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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
BGL people engage with development program
Article Type: Rewards From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 5
Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in rewards
Like many businesses, the BGL Group considers its employees to be its greatest asset. Investing in our people’s training and development delivers business advantages on many levels. Unlike most businesses, though, and particularly in the current climate, people development is a central part of the company’s strategy and continues to receive significant investment and commitment from the board.
A diverse and dispersed team
The BGL Group is one of the UK’s largest privately owned insurance groups. It comprises six distinct businesses, including price comparison site comparethemarket.com, Bennetts motor bike insurance, and in-house brands Budget, Dial Direct and ibuyeco home and motor insurance. The group has delivered 13 years of record profits, growing steadily and organically through an entrepreneurial approach to business and moving fast to respond to the market.
We employ more than 2,100 people in the UK across five sites. A total of 50 percent of employees reside in our three contact centers. In 2009, the BGL board agreed a group-wide three-year strategy, a central part of which was to “Develop Group Capability: People.” This objective was designed to address a number of challenges, including the following:
A limited pool of senior people in the local area – leading to a need to retain and develop good people for strong succession planning and future growth.
A target to grow staff engagement to 73 percent.
A diversely skilled workforce – from call center advisors through to 184 senior managers and above. Roles vary from insurance-specific through to marketing, e-commerce and commercial delivery, in addition to core support functions such as IT, finance, legal, compliance, etc.
Upgrading the training framework
It was important to us to find a blended solution to address the diverse skills needed for our business. The existing training framework, while successful in pockets, did not align with the group’s business priorities and did not fully cater for the wide range of expertise and seniority across the business. We needed to revise the entire approach to produce an inclusive solution that was relevant and accessible to all.
Providing in-house training meant that we could tailor learning specifically to the business. All new employees, for example, have access to a “Foundations of Insurance” course and workshops on how BGL operates, to help make sense of the relatively complex business within which employees work. We also offer in-house skills based training in areas such as improving presentations, holding successful meetings and other typical line management-related training.
E-learning is also used for some computer software skills as well as health and safety-led workstation assessments. Distance learning solutions help employees gain vocational qualifications from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and include access to insurance specific courses with the Chartered Institute of Insurance.
Embracing industry expertise
In 2009 we launched a comprehensive management development program. This offers NVQ Level 3 qualifications to our contact center employees, Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) Level 5 certificates to our manager population, and Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 7 accreditation to senior managers and above. In addition we created a high potential program (HPP) to identify and develop future leadership potential. The NVQ program is delivered in partnership with local colleges, while the CMI program is delivered on site by external lecturers.
We took the unusual step of establishing BGL as an accredited center for ILM training, so that the entire course could be delivered by our in-house training team. Not only did this mean that content could be tailored specifically to address our own business needs, but it also minimized disruption to business operation by delivering it on-site, which reduced traveling time of delegates and provided excellent value for money.
Because of the level of the CMI program (Level 7) and its intended audience, we felt that the CMI program needed to be delivered by CMI experts. These individuals not only have relevant academic knowledge, but more importantly previous business expertise. This has brought a greater external focus and broader business experience to the delegates’ program that could not have been achieved through the in-house team, while also providing additional credibility to the delivery.
Harnessing positive external influences
Through projects conducted during the program, delegates have identified cost savings, new processes and other improvements relevant to both business units and the overall group. This is a true example of return on investment. A further example is the introduction of the HPP, launched in 2010. This program has identified eight talented employees from across the group at varying levels, and over an 18-month period, provides them with access to a wealth of leadership development through a range of external partners, including MaST, SecondBase, Penna and Korn Ferry Whitehead Mann.
The program includes access to tailored leadership development workshops, external coaching, internal mentoring and a two-week trip to Nepal, providing delegates with experiential learning, focusing on team development while living in and implementing a community development project.
Retention and engagement levels rise
We have a long history of helping good people to build successful careers with the organization. Two current directors have progressed from junior positions within the company to leading the future direction of the business. We promote and have a good track record of internal promotion and moves between business areas. Forty percent of all vacancies are now filled in-house. This provides benefits of knowledge transfer and increased business insight, as well as reducing external recruitment costs. Of the participants in the HPP, 50 percent have already achieved promotion, and we are just half way through the first program.
We have also seen an increase in our overall employee engagement results from 58 percent in 2009 to 63 percent in 2010 and, while this is a very healthy position, we continue to build on our success to-date.
We have also seen a significant improvement in our employee retention. Although it is important to note that this may be partly attributable to the uncertain nature of the economy over the last two years, staff attrition has reduced by 50 percent since June 2008, both across contact center employees and the rest of the business.
An overall focus on people
There is no doubt that learning and development is intrinsic to the success of BGL. But it does not work in isolation. Our developmental approach is just one part of the group’s overall people strategy, which includes diverse but complementary elements. For example, we have invested in a “Wellbeing” program offering on-site health checks (cholesterol, glucose and BMI tests), subsidized osteopathy and workshops on key wellbeing topics, from sleep to happiness and vitality. Most recently we have introduced “Money Matters” sessions, increasing awareness and benefits of personal financial management.
BGL sets stretching targets for all its employees and conducts twice-yearly performance reviews. In recognition of the commitment and contribution employees play in its success, BGL invests in major events like an annual awards ball that is open to all employees, as well as a summer fun day at each site for all BGL employees and their families to enjoy and have fun.
By offering a range of benefits to employees and demonstrating the value that each employee makes to the organization, we are confident that our employee engagement results will continue to rise and that we will achieve our target of 73 percent by 2012.
Carol DaviesBased at BGL Group.
About the author
Carol Davies is Associate Director for HR, Learning and Development at the BGL Group. She has worked in the financial services industry for 28 years. Joining Nationwide Building Society in 1982, she progressed through the company, undertaking a number of retail and commercial roles, predominantly with an HR focus. She joined the BGL Group in 2008 as a senior HR manager and within six months was promoted to her current position. Carol Davies can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org