Developing world-class learning at Babcock

By Craig Smith

Craig Smith, Head of Learning and Employee Experience at Babcock describes how they are developing their world-class learning.


The old adage of “people join organisations and leave leaders or managers” is very true. Leaders have the biggest impact on employees’ experience at work, so if you can invest time now in developing high-quality leadership capability and the types of leaders that you need and want in the future, you are ultimately future-proofing your business.


Our employee engagement surveys had identified a need to improve leadership capability. We wanted to broaden out our group learning and development opportunities and make our leadership offering more consistent and scalable.





Future Talent Learning’s Transformational Leadership Programme has become the core of our emerging talent development strategy

Craig Smith, Head of Learning and Employee Experience, Babcock



Leadership development with a difference 


Having previously run a group MBA programme for a small cohort of senior executives, we wanted to democratise learning across the business and develop an offering that would be suitable and engaging for our future talent; those high-potential emerging leaders and managers who are willing to develop themselves, and who are prospective Babcock board members of the future.


With cost in mind, we were also keen to explore options which would allow us to adopt a blended commercial and global approach while also utilising our apprenticeship levy in England. My experience of many leadership programmes is the standard, formulaic apprenticeship-driven model. But we wanted something different; something which felt like a higher investment programme, rather than an apprenticeship that simply happened to cover ‘leadership’.


We definitely found what we were looking for with Future Talent Learning. Even after extensive research in the leadership apprenticeship market, we simply couldn’t find anything else like it to fit our brief. The programme offered truly relevant content, delivered in a style to engage learners in new and different ways, all while being virtual. I was hugely impressed with the quality of speakers, curriculum content and subject areas, one-to-one personalised coaching and the virtual simulations.


I was also struck by the delivery model. Too often, small cohorts of learners or even one-on-one programmes can be inefficient. Future Talent Learning has identified economies of scale and created a programme which makes it easy for us to upskill more people at the same time, using impressive technology and slick delivery methods.





This programme gives people the fundamentals of leadership so that whatever context they are operating in, now or in the future, they are equipped with the soft skills they need. Through Future Talent Learning, we are developing people who are self-aware, inquisitive, open to change, and have an agile mindset. We genuinely are future-proofing our people and, by doing so, we are future-proofing our organisation

Craig Smith, Head of Learning and Employee Experience, Babcock



Outstanding coaching delivery has made a huge impact


The quality of the Future Talent Learning coaches has been a major feature of the programme. Every learner is supported throughout by inspiring individuals in a highly personalised way. As well as helping the learners to apply their learning, they are also empowering the learners at every turn to notice the progress that they are making.


The regular study groups facilitated by the coaches are also adding a surprising amount of interaction between the learners, even virtually. Being able to talk about and share their learning experiences, as well as to network with their peers on the programme has had a very positive reinforcing effect.


I’ve been incredibly impressed by the inclusion of virtual action learning sets as a core part of the programme. We want all of our future leaders to be developing the capability to coach and mentor their colleagues, and it’s brilliant that they are getting the opportunity to learn how to become competent and confident coaches themselves.





The Future Talent Learning team are slick, responsive and a pleasure to work with

Craig Smith, Head of Learning and Employee Experience, Babcock



Pushing beyond theory to add value 


The programme goes further than just helping learners develop their soft skills; it also gives them plenty of opportunity to apply their new skills and knowledge to real-life business problems from the outset. There’s a big focus on encouraging learners to take their development further by exploring the many stretch resources provided. All of this demonstrates the quality of development offered by Future Talent Learning and adds tangible value to our business, even before the apprenticeship is completed.


The interface with the Future Talent Learning team has been smooth – the team are responsive and a pleasure to work with. Ahead of each cohort’s journey, we run webinars for learners and their line managers. This brings the written material to life and generates such a positive reaction. From the application process through sign-up and on-boarding, to their experience on each learning module, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Learners agree that the development is both supporting them in their current role and helping them prepare for their futures.


From the line manager perspective, there was some initial reticence around the 20% off-the-job training model, but this hasn’t presented any issues so far. Line managers are wholly supportive and believe the programme is absolutely the right thing to be doing. The organisation is desperate for something like this and people have been pleasantly surprised – it’s a much better, much more forward-thinking approach than people would have expected Babcock to take!


Because the programme is so different to anything we’ve done before it has certainly strengthened the relationship between group and sectors, helping to bring the L&D function together while building the group’s reputation.


Levy funding to support world-class learning


Working with Future Talent Learning has been a fantastic way for us to roll out an extremely high-value leadership programme across the organisation. It feels world-class. We made the conscious decision that this would be more than just a UK or even England thing. It absolutely needed to be inclusive and we wanted it to become the approach we took to developing our high-potential emerging leaders. And being able to unlock some of the money we pay into the apprenticeship levy to really get maximum value for the organisation is a huge bonus.




This programme is about giving people the fundamentals of leadership so that whatever context they are operating in, now or in the future, they are equipped with the skills and mindset to be successful. Through Future Talent Learning, we are developing people who are self-aware, inquisitive, open to change and agile. This new approach to learning has become core to our emerging talent development strategy. Through it, we genuinely are future-proofing our people and, by doing so, we are future-proofing our organisation.


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