Seizing a ‘fantastic’ opportunity in the nuclear industry

David Reay works for a lead player in the UK’s nuclear industry. He explains how he ensures that training counts, and why talent management is not just for high potentials.

What does your job involve?

As learning and development head, my remit covers the learning and organisation development activity for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, including talent management, succession planning, performance management, team effectiveness, leadership and management development, graduate development and employee engagement.

How many courses/events do you organise?

That varies greatly. For 2007, there were 450 programmes at an individual level. These programmes were focused on personal growth and CPD requirements. Also there was a suite of organisation development activity – line management programmes, health and safety programmes, business management, leadership, etc.

Which of them is the most challenging?

Securing the release of staff from ‘the day job’ to focus their attentions fully on development and themselves.

What course/training are you working on now?

We are working on embedding the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority talent management programme.

How and why did you get into training?

Having graduated with an HR degree, I went to work for Proctor & Gamble and then IBM as an HR generalist. I was involved in some change projects and realised that to really make any organisational change work, development and growth are key. Joining the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority gave me a fantastic opportunity to establish its L&D function.

What’s the best or most memorable training event you’ve attended?

It was a presentation skills programme, facilitated by a company of actors – they made it real and responded to situations and problems that delegates faced and gave advice that could be implemented immediately.

And the worst?

One on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). The way the course was approached just didn’t take account of people’s motivations, their intellect or learning style – something that really didn’t sit well when you are supposed to be learning about NLP.

What’s key to putting on a successful course?

The work you do around it. For it to have an impact you have to get people engaged – and by that I don’t just mean tell them what they will do. People need to feel they are driving their development and it is not something being done to them.

How do you measure the impact of training?

I always look at the impact of training by linking it to what the business needs to achieve. To do this I spend time establishing what the business sees as its challenges over the next few years and define business success criteria. Your training needs to then link to realising these goals.

You presented on developing talent at the HRD 2008 conference. What was your main message?

That talent management still has a place within organisations as a tool to leverage excellent business results, but it is evolving. It can no longer be about managing high potential. If we make the effort to recruit people, focusing efforts on everyone is just good business sense.

When you were younger what did you want to be?

I wanted to pursue my love of foreign languages and saw myself as a teacher.

What, in life generally, really annoys you?

Lateness and people not delivering what they say they will.

What was the first record you bought?

Michael Jackson’s Bad.

What book are you currently reading?

Sixth Target, by James Patterson.

Who’s your hero?

James Bond – who can compete with a man who faces so much but always remains calm? A true role model for any good chief executive.

How do you relax?

Running and painting really helps focus my mind.

David Reay is head of learning and development (L&D) at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority at its West Cumbria headquarters. Its main responsibility is overseeing the management of the safe decommissioning of the UK’s civil nuclear legacy.

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