Developing people with the VolkerWessels UK Leadership Development Programme

by Craig

The challenge

VolkerWessels UK is a leading multi-disciplinary contractor, delivering innovative engineering solutions across the civil engineering and construction sectors. Its long and successful heritage is built on delivering quality bespoke projects in challenging environments and is underpinned by the continuous development of its leaders.

Learning and Development Manager, Hannah O’Sullivan and Chief Finance Officer, Naomi Connell, had a mission to redesign their Leadership Development Programme (LDP) to make it even better and offer a tangible difference to both individuals and the business. A programme where the likes of engineers to accountants would queue to attend and where business benefits were clearly visible.

With such clear expectations and requirements for the programme, Hannah sought out and partnered with Rambutan. She asked Craig to design something to ‘hit the spot’. This is just the type of challenge Craig loves; clear outcomes for the programme and a blank piece of paper for what the solution could look like.

One of the biggest challenges facing the LDP was credibility. Hannah’s experience was that engineers were often uncomfortable with learning the ‘soft’ stuff. For this programme she wanted to ensure candidates took the facilitators seriously, and Line Managers (LMs) and the Senior Management Team (SMT) really engaged with the training by promoting it to their teams, and sponsoring potential business projects as part of it.

The solution

To address the credibility challenge, Craig and Hannah in turn redesigned each individual module of the LDP and created a new innovative solution.

To ensure candidates wanted to attend, and gain commitment from LMs and the SMT, it was critical the programme made a difference to each candidate every time they attended a module. This was achieved by ensuring they all had something measurable and tangible to take away with them and put into practice after every module. This was then reviewed at the start of the next module.

To create further engagement with the programme, module dates and review dates were set two years in advance (avoiding summer holidays and Christmas). In addition, LMs received updates via personal phone calls or webinars.

The result

Right from the outset Hannah wanted the LDP to be different.The resulting 18-month, 6 module LDP is loved by candidates, has an enrolment waiting list, and is delivering measurable business benefits to VolkerWessels UK. This LDP exceeded all expectations and resulted in:

• two cohorts of 18 starting the programme every year and, due to its popularity, there’s a waiting list
• reduced attrition, decreasing the costs of ‘churn’ within the business
• leaders leading differently which has improved employee engagement scores (3.6 out of 5 in 2011 to 4.2 in 2016).

Want to know more?

Fixed outcomes and tailored to the audience

Every module within the LDP is tailored to meet the specific needs of the candidates on it. This means the content of a specific module topic will be different every time it’s delivered. The outcomes of each module remain constant, but the route to get there changes to offer the best learning to candidates.

By listening to candidate feedback, the LDP is constantly evolving. For example, the 360 ̊ feedback has moved in sequence, LMs are engaged ahead of every cohort to gain their buy-in, six-weekly coaching phone calls are held with all candidates, and at the end of each cohort, the 360 ̊ feedback is re-done so that everyone can measure the impact of the programme first hand.

Making a difference to the business
Networking across each LDP cohort is delivering efficiencies by reducing silo working and helping create a willingness to share resources across different business units.

Making a difference to individuals

The LMs and SMT are totally engaged with this programme. Hannah is now invited to senior business review meetings to ensure the LDP meets the changing needs of the business, and there’s no shortage of potential Executive Committee members as speakers at the module dinner.

Even more impressive is the changing mindset of LDP candidates. The LDP is helping create learning groups that are continuing to seek development opportunities within the business. This could be on the job learning, coaching or mentoring, or formal face-to-face development. This LDP is a catalyst for ongoing daily learning.

What Hannah said…

“If you’re looking for ‘chalk and talk’, tutor-led classroom sessions; if you want to keep delivering like you always have; then don’t use these guys! However, if you want learning to stick, and if you want your learners to come away knowing they can put stuff into practice straight away, then give Rambutan a call. As a business, we pretty much knew what it was we wanted to deliver, and had a decent core programme in place to deliver it – but when we started talking to Rambutan we knew we were at the start of something great, and more than that, we had found a company that were interested in the truest sense of partnering.

Our core leadership programme now has the best feedback it has ever received – both from participants and line managers alike and it’s making a difference to our delivery capability. In addition, they are quite possibly the easiest people to do business with in the world, which is just what you need when you’re running a busy training function. Flexible, responsive, full of fabulous ideas and fun. My idea of the perfect provider. But probably, the most important thing about working with Rambutan – it’s now not a client/provider relationship – they’re quite simply an extension of our team.”

Hannah O’Sullivan, Learning and Development Manager

Do you think your organisation could benefit from an LDP improvement, redesign, or even a complete overhaul? If so, give Craig a call, he’d love to chat with you about how he can support you and your business to deliver LDPs.