Vintage year for Mitchells & Butlers L&D Team at Personnel Today Awards

Mitchells & Butlers won the 2018 L&D Team of the Year

Pub and restaurant giant Mitchells & Butlers won Learning & Development Team of the Year at tonight’s 2018 Personnel Today Awards for its strategy in attracting, nurturing and retaining talent. We look at their wining entry and those of our other finalists who have generated hundreds of thousands of pounds in savings, improved customer satisfaction and increased employee engagement.

Mitchells & Butlers

The hospitality sector faces a crippling skills shortage and competition for talent is brutal, and in 2016 pub and restaurant chain Mitchells & Butlers was suffering 87% churn. The company, which runs brands including All Bar One, Harvester and Vintage Inns, needed to future-proof its business to establish a stable talent pipeline and ensure it offered a high quality and consistent service to guests. Previously training was deployed across its 14 different brands, meaning it was often duplicated and ineffective.

The L&D team developed a new strategy by addressing the entire talent lifecycle: attract, nurture and retain. One element of this was to attract 18 to 25-year-olds by offering an apprenticeship, with the target of placing one apprentice in every site within two years. M&B has secured Employer Provider status and now runs the largest employer-run culinary apprenticeship in the UK. It is also one of the only hospitality brands to offer a retail graduate scheme that fast-tracks employees to general manager roles in two years.

To consolidate learning across all of its brands, it launched a new digital learning platform called Mable (Mitchells & Butlers Learning Environment) which offers 37 interactive courses, 220 videos, a social forum and a gamification structure which encourages staff to engage more with the learning content. There are monthly ‘power hour’ sessions on commercial topics that tie in with the company’s business priorities.

Apprentices now comprise 3.6% of the workforce, applications for the graduate scheme are at their highest yet, and there is a strong pipeline for attracting graduates and school leavers. The new system has saved £120,000 in outsourcing training, £320,000 by digitising face-to-face learning and £200,000 by switching a team leadership development programme to webinars. Food and drink quality scores have increased and employee retention has improved.


Challenge Computershare Loan Services (CLS) is the mortgage servicer arm of Computershare PLC, and was formed following Computershare’s acquisition of HML and a division of UKAR. The L&D function plays an important role in helping this newly formed business unit deliver service excellence. In line with this strategy, the team needed to identify core learning needs, design learning interventions based on 70:20:10 principles and meet the sector’s stringent regulatory requirements.


Andy Lancaster, CIPD
Michael Jenkins
, Roffey Park Institute
Martin Couzins, ItsDevelopmental

Activities have included a Monopoly-themed event called Game of Loans, a series of bitesize modules designed to improve assertive conversations and assess customers’ affordability, and a workshop to support an office to set up paperless direct debits. The latter has helped build £40,000 additional revenue per month, while the assertiveness modules have led to an improvement in customer service call quality scores from 86% to 95%. Following the Game of Loans activity, which aimed to embed certain behaviours in the business, 89.5% of employees are meeting these behavioural objectives.

CLS’s operations director has pointed out how the L&D team “genuinely understand our business, its pressures and are commercially astute”. The team estimates that its contribution to the business’ revenue has been around £772,000 this financial year, together with a reduction in complaints and an improvement in the quality of service.


Government department Ofsted delivers inspections and regulatory visits across England through a combination of directly employed and contracted inspectors. In 2016, a strategic review of learning and development prompted a rethink of approach – previously much L&D had been delivered face to face, which was not cost-effective or practical (around 50% of the workforce is home-based). Furthermore, only 53% of the workforce scored L&D positively in the organisation’s annual staff engagement survey.

Time and budget to implement a new system was limited, with only one person fully allocated to this project and a maximum of eight months from funding sign off to launch. Research led the team to invest in an Totara learning platform which it branded LearnSpace and launched in September 2017. Prior to this, Ofsted hosted a live webinar to provide an overview of the key features, followed by other engagement activities such as presentations and updates to the organisation’s social channels and intranet.

Within four weeks of launch, 72% of the workforce had accessed LearnSpace and after nine months this figure had grown to more than 90%, Weekly traffic is generally 15-20% higher for this system than the two previous sites, with over 800 users per week. The completion rate for mandatory training is now in excess of 95%. Administrative time has been cut dramatically through functions such as automatic waiting lists if courses are full; managers can access direct reports’ learning records and L&D can report learning progress on an organisation-wide level. Other civil service departments now seek advice from Ofsted on implementing a learning environment after hearing of its success.

St Mungos

Around 1,500 staff and locums work for St Mungos to support homeless and vulnerably housed people across Greater London and the South. The charity faced three key challenges: enhancement of leadership and management capability; improve representation of black and minority ethnic employees (BAME) in management roles; and more bespoke learning for staff in specialist roles to support St Mungo’s business growth strategy.

