Career file: Striving to create the best

Training and development manager Aly McCallum 42, talks about his ambitions
for a performance-focused culture at United Co-op

How long have you been in this job?
I joined the organisation this year and have just had my three-month
review, however, I’ve been in training and development for 15 years.

What does your role involve?
Creating the strategic direction that the organisation will embark upon as
well as overseeing the training and development that currently takes place
within the society’s four main trading areas of food, travel, pharmacy and

What’s the best thing about your job?
Everything. I truly enjoy all aspect of my profession, especially meeting
different people and personalities on a daily basis.

What is your current major project or strategic push?
After completing a full evaluation of all training and development, my main
focus will be to realign the society’s behavioural standards to ensure that we
create a more performance-focused culture. A review of the current performance
management system will be one of the major projects.

Preferred terminology – training, development, education or learning?
Life-long learning. We never stop learning and that’s fantastic. Everyone
should be more aware of continuous development.

Favourite buzzwords?
The only buzzwords that should be around are "thank you" and
"well done".

Most loathed buzzwords?
Empowerment. People have a tendency to say, "I’ve empowered my
people" when in reality you can not empower anyone unless they want to be

Are you good at self-development?
No. I have to constantly remind myself to concentrate on my own development
as opposed to developing others. On the other hand, I learn from each of the
individuals whom I help develop.

What self-development have you done in the last six months?
I’m concentrating on upgrading my skill level with various software
packages, however my main focus has been to improve my understanding of what
best behaviour looks like.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
Having fun, doing the best I can to develop individuals, myself and the
organisation to exceed both business and personal goals.

What was the most useful course you ever went on or learning experience
you ever had?
Without a doubt, it was a team-building event run by Training in Action. It
had superb activities with excellent facilitators running the programme.

Which is the best management book you have ever read?
Difficult to pick just one, but, for simplicity and getting a message
across The One Minute Manager series does well.

What was the worst course you ever went on?
I honestly don’t think that I’ve experienced a worse course scenario, even
if it was only to serve as a "how not to do it" event.

What did you want to do for a living when you were at school?
When I was very young, I wanted to go to California and dig for gold.

What was your first job?
Working the night shift in a petrol station on the outskirts of Glasgow. An
experience not to be missed.

What was the best career decision you ever made?
Making the decision to specialise in people development while still having
close ties to operational management.

Which of your qualifications do you most value and why?
My true answer would be the qualification of life’s experiences, however,
the MCIPD has proved useful in different situations.

How many minutes is it since someone senior in your organisation said, "People
are our greatest assets"?
What? You mean that’s not how we are supposed to start every sentence?

Evaluation – is this a Holy Grail or impossible dream?
Holy Grail – we know development works, all we have to do now is prove it
to everyone else.

How do you think your job will have changed in five years’ time?
Hopefully it will be changed beyond all its current constraints and
thinking before five years.

What do you think the core skills for your job will be in the future?
Communication, human behaviour (understanding of), influencing skills and

What advice would you give to someone starting out in training and development?

Keep an open mind and experience as many and varied situations as you can.
Always relate your activities to "real world" thinking that benefits
both the individual and the organisation.

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