Marketing agency Stein IAS was recognised for its work in creating a cutlure of improvement and putting learning at the heart of everyone’s job, securing it the Learning and Development Award. We take a closer look at its winning entry, along with those of our finalists.
Stein IAS are a global B2B marketing agency with a global roster of clients. It has a culture of training and retaining employees and in 2019 decided to make learning and development even more core to its business strategy. Research uncovered that people felt they would naturally improve at work, that training was something given early in your career and then became an option, and that people were often motivated by personal passions. It defined its challenge as: “To create a culture of improvement, and put learning at the heart of everyone’s job, using a cascade of compulsion.”
The plan to deliver this culture of improvement involved creating and promoting an internal L&D brand, building a world-class digital L&D infrastructure, making L&D “feel compulsory”, reinforcing people’s achievements through awards and using data to drive the ongoing learning programme. The result was “Learn for Your Life (LFYL), launched with the company’s biggest ever internal event.
A direct mail was sent to homes, with instructions to open only at the big meeting. This contained a LFYL book with personalised graphics based on the employee’s face as well as goodies. The event launched Stein IAS’ learning hub, of which the key components are a knowledge foundation course, the Iris professional development system that shows users’ learning progress, and a resources library. The hub is equipped with full measurement and analytics capability, tracking every learning action and interaction. A new Personal Improvement Process was announced, requiring monthly catch ups in addition to formal quarterly meetings.
The Iris Learning Project activation workshops were attended by 100% of members, 60% have an open Iris Learning Project, and 30% are now active users, posting more than one reflection each week. The Universal Knowledge Foundation Course has a 90% take-up rate, with 45% of members becoming “legends” in at least one module. The company estimates the short-term value of improvements represents a 2-5% uplift in revenue, equivalent to a 10:1 return on investment.
One of our judges said the company had taken a “slick, innovative and personalised approach” to L&D.
Blue Array is a specialist search engine optimisation agency, with almost 50 staff and clients ranging from household brands to start-up businesses. Having grown from just two people to 50 in five years, it was inevitable operational issues would appear as the team rapidly expanded. These included inconsistent onboarding, a burden placed on managers running inductions, and a lack of clarity in an employee’s role during the probationary period.
The company has spent the subsequent three years building a training and development programme that would boost engagement and retention. The aim was to ensure onboarding was structured with clear goals; that there was consistent ongoing training across the business; clarity on career progression opportunities; quantifiable measurement on individuals’ role in the wider business goals; and to make the induction process less resource-intensive.
Solutions have included the Blue Array Academy, an online platform that acts as an induction to ensure new employees are ‘Blue Array SEO Manager Certified’ before the end of their probationary period. There is also a new starter goals framework and a career development matrix framework, which makes routes to career progression more visible and actionable for new and existing employees. Staff complete personal development records and discuss their performance in regular reviews.
Total training and development investment has totalled just over £18,000, and much of this cost is paid back as managers do not need to run induction sessions as they are online. The platform also means new starters are able to work productively more quickly. Blue Array also makes the Academy publicly available, bringing in around £10,000 per month. Only one member of staff has left in the past year due to not passing probation.
IT services company CGI found that its existing learning solution could not keep pace with rapidly accelerating developments in the tech space. It needed to upskill employees more effectively, particularly in the context of IT skills shortages and recruitment challenges. After reviewing the market, it selected Skillsoft’s Percipio platform based on a number of factors, including its support for learning ‘in the flow of work’ and easy navigation.
One of the challenges was reviewing, configuring and migrating all of CGI’s learning content to the new system – including more than a million historic completion records. At least 18 months before implementation CGI set about a stakeholder engagement programme to promote the new solution. This covered groups from the HR leadership team to business champions, the compliance advisory group and the company’s learning steering committee. A further challenge was meeting all security and data privacy requirements globally and ensuring that all global stakeholders were involved and satisfied within five months.
