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Capability drives a business, without it you’re in trouble

Whatever our role in our businesses, and whatever our level of seniority, we all need high levels of capability. That comes through three things – knowledge, skills and experience – and a well-planned and well-executed training programme will help with the first two.

It won’t do everything to keep your firm successful, of course, but it will help prevent the well-known (but little-understood) problem of the ‘weakest link’ or the ‘hairline crack in the dam’. Any business is only ever as strong as its worst element, not its best. Don’t let your worst element be your team’s knowledge and skills.

A good training and development programme will instil knowledge, improve skills, enlighten and inspire, open eyes, widen horizons, generate confidence, spark motivation, make things that once seemed difficult controllable and manageable.

It will help you to remain competitive, to recruit and retain the best-of-the-best and to stay ahead of your clients’ increasingly high levels of expectation in thinking, creativity, service and delivery. And it will reduce the stress, frustration and wasted cost of failing. In fact, the DBA’s 2016 Annual Survey Report demonstrates that DBA members who are doing really well set higher training budgets than the rest.


So how do you develop a company-wide training programme which makes sure the return you get on your investment really pays off? Here’s the five-step framework that we use here at Preddy&Co when developing programmes for our clients.

  1. brainwebwidedreamstime_l_59833651copy_001Audit the needs: them and you 
Use a two-way approach. First, ask your team members what they would benefit from in training and development. Then (as they’ll probably have a wish-list as long as the Nile) work out what they actually need, and at which stage in their careers.
  2. Separate the skills categories: craft and interpersonal
. Craft skills, sometimes called core or hard skills, are what we need to do our jobs: design, technical, project management, strategy development, HR, finance. Interpersonal skills, sometimes called soft skills, are the ones we need to work well with other people: leadership, teamwork, presenting, negotiating, selling, persuading, communicating, facilitating, managing client relationships. Everyone needs skills in both categories.
  3. Decide on internal or external: DIY and professional
Some training can be delivered by you and your team; sharing your systems, processes and policies is always best done this way, for example. If you’re going for DIY, think about who will deliver the training, when and how. Do they have the right knowledge? And the time? Can they teach? Other training is best delivered by external training bodies and professionals; they know their subjects in depth and will provide expert tuition.

  4. Consider industry-generic and/or design sector specific
Top-tier business leaders can benefit from both; lessons from other industries as well as our own often provide great insights for leadership teams. For everyone else, design-sector options are best. The content will be relevant and meaningful, and the training will be delivered in the right style, format and tone for our sector. Nobody learns well when they’re not enjoying it.
  5. Finally, think about in-company and/or open-access
Both have benefits. Tailor-made, in-company training will fit your business like a glove functionally and culturally. Open-access training gives you the ability to mix with people from other firms, and to closely match courses to individuals’ particular needs. Many design firms combine both, weaving open-access courses and events with their own, ongoing in-company programmes. They are complimentary, not polar alternatives.

Once you’ve agreed the structure and budget for your programme, then what? You need to share it with the team and roll it out, motivating the people who are going to take part and making it clear that no-shows are not an option unless it’s an emergency. You can also use this opportunity to create aspirations of future training rewards in the rest of the team. Make sure that you ring-fence and protect the budget so you never need to break a promise to a team member, and let your clients know in advance when the training is happening, and that it’s important. With the increasing need for consistently high capability in your business, you can be certain that it is.

About: Shan Preddy, Partner, Preddy&Co

Shan Preddy, Partner at Preddy&Co, is a trainer, executive coach and business adviser who delivers several masterclasses and workshops for the DBA. Her books, ‘How to Market Design Consultancy Services’ and ‘How to Run a Successful Design Business’ are international design sector bestsellers. Shan is a founder member of the DBA Experts Register as well as a full member of D&AD, a Fellow of the RSA and a Business Leader at The Marketing Society.

Image credits: © Mnsanthoshkumar


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