Personnel Today Awards 2008: Award for Excellence in Training

This award looked for training interventions that have significantly benefited a business or organisation, particularly if the trainers involved developed new approaches. The judge wanted to see evidence of improved performance and gains in employee skills and capabilities. Entrants showed how training boosted motivation and helped focus staff on key organisational objectives. The judge looked for well-designed training programmes that have been delivered successfully.

The judge

Hugh Murray FCIPD is a co-director and co-founder of Scott Bradbury, which provides training and learning materials, principally DVDs, to businesses. Previously he was managing director of training and learning supplies company Fenman, which he founded in 1987. His recent DVDs include Improving Attendance and Using Competencies Successfully. He is also a well-known speaker on the learning and development circuit.


The shortlisted teams:

Kier Group
The team: Group training and development
Number in team: 20
Number of people in organisation: 9,000

About the organisation

Kier is a construction, development and service company that specialises in building and civil engineering, support services, private house building, property development and Private Finance Initiatives.

The challenge

To develop more managers internally, cut recruitment costs and staff turnover, and develop effective succession planning. Also, to improve levels of professionalism among staff and improve safety on project work, and offer proof of workforce competence to customers. In short, a talent/career development programme was needed.

What the organisation did

It introduced a career development programme, based on company and industry competencies, with development paths for all staff from new entrants to directors. This included entry schemes for trainees from apprentice to graduate levels, accredited by external colleges and professional bodies, as well as:

  • Delivery of professional, technical and plant NVQs to site teams as an accredited NVQ centre
  • A three-year executive leadership development programme
  • An appraisal scheme linking training needs to business goals.

Benefits and achievements

  • Training spend rose from £1.7m in 2003 to £3.4m in 2007
  • Almost 100 staff have gained NVQ Levels 2 to 5 through the in-house centre
  • Staff turnover fell to 14% by 2007 (19% in 2003)
  • 60% of those who have passed through the executive leadership programme have achieved director status
  • Accredited safety training is delivered to 600 people a year.

The judge says: “Talent management – growth and retention – was the challenge faced by this construction and civil engineering group. A wide-ranging and imaginative training programme enabled it to double the number of internal promotions and to double the number of directors promoted from within.”


Aramark Ltd
The team: Operational Excellence (OE)
Number in team: 11
Number of people in organisation: 12,800 in the UK

About the organisation

Aramark is a catering and facilities management company and includes business dining, employee restaurants, retail facilities and coffee outlets throughout the UK.

The challenge

Its major challenge was to raise performance in the delivery of contracts in an increasingly competitive market. In particular, it wanted to improve the skills, attitudes and performance of unit managers and to meet higher levels of profitability. The company wanted all unit managers to work to a common standard using a standardised food production methodology, and to take responsibility for the performance of their unit.

What the organisation did

It developed a variety of learning methods through the Operational Excellence programme. These included:

  • The creation of ‘champions’ who were responsible for rolling out the initiative to 500 managers and their teams
  • Identifying and documenting best practice
  • Putting in place a mentoring and coaching programme
  • Involving managers and chefs in the development of the training programme
  • Developing a food production methodology to cut costs.

Benefits and achievements

  • Managers now take accountability for financial results and organisational objectives
  • Team morale has improved and skills and capabilities have risen
  • Consistency of performance across sites has been achieved
  • In 2006, one division made £15.9m profit against a target of £15.7m, and up from £3.3m in 2005
  • A £1.9m annual reduction in food-related costs.

The judge says: “This contract caterer increased profit in one division from £3.3m to £15.7m by means of an initiative that included training unit managers to take responsibility for the financial performance of their units.”


Ealing Homes Ltd

The team: HR
Number in team: 9
Number of people in organisation: 310

About the organisation

Ealing Homes Ltd (EHL) is an arm’s-length management organisation, which manages almost 19,000 properties for the London Borough of Ealing.

The challenge

There was insufficient staff engagement, and an audit of skills and competencies was needed. Customer satisfaction also had to be raised to meet the Audit Commission’s ‘excellent’ rating. Consequently, staff involvement and accountability needed to improve, and they needed to become aware of the positive difference that personal development could make to the business.

