The restaurant chain impressed the judges with its outstanding use of technology, success in skill building and with engagement. The panel added the firm’s achievement was ‘an awesome example of what can be done with great teamwork and a flexible and innovative L&D plan.’ We look at the winning initiative and those of the other shortlisted companies, each highly praised by the judges.
After being presented with the Learning & Development Award, Dishoom went on to win the Health & Wellbeing Award (Private Sector), before being crowned Overall Winner.
When it opened its restaurants after Covid, Dishoom had 900 returning team members and 200 new employees who faced more than 30,000 reservations in its first week back alone. To deal with the challenge, the company wanted to deepen its learning and development offer to ensure its values remained strong and staff could quickly build role-specific knowledge.
It worked with an in-house digital production team to build role-specific micro-learning, giving every team member access to content in the Dishoom learning library. Before joining, new team members received three full days of “Welcome onboard” training covering its values, cocktail masterclasses, senior leader roundtables, virtual Bombay tours and café art walks. Existing team members received “Welcome back” refresher training at each café.
To create the learning library, Dishoom tapped into its own staff with skills such as professional editing experience, voiceover experience and playwriting. Together they built a production schedule to create the videos and a web platform to host them. Upon launch it had 40 bespoke web pages, 96 microlearning videos and seven long-form videos from senior leaders. It attracted more than 3,400 views in the first week. Managers reported a noticeable change in employees’ approach to service as the business reopened, and the learning library still attracts more than 1,000 visits per month.
Audley Group is a retirement living operator that needed to restructure and diversify its learning and development model. In 2021, the L&D team embarked on a mission to streamline its existing framework having identified a number of challenges. The new framework needed to align with shifting business needs, be delivered in a more efficient way, draw upon specialist knowledge and deliver more relevant and tailored onboarding content for new employees.
The new team is split across four specialisms: care; central support functions; organisational design, leadership and talent management; and diversity, inclusion, equality and culture/ESG. Together they have transformed training and apprenticeship delivery (training is now 85% virtual with the rest delivered on the job), have created new onboarding and induction plans and deliver bespoke, in-house L&D processes aligned to the business.
Apprenticeship uptake is up by 72% year-on-year, there are 81 new applicants joining specifically tailored training programmes, and 57 promotions across the business compared to just nine in 2020. The shift to remote learning has resulted in direct savings of around £40,000 to the business.
HSBC’s ambition is to become the most digitally accessible financial services provider in the world. To achieve this, all of its staff, contractors and suppliers need to deliver accessibility in their work. The bank needed a way to scale its accessibility learning so it could train its whole global workforce wherever was appropriate. It worked with consultancy Hassell Inclusion and specialist elearning producers Atticmedia to deliver a new Accessibility Awareness online course to upskill everyone.
The bank was mindful that the course needed to reflect the authentic experiences of those with disabilities on staff who would also be accessing the learning. HSBC chose a theme of online dating to highlight the issues around disclosure and how technology can make people feel. It also commissioned Droxic to create an online gamified simulation to give employees first-hand experience of the frustrations people with disabilities have with using technology.
It’s hoped more than 10,000 people will use the e-learning this year, progressing to 235,000 globally. The course has already received positive feedback from staff who verified that videos portrayed their lived experiences accurately. The company also plans to make the course freely available so it can share accessibility best practice with the wider public.
N Brown Group
Retail group N Brown, which owns brands such as JD Williams, needed to develop its leaders in a new way that was more in line with its employer value proposition. It decided that the complex structure of the business meant it would need to develop an innovative leadership development programme in house.
It came up with ‘The Producer’, themed around films, theatre and experience – this meant it could be creative around leadership topics. It used movie clips to illustrate themes of leadership rather than role plays, promoting lively conversations around culture, values and behaviours. Culture Group representatives and other stakeholder groups in the business influenced the themes to be included. HR business partners also fed in their experiences of working closely with managers and leaders, spotting areas for development. The sessions were offered twice a week over a sprint of 10 weeks. N Brown also introduced a 360-degree survey for participants to source feedback and add to their development journey.
N Brown can commit to continuously improving the programme because it was developed in-house, and the L&D team can be reactive to feedback and implement changes as the business develops. In a 2022 colleague engagement survey, manager metrics improved considerably compared to 2021, with the average score rising 0.4 points to 7.8 out of 10.
NatWest Group’s purpose it to help people, families and businesses to thrive, and to do so it must be a truly diverse and inclusive organisation. It felt that the top-down approach to onboarding and upskilling colleagues was outdated so created a new way to get to know the company. The Challenge programme redefines who employees meet with and network when they join, bringing together diversity of gender, neurodiversity, background and ethnicity. The mantra is “It doesn’t matter about where you’ve come from, it’s about where we’re going”.