The new platform had 9,000 unique users in the first week, 26,000 in the first month, and a new user/returning user ratio of 50:50. The previous learning platform had only seen 1,500 – 2000 users per month and 28,000 in a year. In the first four months, CGI members completed more than 250,000 ‘digital badges’, across a wide range of technical, business and leadership areas. Employees remark that the new system gives immediate business value, for example in managing new client projects and delivering leadership skills. The highest compliment to the platform’s success came from CGI’s CEO who cited it as a significant factor in how the company successfully managed its workforce during the lockdown.
Iris Software (in partnership with Verosa Leadership)
Iris Software is a fast-growing technology company with around 120 junior/middle managers and 30 senior leaders. An employee engagement survey had indicated a culture of blame and fear, absenteeism was high and retention was suffering. The company needed learning that would support better performance and increase engagement among leaders.
The company had recently launched a new set of values around the IMPACT acronym (innovation, making it happen, passion, accountability, customer focus and teamwork). Facilitators from Verosa Leadership developed a comprehensive management and leadership development programme around these values. They delivered a modular, blended learning experience including four face-to-face classroom days and online coursework. A pilot version was delivered to the executive committee, ensuring there was senior buy-in from the start.
Participants worked on reflective exercises alone, in pairs/groups for discussions and were supported by an online resource library. When the pandemic hit, delivery had to switch to a virtual setting but still went ahead successfully. Iris collected data before and after the programmes: 100% of participants reported an increase in confidence and ability to do their role afterwards, 94% of those sponsoring participants reported this to be the case, and 88% used the course in their day to day role six months after the programme. The company was certified as a ‘Great Place to Work’ 18 months after partnering with Verosa.
King (in partnership with The Happy Learning Company)
Interactive entertainment company King employs almost 2,000 staff globally. Its mission is to be ‘seriously playful’ and bring out the best in everyone in a diverse and inclusive work environment. In the male dominated tech industry, King wanted to overcome biases and obstacles that were preventing women from success. In early 2020, it launched the Kicking Glass initiative, which aims to support the advancement of women and non-binary staff (womxn) through a combination of development, networking and exposure.
On top of this, the company introduced the Kick-Ass Influence programme, an opportunity for womxn at King to hone their influencing skills to drive positive change, as well as progress to the next level in their careers. This was intended as a face-to-face programme but had to be adjusted due to the pandemic. Virtual ‘live’ sessions tapped into the experiences of role models, how womxn can use their personal influencing power, and how they can benefit from sharing knowledge with their peers.
Participants have given the programme 4.9 out of 5 for experience advisor scores and have reported it to be “ground breaking”. A number have been promoted to senior roles. An internal survey showed a boost in experience, confidence and engagement among womxn staff.
Leaders Romans Group
Property company Leaders Romans Group was keen to develop its leaders through a modular learning programme. Its LRG Leadership Academy was created as a six-month management development programme, containing six days of learning on leadership delivered monthly, with a final day of assessment where attendees deliver a presentation.
The first cohort completed the programme in 2019 and it was so successful that the company decided to roll out a further set of academies in 2020, although these were hit by a temporary suspension of training across the business due to the pandemic. In 2021, four leadership academies went ahead in August and a further three are planned for November.
Attendees conduct their own SWOT analyses and review different learning styles, reflecting on different approaches to leadership. A key part of the programme is a 360-degree review, as is addressing how leaders communicate effectively and equipping them for dealing with change. CEO Peter Kavanagh said he was “really impressed with the quality of presentations and the commitment everybody has put into the course”. Feedback has shown attendees have grown in confidence and knowledge.
Lloyds Banking Group
Aspiring managers at Lloyds Banking Group were keen to move into leadership roles but found it difficult to learn alongside the demands of their day job. In addition, there was a lack of clarity about the skills and knowledge needed to move into these roles, and it was felt that leaders lacked adequate role models.
The bank developed the Leadership and Management Accelerator (LAMA) as a structured learning solution that could develop managers at pace. LAMA is predominantly online and can be accessed at any time from any device. Each module includes both video and text-based learning, as well as opportunities to reflect on how the content applies to their circumstances. There are three key sections structured around specific needs: Get Started; Get Learning and Get Connected. The latter is an interactive event where colleagues can network with peers and reflect on their learning in the programme.
