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Becky Norman


Managing Editor

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Meet the finalists for the Culture Pioneer of Learning Award

With the finalists for the Culture Pioneer of Learning Award now revealed, we dive deeper into their achievements

Learning and development teams have faced steep learning curves themselves over the past 18 months with the shift to a virtual L&D offering. Aspiring to cultivate a culture of development and growth in a digital, remote setting is no easy feat, but some went above and beyond to make this happen – including our shortlist for the Culture Pioneer of Learning Awards.

Continue reading to find out what our finalists for the Learning category have achieved to make the judge’s shortlist! We’ll be announcing the winner at our virtual awards night on 18th November, so please do join us for an evening of storytelling and celebration.

Do also let us know which stories inspired you, or which reflect your own initiatives or future plans on our social media feeds using the hashtag #CulturePioneers.

Eman Al-Hillawi, CEO, Entec Si

While Entec Si has always been committed to impactful L&D, the pandemic led CEO Eman Al-Hillawi to take the IT consultancy’s people development strategy to another level.

In the new business climate it was critical for the consultancy to develop a team of business development champions and strengthen their knowledge of best practice in the field. This required an overhaul in its operating model, which moved away from specialisms towards a structure consisting of seven different levels of consultants. This new model enables people to develop a broader spectrum of consultancy skills, with a clearer path for career progression provided through key development milestones.

This dramatic switch in approach involved significant upskilling, which all had to be done at pace in a virtual learning environment.  As well as transitioning the Entec Academy to an online offering, this new way of working also enabled more on-the-job development. A dedicated Support and Learning Group is also available, as is access to career coaching.

To measure progress, Entec’s annual performance review has been replaced with more regular feedback sessions which does away with bureaucracy and offers clearer actions.

“Entec has changed the way they develop their people at a fundamental level rather than tweak until things ‘return to normal’, which has enabled them to thrive during the pandemic,” says Culture Pioneers Judge Blaire Palmer.

The People team at Foundry

Creative software company Foundry transformed its old gut-feel people strategy into one fully informed by the employee voice, with career development at its core.

To improve poor employee attrition levels, the Foundry People team worked with Culture Amp to send out an employee engagement survey to dig deeper into why employees were leaving, with results showing that learning and development was one of the biggest areas of concern among employees.

With this insight, the team launched a number of new initiatives to help put learning and growth at the heart of the company’s culture.

This included the creation of career progression frameworks, a revamped internal movement policy, a new mentoring scheme and the launch of knowledge sharing groups called ‘Foundry Guilds’. Development calibration sessions were also initiated to bring leaders and managers of similar teams together to identify any synergies and prioritise development needs.

“Foundry’s entry demonstrated not only the passion to create a learning culture, but an understanding of how to measure the impact of that learning on business success,” says Culture Pioneers Judge Jackie Clifford.

Jessica Leigh Jones MBE and Tom de Vall, iungo Solutions Limited

To help achieve its mission to improve social mobility through providing personalised career pathways, iungo solutions has worked hard to build learning and development into its core cultural foundations.

As a new tech start-up founded in 2020, founders Jessica Leigh Jones MBE and Tom de Vall knew they had to offer something unique to compete for talent against larger organisations. As such, they took the initiative to create a stand-out employer value proposition centred upon learning and progression.

“We combine human resources thought leadership with purposeful learning and development to create a safe and inclusive environment in which people can be authentic, creative lifelong learners,” says Jessica.

The start-up launched a pioneering policy ‘Everyone is an Apprentice’, which enables all employees to invest in themselves with an apprenticeship. Not only does this send a clear message that colleagues at all levels have the opportunity to build their capabilities and confidence, it’s also helping to change the perception of apprenticeships and demonstrate their effectiveness in boosting social mobility. 

Based on employee feedback, the company is now also enabling portfolio careers to help their people fulfil their broader professional objectives. “We believe that supporting our employees to develop portfolio careers – rather than prohibiting them as in many corporate employment contracts – will help them to develop their skills, improve their employee experience, and make them more likely to stay and give their all to our mission,” says Jessica.

“I’m really blown away by this submission. I’m glad Iungo is sharing what they are doing with the wider world as many will be inspired”, says Culture Pioneers Judge Blaire Palmer.

Yasmine Alani, Learning and Development Manager, News UK

Since the pandemic hit, Yasmine Alani has done an outstanding job of modelling a culture of blended learning at News UK, as well as leading the diversity and inclusion L&D strategy.

With face-to-face training being the cornerstone of development for News UK pre-pandemic, Yasmine rapidly transitioned to virtual learning. This involved upskilling the appropriate teams with delivering online workshops that can be accessed by employees no matter where they are in the world. To complement these sessions, bite-sized learning supplements were also created that empower employees to take learning into their own hands.

Yasmine also works closely with key D&I stakeholders across the business to help understand the company’s inclusivity challenges and implement learning solutions to help combat these.

“Yasmine is working to create an environment where individuals can empower themselves both personally and professionally. As part of that journey, Yasmine positively models learning culture and shows how she herself is adapting, changing, growing and learning as she encourages her organisation to do the same,” says Culture Pioneers Judge Laura Overton.

Patrick Mullarkey and Brij Palicha, Snyk

With Snyk doubling in size in the space of a year, developing a culture of enablement and growth has been paramount to business success.

L&D Lead Patrick Mullarkey and Head of L&D Brij Palicha have created a strategy that enables agile, adaptive and inclusive upskilling, with resources delivered at the point of need.

With so many new starters (or ‘Snykers’), the redesign and delivery of the company’s ‘New Hands’ induction experience has been a central focus. Recent joiners played a key role in helping to create this onboarding experience to ensure it was fit for purpose and helped create a sense of belonging and drive a collaborative culture. The delivery model is flexible and a highly interactive experience for new joiners with no PowerPoint slides in site. The induction programme is regularly evolving with employee feedback used to iterate and improve the learning experience.

“The New Hands approach has helped new joiners to deliver in role sooner, feel more culturally aligned and assured about their choice in joining Snyk, as well as reap commercial benefits,” says Patrick.

“I love the whole vibe of the business and how Snyk goes about making change. They are willing to learn as they go and adapt which, I’m sure, is part of the wider Snyk culture,” says Culture Pioneers Judge Blaire Palmer.

Find out who made the shortlist for our other Culture Pioneers Awards categories here.

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Becky Norman

Managing Editor

Read more from Becky Norman

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