Apprenticeship Levy

Apprenticeship Levy

With effect from May 2017, all employers with a pay bill of more than £3 million a year will pay a 0.5% levy to the government to fund the growth of apprenticeships in the UK.

For example, a company employing 1,500 people will contribute approximately £215,000 directly to the Levy pot.

Clearly, you will want to be able to access your money so you can spend it on training that adds value to your business.

But what if you don’t employ many apprentices?

What if you do want to spend your money on developing your managers?

Well, the good news is that you can and we can help you do that.

The Reality Business are an established provider of management training and we are on the government’s register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP).

This means we can work with you to develop management training programmes that meet your needs and the government’s criteria to access your funds.

Let me give you an example:

You have identified 8-10 of your Team Leaders/Supervisors that are ready for management development.

You want a programme that develops practical management skills via a mixture of workshops, tutorials and computer based training.

You also want a programme that leads to a recognised management qualification (e.g. CMI Level 3).

As long as there are sufficient funds in your Levy pot the full costs of such a programme could potentially be covered.

Would A Phone Call Help?

Even if you’re not sure yet what you need, a quick phone call might help to determine what’s most important to you and whether we are a fit for your managers or not. Call us on 01425 461471 or click here to drop us a quick note and we’ll give you a call when it suits you.

Performance Assessment and Reward


I have run hundreds of Performance Management “best practice” workshops over the 14 years I have been a facilitator.  Before I work with any business I ensure I spend time understanding the business and as part of that I  always ask a fair number of questions about the Performance Management systems and processes that are in place, including the links from such to “reward”.  Something that comes up time and time again is that a significant percentage of businesses (both private and public sector) either: –

  • Exclude any form of “assessment”
  • Don’t link any assessment they do include to any form of reward
  • Include assessment and link it to reward but do so in a way that employees view as either somewhat arbitrary or simply “unfair”

I see too many Performance Management policies and processes that fail to achieve what surely should be the point, namely to improve the performance of employees and thus, ultimately, drive up the overall performance of the business.

 I also see a large percentage of processes that are entirely future facing. Typically the process being called Performance Development and the form sets known as “PDP” or “PDR” with the focus in appraisals being on “what we need you to do/improve next year” but with no “marker” as to how you actually did in the previous year.  I also often see the term “Performance Management” as one negatively tainted as to what happens when employees don’t perform to a satisfactory standard – the phrase “I’m going to have to performance manage” this individual, being one that is heard far too often.

So my view as to “best practice” is formed from a combination of my own business insights from being a manager in the past, those businesses I have worked with who have Performance Management processes that work effectively to drive performance up, and whose employees think the process is largely fair, and numerous articles written by people widely regarded as “business gurus” and goes like this: –

  • The process and form sets should be straightforward, understood, fair and applied consistently
  • Line managers and employees should have received training that allows them to be effective and efficient in working with the process
  • Assessment is a crucial part of the process – we don’t have a strong view on the “rating” system used but something simple like 1-5, 1-10, A-E, or even use of wording such as Fail/Fall Short/Met/Good/Exceed are all fine
  • Assessment outcomes should absolutely link to reward – whether that is a performance bonus %, a pay rise %, promotion escalation, talent pool, weekend events, boxes of wine etc. – is for each business to decide.
  • Reward linked to individual performance is independent of any “profit share scheme”, however the best processes link the two together i.e. overall business performance establishes a “bonus pot” and then that “pot “ is divided out according to individual (and sometimes “team”) performance
  • Failure to give “assessment” and link that to “reward” results in a low/average performance culture as there is no incentive for people to want to perform really well.
  • Assessment must be based not only on the “what” (the extent to which someone delivers on their “tasks”) but also on the “how” (the extent to which they have delivered on such tasks utilising behaviours that promote business values)

To be “fair”, organisations must help their managers by giving guidelines as to what level of performance a basic salary is paid for (we call this “calibration”) and managers must work together to ensure they are not being unfair in relative terms to another manager (we call this “equalisation”).

