Read the following care study and answer the questions that follow


Established in 1992, Acorn is an award-winning business that is now Wales’ leading recruitment and training organisation, with an annual turnover of just under £100m. With offices across South Wales, the West Country, North Wales, Scotland and the North West of England the company places 5500 permanent placements each year. It is a previous winner of both best regional recruitment firm and best national firm at the Professional Recruiter Awards. Acorn’s Learning & Development Division is highly regarded throughout the UK for its employer-led approach to training, learning and development solutions. Its team of 30 training and development professionals deliver training to over 3000 individuals per annum. The company has a particularly strong reputation in the area of Management Development and the following case study outlines how Acorn has worked very closely with a large leisure resort employer to deliver a management development programme.

‘The programme is typical of the innovative approach taken by Acorn to meet an employer’s needs’ explains Sarah John, Acorn’s Commercial Director. ‘In today’s global economy businesses are under constant pressure to perform effectively to retain their competitive edge. As a consequence of ever-changing demands the quality of managers has become pivotal to the performance and long-term success of an organisation. This client recognised that to achieve a strong market position they needed to invest in the development of their people. We responded by developing a bespoke approach to ensure the client received the exact level of support and guidance required. The challenge we faced was that the future business plans for the client required senior personnel not only to possess practical management skills but these skills had to evolve to meet changing business needs. Therefore, in partnership with the client we were commissioned to design and deliver a development programme for senior managers geared around achieving the client’s business objectives within a very dynamic market. It was agreed with the client that key performance indicators had to be built in to the development programme in order to measure achievement of objectives and to assess the impact of the programme on business performance.’ This process took four meetings and involved four training and development consultants over a two month period. ‘It was crucial to get the programme’s objectives right’, continues Sarah. ‘After much discussion and consultation, which involved interviewing ten senior managers at the client organisation, we arrived at four key objectives.’

Programme Objectives

1. To provide Senior Managers with the essential skills to develop operational teams in order to achieve individual, departmental and corporate objectives.

2. Identification of on-going training needs to ensure effective use of management resources by developing the skills of middle management.

3. Development programme to support the corporate culture of attracting and retaining quality staff.

4. Programme to be tailored to accommodate the demanding work schedule of the Senior Managers involved.

‘The client recognised that training and development is a key business driver directly affecting the company’s performance’, explained Sarah. ‘We used our expertise in this area to design a management development programme that focuses on enhancing the practical and relevant skills that are needed to take the organisation forward. We ensured that the programme was aligned with company objectives and that the client’s investment in its management team would deliver a tangible return on investment. This was, and had to be, a very business-driven process – i.e., linked to the business plan, corporate objectives, and the skills development plan. Following clarification of the client’s requirements, in terms of identifiable business needs,





it was possible to identify three key themes. These were managing change, managing self and managing resources. To assist with the detailed design it was agreed with the client to analyse the learning styles of the managers who would be attending the programme. This was done by issuing “Personal Styles” Questionnaires. This then enabled us to produce a modular programme that reflected managers’ learning preferences. This has the advantage of ensuring that the trainers can tailor the delivery of the programme to have maximum impact on the delegates. As part of our service we always research possible sources of funding, such as the Welsh Assembly Workforce Development Plan, Sector Skills Council and Business in Focus. Very often there is support available for up to 50 per cent of the cost of commercial delivery, although maximum funding is only usually available for accredited programmes, such as those involving national vocational qualifications. Once the programme was designed and agreed it was rolled out on-site. We developed a flexible approach to the delivery of the programme to accommodate the client’s business needs. All modules were delivered on site and included role play, case studies and practical assignments, which were all linked to business issues and objectives. In total there were 12 modules, each lasting one day. So, for a typical manager the whole programme took twelve months to complete. Evaluation and review was at the end of each module using ‘End of Module’ Evaluation form linked to key performance indicators or KPIs. These were then collated and reported in graphical format. At the same time future requirements were identified.

In terms of the results of the programme, Sarah explains that ‘Managers acquired a portfolio of skills enabling them to manage change, cope constructively with conflict, develop and motivate their teams, delegate effectively and solve problems effectively. Skills were immediately converted into practical experience within the business and action plans were used to enable managers to achieve business objectives. What was particularly noticeable was that it increased individual performance and satisfaction levels resulting in improved team work. More generally, the corporate culture and values were both developed and reinforced. The programme highlighted the client’s commitment to long-term career pathways and enabled better succession planning. There was a review of internal systems identifying areas for improvement and sharing of best practice, for example, the development of an integrated customer service strategy. ‘Overall’ concludes Sarah, ‘by investing in the development of senior personnel the client has been able to cascade the training internally through coaching and mentoring the next management tier. This has led to a culture of continued learning and development within the organisation’.


Making reference to the case study above, examine the significance of assessing training needs in relation to the business plan especially in contributing to the design of the management development programme.


Drawing upon relevant theory, concepts or models to support your answer, evaluate the extent to which Acorn adhered to good design practice in the design of the management development programme.


Provide detailed recommendations for Acorn to ensure the successful institutionalisation of their learning strategy into the organisational culture.

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