CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE NEED TO BECOME A REFLECTIVE PRACTITIONER
As an employee, it is significant to continually seek ways to improve yourself. The skills and talent that you have, in the changing market can become outdated and in turn translate to less productivity (Wilson 1960). For each company, the human resource is perhaps the best essential and important asset of the organization. However, in order for an asset to continue bringing greater advantage and leading to potential business growth, it must continually develop, becoming more skilled and flexible (Academy of Human Resource Development 1999).
Unlike common belief, CPD is not a process that can be easily defined. In fact, the process is unique to each individual employee. Although employees maybe working together, in the Tesco branches, facing the same challenges and opportunities, the process of CPD according to Wexley & Hinrichs (1991) needs to be differentiated from other training and development needs. The company has developed a strategy where the individual employees, are able to evaluate their own work and skills so that they are able to become better and more productive.
Reflective practice is the most vital part of CPD and includes two fundamental forms of reflection that is the reflection in action and reflection on action. The main difference arises from the time frame, reflection on action, is a backward look at situations, reactions and behavior in the past (Bratton & Gold 2000). Employees draw from the behavior and opt to change or improve for better service delivery. On the other hand, reflection in action requires the Tesco employees interacting with consumers, to think as they act. This is for the employees in the customer care department ho may need to continually explore their own behavior, reacting and attending to the current situation immediately (Torrington 1998).
The process of reflective practice and CPD involves various steps which have been taken into consideration by Tesco, the biggest retail company.
As a retail business, Tesco encourages its own employees to continually seek and receive feedback from the clientele. Such feedback began as a process of helping the company improve on the timeliness and nature of service delivery (Brine 2005). However, today as employees interact more and more with clients, these same clients can be a good source of feedback on behavior and skills that the employees poses. The company needs to provide an environment where the clients are free enough to provide honest feedback to the employees, and where employees take this feedback as positive instead of completely negative. Criticism is not just a reflection on negativity, but an opportunity to improve (Brockbank & McGill 2006p.105).
Harris and Desimone (1994) indicated that Feedback is not only sought from the clients but also from fellow employees. Recent changes in the training and development strategy of the company has led to the introduction of sessions where employees can make positive suggestions to each other on behavior improvement. It is important to ensure that these sessions, however, do not turn into negativity and opportunities to criticize each other unconstructively. For this explanation, it is prudent to hire a professional to direct the feedback; however, once the employees have mastered the basic skills of feedback, these are translated into an everyday activity (Thomson & Mabey 1994).
According to Verdict Research (2006p.381), Tesco employees face a wide variety of experiences daily. A retail store deals with different clientele daily. The workers should be in a position to view their past experiences, objectively breaking them down in order to be able to learn from the same. For example, Swanson & Holton (2009) suggested that the employees can be trained to recall the experiences that they recently had with a customer on the retail zone or in the customer care department, even delivery of goods, then carefully observe and listen to exactly what they said thereby determining what they could have done better. This is a significant part of learning and improving behavior.
Mankin (2009) highlighted that this is one characteristic that also allows employees to develop empathy. They are able to experience emotionally and physically what their clients experienced and, therefore, plan on ways that they can be able to improve the experience of the clients, whether it is by making service delivery faster, easier, and more comfortable or by saying something differently. Companies whose employees have mastered this skill are often rated highly in terms of customer service.
Like developing a properly trained strategy, Stephpenson et al (2012) observed that there are times that the company may need to push and show employees how to reflective objectively. This may require some meetings, training session where the company employees are taken through some experience objectively. The human resource asset is completely based on the commitment of employees. The employees need the tools and resources to go through their past experiences objectively and learn from their mistakes as well as the opportunities that were presented to them (Dessler 2000).
According to Sergiovanni (1987), few companies understand the value of journal keeping among the employees. While it may seem like a trivial and small exercise, it is a vital stage in recording the lessons that have been learnt during the improvement exercise. Employees can easily learn something but after a while forget how and what they learnt exactly. With a journal, they are able to learn properly, remember bad recall experiences that have contributed to their own learning (Swanson and Holton 2009p.56).
Tesco has elaborate training departments where employees’ skills are improved and new behavior is installed. With a journal, employees can be able to record exactly what they have learnt and incidences where the lessons have been used at work. This increases the sense of ownership, on the decisions and new characters developed over time (SchöN 1983).
As professionals employees have the task of ensuring that the employees’ skills and knowledge are updated. CPD journals help to keep them accountable so that they are able to make a reflection on what they have learned and situations here they have failed to apply the lessons that they have learned. Johns (2004p.119) recommended that periodically employees come together and do some reflections on what they have ;earned, how applicable the lessons have been and what can be done to improve the lessons in the future for easier application.
Tesco employs a wide variety of characteristics, skills and talents which differ among the employees. Where one employee is strong, the others may be quite weak. It is significant for employees to appreciate the value that they bring to the business. This works hand in hand with proper management. The managers need to recognize the achievements of the employees. This helps employees to be able to identify their own personal strengths, own them and use them to grow the business. It is important that individuals feel they have contributed and are contributing something to the company (Golding & Currie 2000).
The important thing to do is reflect on the lessons that have been learnt. Even with an elaborate training and skill development strategy such as that developed by Tesco, employees need to continually evaluate what they have learnt, reflecting on the past lessons and gaining new ones through this reflection. Whereas traditionally and in most of the old time literature, focus more on learning from negative behavior. Thompson and Thompson (2007p.30) insisted on focusing more on incidences where employees were tested by clients, forgot their training, skills and talent and instead, gave in to their own emotions. However, recent breakthroughs in research have shown that the company also needs to focus employees on more positive events, where their skills and talents were put into good use. Even here employees achieved something they considered small, they should be able to reflect and focus on this times and draw lessons from the same. This way the employees are able to decrease and manage their weaknesses using the strength skills and talents that they already possess (Goldstein 1989p.51).
