The positive payoff of investing in staff skills and training


Jenny Patrickson (panel chair), Active IQ
Mark Tweedie, Active Tameside
Hilary Farmiloe, Aspire Instructability
Steven Scales

Jenny Patrickson, managing director of Active IQ, set the scene by describing the current training and development landscape as complex and uncertain with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April and changes to technical education with 15 new pathways for 16 to 19 year olds.

“Despite this, the one thing that we can hold on to is that we are a people business and people contribute to all aspects of our business,” she said.

Hilary Farmiloe, project manager of Aspire Instructability agreed. “Investment in your staff as the potentially greatest asset to your business is where the focus should be. However, it’s very much about what we are doing and how we are doing it to get that return on investment.”



All Aspire staff take part in an engagement survey, and since the organisation has adopted this exercise, Aspire has been ranked in The Times’ Top 100 best not for profit companies since 2013.

Farmiloe said investment in staff and workforce at Aspire came in various forms from training those with disabilities as gym instructors via its Instructability programme, to recognising staff achievements through Aspire’s annual awards.

“When sufficiently supported, trained, developed and challenged, staff are committed, motivated, confident and focused on achieving success and delivering great customer service.”

By contrast, if you don’t develop staff and they aren’t able to meet the demands the job requires, they’ll underperform, suffer from a lack of confidence, anxiety, and ultimately will leave. The other side of coin is also true, she said.

“If you’re not providing enough opportunities for development and challenge for experienced and well qualified staff, you are wasting that asset and you won’t get a return on that investment.”

Mark Tweedie, chief executive of Active Tameside, explained how he invested in staff to meet the brief of improving health and life expectancy in the community.

“If you’re not providing enough opportunities for development ... you won’t get a return on that investment.”
— Hilary Farmiloe

Operating at a significant financial deficit with no money to invest, Tweedie could have cut the staff development budget, but he recognised that that would have only ever been a short term strategy.

Instead he invested in people. This included appointing an organisational development manager to drive a values-based culture and introduce coaching to grow leaders not managers, linking performance plans to the trust’s goal based on community outcomes and supporting staff to deliver community interventions such as exercise referral with a set of high quality standards.

In terms of recognition and rewards, the trust invests in spot purchasing reward budgets. All facility managers have a discretionary budget of £100 to reward staff a benefit such as a meal out.

“That’s really hard to justify when you’re up against it financially, but it’s paid off for us in terms of staff engagement,” he said.

In addition, the trust has addressed gender inequalities introducing women to the board and the senior leadership team.

Such measures have helped to increase revenue per employee by 20 per cent over the last five years. The trust has experienced revenue growth of £3m and now has a £10m turnover and its management fee to turnover ratio has reduced from 26 per cent to 11 per cent.

“I put a lot of this down to the way we have invested in people, because that is something we have done fundamentally different in the last five years,” said Tweedie. 

Presentation Jenny Patrickson


Presentation Hilary Farmiloe