Getting all the above in place and working well is not easy, but my view is that it is a crucial aspect to attend to in order to even have a chance of harnessing a high performance culture and one which drives business performance up.

I hope you have found my thoughts over the last 3 weeks of interest and value. The feedback and comments I have received have certainly suggested this is an area of management that will continue to challenge and sometimes even divide opinion.

Observing Performance by Watching & Listening

watching and listening

Recently I have been reading Alex Ferguson’s book on “Leading”. Early on in his book he talks about the importance of observation. He calls it “watching” and “listening” saying he believes most people, let alone people in managerial positions, do not use their eyes and ears effectively. They don’t watch closely or listen intently and don’t do either nearly often enough.

I think he is spot on. Our work world in the 21st century is high paced and contains an incessant workload. Most people in managerial roles have their own “tasks” to do as well as leading and managing their team and it easy to be consumed by such tasks to the detriment of spending time with your teams.  People who have recently moved up into managerial roles find this very hard, as they are confident in completing tasks, and less confident in their new managerial responsibilities and so, not surprisingly like doing the former.

But if you are ultimately accountable for your team’s performance you need to find a way to spend time closely observing what is going on. So why not start to make it a habit? Plan “downtime” into your own schedule of tasks and spend that downtime just quietly observing what is going on around you. Tune in with your eyes and ears and keep some mental and written notes on what you see and hear.  Some initial things to help guide your observations might be to look out for: –

  • Are your own managers or team leads actually spending the right amount of time doing that, or are they constantly immersed in their own tasks?
  • What are people saying to each other face to face? Are they showing respect? Listening to each other? Talking over one another?
  • Who is influencing whom?
  • Who is allowing themselves to be wrongly influenced by others?
  • Are people spending their time wisely – working on the right things?
  • Are they doing those things efficiently?
  • What is the general mood like?
  • Who is showing an appetite for leading?
  • How well are people working together – have I got a team or disconnected individuals?
  • Are people showing skills and talent for the roles I have them in or are they disengaged doing the role because they have to?

How is their manner when talking with clients?

If you start tuning in using the observational senses of listening and watching it should enable you to be more effective in giving feedback as it will be first hand, and very specific. NB this isn’t about “spooking” people and it’s not about compiling dossiers of evidence to beat people up with. It’s about finding the time and a way of being closer to what’s going on, and placing yourself in a position to be more effective in leading and coaching your team members.

Next week I will share some thoughts and tips around assessing performance and whether this should be linked to reward. If you have any comments, questions or observations in relation to this topic please do share via the website, LinkedIn or by email to

Managing teams better for greater efficiency

‘What would you do?’
I was with a group of delegates chatting over dinner during a residential management workshop this week. During the day we had been discussing time management and delegation skills and had agreed that managers need to spend as much of their time as possible dealing with the most important tasks.

It was agreed that one of most effective activities to achieve this was the delegation to your team of those less important tasks.

One of the managers had been reflecting upon this and said he was struggling to see how he could apply the learning. Only that very day (whilst on the workshop) he had received 6 calls and emails from his team wanting his help in sourcing non-standard items for customers. He saw this as an important part of his role as experience had shown him that the extra effort in sourcing a solution often resulted in either a new or more loyal and therefore valuable customer.

I asked the manager about their team. The manager said that whilst they had a good team they did not feel any of them had the experience or as much passion as he did about providing this level of service. Their default solution therefore was to work extra hours to get everything done or if they were away from the office to explicitly instruct the team with step by step instructions of what to do.

What Would You Do? Management Graphic

The manager was well aware that his approach was not tenable in the long run and he wanted to trust his team more but did not know where to start. I asked him ‘what else could you do when you get a phone call from your deputy telling you about a challenging customer request?’ After a while the manager said ‘I suppose I could ask them what they would do… but what if they say they don’t know what to do or suggest something I don’t like?’

