Personnel Today Awards 2007: Training & Coaching Today Excellence in Training Award

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

Professor Andrew Mayo
Award judge

Andrew Mayo is a consultant, speaker, writer and facilitator in international HR management, with nearly 30 years’ experience in major international organisations. He runs his own consultancy, Mayo Learning International, is professor of human capital management at Middlesex Business School, and is a director of executive education programmes in the Centre for Management Development at the London Business School.

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BT Exact

The team: BT Exact Learning and Development
Number in team: 12 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 7,000

About the organisation BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications, operating in 170 countries.

The challenge Today’s demands have caused the role of IT to evolve exponentially and, like many IT organisations, BT Exact was facing a “capability wall”. To address this, BT Exact needed to transform its IT capabilities and develop an organisation responsive to rapid change. The development and implementation of a learning and development strategy, fully aligned to business goals, was seen as critical to this.

What the organisation did

  • Developed a new vision: to become a best practice learning organisation that creates a highly competent and agile workforce aligning focused development with customer success.
  • Introduced the concept of ‘Learning Partners’ to grow the skill capability in areas of known demand. Learning Partners initially introduced focused accreditation routes to address immediate skill gaps, and then moved on to more sophisticated learning programmes.
  • Learning Partners encouraged staff to share their knowledge through a number of initiatives outside formal training structures, including the introduction of a Wiki portal, focus groups and self-study groups.

Benefits and achievements

  • During the last year more than 500 staff have been through up-skill/re-skill programmes, which has helped to win new business in the professional services marketplace.
  • A number of centres of excellence based around common skill sets have been established.
  • Learning initiatives are tied to business demand, rather than individual aspirations.

The judge says: “One of the very few entries that focused on the bigger picture. Learning Partners allocated to different areas have focused on the needs of professional communities and used a range of on-the-job learning methods.”

Nottingham City Transport

The team: Nottingham City Transport
Number in team: 6 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 14

About the organisation Nottingham City Transport (NCT) is the largest provider of public transport in the Greater Nottingham area. In 2004, it had provided more than 100 years of service to its customers, and received the national UK Bus Operator of the Year award. In 2006, NCT carried almost 50 million passengers.

The challenge To design and deliver a foundation degree in business management that focused on work-based learning, and encourage effective cross-functional communications and working relationships by establishing mixed-function groups.

What the organisation did

  • Developed a foundation degree in business and management, in partnership with Leeds Metropolitan University and West Nottinghamshire College of Further Education.
  • Introduced the first structured, coherent management development programme in the history of NCT business.
  • Delivered a programme that achieves an integrated approach to performance and learning, by ensuring the assignments are focused on real-life work issues that participants need to address.

Benefits and achievements

  • The first foundation degree in business and management to be validated by Leeds Metropolitan University and to be offered by West Nottinghamshire College of Further Education.
  • Three NCT directors worked directly with a college faculty member to help develop the HR, marketing and finance modules, and became part of the programme faculty.
  • The programme was launched in 10 months – half the time normally expected for validation by the awarding university.

The judge says: “This accredited management development programme has particular strengths in its contextualisation into the everyday work of the organisation, with immediate benefits. It includes impressive teamwork both internally and with providers.”


The team: Sales Academy
Number in team: 5 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 600

About the organisation O2 is a leading provider of mobile services to consumers and businesses in the UK. It is the leader in non-voice services, including text, media messaging, games, music and video, as well as data connections via GPRS, 3G and WLAN.

The challenge Recognising that 02 operates in a rapidly maturing market and selling ever more complex solutions, the board decided that the capability of the sales force would need to be a key commercial differentiator. A new approach was required.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced a new set of behaviours – ‘The O2 Way’ – and a four-stage development path, which formed the basis of a £3m investment, creating an 02 sales academy for more than 450 sales staff.
  • Fully integrated the programme into critical HR processes, which focuses on the key organisational objective to drive business success.

Benefits and achievements

  • More than £60m of revenue can be directly tracked by O2 to the adoption and use of The O2 Way.
  • Over the past 18 months, corporate customer satisfaction relating to O2 sales and account management has risen from an indexed score of 67 to 73.
  • O2 sales staff, on a quarterly basis, consistently rank the sales academy initiative as one of the top differentiators they have to maximise their success in the marketplace.

The judge says: “Sales training is perhaps the easiest area to show a good return on investment, but the thoroughness and effectiveness of this sales academy is impressive. A four-stage development path is integrated with performance management, a wide range of learning methodologies are harnessed, including simulations and online coaching, and there are clear metrics for skills measurement at each stage.”

Maybourned Hotel Group

The team: Maybourne Hotel Group
Number in team: 10 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 815

About the organisation Maybourne Hotel Group is a luxury hotel group that owns and manages The Berkeley, Claridge’s and The Connaught.

The challenge To implement a customer service training programme designed to communicate and support the development of a new service culture called ‘Intuitively Maybourne’, which concentrates on ‘cherishing’ the personality of every customer by providing intuitive, unique customer service.

What the organisation did

  • HR and an external company called The People Skills Business designed a programme called ‘The Maybourne Cycle of Service’.
  • The training programme consisted of different activities and exercises to encourage employees from all parts and levels of the company to take responsibility for what they did every day.
  • 800 employees completed the training programme in just four months.
  • All managers attended a workshop called ‘Leading the Heart of Maybourne’ to give them the tools and techniques to apply what they learned at the training programme. Non-managerial staff attended ‘The Heart of Maybourne’ workshop.

Benefits and achievements

  • Set the standard of service required across the Maybourne Hotel Group.
  • Identified the challenges employees are facing every day and helped them to think of solutions.
  • Created an opportunity for employees to meet their colleagues from other hotels, to network, and share best practice.
  • Helped the group to achieve recognition as one of the 100 Best Workplaces in Europe and one of the top 50 companies to work for by the Great Place to Work Institute.
  • Saw an increase of 1.5% in profit for the group compared with the same quarter in 2006.

The judge says: “This customer service training programme has strengths in every category. It is a concise, relevant entry statement, with lots of innovation in visualising the messages, tremendous support by the leadership, and effective use of internal trainers. Most impressive of all was the real evidence of success in customer impact.”


The team: People Development Team
Number in team: 8 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 43,000

About the organisation Somerfield is a high-street supermarket with stores across the UK.

The challenge Somerfield’s desire to be the UK’s leading local fresh food and convenience retailer was undermined by consumer research in September 2005, and identified produce as a priority. The People Development Team’s training needs analysis highlighted a gap among store teams in product knowledge and the confidence to talk to customers, along with presentation skills and understanding of acceptable standards.

What the organisation did

  • Designed ‘Passion for Produce’ – a one-day workshop to train employees throughout Somerfield’s head office and 900 stores.
  • Used regional managers, responsible for 15-20 stores, and fresh food support employees to deliver the training, which meant the Passion for Produce workshop had a strong impact and learning was embedded in-store.

Benefits and achievements

  • Generated support from relevant board directors.
  • Influenced regional directors and allowed time in their busy diaries to deliver Passion for Produce.
  • More than 2,700 staff attended workshops across the UK between October 2006 and February 2007.
  • Like-for-like produce sales increased by 5% from March 2006 to March 2007.
  • The workshop has set new standards and visibility for training and further engaged regional managers in supporting their people’s development.

The judge says: “A very well-presented entry of a one-day training course, which was creatively designed, and enabled line managers to deliver it on-site, emphasising their leadership role. The cost per delegate was £21 and the increase in sales showed a significant return on investment.”

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