For Kevin Brady, HR Director at Openreach, the company’s apprenticeship programme plays a big part in the firm’s L&D journey. He tells myGrapevine magazine why this is the case...
Ensuring that learning and development (L&D) is a top priority within your HR agenda is a sure-fire way to improve not only the knowledge within your organisation, but also the experience of your workforce. Data has pointed towards this. In fact, knowing that development is available within the organisation is essential to workers even before they’ve taken on a job. Deloitte data revealed that 59% of Millennials claimed that development opportunities are extremely important when deciding whether to apply for a position, whilst 41% of employees consider their organisation’s career advancement opportunities a very important factor to their job satisfaction. In comparison, retention rates go up by 30-50% for companies with strong learning cultures, according to Lorman data.
As demonstrated by this research, the benefits of implementing strong L&D opportunities are significant both for staff and the business. One firm that appears to have a strong focus on L&D – which is the largest private sector recruiter of apprentices in the UK – is Openreach. In this exclusive interview with myGrapevine magazine, Kevin Brady, HR Director at Openreach – who has worked in HR for “the best part of 30 years” – talks about the firm’s ethos when it comes to learning and development and how he strives to deliver L&D to the workforce. He also shares his passion for ensuring that his staff are equipped with the development opportunities they need to succeed, and sets out his key aims for the year ahead.
Feb 2016 – Present
Nov 2012 – Feb 2016
Jul 2007 – Nov 2012
Nov 2006 – Jul 2007
Oct 2003 – Apr 2006
UCL – MSc Telecommunications Business Management
1997 – 1999
University of Kent,
BA Hons, Industrial Relations and Personnel Management
1989 – 1992
When it comes to learning and development, what is Openreach’s ethos?
A lot of our learning and development is delivered through our apprenticeship schemes, and in fact we’re the largest private sector recruiter of apprentices in the UK, and we have been for the last two years – we will be next year as well.
As a result, we’ve built 11 regional training schools around the UK. What we’re trying to do is say that, ‘so long as you have a brilliant attitude and a willingness to learn, everything else can be taught’.
“I think ultimately, the thing I’m most proud of is the fact that we’ve enabled the business to keep operating and helped keep the country operating”
How do you deliver L&D for your people?
For us, it’s a combination of six weeks of classroom training, with a period of buddying [or in other words pairing an experienced staff member with a less experienced colleague] and onboarding, and practical field work. We expect people to be competent after six months, but your training will last 12 [months]. We’re constantly improving that process by asking ‘what are we seeing that’s producing our best engineers?’. What we’ve discovered is that attitude and a customer focus, along with a willingness to learn, are those essential elements. Everything else can be taught.
Can you tell us the role that analytics play in ensuring that L&D is effective at Openreach?
We’re Ofsted accredited, so we do our own in-house accreditation, which means we’re able to do our own regular check-ins with our new recruits to see where they are in the learning process. I think it’s really important to remember that not everybody learns at the same pace and in the same way.
In the last four years, we’ve redesigned that journey every four to six months to ensure it is constantly working for our people. What I’m saying continually is, ‘we’re getting great results, but how can we make them even better?’ That’s through a mix of qualitative feedback from our people, but also the quantitative data from our analytics. I think that’s a really important mix.
"I’m really lucky that the people function has always had a loud voice within the organisation"
What is the core purpose that drives you in your role?
Fundamentally, we at Openreach underpin most of the nation with our services, from the Government and economy, to schools and healthcare. Our workers have been essential in carrying on over a difficult time, and we’ve operated throughout the pandemic. So for us, we’ve done a huge amount around wellbeing, support for our people, reinforcing managers, our employee assistance programme (EAP). What goes to the core of our purpose is that people in our organisation look out for each other. So, I’m immensely proud of the work we’ve done. I’ve worked in HR for the best part of 30 years, and this is the best job I’ve ever had.
What are your key aims for the year ahead?
It’s just mainly making sure we have the right skills and capabilities in place to succeed. We have a big goal, to service four million homes a year with fibre, that’s 40,000 customers per week.
For me personally, it’s all about engagement, how do we get people engaged? How can we give people the opportunity to collaborate together? I’m hopeful that over the next few months we’re able to bring people together back in the workplace to promote collaboration and innovation.