This year we asked the Princess Royal Training Awards alumni organisations how they had responded to the challenges of Covid-19 in continuing to invest in and develop their employees. We wanted to highlight some of the positive learnings that came from such a challenging time and share stories of best practice with others.
We received 30 responses from previous PRTA recipients and would like to pay tribute to their willingness to share their experiences and the continuing passionate commitment to developing their people.
Special congratulations go to the five organisations whose training, learning and development responses in the face of Covid-19 were deemed to be exemplary and these organisations have been Highly Commended by the Princess Royal Training Awards Assessment Team.
This Cambridge-based thriving group of privately owned dental practices has a strong commitment to learning and development and delivers compliance and clinical training through its in-house training academy.
It needed to react quickly adapting work practices and processes when the pandemic hit. It became one of England’s first Urgent Dental Care Centres which involved rapid retraining and for staff to embrace new ways of working.
When dentists remobilised, Antwerp Dental Group developed an online training platform in order to communicate complex NHS operating procedures alongside creating a virtual dentistry website to allow for remote dental assessment.
Enabling Teledentistry and creating Treatment Coordinators to free up clinicians’ time has meant that due to the changes put in place over the past 18 months, Antwerp is poised for a period of growth over the next two years.
This international infrastructure group’s response to the challenges of Covid-19 were underpinned by a clear initial strategy which provided focus for activities throughout.
Given the nature of the business, achieving site safety and ‘keeping people safe’ was paramount to the business and has been delivered effectively. Balfour Beatty developed an online Employee Resource Centre which served as a repository of Covid-19 guides and health and wellbeing resources.
The company delivered 4000 person hours of interactive online classroom learning, a virtual Emerging Talent Induction event for 297 staff and 150 webinars with 1500 participants including attendees from its supply chain.
The organisation was committed to invest and support future skills programmes and successfully developed new programmes including the Contractor Quantity Surveyor Degree Apprenticeship in January 2021.
The revised online learning and development delivery model has reduced costs while increasing volume, accessibility and geographical diversity of participants across the business.
Pre-pandemic a large part of Dermalogica’s business related to providing close contact services which became increasingly challenging to provide as the world went into lockdown. As the first lockdown eased, there was still a lot of uncertainty and concern around re-opening and this had a huge impact on many skin care professionals.
In collaboration with an epidemiologist, Dermalogica launched ’12 Principles of Enhanced Service Safety’ with free and accessible training delivered through an e-learning module. Therapists who completed the training received a certificate recognising them as Clean Touch Certified.
Almost 71,000 skin therapists undertook the Clean Touch Training around the world which resulted in a significant boost of morale. The training ensured that people working in the industry felt secure about delivering their services and helped the prospect of economic survival for many of Dermalogica’s skincare specialists. Clean Touch Certification was also featured on a government website showcasing business best practice in the face of Covid-19.
Resurgo Trust uses coaching to stimulate social transformation in communities. Its Spear Programme empowers young people facing barriers to getting into work or education to use their confidence and skills to find long-term employment.
In 2020 Resurgo faced the challenge of moving its face-to-face training online. The Spear Programme was adapted to keep all the core elements whilst adding resilience, hopefulness and self-belief to further support learners, many of whom are vulnerable. A virtual hangout replicated the relational parts of the training and helped trainees to support each other. Staff were supported to deliver the training including those staff on furlough.
The resourcefulness and growth mindset of Resurgo was viewed as exemplary as it continued to deliver its flagship programme to support unemployed young people but also developed new programmes to support older, unemployed people as well.
The team’s experience enabled them to support other organisations to manage teams online effectively including HSBC who adopted Resurgo’s newly developed ‘Managing Remote Teams’ programme.
The arrival of Covid-19 brought the immediate challenge to the Donkey Sanctuary of providing safety to its employees alongside providing round the clock care to its resident donkeys.
An important part of the organisation’s strategic aims is a focus on wellbeing and this was given top priority when the pandemic hit. It implemented a specific strategy to support the mental health of employees covering:
- Emotional and Mental Health Ambassadors
- Mental Health First Aiders
- Development Coaches
The organisation conducted a wellbeing survey to gauge the impact of the support it was providing and 80% of staff reported that they felt well supported during this challenging period.
The Donkey Sanctuary has learned to forget business as usual, have an open mind and is coming out of the pandemic with a confidential support network to support the wellbeing of its staff.
Examples of good practice
All submissions received included inspiring examples of using training, learning and development to respond, adapt and communicate about large scale change and all organisations shared responsive, innovative and best practice solutions from which we can all reflect and learn.
We thank you all for your submissions.
Apprenticeships in Hospitality Scotland
Created by employers in hospitality to upskill young people in the industry, Apprenticeships in Hospitality Scotland (AHS) recognised the huge impact that the shut down of the industry was going to have on its apprentices. The organisation developed a range of online activities including master classes, meetings and even a graduation ceremony. AHS also communicated to apprentices that they could access wellbeing support from the Hospitality Action Employee Assistance Programme as the organisation was aware of the impact that the sector closure could have on their apprentices’ mental health.
