Prioritisng Proffesional Development in the Workplace

Beer, chocolate and an inflatable trophy [add your own pun here]. And so came the end of another day and another Answer Digital company event. Team Answer regularly get together but to set the scene for this one we’ll need to go back a few weeks before the day itself.

The Pitch

“A break from the norm…” was the subject of a meeting invite that landed in the inbox of each of my colleagues some four weeks before the event. The cryptic title was intended to pique people's interest. And pique it did. Held over one lunchtime at Answer HQ the session proved popular, with people from a diverse range of disciplines in attendance. Most were there in person but a number who could not make it back to base were able to dial in. Clearly people were keen to learn more about what a break from the norm meant.

The meeting was there to pitch a simple idea - some four weeks hence we would hold a day to focus on professional development - everyone welcome. Sure, it could be argued that we do this every day - it’s called “doing your job”. However, to dismiss the idea like this kind of misses the point. The original meeting invite nicely set up the pitch; the day will provide a setting outside of our usual day-to-day client work and obligations, to focus on skills that we feel need attention. We don’t always get the chance to concentrate on these areas when we’re doing the day job.

We all have areas that we’d like to improve upon and we all have our own reasons for wanting to do so. Anecdotally one common reason is to stay relevant. This is true at both a personal and a company-level. Answer’s customers rely on us as a source of expertise and insight. In turn Answer relies on its people as a source for that expertise and insight.

For some time now Answer has invested in the development of it’s staff by offering each of us one day a month away from client work to focus on improving our skills. What was different about the idea being pitched was the notion of bringing people together.

A blueprint for the day

We strived for an inclusive day that was not overly prescriptive when it came to the criteria for joining in. For example people were able to choose how they wanted to work; on their own or part of a team. If people wanted to work in a team it was left up to them to organise that team. Regardless of how people chose to work, they were asked to do one thing before the event -

Work out what you want to get from the day

It seems obvious, but this was the criteria for joining. People could work on whatever they chose (within the boundaries of developing their professional skill set). A day, like the one we had planned, finishes quickly. By taking the time to think up front about what we wanted to get out of that day meant that we made the best use of our time.

Imaginatively our event was divided into three parts -

Beginning

A briefing at the start of the day, which was there as a forum for people to communicate to the rest of the group what their plan was for the day - what they were up to and where they hoped to get by the end of the event.

Middle

By far the biggest part of the day. The actual doing. Putting those plans into action.

End

A coming back together to discuss our days efforts. The intention of the day was that it should be about learning. By creating a group event, part of the hope was that learnings could be shared. To that end, people were asked to round the day off with a brief explanation of what they’d done that day. For the “best” piece of work a glittering prize awaited.


We all have areas that we’d like to improve upon and we all have our own reasons for wanting to do so. Anecdotally one common reason is to stay relevant. This is true at both a personal and a company-level. Answer’s customers rely on us as a source of expertise and insight. In turn Answer relies on its people as a source for that expertise and insight.


The Big Day

The day itself proved a popular event with a significant number of us coming together. We had diverse projects such as an application leveraging a digital challenger bank’s public API to a project that was described as “Tinder for superheros” - a use case dreamt up as a means to explore Xamarin.Forms! The eventual winner was a browser-based interactive DISC profile viewer that the author has plans to expand in the future, with a whole array of features.

What’s next?

As mentioned earlier, a day is not a lot of time. I, for one, did not complete what I set out to do but then that’s rather the point: Learning never stops, just like the markets that Answer operates in. To continue to stay relevant we must invest in our skills. Next time those beers are mine!


We all have areas that we’d like to improve upon and we all have our own reasons for wanting to do so. Anecdotally one common reason is to stay relevant. This is true at both a personal and a company-level. Answer’s customers rely on us as a source of expertise and insight. In turn Answer relies on its people as a source for that expertise and insight.


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About the Author...

Rich heads Answer Digital Retail, delivering world class solutions to clients including Costcutter Supermarkets Group, FCUK, Arcadia and Ramsden International. Richard has a passion for retail and the transformational impact technology is having on customer experiences.