Sheep Dipping

Posted on November 13, 2013 by

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Beware of SheepRegular readers of the blog will (hopefully!) know by now, that although we can sometimes be a bit obscure, agricultural topics are not something we tend to feature often on the UP Blog!

So you would be quite right to think – what on earth does sheep dipping have to do with the world of HR, Training & Recruitment?!

Luckily, UP’s Training Team Lead, Nikki Lebedis, can tell us!


Nikki Lebedis

Nikki Lebedis

‘Sheep Dipping’ is a fairly derisory word we use in the people development industry when we’re talking about training.  Usually it means training large groups of people in exactly the same thing, with exactly the same information and hoping for exactly the same outcome.

It certainly has it’s uses.  The classic example being employee induction or similar, where you have a cohort of people you want to baseline with a particular bank of knowledge.

However, over recent years I’m hearing it used more and more in the context of real individual development; and this is where things start to get difficult.  We’re finally starting to cotton on to what people have been telling us for years: stop the Sheep Dips, and give us the individual approach instead.

When we look at anything around leadership, management or personal effectiveness it’s easy to take a one size fits all approach.  After all, everyone is working for the same company, and we expect our people to act and behave consistently…  right?

Well yes.  But the journey to get there will, and should, be different for every individual.  We all join organisations as different people; whether you’re recruited as a school leaver or CEO.  We have different educations, different experiences, different personalities and different styles.  Which means we all need and respond to different kinds of development.

We're all different!I remember listening to a friend only last year talking about how he was on the “fast track” management training programme with his employer.  His initial enthusiasm quickly dampened when told he had to complete several management training modules – the big sell being he would get Post Graduate Certificate in Management when he did so.  The only problem?  He had covered almost identical content when he did his M.Sc. in Management only a couple of years earlier:  and of course the M.Sc is a good few steps further up the qualification ladder than the PgCert.  When he tried to explain this, the message was clear:  do all the programme or none of it.  The outcome?  He handed in his notice a few months later.

So this is the challenge:  you want to grow a cohort of people within your business, but they all have different needs.  How do you develop to their individual needs whilst keeping the networking and peer support you have by working in a group?

One answer could be a modular programme tailored to your organisation.  Some modules are mandatory, others optional.  You could underpin this with mentoring, remote support, group work, projects or seminars with enough face time to keep the group intact.

Another option is open courses.  However, with the exception of academic programmes with their financial and time constraints there aren’t that many out there.  That’s why we’re seriously considering launching an open modular development course for Emerging Leaders:  something that would allow your people to attend what they need (and not what they don’t) whilst working with a cohort of peers.

Interested?  Let us know.  If the demand is out there, then we’ll step up and do it.  After all, at UP we’d rather be the Purple Cows than get stuck in the Sheep Dip.