‘Good question’ I said. What would you do in that circumstance?’ There was a pause and then the manager smiled at me and said ‘I see what you’re doing. You are asking me for my solution before suggesting one yourself and that way I either feel empowered by my own ideas or supported if guidance is still needed. I suppose I could try this with my team!’

Using a phrase like ‘what would you do?’ is a coaching style of management and whilst not suitable for every situation it’s definitely one to have at your disposal. Especially if you are a bit of a control freak!

Team Types in Action

I introduced Belbin’s team types to a group this week and maybe because of that session my ME preference was more finely tuned than usual. ME stands for ‘Monitor Evaluator’ and is that person with a quality focus who is good at spotting mistakes before they become disasters.

I received a package of slidepacks for a workshop in 2 weeks time and usually I wouldn’t unwrap the materials until much nearer the day. However, on this occasion the weight of the parcel just seemed wrong, far heavier than expected for a dozen 24 page sets. Thank goodness I looked. Every set had been double printed and in the wrong format with the wrong page numbers.

Happily a quick call to the printers confirmed their mistake (the first in 3 years) and a reprint and delivery was scheduled for next week.

My challenge now is to summon up a bit more of one of my lower team type preferences and to finish writing up some coaching notes by G&T O’clock!

My lower preference team type is CF………………… ‘Completer Finisher’ of course.

Dealing with Setbacks

Over the last few weeks I’ve been dipping in and out of the BBC coverage of the Winter Olympics. I’m a keen skier so enjoyed the downhill and slalom events, and was also drawn to the lunacy end of the spectrum with the snowboarding “slopestyle” contest – I think the people who do this must have some sort of “fear chip” that’s missing from their brain…………and that’s probably what my next blog will be about!

Anyhow what many of the events highlighted for me were the small margins between success and failure, and in particular how participants cope with the latter. I saw the interviews with Elise Christie (Speed Skating) and Andrew Musgrave (Cross Country Skiing). Here were two athletes who had genuine medal hopes. Christie was ranked in the world top 3 in 2 of her 3 events, and Musgrave had just won in Norway prior to the Olympics and was expected to win a medal. Christie was disqualified in her events – twice for minute infringements, and the third time, somewhat bafflingly for being knocked over by another skater! Musgrave came 29th and when interviewed had no excuse other than to say “I just had no energy”. For these two competitors, and countless others who went into the games with high hopes, there was no sense of “being proud to represent my country and doing my best”, just desolation that the culmination of 4 years intense training was to come away with nothing.

So how do athletes deal with setbacks,  this sense of disappointment or “failure” (to put a stronger more emotive tag on it – which some, of course, will)?

And of course, this isn’t just about elite athletes, it’s about everyday occurrences that happen to everybody at some stage in their home and work lives, and sometimes with an undesired frequency too. How do you “bounce-back”, and find the agility or strategy to recover from adversity? It’s not just a question at individual level, but for smaller and larger groupings of people too – families, teams and organisations.

I remember vividly a conversation I had with an ex-boss of mine who, in the midst of what was then a high flying career, was suddenly ousted from his job quite nastily by a somewhat unscrupulous executive who clearly saw him as a threat. I asked him how he dealing with it and he said “I’m fine – I happen to believe there are a multitude of roles out there that I can probably do better than the person currently doing them so I have no worries about my future”! Now one might call this arrogance, but fundamentally he was completely self-confident and aware of his worth. How many of us share that same level of confidence about ourselves and our futures?  Why is that?

Over the years we’ve worked with many individuals at various levels within various organisations and often use Emotional Intelligence as a profiling instrument as part of our toolkit. It has uncovered many reasons for people’s uncertainties, and how their present, and their future performance is effected by these. Used alongside other tools and activities it starts to unpick how we feel, how we think, and how we manage those thoughts and feelings. There are many other angles that can be combined here too, to provide a powerful set of insights into the way we cope with the cards we are dealt and help us be better at it. Our colleagues in one of our partner organisations have developed further insights into what they term as “personal resilience” that include looking at our physical make up and wellbeing and how this influences our ability to cope with adversity.

