue to view transformation as positive, a people-focused approach is needed going forward.

Promoting the long-term benefits of change and addressing past failings can lead to successful transformation projects in future.

Creating a robust strategy

Reduced expenditure, inadequate resources and understaffing have all contributed towards past failings. These factors are unlikely to disappear overnight, so must be considered in project strategies. Potential complications should be identified early on, allowing realistic timelines and goals to be set.

Preventing misunderstandings

There is a misconception amongst the public sector that change always leads to job losses. By keeping a clear line of communication open with employees, and laying out the project’s aims from the start, people are more likely to support the transformation.

Involving employees at all stages of the project can also improve organisational culture. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as regular consultations or internal surveys.

Transformation shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix. Continuous improvement is vital to a successful change project, making employee support essential. A shift has already happened in the public sector. Now is the time to build on the positive changes that have been made, by embracing new technology and placing people at the centre of organisations.

For more information, contact Julie Smith.

Meet the consultant… Amarpreet Assi

In a nutshell, what does a junior consultant do?

As a junior consultant, I manage small scale projects from start to finish. This involves carefully planning resources to ensure every stage goes smoothly and delegating to other team members to make the most of their expertise.

As with any type of management role, being highly organised and setting goals that are clear and achievable is crucial to the project’s success.

What does a typical day in your role look like?

Much of my day-to-day involves keeping tabs on how the different parts of my projects are going and keeping them ticking along. This means that my day often starts with updating project documentation such as action and risk logs, to ensure everyone is on the same page. However, I also spend a lot of time working closely with clients and key stakeholders.

How did you decide consultancy was for you?

It’s something that I sort of fell into. I had been interested in project management for some time, so when I saw a project support role being advertised at Entec Si I seized the opportunity and worked my way up.

The thing I love most about working in consultancy is the scope for progression and growth. There’s always something to learn, whether that’s from your colleagues or clients, and there are plenty of opportunities to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Any tips for aspiring project managers?

Organisation is a key ingredient of a great project manager. We have to be skilled at coordinating several different tasks and people within a project. However, it’s important to remember that one person can’t do everything and to trust in your team.

It’s important to be aware that projects can be unpredictable. However every challenge offers the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, which I find exciting.  

What makes Entec Si such a great place to work?

The unique company culture. Entec Si truly puts its people at the heart of everything it does and this is reflected in its recruitment approach. The team live and breathe the business’ values. This means we’re well placed to support and learn from each other.

Although it goes without saying that everyone is talented at what they do, Entec Si always makes sure that new recruits are the right fit for the team. This is something that can’t be taught!

Something people might not know about you?

I’m a bit of a thrill seeker. I love rollercoasters and my biggest goal is to someday go skydiving abroad.

I also really enjoy reading and lockdown has allowed me to rekindle my love for it. I’ve even set up a local book club where we read and discuss young adult fiction. At the moment we’re purely virtual, but we‘re looking forward to meeting in real life as soon as it’s safe.

Who inspires you, and why?

It sounds a bit cliché, but my parents have always inspired me. My mum is practically Superwoman. I don’t know how she manages to do everything, from having cared for my elderly grandparents to looking after four children and six grandchildren.

My dad is where I get my energy from. He’s very driven and entrepreneurial. Having come to the UK from India as a young man, he built his company from scratch and his business knowledge is all self-taught. His ability to successfully balance his career and family life is something I really look up to.

Let's start a conversation!

Contact us at info@entecsi.com