This independent network of residential care homes moved its face-to-face training online. This was in response to the need to close care homes to visitors and meet regulatory requirements in relation to Covid-19. Caring Homes focused on the wellbeing of staff and launched a buddy awareness system and a weekly wellbeing email. In response to the impact on the care sector, the organisation has also launched a PTSD workshop available to all employees.
This leading provider of childcare was faced with the stark reality of its occupancy levels falling by 80% during the first lockdown. By initiating a strong listening culture and a ‘people first’ approach the organisation assured employees of their long-term future by investing in new equipment, resources and e-learning solutions during the pandemic. This has led to positive feedback from staff and excellent customer reviews which in turn has meant increased enquiries and high current levels of occupancy.
This immersive learning company providing professional skills development needed to overhaul its in-person live events and trainer facilitated sessions to create an equally engaging virtual experience. By conducting a gap analysis Chronyko discovered what was needed and upskilled employees in technology and video production. As a small team that was used to working together, moving to remote working was challenging but this helped employees to better understand and overcome the issues that the clients were also facing. This has led to a more confident and versatile team who understand that pushing boundaries will create new learning opportunities.
When close contact services re-opened after the first lockdown, Dermalogica had to manage and communicate different guidance to its service and retails partners working in a range of settings and across the 4 UK nations and the Republic of Ireland. To prepare staff for re-opening and to provide a positive experience for all, Dermalogica developed a three phase plan mapping each service to tier restrictions. E-learning programmes were developed for each phase and rolled out prior to stores re-opening and live sessions were available to offer advice and troubleshoot. The programme was highly regarded and was adopted as a model by many retail partners including Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
As a provider of financial services software, interest in Finastra’s solutions drastically increased at the start of the pandemic. The business needed to hire and train 250 sales staff to ensure it could meet the demand. Finastra transformed its sales onboarding Boot Camp into an online programme, extending it from one week to a part-time two week course. Alongside this the business created videos of success stories sharing how sales employees have progressed and closed sales remotely. Feedback has been positive with attendees enjoying the interactive format; cohorts have been engaged and bonded well with a visible presence of team spirit evident.
Gateway 97.8 FM
This community radio station recognised the importance to mental health and wellbeing to its listeners and initiated a community response which included distributing face masks, giving away free radios and delivering fitness sessions on air. The station continued to offer learning and development opportunities to its volunteers by moving programmes online to a dedicated server. Gateway also supported its volunteers to enable them to broadcast from home by providing equipment and learning support.
This construction company with a strong commitment to apprenticeships used a range of approaches when the pandemic hit including moving some training online and increasing its fleet to allow trainees to travel to sites separately and safely. At a time when many businesses halted their apprenticeship programmes, Gelder invested in their apprentices. Outcomes include the apprentice rate remaining at 90% and the business’s ethos still places great importance on an apprentice recruitment philosophy and approach.
As a food manufacturing business, Greencore’s employees are designated key workers. The business needed to adapt face-to-face training to ensure that it met safety standards whilst keeping the quality of its training high. The business converted its induction programme into a blended approach and also created a toolkit around safe social distancing. This included banners, floor markings and posters and was introduced with a video from the CEO which has been viewed by all Greencore employees. Staff feedback showed that employees felt protected and safe and have continued to feel engaged at work.
GSK faced immediate challenges in March 2020 around employees working safely in its laboratories. It made the strategic decision to continue to honour placements for post-graduate and PhD students asking that they finalised university work and produced scientific papers whilst working from home. This led to a number of students having papers published and achieving awards for their work. GSK introduced innovative techniques such as trainers wearing Smart glasses so that students could see what was happening in a lab whilst based remotely and the company plans to retain some of the adapted ways of working.
HMRC Counter Fraud Academy
The Counter Fraud Academy delivers criminal justice training to HMRC’s employees. In March 2020 the Fraud Investigation Service was in the midst of a significant recruitment programme of 300 employees. All face-to-face training stopped and an agile move was made to using Digital Classrooms. The Academy’s 40+ trainers were quickly upskilled to the technology and as confidence grew, more elements of the face-to-face programme were built into the online solution. In the year 2020-21 86% of training has been delivered online and the pandemic has changed the Academy’s approach with some programmes continuing to be delivered remotely in the longer-term.
Surge and Rapid Response Team (HMRC)
The Surge and Rapid Response Team’s purpose is to support other central government departments with peaks in demand. In March 2020 the department was in the process of increasing its headcount from 500 to 700 when it needed to move to remote working. The Team adapted its induction offering into a virtual blended programme ensuring there was a strong focus on team and network building and supporting employees’ wellbeing. Developing resilience and maintaining a healthy work/life balance were also important focuses throughout the online learning programmes. The Surge and Rapid Response Team attributes the success of its approach to keeping its people at the forefront of all of its plans and decisions.
Home Instead Senior Care
Home Instead Senior Care is a franchise operator with over 220 sites providing essential care for older people in their homes. The organisation needed to recruit and upskill caregivers to be able to provide support to new clients as quickly as possible. Using its Learning Management System, Home Instead made topics such as hand washing technique and infection control mandatory and also introduced online training around conditions that caregivers may not be familiar with such as Multiple Sclerosis. There was a large uplift in using the online system with 85% of caregivers engaging and over 100,000 e-learning modules were completed by employees during the pandemic.
