Developing Our Talent
By Renee Remedios, PLAN International Australia
  PLAN International Australia has 20 staff members, so in the 'PLAN world' scheme of things we are a relatively small office! For our small National Office to work effectively, we have to rely on good relationships, understanding and cooperation between and within our various departments. This is the major reason for the implementation of the "Developing our Talent" program.
The program was designed based on two specific and important objectives:
  1. To provide all staff members with the opportunity of learning a job other than their own within the National Office, thereby enabling them to increase their skills, capabilities and overall personal development

  3. To develop a 'back-up' or understudy for each staff member/position in the National Office in the case of the short-term absence of a particular staff member (i.e. due to sickness or travel)
To implement the program, we formed a steering committee consisting of 4 members from different departments within the National Office. The committee asked each staff person to complete a questionnaire focussing on their particular job within the organisation.
First, staff members were required to note down a guiding statement for their job. The guiding statement encompassed what the staff member believed was the essence of their job at the National Office and in the greater PLAN world. This statement would then guide the eventual 'learner' of the particular position as they learnt the relevant tasks, helping them to keep the 'big picture' in mind along the way. The next step was for each staff member to list the 5 major tasks of their position that a 'back-up' person would need to learn in case of their absence from work. (This was used in the actual training program for the learner). Each staff member then chose up to 3 other jobs they were interested in learning within PLAN Australia. The steering committee was subsequently responsible for pairing up staff members into 'learners & teachers' according to preferences for a first round of shared learning.
The program was run over a 12 month period and most of the onus for learning & teaching was placed on the individual groups. The steering committee held regular meetings - after discussion with the pairings - to make sure all was on track. So, as I am sure you're all wondering , did it work?
The answer is YES! Most groups successfully completed their training program and were presented with certificates of appreciation by the steering committee. The pairings that did not complete their program cited a lack of time and the changing nature of their job as reasons. But in reality, what did the "Developing Our Talent" program really achieve at ANO?
Well, as one of the committee members, I believe the program was a catalyst for getting all staff in PLAN Australia thinking about the interconnectedness of every department within the organisation. A sense of understanding of the positive and challenging elements about each other's jobs emerged, enabling staff to 'step into the shoes' of the other person and thereby increasing tolerance levels! Also, a tangible change occurred where not only did staff members learn others jobs, but some people's jobs even merged! For example, ANO used to have a mailroom and a separate Sponsor Services department. Now, our mail person works in the Sponsor Services area and all mailroom tasks are integrated with general sponsorship processing.
I'm not claiming that all these changes were as a result of "Developing Our Talent" program but it was a great starting point to get staff thinking about the nature of our organisation and how we all need to know more than just our own jobs for us to function effectively and efficiently. And of course ultimately, this is for the benefit of children in developing countries - the very purpose for our existence!
For more information, email Renee Remedios -