IQPC strives to be a promote from within business, a business that invests in upcoming talent. As part of this commitment many of our offices run an Annual Management Development Programme, designed to support employees who’ve shown the potential for future growth and equip them with ‘next role’ skills. With participants from across all departments it is an essential part of our succession planning and has 100% backing from the Executive Team.
Our London businesses places a significant and ongoing focus on ensuring their program is best in class.
I met with Joby Turner, IQPC’s Regional Managing Director for Europe and Edward Gumm, IQPC’s UK HR Director to find out more.
Esther: Hi Joby, Ed, thank you both for your time today. Maybe you could start by telling me a little more about the programme, what it covers and how it runs.
Edward: The Management Development Programme (MDP) is designed for people who are ready to explore and discover their potential. It is an annual programme with the aim of increasing responsibility and providing greater exposure to our business. Participants receive structured training to accelerate their development and support from a mentor who can provide further insights, plus assist with the implementation of the training theory.
The MDP has 11 modules, each comprising of a monthly training session plus follow up assignments to complete. We predominately focus on the following areas:
- Commercial planning, knowledge and understanding
This multi-faceted programme offers far-reaching and cutting edge business, product, and industry training. It is essential that we invest in our new and future managers to both manage their expectations and equip them with the tools and skills required to run departments or entire business units for IQPC in the future. Our local and global Senior Management Team, plus External Trainers, provide practical training and share their experience and insights to ensure participants are prepared for a career at the top of the conference industry; in a market leading company.
Here are some of the exciting things that our MDP participants get involved with:
- Helping to come up with new business concepts or formats
- Project managing or coordinating the launch of new projects/products
- Leading a review of existing products that are not achieving the required results
- Supporting and implementing the launch of a new product that allows us to create a new type of revenue stream that can be rolled out
- P&L Financial analysis
- Impact on business strategy and goal setting
- Coaching, mentoring and Leadership
- Assisting recruitment activity and attending/conducting interviews
Our goals is to provide participants with everything they need to grow into a fully rounded leader, whether it’s technical skills, industry knowledge or management capability. This then forms the basis for continued professional development throughout their career at IQPC.
Esther: As a leadership team you seem pretty passionate about this, why do you back this initiative so strongly?
Edward: Because thankfully the results speak for themselves. We’ve been running this programme for 7 years now and 50% of our existing managers (across 3 UK businesses) have completed the programme. The two most critical factors to our continued and future growth are our people and our product. The fact that we have no product without great people means that talent development is central to everything we do in the London office. From PTP’s (Phased Training Plans) for new starters to the MDP we continually focus on how we can identify, nurture and retain top talent.
I am also a firm believer that through demonstrating a genuine interest in the development of our employees we create a much better partnership with enhanced loyalty. Loyal employees are more engaged. Engaged employees are more productive. This in turn means that we are harnessing the link between success and reward.
The ROI from a strong MDP means that we are able to plan for future growth with confidence.
Joby: I absolutely agree with Ed, the MDP is integral to our culture of progress and improvement. If we’re not developing our people, and future managers then we’re not going to grow the business in the medium to long term. And if we’re not investing in our people how can we expect the quality of our events and results to improve? We have a remarkable back catalog of over a decade of training materials and we also encourage all managers to read voraciously. We need to keep them up to date and find answers to new challenges as well as new ways to grow the business.
I’m proud to say all the UK MDs share this passion and as you can tell from his comments, none more so than our HR Director, Ed, who dedicates his own time and acts as a great coach and mentor to the up and coming managers in the business.
Esther: How do you select which employees will join the programme? Is it about experience or attributes? What characteristics do you look for in future leaders for IQPC?
Edward: With great difficulty!
Each year we ask all UK Managing Directors to put forward employees who they feel would benefit from the programme. To ensure the MDP supports growth on a personal and business level we have two main criteria that guide our decisions:
- The employee is new to a management role within the last 12 months OR
- That we have a plan in place for the employee to be in a management role within the next 12 months
In an ideal world we would prefer our employees to complete the programme before being moving into management. However we are whenever possible, a promote from within business, so sometimes the opportunity arises and individuals need to move faster as the commercial needs dictate.
Alongside the MD nominations we also invite applications from our entire workforce to ensure that we are providing a fair opportunity, but also to ensure we have visibility on the aspirations of all future leaders.
As a Senior Management team we then come together and discuss all of the nominations/applications for the forthcoming year’s MDP. Every single year has been oversubscribed and with a limited number of places it does make it very difficult to decide.
Joby: Some decisions are easy, newly appointed managers for example would always go through the course, beyond that I agree we do at times have to make some difficult calls.
When looking at characteristics a high degree of functional capability is of course essential, but we place a much higher weighting on attitude and potential when we face a decision like this.
Unsurprisingly, a positive “can-do” attitude is essential, as is a resourceful, entrepreneurial approach; they have to have the hunger and ambition, the professional desire and commitment to perform and to grow the business.
But my view is that there’s no one single leadership style that works. There’s no perfect candidate, and no one is ever a complete leader/manager. What we are looking for is someone with enough positive characteristics to create an effective leadership style of their own. Have they got what it takes to create their own team culture and lead it effectively, in their own unique way? The assessment of someone’s leadership potential comes down to the combination of skills and traits they are bringing to the table and whether or not, collectively, these provide the right ingredients for them to grow into a leader, that can in turn, grow their team and deliver results. What is their track record of adapting, developing themselves and changing their behaviours? And if we doubt we can change the behaviour, is it a critical success factor, and can we compensate for it in some way?
