Strategy Execution helps National Grid transform quality and business-ready standard of graduate trainees
HQ Location: London, England
Employee Size: 26,000
Activity: Electric power transmission network
- Graduate development essential to National Grid service delivery and future growth strategy
- Existing project management training not meeting business needs
- Project management seen as key to business operations
National Grid’s key business strategy is its Grow Your Own employee development philosophy. The organisation has developed an innovative graduate training programme designed to develop future managers. However, one of the challenges the programme faced was a varied level of understanding of one of the most important business skills - project management. After calling in Strategy Execution to develop a new training programme, National Grid has transformed the quality, knowledge and business-ready level of graduates entering full-time employment.
National Grid, one of the world’s largest investor-owned energy companies, delivers gas and electricity to millions of people, businesses and communities in the UK and US. It owns the high-voltage electricity transmission network in England and Wales and owns and operates the UK’s high pressure gas transmission system serving 11 million homes and businesses. The company also has a portfolio of other businesses, mainly concerned with infrastructure provision and related services, such as metering, grain LNG import, interconnectors and property. National Grid Carbon Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary, undertakes carbon capture storage related activities on behalf of National Grid.
At National Grid, employee development and training is seen as one of the most important and effective ways of helping the business deliver the best services to customers. Employee development is encapsulated in the National Grid’s Line of Sight framework, which aligns employee development and objectives with the organisation’s strategy of being a leader in the energy industry.
Craig Smith, New Talent Development Manager for Learning and Development at National Grid says, “Development of employees is an important part of our business strategy and is supported from the very top of the organisation, by the CEO. Our Grow Your Own approach to development is one of the main ways that National Grid manages workforce planning. It brings new people into the organisation based on what the business will need in the future.”
Craig Smith, New Talent Development Manager, Our Academy, National Grid
National Grid recognised that, particularly for graduates, project management was becoming an increasingly important part of their skill set. Wherever graduates end up working in the organisation, they will have a fundamental requirement for project management training.
But the company found there was a wide variation in project management skills and knowledge among the graduate intake. National Grid had initially tried to address this with external training courses in PRINCE2 - the standard methodology for project management. While this gave a general understanding of project management, it was not specific to National Grid’s processes or ways of working.
The company wanted a standard approach to project management training so that all graduates would have the same level of understanding, irrespective of where they resided within the business. Also, the training would need to be based on National Grid’s own approach to managing projects. National Grid searched for a training provider to help deliver a comprehensive training solution that would address all of their needs and decided to partner with Strategy Execution.
Smith says, “We chose Strategy Execution as our partner because it is the market leader in project management training. We’d had some experience of their services on other programmes and the feedback from trainees was fantastic. It was the quality of the instructors, training materials, the knowledge staff had gained from the their courses and also, the impact and usefulness of that training out in the workplace.”
- Strategy Execution Project Management
- Developed and delivered
by Strategy Execution
The National Grid graduate programme, for around 50 new starters each year, comprises 18 months of training and work experience. One of the key elements is the Project Management Graduate Programme, developed with National Grid and delivered by Strategy Execution.
Strategy Execution worked with several National Grid divisions, including engineering, construction and information services, to understand business needs and design the training programme to meet those requirements. This ensured that the training would teach graduates how National Grid approaches project management on a day-to-day basis. After attending a course, one graduate said, “The real strength of the training was the real-world examples the tutor provided for many of the points he was making. It makes the information easier to listen to and digest.”
Another key benefit of the Strategy Execution training is a blended approach which balances cost effective delivery with maximum learning impact.
Smith says, “The key thing about the Strategy Execution project management training is the fact that it is bespoke to National Grid, rather than off-the-shelf. It is based around the way National Grid departments and managers handle projects internally. So the value of what they provides comes from the way the training has been aligned to our business processes and needs.”
Graduates spend around three weeks of their 18-month induction period learning about project management. The programme is a mix of e-learning modules, instructor-led classroom sessions and access to support material such as podcasts, case studies and articles. E-learning allows graduates to study at their own pace and quickly learn project management fundamentals, while the classroom element is more interactive and based on National Grid case studies and scenarios.
- Improves the business-ready standard and capability of graduates taking up full-time posts
- Fulfils a core part of National Grid’s Grow Your Own business strategy
- Helps win independent recognition for high level graduate training excellence
- Delivers a high quality training and learning experience for graduates
- Will deliver significant improvement in workforce quality, productivity and risk management says graduate survey
“The significance of the service that Strategy Execution provides cannot be underestimated. Project management is seen by National Grid as crucial to the business going forward. Across the organisation, we are doing more and more project and contract management and so having the quality and high standard of training Strategy Execution provides to our graduates is very important,” says Smith.
The training programme has given National Grid graduates a platform to build their project management capability and the feedback from the graduate community has been extremely positive.
Smith says, “There is anecdotal evidence that our graduates are getting a better training experience from the service and that this is starting to have an impact on individual career development and, indeed, to the quality of individuals we are feeding into the business.
Although good project management is primarily aimed at improving internal processes, National Grid is also starting to see some impact on the quality of customer service. Smith says, “While training is an internal business process I think, indirectly, the work that Strategy Execution has done in developing graduate skills does have some impact on our customers. Projects that graduates go on to manage are customer facing - such as connecting up to our power networks. The ability to manage and deliver those projects quickly and efficiently, with good budget control, is a key part of National Grid providing good quality service to customers.”
One graduate said that the most useful part of the training was, “Learning about different steps involved when managing a project and also learning the fact that project management is not just project planning”.
A survey among graduates found that over 70 percent said a direct result of the training would be a significant improvement in quality and productivity of the workforce and a significant improvement in managing risk.
National Grid has won a raft of awards in recognition of the quality of its employee development, including being rated 3rd in The JobCrowd Top 50 Graduate Employers to work for in 2012/13. Some of that success is due to the Strategy Execution programme.
Smith says, “The service that Strategy Execution provides is a significant part of our graduate programme, so in that respect it’s been part of our success in achieving a number of external awards for the quality of our graduate training. One of the awards - JobCrowd - is a kind of Tripadvisor for graduate programmes. Our graduates rate us on various different things, such as the training and development they receive, and certainly in that area the training has had impact.”
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