The evidence as to the detriment to health that is caused by mental anguish, worry and stress is overwhelming.  What is perhaps less well known is the detriment to individual and business performance in the workplace. But the research has been done – and recent information from 3 different sources (CIPD, BUPA and Gallup) are conclusive in showing a direct causal link between the way organisations and individuals deal with these things and their resultant performance.

So – I finish with a question “how effective are you or your organisation at dealing with setbacks, worry, concerns and burn-out?”

Performance Capability and Fluctuation

In my last blog I talked about Performance Fluctuation and about making an honest assessment of yourself and those around you in terms of how consistently you are performing at between 90-100% of your true performance capability.

We work regularly with many managers in all sorts of different roles across a multitude of business types and cultures and have been doing for the last 10 years. We see people on our programmes but also in situ in the workplace and often observe first hand these performance variations. Indeed many Manager’s engage us to help them with their team’s less than stellar performance and in particular specific individuals whose performance they’ve seen decline and cannot seem to get under the skin as to why.

So – let’s firstly look at the concept of a “psychological contract”. This is the non-existent piece of paper that determines the amount of discretionary effort an individual will give in the workplace – you may want to call it “the inner motivation to do well”. There’s a pile of classic and well proven motivational theory (Herzberg/Maslow etc.) that one can draw on to identify some of the things that might cause someone to either choose to, or choose not to, feel motivated – such things as their job content, chances for development advancement, security, reward, workplace surrounds, the business culture and environment and so on.

All of these things are absolutely valid as to possible things that can cause performance capability to fluctuate but the majority of them are EXTERNAL to the person and whilst it’s possible to influence some of them to an extent, it’s also true that the degree of influence is not hugely within your span of control.

What we see less people examining are those factors that are INTERNAL to the individual and it is my belief that these are key to truly understanding ours and others performance. We’ve seen some substantial uplift in performance from courses we have run with groups of people and from 1-1 coaching we have done where we raise awareness of, and then work on these internal factors. The fields of Emotional Intelligence and Personal Resilience offer some extraordinary insights into what makes people tick  – we’ve been amazed at how many people we’ve come across some of whom are in very senior positions) who suffer from issues around self-confidence, relationship building and their handling of change and setbacks. Once people are able to understand and connect how they think (and why that is) to how they feel and behave they can start to unravel why they aren’t performing as they’d like to (such performance often extending way beyond the workplace to their home and social lives too). The next stage then is make the (for some) almighty leap to realise that so much of this is a CHOICE and, moreover, totally within our span of influence.

So – if you know there’s something going on with yours or others performance – it may well be something that lies in this INTERNAL arena – and if you are interested in doing something about it but don’t know how, why not give us a call! We may well be able to help!

And if you are interested in Sport and don’t get what I’m on about do a bit of research on any of those sporting people I mentioned in my previous blog……………look at the fluctuations in their performance capability………..are they INTERNAL or EXTERNAL factors?

Performance Fluctuation (Part 1)

In one of my recent blogs I used some examples from the football Premier League to discuss the relative responsibility for performance in the workplace between the manager and the player (direct report).

I’d like to continue to use the world of sport to illustrate the theme of this blog – the causes of Performance Fluctuation.  Let’s take some well-known names from across a wider spectrum of sport:-

Golf: TIger Woods, David Duval, Lee Westwood, Karen Stupples, Michelle Wie

Tennis: Laura Robson, Sabine Lisicki, Serena and Venus Williams, Richard Gasguet, Roger Federer

Cricket: The entire English men’s team

Football: Most of the Manchester United team

So what do all these people have in common? The answer is that they have all performed quite brilliantly either for a point in time or consistently over a period in time but likewise all performed extraordinarily poorly (by their relative standards) at other points, or in some cases continued periods, in time.

