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When I first started employment, I was an apprentice at a large Aerospace company. Following the completion of that, I joined the undergraduate program before finally becoming a full-time Engineer. After years of studying and exams, I felt a huge sense of relief that I could pack away the books and actually put my knowledge and skills to use. No more lectures, assignments, revision or exams. Hallelujah!

Of course, the reality is different, or so it is within larger organizations where, alongside your role-based assignments, you are also encouraged to continue your development and it wasn’t long before I was back at the books – this time studying for professional accreditations.

I’ve been very fortunate to work for some wonderful, forward-thinking companies that recognized that investing in their people brings benefits to both the individual and also the company.

However, the structure and process around this was often ad-hoc and lacked clear direction. Whilst managers would encourage their reports to undertake personal development, the selection of what this entailed was left down to the individual.

When I became a manager of a small software development team, I quickly recognized that the biggest risk I carried was losing key people. Replacing those skill sets, which can take years to develop and therefore command high market rates was a constant worry.

This is the first time I understood the importance of succession planning and directed learning to improve retention and reduce associated risks.

I also worked with HR professionals to develop career pathways so that individuals could not only visualize their progression through the organization, but also understand what they needed to do to achieve them.

This gave real purpose and energy to personal development. Now employees were motivated to learn. It created a learning culture which encouraged the sharing of knowledge so that those in key roles were able to move onto their next challenge having enabled someone else to learn how to do what they did.

It didn’t always work, but it certainly helped reduce the risk and importantly prompted a more open dialogue between team members and managers about career aspirations, so that if someone did leave it was only after all avenues to retain had been exhausted.

When I look back on this, I feel that whilst it clearly helped, it still relied heavily on joining up disparate elements of knowledge. One needed to gain an understanding of the individual’s aspirations and current skill sets. Then the career pathways had to be mapped with each step having clear steps required to bridge the gap. This was then augmented with SPOF (Single Points Of Failure) analysis, employee feedback scores on performance but also self-assessments on how they were feeling.

Unsurprisingly it took so long to collate that it was only done annually and even then, the levels of effort put in varied depending on the individuals involved.

So, when we at IdeasCast created OpusView, we always knew that having a single platform that could link all of this information together would be critical in enabling organizations to develop and retain their staff.

Our platform helps identify key job roles and the impact upon the organization. This can then be linked with the feedback on the role holder in terms of their performance, how they are feeling and therefore quantify the risk of involuntary attrition.

Furthermore, succession planning is made easier by being able to match those best placed to learn the skills and have the aspiration to perform the key role in the future.

With the recent turbulence within the economy and the churn this has created within the marketplace, having a clear view of organizational risk and a plan to reduce it, has become essential for businesses that wish to ride out the storm and continue to thrive in difficult conditions.

If you’ve not done so already, please take a look around our website ( and the resources that we have.

Martin Shaw, CTO

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