Esther: Ed I know as part of this process you conduct a lot of 1-2-1 coaching with all the trainees. How does this work? And what sort of feedback have you had from programme graduates; do they engage with this as much as the business does?
Edward: I really enjoy the coaching aspect of the programme, I think it is very important to establish trust so we can identify areas that we need to work on, but most importantly to ensure participants have an open forum to discuss professional challenges and how we can overcome them together. Often we work through commercial plans focused around results and break these down into tangible actions with timelines provided. The MDP would not work if we did not firmly incorporate personal development with focused outcomes.
I have a monthly meeting with each member of the programme to focus on:
- Current challenges
- Areas of personal development
- Implementations of best practice form our monthly training modules
The participants are the reason why I love running the MDP. Being able to work with people on a 1-2-1 basis is a privilege. It also allows us to inspect implementation and results in a very collaborative way.
And yes the feedback from past graduates has been very positive; they very much appreciate this approach towards their individual development. The real testimony is how many of these people realise their ambitions to move into a leadership role and achieve that personal development.
Esther: So have you seen many of them go onto take bigger roles in the business?
Edward: So many! As I referenced earlier 50% of all UK managers have been through our MDP. This includes individuals who are currently in Head of Function/Director level roles.
We have to be realists; it is extremely difficult and risky to hire people straight into leadership roles within any organisation. Therefore our investment into the development of our employees has really helped us to achieve growth plans whilst not diluting the value of our products or financial results. It has actually been a catalyst to enable growth.
Esther: You’ve been running this programme in the UK now for over 7 years, what have you learnt along the way? What changes have you made?
Edward: We have learnt lots and made many changes, in fact the MDP constantly evolves each year. We have to evolve the programme to ensure that we are equipping our mangers for 2017, not 5 years ago because we have old content and think its ok. At IQPC London we aim to hire and nature genuine Grade A Talent. The people who make it onto our MDP are clearly Grade A, if we are not providing challenging content that assists with personal development or solves real issues; we shouldn’t bother with the programme. The fact that we are lucky enough to work with such top talent means that we have to push ourselves to ensure that our MDP programme is continuously thought provoking, challenging and engaging.
A couple of the more exiting evolution’s to share were:
- Follow up tasks/assignment should be linked to tasks that participants would usually fulfill, with the emphasis on practical continuous development. It is counter productive to overload these high performing individuals. The MDP should facilitate future development and professional growth, not hinder.
- Part of our MDP revolves around participants working on and submitting a business plan. This has always been a popular task and we have always provided a forum for the top three to present their idea to our Global CEO, CFO and CMO. The change is that we have inserted an extra MDP session where the entire group gets to present their idea back to their fellow participants. This has been extremely well received and spurred on healthy competition!
Joby: Again I completely agree; the programme has evolved significantly over the last 7 years we’ve been running it. The content has changed and been updated almost every year and we’ve added new sessions as well. To be honest, one of the biggest challenges is knowing what not to include, some of the sessions are arguably a bit too content heavy, because there’s so much we want to cram in! This year our plan is to take a step towards this though, and dig deeper into the content by making the sessions more and more interactive.
Another learning point has been that we shouldn’t use the MDP as a retention tool alone. If someone is clearly not suited to management, or has no interest in doing so, but wants to attend the training for other reasons, or requests it based on longevity we have to say no and resist the temptation and avoid diluting the focus of the group.
Esther: And what about the business value, how do you justify this investment every year?
Joby: That’s pretty easy to be honest. It’s how we grow the business; you just need to look at results and past attendees to back that up, as well as the length of service and retention of our management team. Investing in the development of our people is something IQPC values incredibly highly. To be honest I’d like to do more still, and I think we can. We’re adding new sessions to the MDP for 2017 and have engaged some fantastic external trainers to complement our own efforts. I see the future of the business getting brighter and brighter year on year the more we invest in this initiative.
Esther: Finally what advise would you give anyone looking to build their management career at IQPC?
Joby: Where to start? Firstly, you need to have complete clarity on how to succeed in your role, what constitutes success, what you need to do specifically, continually and consistently to the highest possible standard. Then you need to be really disciplined and get into the habit of doing these things week in, week out, even when you’ve established yourself and distractions of other new and exciting activities will draw your attention. Do what works.
Secondly, invest in your people! You are a coach, more than a manager. If your team’s careers take off, so will yours; put their needs first. Focus on hiring and developing A-grade people and you’ll make every step of the journey 100 times easier and more successful.
Innovate: don’t think for a moment that last year’s standards are high enough. Technology and markets are accelerating at a staggering rate. We need to move faster still, moving with, in fact even ahead of the times, or our events will fade away; that’s why this business is so fast paced and exciting to work in.
I could talk all day about this, but a few final thoughts:
- Stay positive: we can find solutions to 99% of problems if we put our heads together
- Be humble. Don’t fall into the trap of only listening to your own opinion, never stop learning
- Stay close to the market and your customers; obsess with taking every opportunity to deliver extreme value
Edward: Have a plan BUT be ready and nimble to evolve with it.
Make a list of what a meaningful career would look like to you. This is a great starting point to help evaluate the skills required to fulfill the role you aspire to. Most importantly, it will form the basis of your training and identify your areas of development.
And last of all – be positive. I have no doubt that a meaningful plan and positive attitude will look after your career for you.