The market research industry mirrors many other service sectors in being characterized by rapid and unceasing change. New technology, globalization, the changing needs of clients and longer working hours all these and
more contribute to increasing demands on the people who work in market research. It is becoming increasingly
difficult to keep a balance between the demands of both business and home life.
Given that market research is essentially a ‘people business,’ a major solution to managing these pressures is
enabling those people to learn to be more effective and therefore better able to cope with stress and time
pressures. As one management writer has put it:
‘The rate of learning of people in the organization has to be greater than the rate of change for the organization
to survive.’ (Revens 1980)
For many years now NOP has provided a robust program of inhouse training in technical research and IT
skills. However, we were aware that this was not enough. With the pace of business change accelerating all the
time, we wanted to take some additional practical steps to help to ensure that our managers were equipped with
the necessary management skills to be able to respond quickly and handle change. We needed to build in a
more strategic orientation generally to our development activities to provide a direct link between rapidly
changing business needs and our staffs learning activities.
We were also concerned for our more junior staff. Mentoring had been suggested as a possible way forward. In
our description of the mentoring scheme at NOP in this paper, we will share with readers the processes we went
through to set the scheme up (including a year long pilot), some of the pitfalls that lie in wait for the unwary, and
the results of the internal research (both qualitative and quantitative) we have undertaken over the past three
years with both mentors and mentees. We hope that this may encourage others to consider similar schemes for
their own organizations.
In the second section of this paper, we outline some of the issues and problems associated with the design and
implementation of an appropriate management development program. We describe the principles of Self
Managed Learning on which NOPs management program is based, and suggest that Self Managed Learning
might also be appropriate for other organizations, both large and small, in the industry. Finally, we suggest how
such a program might be evaluated.
This paper describes first the mentoring scheme, and then NOPs Self Managed Learning program