IBM used a range of online channels to continue to deliver all learning programmes to schedule and onboard early professionals across all schemes from March 2020. The business used champions within teams who could support with the roll-out of new ways of working. IBM has continued to encourage opportunities for personal and professional growth and understands the importance of learned-led groups and the continued need for communities during this time. The company has learned that some elements of training have been improved through the online approach and is looking at how to integrate the positives into future learning and development activity.
ISO Quality Services
This family-run business which helps SMEs to implement and manage ISO Quality Standards used its Leadership Team to support employees with the transition to remote working. A surprising outcome from working in this way was improved communication across teams with many staff having more autonomy to make decisions. Staff improved their competency levels through coaching, increased their confidence and many thrived working in an online environment. Employee absence levels dropped and attendance at Best Practice events was higher than ever.
Legal & General Insurance
Legal & General had already been moving towards an agile working model when the pandemic hit. Pre-empting stress and anxiety in staff was an immediate focus and managers were used as a focal point to ensure staff wellbeing was a continual priority. An online learning model has led to unexpected benefits including better interaction between departments and improved e-sat scores reflecting that employees have felt supported through the lockdowns.
National Crime Agency
The National Crime Agency (NCA) leads the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime. As Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased, the NCA reinstated some face-to-face training delivery to maintain its operational effectiveness. Some skills-based learning such as officer safety training needed to be undertaken at close contact therefore ensuring a safe space for this to take place was of the utmost importance. A range of other training interventions was used including self-guided learning and digital delivery where possible and the following engagement survey showed an overall positive increase.
This web design agency transitioned seamlessly to home working but faced challenges when clients began cancelling or reducing work. Netmatters invested in marketing the business but then needed to ensure it had the employees in place to undertake the new work. The agency was already training students and made the decision to upskill them further to become employed designers. This model caught the eye of the DWP and the Job Centre and a successful collaboration led to it being rolled out across other counties. Netmatters is delighted to have employed five of its students and grow by 20% during a pandemic.
Openreach’s engineers were operating as key workers during the pandemic and this provided challenges around communicating essential information on ‘permitted workarounds’ both to employees and customers. All training initially moved online and ‘bite size learning packages’ were created. Openreach developed a ‘Be an Expert’ podcast series which provided information on testing and improving broadband quality for customers and service providers which has built up a high number of listeners and has led to a visible reduction in faulting and repairs. Openreach has seen many positives due to adapting ways of working including bringing together learners virtually from Orkney to Cornwall and improving skills, innovation and expertise across the business.
Snow-Camp, which works with vulnerable young people, introduced the mental health service ‘Stop Breathe Think’ during 2020. Working in partnership with a counselling organisation it offers young people the opportunity to talk to a counsellor for free and immediately; young people can also be referred through youth workers, social workers, teachers and parents. Alongside this Snow-Camp has established a training pathway for employees to attain a Diploma in Counselling Skills. Hundreds of young people have been helped and the organisation will continue to offer this vital service going forwards.
The University of York
The University of York created a number of resources and programmes in response to addressing concerns and supporting staff amidst a shifting landscape. ‘Moving to Thriving’ was created as a set of wellbeing webinars focusing on different topics and providing a safe space for employees to ask questions and share experiences. Resources were shared with delegates and a dedicated Slack channel was established as way for them to continue to communicate. 97% participants said they valued the webinars and the university saw the ripple effect as attendees shared resources and opened up conversations about wellbeing with their colleagues and peers.
As a leading technology company, UK Fast was well equipped to set up its employees to work remotely. However its challenge was to replicate the energy found in the classroom into an online learning offering. UK Fast adapted programmes to include more activities and fun elements. It established regular check ins with its apprentices and offered online exercises sessions, virtual lunches and coffee breaks. The outcomes for the business have been positive with apprentices having to adapt and take ownership of tasks sooner; some apprentices have fast tracked into cloud engineer support roles during the first year of their apprenticeship, which has not happened previously.
Umbrella Training is a training and apprenticeship provider for the hospitality sector. When the pandemic hit, it had to invest in and adjust to using online platforms. As an ethical business Umbrella Training wanted to ensure that it was reaching apprentices on furlough, those facing redundancy and also those who had limited capacity for online connectivity due to digital poverty. The business invested in multiple online systems and trained the team in how to use them. It provided mental health first aid training to managers and mental health awareness training to the wider team. Umbrella Training equates its holistic and open approach to being honest about not having all of the answers but really listening to the needs of its stakeholders.
Willis Towers Watson
As the insurance sector is predominantly driven by relationships, Willis Towers Watson knew that it needed to create strong support systems for its apprentices in 2020 when a large part of the business moved to online working. The organisation used mentors and buddies as well as utilising apprentices from previous years. Retention of 2020 apprentices is at 100% and the organisation is using its experience to develop a modified and blended learning strategy for future cohorts.
Class of 2021
Find out more about the 2021 recipients!
They all demonstrated that training and skills development can make a significant impact on business success.