Looking for 'the right stuff' : human capital formation in SME's
In 128 small companies in the West Midlands, the way staff are selected for development is explored is explored, together with the characteristics of staff and selector. Finding that some staff are repeatedly selected for development, a comparison is made between the attributes of those being selected and of those carrying out selection. This is an attempt to define why some staff are identified as possessing 'the right stuff' while other similar staff are not. Variables such as gender, ethnic background, age and educational background are compared but relationships only found between the learning outlook of the CEO and that of his or her selected key worker(s). The learning outlook is described in terms of the preferred learning style and of the most preferred methods to learn. However, in some sectors very little selection of ethnic minority staff occurred. Part of the research reviewed the selection process, relating this to business planning and identification of training needs. Little evidence was found of the use of formal planning or of specific processes to identify training needs, selection resting firmly with informal mechanism often under the narrow control of the CEO. Given the investment by government in this sector of the economy, it seems important for those providing resources to recognise this lack of formal planning and to work to ensure that opportunities for education and training are widened to include more of those employed by the company. Similarly, where CEO ambitions are explored, it is clear that most CEO's are not committed to growth but have other varied, personal aims. Investment in all companies assuming that growth is a key factor may be an ineffective use of resources, which might be better specifically targeted rather than distributed uniformly across the whole sector.