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2020 talent development and sector professionalism

7th January 2020 Posted by

Dr Adam Read

After two years in post with SUEZ in the UK, I can officially say that I am suitably impressed with the training programmes available for all employees, and the succession planning and career development opportunities. These initiatives and programmes have enabled SUEZ to retain employees longer than is the average for our sector.

As someone that has specialised in consultancy, training and staff development over the last 25 years, I am proud of what my employer is doing, and feel encouraged to be part of this well-planned strategy and implementation.

So, a huge well done to David Palmer-Jones on his new role, as a Group Senior Vice President Recycling and Recovery Northern Europe at SUEZ, and for setting out a clear plan of action when it comes to staff development, talent management, and in-house training. This is now being taken forward by the most senior leaders in our business, under the guidance of John Scanlon, our new CEO, and Dr Tracey Leghorn our Chief Human Resources Officer, and I expect 2020 to be another big year in terms of staff opportunities, staff development and career support.

A personal commitment to career development

It takes more than just good company culture, accessibility to positive internal (or external) training programmes, and how encouraging your mentors might be – you need your workforce to have a positive attitude, and have their own personal commitment to growth and development.

And in 2019, I have been blown away by the number of people who have contacted me out of the blue asking for my help, as a mentor, guide, or coach, or for advice on possible training courses. I always make time for people who want to develop their careers, broaden their skills, and who want to experience new things. Having spent much of my working life as a consultant, personal attitude and commitment has been key for most of my outstanding colleagues and the best candidates that I have seen and worked with. Is it too much to ask an individual to give up the odd half-day of their own time to attend a workshop or conference if their employer is already providing a bespoke training programme and access to a range of coaches and mentors – I think not!

Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre at nightThe last 12 months has been a hugely positive time for me as a mentor, having supported four successful CIWM graduates as they made the transition to chartered Resource and waste managers. I have also supported another candidate who successfully became a chartered environmentalist, and have helped two others progress their careers at SUEZ by coaching them through their aspirations, skills and desires to establish their career plans.

I am hoping that these success stories will encourage others to come forward, looking to progress their professionalism and their careers, whether it be as part of upgrading their membership with one of the leading professional bodies, or because they are looking at their next career move and what to identify ways of addressing weaknesses, lack of experience, or insights etc.

The momentum being built at SUEZ is significant, and I welcome working with others from across the business as we look to raise the bar even higher for our teams. This year I have worked with people in municipal recycling, construction, material trading, and human resources, so who knows what parts of the business I could be working with in 2020.

External networks are criticalCIWM logo

However, no matter how good your internal training, development and coaching programme might be, there will always be a need in my opinion for an external perspective. I took the decision early on in my professional development that I wanted to base my career in the resources and waste sector and chose the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management as my professional body. This provides a sounding board, a peer-to-peer group, networking and training opportunities that extend beyond my immediate employer or team, and have ensured that over the years I have been kept abreast of issues as diverse as landfill engineering, European Commission policy, construction sector recycling, and health and safety, all of which have been peripheral issues to my role at that time. This has enabled me to keep a wide perspective on the sector that I am proud to call my home and has undoubtedly helped to position me for future roles, and given me insights to areas that I might want to develop in.

But the CIWM is more than just a journal, a website, a news update – it has become a second family, one that is there with me even when I change jobs, or company, and one that is always open to discussion and sharing. Many of my former clients were first introduced to me through regional CIWM workshops or through articles that I wrote for the journal or website. And even today, I am bumping into former colleagues that I have mentored as graduates, and who are now senior managers and sector leaders who still turn up at CIWM events to share their experience and support the next generation of resource and waste managers.

So the value of a professional body should not be underestimated, it is never too late to join the right one!

So, what next in 2020?

Question Mark on Lined Paper

In November 2020, I have the huge honour of becoming the 105th President of the CIWM, following in the footsteps of a number of my mentors and one or two sector heroes from back in the day. But, I will also be following on from good friend Trevor Nicol, who during his 12 month post is focusing on school education programmes and making resource management core to many subjects and curriculum. I am looking forward to utilising his toolkit with my son’s school where I am a Governor later this year, and using some of the resources as part of a new eco-warriors club that we are forming in early 2020.

I am already planning for my own year in office, and my theme will feature new skills, staff development and preparing for the new circular economy. Over the next 12 months I will be working with some of my closest sector colleagues to understand the sector’s future skills and staff needs and look at how the CIWM can help facilitate the necessary training, development and mentoring opportunities to support this transition. I don’t want to give too much away now, we will be answering these questions over the next 12 months, so stay tuned to hear more updates.

But, in the immediate future, I will be back to mentoring a few colleagues, enjoying some shadowing opportunities with colleagues coming out and about with me as I deliver on the day job as an External Affairs Director, and supporting our staff induction and internal training programmes. After all the day job doesn’t stop.

I am thoroughly looking forward to aligning my day-to-day role with my increasing responsibilities with the CIWM next year, and hope I get to work with even more of you in the sector, and those of you here at SUEZ, on the critical skills transition that our sector needs to effectively meet the new targets, new public demands, and new materials that are our responsibility to manage.

Exciting times I think, and I am not too old to learn a new trick or two in the coming months. Are you?

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