here’s a real business challenge: create a team which will produce 28 hours of
television output every week for less than 10 per cent of the typical cost of
terrestrial daytime TV programmes. Felicity Bridgewater, head of training and
development at Granada Media, explains how it was achieved. By Stephanie
Television has always been an attention grabber. Ever since the 1950s when
Sidney Bernstein chose Britain’s wettest city as the site for a new
broadcasting company (believing that the infamous rain would encourage
Mancunians to stay at home, glued to the box) and obtusely called the new
venture after his favourite Spanish holiday hot-spot, it has maintained a high
profile. It has grown into an international company, Granada Media, encompassing
four separate business units and a legendary programme output, including the
most famous terraced street in the world. Its parent, the hotels-to-technology
Granada Group is one of Britain’s largest companies.
now its training department is also winning recognition, hailed by press and
industry rivals as “The University of British Television” for its work with
young people on a start-up project for satellite broadcasting.
was a lot of pride among the personnel and training functions when we won a
National Training Award,” says head of training and development Granada Media,
Felicity Bridgewater, “because in this industry, quite rightly, what matters
are the programme awards, and although the support services are valued, they
don’t usually get public recognition.”
department is also now making a name for itself in its handling of career
management issues and in promoting equal opportunities – both difficult
subjects in a cut-throat industry peopled by fluid editorial talent on the one
hand and technical specialists locked into traditional on the other.
needs of business”
like “the needs of the business” are a mantra for Bridgewater, who has a
hotline to the Granada Media board via her director of personnel Philippa Hird.
makes sure that the business tells her what it needs. “Line managers tell me on
an annual basis what their priorities are, and rank them in terms of business
need. So if there is a difficult conversation to have with somebody who can’t
be trained on the latest kit, their ultimate line management has to have
decided that is not the priority,” she says.
Bridgewater was appointed to set up a training function at Granada Television
in 1995 from a consultancy role at Pilkington subsidiary Lakeside Training she
immersed herself in the culture for three months. “Learning the language of
this place is the best way to be effective,” she says.
experience was to stand her in good stead a year later when a joint venture
company called Granada Sky Broadcasting (GSkyB) was formed and Granada
Television was commissioned to produce the lifestyle programming on two new
channels: Granada Breeze and Granada Men & Motors.
budgetary decisions had to be made. New channels win small audiences so the
typical funding for the new programmes would be between five and 10 per cent of
the cost of producing similar material for daytime terrestrial television.
and her training department were part of a team with controller of lifestyle
programmes for Granada Television James Hunt and programme manager for Granada
Satellite David Buckley to resource and launch the project.
explains the demands: “We had to make 28 hours of original programming a week
which was more than any other production team had ever been asked to do, and to
do it on budgets of around £4,000 an hour, which was lower than any other
production team had been asked to do.
big story is that we are three years down the line and we are still producing
the 28 hours a week and this is a business that has now been valued at
£200m from nothing.”
came from a meld of creative thinking and new practices.
is a classic story about how training and the business are integrated,” says
Bridgewater. They decided to recruit a new team of people from outside the
business who would follow an unusual structured training.
adds “You had to have people working on it who were not constrained by ideas of
how you make traditional programming because as soon as you look at those two
figures and say, “28 hours a week, £4,000 an hour”, you don’t believe it can be
done. So we wanted to employ people who had not worked in television before, or
if they had, had not worked in mainstream television.
operated simple recruitment processes – he would find people he liked, who
would have potential to make programmes. Some were from media courses, but
others had more varied backgrounds including an estate agent and a supermarket
second thing we realised was that there was a benefit in keeping the project
away from the main building,” he says. The satellite offices are sited five
minutes’ walk away from Granada’s monolithic Manchester base. Advice, mentors
and sometimes extra resources were brought over from the main building, but the
trainees were deliberately placed at a distance to help them develop their own
skills and career paths.
explains: “The main building had much more traditional practices, and was much
more regulated, it is quite strongly unionised in pockets. We could bring in
expertise from the main building, but it was important to start something
totally fresh and as close to a greenfield site as you could get.”
total of 64 newcomers were given an intensive period of three-months’ training as
part of a 12-month contract with salary. The package led media watchers to
apply the “university” label to distinguish it from many other production
companies which offer raw recruits unpaid training or expect them to pay for
team decided that programmes would be made in a way that reflected the level of
skills and abilities of the trainees, whereas conventional production sets out
what it wants to do and then employs the talent it needs to do it.
