By Jennifer McLachlan

SCOTLAND’S food and drink sector is on track to double in size to become a £30 billion industry by 2030. That’s largely driven by our country’s unrivalled natural larder, but it’s also testament to the brilliant people that work in the industry.

If we want to continue that momentum to reach our £30bn target, we have to attract, keep and develop talented people. Food and drink already directly employs 120,000 people in Scotland and it is estimated that we will need 42,000 new recruits by 2029.

Supporting talent is a fundamental principle of successful businesses – you only have to glance at LinkedIn to see an array of companies discussing the positive impact of investing in and nurturing their people.

Not everyone wants to be a team leader or a manager, but everyone can learn better ways of working and develop with support. Ongoing programmes of personal and professional development helps the workforce to perform more effectively and prepare people for new tasks or to move into new roles.

Having opportunities to develop is also demonstrably highly motivational. When people can map out development steps against career paths it can improve retention, creating an even more engaged and valuable team member.

It also sends out a strong message to staff about your commitment to them. It demonstrates that you not only value their labour, but you value the person behind it, supporting their development.

The world of work is also changing, and the food and drink industries are at the forefront of advances in technology and automation. We face a choice – do we upskill our people to adapt to change, or allow technology to overtake us?

If businesses want to succeed over the long-term, the former should be the obvious option.

Upskilling a workforce can seem like a daunting task, particularly for businesses, but in reality, you’re probably already doing it. However, it can be useful to formalise the process through an effective personal development plan.

In its simplest form, a personal development plan is a roadmap that identifies a person’s route to get to the position they want to be in. Benchmarking where someone’s skills are and where they need to get to will help team leaders and managers to provide the necessary support to help ambitious employees improve, progress and enhance the overall business.

Development is not always about technical ability but also encapsulates softer skills like team-working, communication and boosting self-confidence.

Improving employees’ sense of wellbeing as well as their skills is a recipe for business success and the ingredients needn’t be expensive. Managers should always be on the look-out for ways to work collaboratively with employees to improve the entire workplace. Whether it’s small changes, like giving employees additional responsibilities, delegating more effectively, or shadowing opportunities, formal training courses aren’t the only option.

People are at the heart of the Scottish food and drink industry. Whether you’re a retailer, farmer, processor, baker or brewer, the people you work with are just as important as the product. Without the right people, Scotland’s most successful industry would not be where it is today.

To continue the sector’s success and secure the prosperity of food and drink businesses of the future, we must continuously invest in and develop our people.

Scotland Food & Drink has published a free guide to using personal development to improve talent retention and strengthen business performance in the sector:

Jennifer McLachlan is Industry Development Manager at Scotland Food & Drink