After the programme, colleagues are required to assess their leadership skills, and information from this is used to assess the ongoing effectiveness of the programme. This also provides recommendations for continued development. Participants who report that they know what is expected of them as a leader have achieved a ratings increase of 21%, while the rating for those reporting they have confidence in their skills as a leader has gone up by 19.6%. To date, around 25,000 modules of LAMA content have been accessed by over 6,000 colleagues.
Mishcon de Reya
In 2014, law firm Mishcon de Reya established the Mishcon Academy. As with other parts of the business, training was impacted by the limitations of the pandemic in 2020, so a team from across the business came together to create Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions (MADS), a series of online events, videos and podcasts looking at key issues faced by clients.
This included Zoom sessions on global economy developments with the chief investment officer of Barclays; the impact of Covid on Brexit with former MP Dominic Grieve; a discussion around Black Lives Matter with Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence; and comedian David Baddiel discussing his Holocaust documentary. Other guest appearances included Piers Morgan and Monica Lewinsky. In Autumn 2020, the firm also launched its Sports Law Academy and Junior Lawyer programme via an in-house training portal.
The Academy is unique because it pursues a broad syllabus that drives innovation and debate within the firm, alongside core legal skills. It is offered to junior lawyers, future joiners and other interested parties. The firm delivered much of the content within weeks of going into lockdown and those who attend externally can do so without paying a fee. Since April 2020, external sessions have provided over 160 opportunities to connect with clients. There have been over 7,000 attendees overall.
The firm is now building up a bank of high quality, professionally produced recordings that continue to be of external interest, as well as a platform to expand further in the future. Off the back of connecting to potential, Mishcon had the highest ever number of applicants for its graduate scheme (1,600 for 20 roles, an increase of 20%), with many applicants citing the Academy as a reason for applying, while a number of clients have asked for recordings to share with their teams, enhancing the firm’s reputation further.
Financial services has been hit by a wave of change: digital transformation, a war for skills and the impact of the pandemic. According to the Department for Education, the skills gap in the sector grew by 30% between 2015 and 2017, compounded by the fact that over 60% of jobs in the industry require highly skilled people, compared to 45% across the whole UK economy.
The bank identified five key priority areas for developing skills or Critical People Capabilities. These are: focused on innovation and improvement; being ready for change; thinking critically; collaboration and being a trusted advisor. It developed a self-assessment tool so employees can understand their strengths and weaknesses against the CPCs and use the results to discuss future career plans. This became a “capability checker” that was completed 56,000 by people across the bank over 18 months.
The checker has been built using behavioural science, with a completion badge that colleagues can use on their email signature to show their interest in personal development. The L&D team then built a suite of content to support individual outputs from the checker, reflecting individuals’ learning needs and styles. Employees can use the outputs to discuss career progression in PDPs, and 85% believe it is effective in identifying behaviours and skills that align to the bank’s needs. It is looking to expand on this through a 360-degree feedback or peer review tool.
Colleague engagement surveys had shown that there was a clear desire for a more flexible way of working, and William Hill wanted to create a high-trust culture where people can work flexibly in a way that suits them. However, this created a new leadership challenge as teams and roles would operate differently; some virtually and some between the office and home.
The company had defined its Balanced culture in October 2020 but could not launch it fully until mid 2021. Previous leadership programmes at the company had been delivered using traditional methods and highly classroom focused. The pandemic meant William Hill needed to introduce learning that could add value while being delivered 100% virtually. The Balanced Leadership Programme wanted to build on classic leadership skills but adapt this to future ways of working.
The programme includes three core flexible learning modules, a knowledge assessment and interactive learning event. The business mandated the programme for all people leaders and committed to deliver over 7,000 training hours in 12 months. Content is focused on mindset, skills and behaviours required to lead effectively in the “new” world. To make the learning ‘sticky’, peer feedback, mentoring and coaching opportunities are signposted. On completion of the programme individuals are recognised as Balanced Leaders.
Performance against key performance indicators has been impressive, with 97-98% advocating the three elements of the programme, and three-quarters of participants reporting they feel they are trusted to work flexibly. Just over half of staff had completed Balanced Leadership at time of award entry, and senior leaders agree that it creates a “two-way, high-trust culture”.