If the old saying that people accept you at your own valuation is true, then the timber sector needs to have more confidence in itself, its achievements and in its people. For the TTJ Awards this year, Career Development Award sponsor SCA Timber Supply is recognising the confidence provided by excellence in staff development through awarding separate prizes in the Trainee and Continuing Development categories. Entries for the 2007 competition are now open and an entry form is included with this issue of TTJ, or visit ttjonline.com. The closing date is August 3.

In previous years, though entries have been encouraged in two categories, there has only been one outright winner. Awarding two prizes acknowledges the importance of staff development at all stages of a career.

“We can see from the TTJ guest column recently written by last year’s winner, Abel Munoz of James Jones & Sons, that caring for each individual’s development and aspirations can produce spectacular results,” said Rob Simpson, SCA Timber Supply managing director. “The effective functioning of a business partly relates to the everyday working environment. But by far the more important factors are valuing the individual by providing training and development opportunities, encouraging that person to grow, and improving their confidence and business talents.”

Entries for the Career Development Award, especially in the past two years, have shown a marked increase in the recognition by companies of the value of training and development to their business. Investing in training gives the member of staff concerned greater belief in their value to the company, engendering more willingness to remain and develop their talents. Statistically it is more likely that a staff member who feels valued and empowered will stay with the company providing their training.

The argument is sometimes raised that investment in training only benefits competitor companies, since trained staff may command higher salaries elsewhere. The answer may lie in properly valuing staff through appropriate salaries, benefits and working conditions, in addition to the provision of training and career development. The Timber Trade Federation is undertaking a salary survey through its Education Training & Careers Committee. This may reveal whether the timber trade is as well remunerated as other areas of business.

Professional human resources (HR) management can ensure that pay, development opportunities, and the working environment remain in balance with the company’s business requirements. “There is a need for better understanding of the contribution that human resources management can make in our sector,” said Mr Simpson. “Few companies have a professional HR function as part of their business organisation, let alone have HR people represented at board of director level. Perhaps this is the next leap we all need to make. It is standard practice in many other industries, and human capital management is a recognised shareholder value indicator.”

Research for the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development reveals that planned people management makes a significant contribution to business performance. In turn, HR effectiveness is related to organisational values and the attitudes of top line managers. “Leading by example is an essential part of training the next generation of timber traders,” added Rob Simpson. “There is no substitute for the personal championing of continual learning and development by senior management in our companies. It sets the tone for company values that also motivate our employees.”

The 2007 Career Development Award offers a ready medium for promoting excellence in staff development. With two winners this year, there will be even more opportunity for companies to promote their business confidence amongst their peers. By entering new staff being trained and/or established staff progressing along their career paths, companies will be demonstrating their best practice and raising the competitive bar for the sector.