The solution has been developed and designed in collaboration with internal subject experts, with internal managers and staff now skilled up to deliver 97% of the charity’s enture organisational L&D programme. One such initiative is the leadership and management development programme, which covers a range of modules from talent management to team building and conflict management. Another was the development of a new learning approach to upskill managers in bidding for new service contracts.

On BAME representation, the L&D team developed bespoke workshops for BAME staff looking to improve their promotion prospects – 50% of participants have subsequently been promoted. It also identified internal mentoring as a powerful way to improve prospects for BAME employees, and 69% of mentees who achieved promotion identified as BAME.

In terms of delivering bespoke training in specialist roles, facilitators have been trained to deliver pilot courses and – where changes are needed – adaptations are made quickly and a new course rolled out. St Mungo’s has saved around £100,000 by identifying and upskilling in-house subject experts and client satisfaction has increased to 93%.

Tata Steel

It has been a turbulent couple of years for Tata Steel in Europe, culminating in the steel producer receiving the go-ahead in June to merge its European operations with German company Thyssenkrupp. Academy Central, Tata’s L&D Team, has been instrumental in turning around the business’ fortunes.

Academy Central developed a new system of learning governance and architecture, structured around two key goals of ‘identifying the gap’ and ‘closing the gap’. This includes a bespoke tool that displays core knowledge and skills for more than 60 generic roles, enabling employees to assess where the gaps in their skills are. There is also a development directory app where employees and managers can build a training profile and align it to budgets and personal development plans. A whole suite of learning plans has been developed across multiple functions and levels of seniority.

Further skills gap analysis revealed that coaching for line managers was critical, and over 100 commercial line managers have since participated in a coaching skills programme. To measure the impact of learning, Academy Central developed a hierarchy of evaluation measures, including: impact of behavioural change; business key performance indicators and return on investment. So far there have been marked improvements in skills gaps – in account planning the gap has reduced from 35% to 22%, for example. Return on investment for the “landing a pricing message” training module has been in excess of 350%.

Clients have remarked on the improvements, with feedback such as “you understand our business as well as we do”, and the company has also helped one customer save around £2,500 per machine after a conversation to re-design and reconfigure their product.

UK Power Networks

UKPN is responsible for the maintenance of the electricity network in London, East Anglia and the South East – around 300 people work for its customer service operation and there are a further 1,000 people who can take calls in the event of system emergencies and high call volumes (known as wider call handlers). The organisation wanted to improve its customer service scores and raise staff engagement.

The Customer Services Learning and Development team formulated a strategy including defining roles within L&D to improve the skills of wider call handlers and to train and develop new starters. Another team was formed to focus on the day-to-day quality and engagement of all customer call handlers. A call handling standard was adopted and enforced to give a framework against which to measure calls and improvements. A five ‘W’s programme (where, why, what, when, will) helped teams to improve how they communicated with customers. Further activities have reinforced these new frameworks, such as incentive programmes encouraging people to improve scores, focus groups and a Call of the Month incentive.

Call handling scores have improved by over 7% for the core service delivery centre and more than 19% for wider call handlers. UKPN has increased incentive revenue for customer satisfaction by 33% and the company rose 18 places in the Sunday Times Best Companies ranking.


Virgin Money

Virgin Money’s ambition is to make ‘Everyone Better Off’ (EBO) and it needed a learning and development strategy that aligned with this. In 2017 the bank launched AcadeMe with its vision of ‘developing people into work, developing people at work and making the most positive difference inside and outside the bank’. Its activities included pre-career programmes (developing employability skills and attracting those from non-typical backgrounds); ReCareer initiatives (helping people back into work following a long period out of employment) and apprenticeships.

Virgin Money’s digital degree apprenticeship is aimed at addressing the gender imbalance in STEM subjects by attracting women. The opportunity was shared widely to thousands of young people via job boards, UCAS, Facebook, events and school outreach. Software ensured language in adverts was unbiased and engaging and colleagues received unconscious bias training. There is a 50/50 gender balance on the digital degree programme, 40% BAME representation and 60% come from schools with a higher than regional average of pupils taking free school meals.

Virgin Money has also launched a team leader apprenticeship, an MBA and a chartered manager degree programme in conjunction with Northumbria University and Gateshead College. Outside of work, colleagues are supporting the EBO goal by working as non-executive directors, school governors and mentors. More than 100 people have gained access to work experience that needed help the most, while around 220 young people have been given employability skills training. There has been a 300%-plus increase in the number of apprentices at the bank and a 97.5% retention rate across the emerging talent programme. Virgin Money has also saved more than £400,000 in recruitment costs by developing and promoting talent internally.

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