Buckley believes the scheme gave the young people “time to grow”. He explains:
“This is an industry where people really don’t understand what the jobs and the
roles are. We had people coming in thinking they wanted to be camera operators
and finding a natural aptitude for things like floor management that we would
never have discovered otherwise.”
is enthusiastic about the scheme, but honest about the ripples it has sent into
the individuals move on in their careers and away from the family of trainees,
they can hit the more traditional demarcation environment of terrestrial
television. When a young, multi-skilled person meets someone who has been a
camera operator for 25 years it is hard.”
good news is that the training scheme broadened the mix of Granada’s workforce
she says. “We didn’t have any preconceived ideas where the trainees must come
from so only 63 per cent of trainees were graduates and we ended up with
two-thirds women and 12 per cent from ethnic communities, which is fantastic.”
is keen to use training schemes to lever in diversity. She set up a Positive
Action scheme to achieve this and saw it scoop a regional training award in
is an industry problem that ethnic minorities are very poorly represented and I
wanted to do something to open the door for people from different communities,”
were also business drivers behind the Positive Action scheme. “We’ve looked at
research that shows that some families in the North-West switch off to watch
Asian channels,” says Bridgewater. “The proportion of young people in black
communities is growing faster than in white communities – we are going to miss
this business opportunity unless we crack this.”
set up a partnership with a college in Liverpool that gave a 12-month grounding
in television skills to 10 black people. Granada put £60,000 into the scheme
which was matched by funding from the European Social Fund. The college
invested £30,000 of in-kind support, by seconding a tutor for a year. Trainees
also received work placements at Granada.
scheme was a success, leading to jobs at Granada or places on further advanced
training scheme in freelance skills run jointly by Granada, the BBC and the
trade union Bectu.
is currently appraising what to do next.
think it is a better use of my time now to focus my efforts on making sure that
those people from the satellite start-up move through into mainstream
businesses and that it all starts to happen naturally, rather than having
special schemes for people because it does label them. Now we’ve got a talent
base coming through the satellite television route I’d rather we concentrate on
new focus is to coach all employees to manage their careers. In the past five
years the company has acquired other regional broadcasters from LWT to Tyne
Tees TV and has become a major production company abroad. It contributed 27 per
cent of parent company Granada Group’s £970 million operating profits in
I was looking for,” says Bridgewater, “was something that made this new, big
Granada a positive and showed that there are a lot of opportunities out there.”
She was also concerned that people should understand the “portfolio career”,
workshops were successful in reaching some people but a career handbook seemed
a more cost-effective option. Launched in October 1999, with the backing of the
personnel director, it illustrates what Granada Media expects, how to make the
most of networking and appraisals and how to sell personal skills. She shied
away from dispatching it to 3,000 staff as a corporate diktat, preferring to
invite them to apply for a copy. Within the first two months 1,600 employees
had filled in a request form for the ring binder.
next step is to evaluate it in the spring, and intranet access is on the cards.
will also give out as part of the induction process because we want people to
see that it is part of the psychological contract,” she says.
Bsc (Hons) Psychology and Organisation Behaviour, University of Lancaster
Personnel assistant, Pilkington Insulation
Recruitment and resourcing Officer, Pilkington plc
Assessment and training consultant, Lakeside Training & Development (a
subsidiary of Pilkington plc)
Training and development manager, Granada Television Ltd
Seconded to work with new group chief executive on organisation restructure,
Granada Media Group
Head of training and development, Granada Television and London Weekend
Head of training and development, Granada Media