Why does this happen? It would be completely reasonable to understand that no-one can be brilliant 100% of the time – but some of the variances in the people above aren’t seeing them slip from peak performance at 100% to a “90%” rating – they are seeing 100% to less than 50% in performance terms – and some are worse. David Duval’s fall from the top of the golfing world to having to scavenge a living on regional tour events in the USA is well documented but I’m not sure anyone could really explain why.

So what happens in your workplace? How consistent are you in performing at the top of your game each day, each week? What about your colleagues and team members?  Have you ever sat down at the end of a week and looked at what you actually achieved in that week…………and then made a really honest call about whether you could have achieved an awful lot more?  What about people that we manage, or what about those people that manage us? Are they consistently brilliant?

What is it that gets in the way or causes our performance to fluctuate over time?

In the sporting world, it’s easy to pin (relative) failure on injury and that is of course totally reasonable. Andy Murray had back surgery last year and played no tournaments. In his first tournament back in 2014 he lost to a much lower ranked player  – and most people would probably accept you can’t return to 100% in your first tournament after such a lay off (Rafael Nadal’s 2013 somewhat the exception and all the more remarkable because of it).  But in the world of business it would be unusual to be able to pin “injury” as a reason!

In the next blog I’m going to suggest some reasons for Performance Fluctuations – and some thoughts on how to prevent or cure them………………….but the first step has to be recognition of the issue.

So, go on, take a good objective look at yourself and your colleagues – are you and they consistently performing somewhere between 90 & 100% of their true capability?

What’s getting in the way?

Stepping Up to the next Management Level

tim fuller

The Reality Business have been running Management and Leadership programmes now for just over 10 years. Over that time we’ve experienced a multitude of organisations and business sectors and worked with delegates from junior first line management roles all the way up to Director’s and CEO’s.

We often get asked by senior managers for our views of the people we’ve had through our programmes and where this can be done in a way that satisfies our values of trust and integrity we are happy to do this.  Such discussions very often include the question “are they ready for stepping up to the next management level yet”?   So I’ve been thinking recently as to what criteria I think need to be satisfied for us to answer that question with an unequivocal “YES, ABSOLUTELY”.

For me the starting point is to ask myself “to what extent would I trust this person to be able to do a great job” and I therefore reflect on the dual axis of trust namely “character” and “competence”.


On the former I’m looking to feel comfortable that the individual demonstrates confidence, integrity, passion, drive, energy and an appetite for continual learning – and one might well argue that these aren’t things that can be trained…………………….whereas in terms of competence I’d be looking to see that they had demonstrated a multitude of people related skills such as managing and leading, working well with stakeholders and so on, and the technical knowledge needed for the role in question.

On this competency axis is where investment in that individual both by themselves and the organisation they work for can help move those people who aren’t ready, or are nearly ready, up the necessary level of notches to be banging at the promotional door. In a similar way, a lack of recognition of the need to create this sort of “talent pipeline” or recognising the need but not doing anything about it, can leave organisations very vulnerable to losing key talent and to costly recruitment from the external marketplace.

Such investment should, or could, include a range of planned and targeted development such as active involvement with both technical and people training, which can be sourced and run either internally or externally, managers being trained as coaches, mentoring schemes, self-study initiatives, job swaps, opportunities to “act up” for short periods of time and formal qualifications.

I have a deep belief that there is a massive pool of talent out there, and I see numerous examples of incredibly talented individuals hugely frustrated by their organisations inability to provide aspirational opportunity to them and typically they either lose their energy and motivation and just “accept” it, or they leave – neither of which strike me as a great outcome for the organisation they work for.

So, if you know you have talent in your organisation, you need to cherish and nurture it, and make sure you provide opportunities!