TalentHR Distinction Spotlight: Initiating transformational careers at BT

HR Distinction Spotlight: Initiating transformational careers at BT

HRD Connect delves into the change happening at BT. They decided to implement a new apprenticeship programme to encourage internal career growth.

Many organisations strive to go through a transformational journey and guarantee global success. To overcome these challenges, businesses must undertake numerous changes over many years. This can heavily impact culture, talent, and strategic focus.

Through these monumental changes, HR plays a key role in maintaining and aligning a consistent experience for their workforce in times of uncertainty. This week, we look at BT and their leadership journey. Their business aimed to develop its Future Leaders programme.


For many businesses today, the war on talent rages on. A challenge has arisen for companies looking to attract and retain their talent not only for today, but also for the future. Many employers look towards advances in technology to attract today’s best talent. However, to secure the talent for the future, BT strived to implement a program that would upskill and develop their current younger workforce.

With a population of 50,000 employees in non-managerial positions, BT knew that this could be a huge opportunity to identify, develop, and support a new internal group to secure new roles for the future.

The main objectives of this programme were to:

  • Build leadership capability
  • Provide a flagship programme for non-managers
  • Identify and develop high-performing non-managers into leaders
  • Improve their internal talent pipeline
  • Improve the provision of leadership development for women and minority groups
  • Increase leadership skills and experience
  • Provide an in-depth curriculum to develop internal learners
  • Offer an external accreditation in management
  • Create a positive impact on engagement and retention for this population

This Future Leaders Project was aligned through these approaches, enabling BT to prepare high potential non-managers for a leadership positions, all while maintaining their values. BT also wanted to provide an opportunity to everyone who wanted to undertake this program, regardless of where they were based.

Beyond this, their strategy was based on partnering with an external specialist in management leadership education.

BT was also set on maintaining a strong link between the program and its approach to performance. Learners needed a strong performance record if they were to be accepted onto the programme.

“We agreed on a process with internal stakeholders. These were rigorous and were in line with our talent identification framework,” said Ellen Christie, Employee Relations Manager, BT.

“Over 800 people have started the programme and over 500 will have completed it by the end of this financial year (end March 2019).”

“Learners have come from 14 countries across the globe and the programme is popular – over 800 applicants applied for just 320 places recently.”

BT now excel in attracting great talent. Just last year, they identified 25 Star Learners, with one of these learners winning Apprentice of the year (National Apprenticeship Service South East Region Apprentice of the Year).

The successful learning programmes were tweaked and individualised for each learner to fit their needs. These came in different forms, including face-face sessions, classroom-based training, and remote learning.

“Each learner is assigned a Skills Coach, who acts as a mentor throughout the programme,” said Neale Richard, a Learner at BT.

“My Skills Coach has been there whenever I’ve needed him. He’s been tremendous; helping me with anything and getting back quickly with advice.”

To celebrate the success of this programme, BT regularly provides a ‘wrap’ that includes launch events, webinars, and graduations ceremonies.

Since being launched, BT has found continuous success through this scheme. 96% of the 2017/18 cohort said that their programme fully prepared them for leadership.

“I feel much more confident in my abilities since starting the course. My colleagues have commented on the difference they have seen in me since I started.” said previous learner, Stephen Mullarky.

Furthermore, 28% of learners from 2017/18 were promoted before the end of the programme.

“The benefits of the scheme have been huge for both BT and the learners,” continued Ellen.

“For BT, we have developed a group of high potential future leaders, who are significantly more engaged than the average BT employee, with strong intentions to stay in our business,”

“Our retention rates are higher than BT average and we are saving on external recruitment costs by promoting these individuals into our first-line leader roles.”

The BT Learner employee experience is emphatic, they secure external qualifications, and can progress in roles that they have been seeking for years, as well as winning awards for being exceptional apprentices. Many businesses could see similar success in implementing these schemes within their organisations. This could not only increase their successes in talent, but it can also increase workplace culture and engagement.

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