According to Swanson and Holton (2009), the Johns models Identify areas where the need for reflective practice becomes a vital part and leads to Continuing Professional Development. These areas are indicated below as:
- Finding the experiences that are significant and important to the employees.
- Identifying some of the personal markings that were developed from these experiences.
- Identifying the intentions and personal goals of the employees.
- Learning to empathize especially with clients and consumers
- Recognizing the strengths, skills and talents of each individual employee
- Linking the current situations to previous experiences that have reflected on the employee personality.
- Creating new ideas and alternatives which can be used to improve future behavior
- Looking at personal ways that the employee can help improve the experience of the clientele.
While there is a slight difference between CPD and reflective practice, being that reflective practice is the most essential part of CPD (Scaife 2010p.227). The significant thing to make note of is that the benefits for both are intertwined and related. CPD and reflective practice improves the organization in the following areas:
First employees need to reflect on their own skills and talents to ensure that they are able to meet the demands that the job sets upon them (Harris & Desimone 1994). Tesco employees are hired for their skills and training, however, it may be hard for them to translate these skills into success at the job. For this reason, it is vital and important for them to remember how such characteristics can be applied to ease the job and to meet specific goals of the organization.
Humby, Hunt & Phillips (2008) asserted that employees also need CPD to ensure that their skills and knowledge remain relevant in the employment market. Tesco is operating in a market that is continuously changing, and for the company to remain relevant, its employees need to ensure that the skills they poses remain completely relevant at all times. The global economic trend and large competitors have bitten the dust, closed shop and been made irrelevant simply because the company lacked an environment that supported the change of the market (Noe 2006p.303). When employees continue to develop competitive skills in the market, the company is able to adopt better and continue to survive in an ever changing company (Megginson and Whittaker 2007p.213).
Noe (1999) observed that the retail market is flooded with competitors who are continuously developing new strategies to throw out giants such as Tesco. With the much competition, price cutting and other marketing strategies, it is important to maintain and remain as interesting and outstanding as it was before. At the beginning of the past decade, Tesco lost many of its clients to newer, tech-savvy and advanced companies (Jasper 2003p.327). With CPD, employees have been able to make the company even more interesting, drawing even more interest than before.
Reflective practice and CPD greatly improves job satisfaction and reduces the flow of labor into and out of the company. Job satisfaction is hard for employees, but when the employees experience satisfaction with their work, and find it easy to complete the tasks assigned to them despite the challenges that they may be facing, they are able to become even more productive (Jefferson et al 2009p.112). The retail industry records one of the highest turnovers in the industry and it is important for Tesco to ensure that they remain below the required and profitable turnover level. This can only be achieved if employees show a high level of job satisfaction. A high index of job satisfaction, in fact, also attracts some of the best talents in the market. When a company is attracting the best talent in the market, then profits are assured as well as complete growth of the business (Nadler & Nadler 1989p.419).
The 360 degree appraisal by Tesco which is a vital part of feedback by stakeholders has not only ensured that the company employees are able to improve behavior but has indeed increased the publicity level of the company (Mondy et al 2005). Clients feel that they are appreciated and are part of the business growth. When clients are asked for feedback, they are more likely to return to the business continuously. They feel part of the business, and are glad to remain in a relationship with the business. Since the introduction of the 360 degree appraisal system, Tesco has seen so much growth and profits increase that it has become a benchmark not only for other retailing companies, but even other large international manufacturers (Johns 2004). The systems developed by the businesses works so well, that the customers who are loyal to Tesco are hard to move or even convince to pick up another retailer. The customers are proud to be related and associated with a company that continually seeks their opinion.
Stephpenson and Mills (2007p.229) observed that when employees are engaged in reflective practice they are able to put together a viable personal development plan, which the manager can in turn translate into a growth plan for the employee. The company is not able to support the employee well if they are unaware of where there is a need for improvement, which weaknesses need to be managed and which strengths need to reflect more on. Tesco’s options programme has seen even more growth of the employees than any other program in the business (Laird et al 2003). The options provided to the employees are in direct relation with the company goals. As the employees grow they are able to bring in better skills which ensure that the company remains not just active but highly competitive. Many researchers have shown that one of the reasons other companies are unable to reach the level of Tesco that the company employees are continuously growing and expanding their skills in the market, therefore brining the company to its own levels (Mankin 2009).
CDP and reflective thinking lead to personal development which in turn causes the individuals to be highly motivated. The retail business as Tesco has discovered can be highly monotonous with few challenges to incite excitement among the employees. With personal development employees are able to deal with more challenging situations and take up more responsibilities in the business (Megginson & Whitaker 2007). They are able to create their own environment, requiring less supervision and follow up. Motivated employees are able to work by themselves meeting their goals and developing various strategies through which they can enjoy their skills and talents.
Not many companies understand the importance of reflective practice and CPD in the training and development of special skills by the employees. The growth of Tesco is highly dependent on a skilled and elaborate work force (Mondy et al 2005). Employees need to understand themselves in much the same way they will understand and value the company. Reflective behavior allows improvement of skills and development of new behavior which will ensure that the employees remain productive even in a changing environment. With the strong Tesco training structure, employees can take advantage to learn new lessons and skills, develop their own talents and enjoy high job satisfaction. In return the company would enjoy high standards of delivery service, which will not only ensure that the company maintains its current clients but also attain new ones (Verdict Research 2006).
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