What the organisation did

  • EHL made a “substantial investment” in training. An appraisal scheme was implemented and results were fed into an annual training plan, which linked to business and service plans. It also:
  • Encouraged managers to take ownership of people management and training
  • Achieved Investors in People recognition in March 2007
  • Introduced an e-learning-based induction programme
  • Created a library with computer-based training facilities
  • Implemented a management development programme and graduate training scheme
  • Signed up for the Train to Gain scheme at NVQ Level 2.

Benefits and achievements

  • EHL achieved Charter Mark and ISO 9002 accreditation
  • Employees receive five days’ training a year
  • Customer satisfaction rose from 69% in 2004-05 to 79% in 2007-08, while rent arrears have fallen 41% since 2005
  • Customer satisfaction on action to deal with anti-social behaviour rose from 53% to 77% in the past year.

The judge says: “EHL found the workforce was disengaged and there was insufficient customer satisfaction. The challenge was to achieve an ‘excellent’ Audit Commission rating, and they provided evidence that they are well on track to achieve it.”


B&Q

The team: Retail learning and development
Number in team: 22
Number of people in organisation: 38.000

About the organisation

B&Q is a major DIY and home improvement retail chain.

The challenge

B&Q faces a strong and continuing challenge from rivals. It decided to improve the advice service that its staff offer customers, which it calls its First and Only proposition. Above all, it wanted to give staff the ability to give customers the advice and confidence they needed to carry out home improvement projects. Staff also had to gain the ability and confidence to educate other staff and customers through product and skills demonstrations.

What the organisation did

  • It created Project Confidence workshops that focused on key product areas. These were “fun, interactive and hands-on”, says B&Q. During these workshops:
  • Training centres were set up as mock homes
  • Staff practised home improvement skills such as decorating and floor laying and acquired customer adviser skills
  • The practical nature of the training encouraged staff buy-in as it “brought the merchandise to life”, says B&Q.

Benefits and achievements

  • 3,500 staff underwent training
  • Sunderland B&Q outlet increased sales by 10% in the month following training
  • Sales revenue rose by 7.37%
  • Stores converted former smoking rooms into training areas
  • Staff try out new products and share product knowledge
  • More in-store demonstrations are held than before the training programme was rolled out.

The judge says: “Their challenge was to increase sales by increasing the product knowledge of their staff. They undertook an imaginative programme in which staff undertook projects using the tools and materials sold by B&Q. They achieved a measured improvement of 7.37% in sales revenues as a result.”


Boots UK Ltd
The team: Healthcare learning and development
Number in team: 40
Number of people in organisation: 70,000

About the organisation

Boots is a high street pharmacy, healthcare and beauty chain. The entry concerns Alliance Pharmacy (AP), part of the Boots organisation, which has 920 stores in the UK.

The challenge

In 2005, the government started to contract and fund pharmacies to conduct in-store customer consultations and offer advice on the correct use of prescribed and over-the-counter medicines. AP called this activity Medicines Check-Ups (MCUs), which it implemented in most of its stores. It soon become clear that some were performing better than others, and AP wanted to identify and improve under-performing outlets. After some research, it concluded that the challenge it faced was “rooted in staff psychology”. Some believed they were too busy to fit MCUs into their working day, while others feared adverse customer and GP reactions to the service.

What the organisation did

On a budget of £123 per store:

  • AP’s L&D team delivered workshops to area development managers (ADMs). ADMs delivered two-hour workshops to store managers, and store managers delivered training to shop staff
  • Training materials were developed including DVDs and CDs
  • An MCU service guide was created
  • Staff at 570 stores underwent training.

Benefits and achievements

  • An average 38% rise in MCUs was achieved in a three-month period
  • Some 88% of pharmacists surveyed said the training had successfully supported MCU delivery in AP stores
  • The rise in MCUs resulted in government payments rising by £362,500
  • AP staff identified 1,450 more customers on inappropriate medication than they would have done pre-training.

The judge says: “Their challenge was to increase the number of consultations carried out in-store by their pharmacists by 20%. Their training intervention produced an uplift far in excess of this target, a substantial return on investment, and considerable benefits to the company and to the public.”

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