Company growth is generally considered to be a good thing, but it doesthrow up some challenges, as call centre service provider beCogentdiscovered. In the past two years the company's headcount has grown bymore than 1,500, meaning it now employs more than 3,000 people. But thisfast-paced growth presented a problem: to keep up with the new businessit was winning, it was having to recruit from within, but there were notenough people in the organisation with the necessary skills to fill therequired roles. In the end, the decision was taken to come up with atraining programme to provide existing employees with the right skillsto progress within the company.
Steve Miller Training was brought in to help beCogent employees fulfiltheir own personal aspirations. Staff members nominate themselves forthe scheme, and have to make a presentation to a group to win theirplace. Those who progress to the next stage are offered a mix ofclassroom and project work that covers hard and soft skills formanagement, in line with their particular needs. They are also offered asecondment to another department of their choice, where they can shadowa manager. Networks are created using Googlegroups, which help delegateskeep in touch and share their experiences. Staff are also assigned amentor to help them with their career development plan. When an employeereaches their target, they are taken off the programme, but can apply togo through it again if they have further aspirations.
This year, 75 employees have completed, or are still taking part in, theFastrack scheme. By the end of the first six months of the programme,delegate absence levels were down 50%, compared with the levels recordedbefore they joined. More than half the delegates have gone intodifferent roles, or been promoted. Employees consider themselves betterprepared for the next step in their career and feel positively towardsthe firm because of it. Some employees have even won awards as a resultof the scheme (see below).
THE HR DIRECTOR'S VIEW
beCogent HR director Jackie Lowe had a real people dilemma. "We wereover-reliant on internal skills and had too many inexperiencedmanagers," she says. "We needed to plan succession far more in advance,and we needed talent coming up into the business." Fastrack was theresult. "We only give places to those most committed, but we do givefeedback to everyone," says Lowe. "It encourages people to move withindepartments, and the mentor aspect is great because we can coach them toreach their goals." Lowe also points out the benefits of shadowing. "Notonly are the delegates able to experience what management is all aboutfirst-hand, but their teams get used to seeing them in that role too."But it is the self-awareness training that really impressed her. "Thedelegates discuss their own strengths and weaknesses, and come outraring to go." So raring to go, in fact, that Lowe has noticed another,more unexpected, change. "People start changing their appearance; theywant to be seen as potential management material."
THE EMPLOYEE'S VIEW
Christine McMullen is a senior trainer at beCogent, a position she hasbeen promoted to since attending the Fastrack scheme. "I started out asa customer service representative then moved into training, realisingthat's what I wanted to do," she says. McMullen rose to the position ofoperations trainer, but wanted to progress towards becoming manager ofthe training department. In August 2006 she was accepted on the trainingprogramme. McMullen says her mentor was "fantastic" and time spent inother departments, such as HR, was invaluable. By January 2007 she hadbeen promoted to her current position, and went on to reach the finalfour in the Trainer of the Year section of the National Customer ServiceAwards 2007. "The training gave me the tools to build a career path, thewhole thing was really inspirational," says McMullen. She particularlyenjoyed the confidence and assertion workshops. "I'm a much morepositive person now, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me andI feel so positive towards the company as a result," she says.