Friday 16th February 2018


Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff!

Leading And Managing People – What’s Your Morning Ritual?

While in office, President Barack Obama used his mornings to prepare himself for the day ahead. He slept just 5 hours a night and when he woke up he made a concerted effort not to spend time on sweating the small stuff like what to wear or eat. He’d rather save his energy for the big decisions that are always one meeting away.

If like Barack Obama you spend little time thinking about the small decisions, so that your mind is clear and ready for the big decisions of the day, then you will be among many leaders who don’t sweat the small stuff.

I almost always forget to eat breakfast and put out clothes for the next day the evening before, so not sure if this puts me in the same category as the former President in clearing my mind for the day’s big decisions or just means I’m dressed and ready for the day but starving by 11am and eat chocolate for a sugar fix.

Let Us Sweat The Small Stuff

The apprenticeship levy has brought about many exciting developments and certainly the big picture vision that it will improve the training and skills of the UK workforce cannot be under-estimated. On a positive note – significant numbers of employers are now engaging with Apprenticeships and building innovative training programmes for their employees. Much of this is with high quality training providers with an infrastructure to enable implementation and delivery to meet client needs well.

However, I am increasingly hearing about new small providers who have neither the knowledge, resources, processes or people to take on a corporate levy client with all their requirements and high expectations. Sweating the small stuff and ensuring that a provider has both the capacity and capability to deliver a high-quality service will be critical to the success of the Levy.

If large employers fail to see an impact from their levy spend, they will disengage, and the Government vision will fail. Over the coming months 3aaa will continue to actively listen to our employers and ensure that we do “sweat the small stuff” that will make the difference between success and failure. We will be prepared to challenge both policy and practice and lobby where the small stuff is creating barriers.

As leaders, if we hover down from the big picture vision and land our little helicopter in the deep grass, we sometimes need to sweat the small stuff to fully understand what’s needed to make the Government’s Apprenticeship vision a reality. Let’s look at just one example of where the “small stuff” is preventing innovation, development of skills & knowledge of workers in the UK economy and creating blockages to the vision.

1. Rules and bureaucracy

Those who know me well will also know that I detest bureaucracy when it is an unnecessary blocker to making things happen and bringing about much needed change.

3aaa are currently lobbying for End Point Assessment Organisations to offer flexibility about a certificate being the only really acceptable evidence that someone can work at the right level in English and Maths. How many people can put their hands immediately on certificates awarded in 1975 to prove their English O Level was a grade C?

Ok 30% of you may say “I can”, but what about the other 70%? The example I am using is with a large corporate levy paying employer, who wants 2 senior managers to follow a leadership Apprenticeship standard. These two people are senior managers – one is a Finance Director and she cannot find her certificates from her school days. Two house fires, 3 house moves and working abroad has meant that storing “old stuff” was not a priority. An initial assessment and strong IAG has shown that this senior manager is operating at a high level in Maths and English, the employer is prepared to sign a certificate verifying that the manager is working at a high level and using Maths and English in their work.

However, the rules imply that this individual must take a functional skills exam to evidence their capability. Understandably the employer wants a simple solution as it is their money that is paying for this levy, so why put these ridiculous barriers up. The likely outcome will be that the two individuals will decide not to participate in the leadership Apprenticeship programme and their skills and knowledge will not be enhanced. What a waste of potential great talent development for those individuals and the company and also for the good use of levy funds for the employer.

Clearly English and Maths are fundamental skills that we all need for everyday use, but why use “old” thinking in a “new” world of learning. As long as there is evidence captured that English and Maths are continuing to develop along the programme journey – and that at End Point Assessment stage, the individual is ready for the gateway, shouldn’t we move with the times and deploy some pragmatism?

Do share your thoughts and ideas on ways to resolve this by breaking down the bureaucracy and enabling not disabling people to develop using the levy and Apprenticeships.

It’s late now – so in the mean time I’ll sort my clothes for tomorrow, eat a quick breakfast in the morning and make sure my mind is clear for a day of big important decision making and try not to “sweat the small stuff”!

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