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Support for staff

Consideration should be given to the wide range of support available to assist employees in improving and enhancing their performance. This may be in house or provided by external providers. Examples include training, mentoring, coaching, work-shadowing, re-training, job rotation and secondment. Consideration should also be given to advice and guidance that can be offered by managers and peers, including reading lists and professional sources of information and advice.


Training can be delivered in a number of ways, it can be offered on a one to one basis or delivered in a group setting and it can take place at the place of work or away from it. Facilities should be provided where possible for employees to undertake training, such as access to a computer and a quiet room to undertake training.

On-the-job training

On-the-job training typically involves learning through observing and/or being assisted by a colleague with more experience of performing a task. It should be planned, structured and a defined period of time allocated to it with an emphasis on learning rather than work output. It is usually delivered on a one to one basis at the learner's place of work.

On-the-job training is useful as it is immediately relevant to basic job needs and can be delivered by the manager or a peer. When delivering on-the-job training it is important to ensure that trainees are able to practice what they have learned immediately so that they remember what they have been taught, that instructions are paced to avoid information overload and that positive feedback is given for encouragement.

Off-the-job training


Employees may wish to consider re-training opportunities, particularly where this would assist them in meeting the requirements of a new position or a potential redeployment opportunity. Consideration may be given to reasonable requests for re-training, taking into account the benefits to the employee and University and considering the length and cost of the training. Advice can be sought from PPD, the Careers Service or the HR Division.

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring are development techniques based on the use of one-to-one discussions to enhance an individual's skills, knowledge, competencies or work performance, often for the current job, but also to support career transitions.


Coaching is a teaching or training process in which an individual receives support while learning to achieve a specific professional goal. It is designed to help facilitate professional and personal development to the point of individual growth and improved performance.

Coaching focuses on improving performance at work and on developing specific skills and achieving goals, although it may also have an impact on an individual's personal attributes (such as social interaction or confidence). Coaching can be undertaken by a trained manager, colleague, external coach or more senior member of staff; the process typically lasts for a relatively short period.

The following are some general principles of coaching at work:

  • It focuses on improving performance and developing an individual's skills.
  • Personal issues may be discussed but the emphasis is on performance at work.
  • Coaching activities have both organisational and individual goals.
  • It provides people with feedback on both their strengths and their weaknesses.
  • It is a skilled activity, which should be delivered by people who are trained to do so. However, this can be managers and others trained in basic coaching skills.
  • It is normally a non-directive form of development.


Mentoring is typically a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentee) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the mentee's professional and personal growth. The mentor is often a more senior employee from a different part of the organisation to the mentee. Mentoring relationships tend to be longer term than coaching arrangements and are most effective when there is a learning opportunity for both parties.

A mentor can be someone outside the normal working hierarchy, usually more senior, and chosen because of their breadth and depth of experience, network of contacts, and the support and guidance they can offer for career development. More recently peer mentoring is becoming more widely used; this involves colleagues on a similar level providing mutual support and guidance to each other to assist with personal growth and development.

Job rotation, secondment and shadowing

Secondment is the temporary loan of an employee to another department or role (or, sometimes, to an external organisation). The learning associated with the experience of secondment is recognised as being valuable for both employee development and organisational development. Job rotation and shadowing are similarly useful forms of development, particularly in supporting employees in developing the skills and competencies required for moves to new or higher-level roles. Further information and advice can be sought from the HR Schools teams or PPD.

Self-assessment and reflection

By asking themselves a series of open questions, an individual can discover their own strengths, mistakes, learning needs and successes. This kind of analysis and self-reflection can assist individuals in reviewing and improving their own performance without the need for management intervention. Examples of the types of questions that individuals may wish to ask themselves, to prompt learning, are listed in the toolkit. Advice on receiving and using feedback effectively is also provided in the toolkit.

University support services

There are also a range of support services for employees including:

Advice for managers supporting staff

A number of supporting documents are available in the toolkit section to assist managers (and staff), including:

Section A: Managing capability

  1. Template Performance Improvement Plan.
  2. Self-review of performance and development.
  3. Key principles for capability meetings.
  4. Giving feedback.
  5. Receiving feedback.
  6. Handling challenging conversations including stages of a meeting.
  7. Dealing with emotions.

Section B: Further relevant information

  1. Management styles.
  2. Learning styles and development activities.
  3. Setting performance standards.
  4. Setting objectives.