Challenge teams consist of reskilled colleagues, graduates, apprentices and Code First Girls, all with different career paths and experience. Groups take part in a 10-week innovation challenge with a technical focus. They learn how to pitch, execute, market and fund their ideas. Running the programme with volunteers and senior leads enables the bank to increase diversity across the group, ensuring it is building a diverse pipeline for the future.
Some of the winning ideas from past cohorts include an AI chatbot that answers colleagues’ queries, saving £4m per year; an app that helps entrepreneurs to create pitches for funding; a neighbourhood donation service and a volunteering platform. Seventy-seven percent of participants in 2021 said the experience had helped them bring new skills into their current role, while 80% felt it gave them the right skills to bring an idea to life.
Network Rail’s strategy is to put passengers first, with an aim to offer a better service while continuing to improve its safety record. The pandemic led to challenges in delivering this strategy, while organisational restructures meant the organisation needed to build new ways of leading and different employee behaviours.
It began by researching external organisations and interviewing them about how they had shifted leadership behaviours, alongside an internal review of Network Rail’s L&D offerings. Great Together was commissioned as a team/group-based programme that would embed new behaviours to deliver a “safe service culture”. It focuses on building relationships with internal clients, helping employees to discuss issues openly, and preparing employees to deal with multi-faceted challenges under pressure. Content is a combination of assessment tools, face-to-face delivery and video/live portrayals of scenarios.
Over the last year Network Rail has delivered 1,090 90-minute experiences with a current and constantly improving rating of 8.3 out of 10. There have been marked shifts in leadership behaviour, while one team has opened up the learning programme to its supply chain partners to further embed the change.
Pets at Home Group
The pandemic led to a huge surge in pet ownership, with 3.5 million more pets joining households in the past two years. Pets at Home wanted to ensure colleagues were equipped to support customers, who often have very specific requirements. Its previous training offer was more than 160 hours of dense and repetitive material that had been collated over the prior 15 years.
It made sense to start the new approach from scratch, so the company spent four months reviewing, assessing and rewriting its training programme. A dedicated team of subject matter experts, consultants and internal teams cut the old content by 65%. A large portion must be completed within colleagues’ first two weeks of employment. This includes modules training colleagues on how to refuse pets to customers if they feel the animal’s welfare might be at risk.
Pets at Home went live with the new programme in July 2021, with a week-by-week structure to transition colleagues onto the new content. This led to an instant uptake in engagement. Over the past 10 months, 849 colleagues have completed the new course and almost 1,500 are working through the programmes. There is a 98% completion rate for new starters completing the onboarding.
Student Roost is a leading student accommodation provider. Set up in 2017, it employs around 600 team members across 56 properties and its Birmingham and London offices. In Spring 2021, with Covid measures easing, the organisation faced challenges in retaining team members. Recruitment costs for management roles were starting to soar, while employee engagement scores around career development scored lower than desired.
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Research showed that the biggest impact would come from developing customer service advisors and ‘Night Owls’ in properties to build a succession pipeline. But before that Student Roost would need to upskill its management team. Bespoke development plans were created for each operations manager. The organisation took a blended learning approach with in-house workshops relevant to role and tailored e-learning modules. A skills map reporting tool was created to enable managers and assistant managers to identify areas of strength and weakness and come up with a succession plan.
Development and career conversations are now firmly part of the ongoing agenda and there is greater transparency of internal vacancies and opportunities. Furthermore, Student Roost has achieved the highest levels of internal promotion to date. Management recruitment costs are decreasing, with forecast savings of around £100,000 compared to the previous two years.
Feedback from colleagues and changes to working practices since the pandemic mean that the way employees access and attend learning events has changed, with location no longer a barrier. As a global organisation based in seven locations, William Hill wanted learning that reflected its overall values and the fundamentals of being a great people leader.
Historically, training and development for new people leaders took different forms depending on where the leader was based. This meant the way leadership skills were developed tended to be inconsistent. For the first time, the company decided to deliver first line management training fully virtually and across the globe – and so the Take the Lead programme was developed. Extensive research internally and externally informed the company of the most appropriate topics to include.
The result was a programme where colleagues had access to the right training at the right time, in easily digestible chunks. It has also increased colleagues’ understanding of other parts of the business, increased their networks and promoted neurodiversity. Employees have given the modules an average rating of 4.94 out of 5 stars. When asked whether they feel their job enables them to learn new skills, the score is 1.2 points above the benchmark for business performance managers, and 0.2 points above the benchmark for William Hill’s people leader population across the rest of the business.
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