Eurovia UK | The skills gap after COVID – how to build our teams back better
Training and skills development are critical for Eurovia UK’s people and their businesses, in both the short and long term.
Ensuring all their employees have the appropriate training to work safely and effectively, is paramount as well as making sure they offer timely career development and a pathways for the next generation into their business. But how can you do that safely in the COVID crisis when face to face and physical contact are so restricted?
It has been a considerable challenge, but Eurovia UK have learned a lot about how they do things and where their focus should be long term.
Their first challenge, like most businesses, was adapting to working in a COVID secure way. They had to make sure employees knew how to carry out any necessary risk assessments to maintain a safe work environment and felt safe to carry out their work.
Online communications were the key here, but so much of their training is face to face, such as driver training. The first wave of COVID meant a hard lockdown, and they had to postpone most training until they knew it could be delivered safely. It was important to find a way to continue with ‘safety-critical’ training.
As David Campbell, HSE Director says; “We had to rethink our approach, reviewing everything from the tools and equipment used – even pens – and the journey from arrival to departure of each participant on the day. Every step had to be COVID secure.”
Most of their training is for operational employees involving physical tasks and assessment. Their preference was to have as much of this on their sites as possible where they could closely monitor and control the environment.
For example, driver assessments and training for new recruits were streamlined, so that paperwork and pre-training checks were done online. Then the training day was carefully mapped out to minimise contact and maximise safety, including how employees travel to the training.
The in-car assessment naturally carried a risk because of close contact, so there were temperature checks, face masks and careful cleaning of vehicles in between.
Outside of operational training, any classroom-based training was moved online. There was an immediate need to upskill employees in Microsoft Teams so some work could be done more easily remotely or from one main location without the need to travel.
Management skills training was also moved online where possible, and their emerging leaders’ development centre was delivered fully online for the first time.
Incident Investigation training is safety-critical and would normally take place face to face. Again, they moved this to a virtual training environment, with employees undertaking a series of online modules. As a result, far more employees were able to take part, and it was easier to monitor progress.
Kristine Pollock, Group People Director stressed the importance of looking beyond the current situation and keeping an eye on the future. She notes; “While it is critical we maintain a good level of skills within our existing team we didn’t want to neglect career development or our recruitment of the next generation of employees. Even with 4-5 months of little training due to lockdown, we were still able to invest £1.3m in developing our people in 2020 an achievement of which we are hugely proud.
“Pausing graduate recruitment and our apprenticeship programme would have been the easy option, but we are invested in the future of these young people and wanted to honour our commitment to them.”
The HR and learning and development teams partnered with their operational and graduate teams and their college and university providers to ensure that they could safely interview, recruit and induct apprentices and graduates in 2020. Many of their apprentices are operational, working and training outside, and they had to ensure they could be trained in-person and in a safe way.
In the end, they welcomed into the business the largest groups of placement students, graduates and apprentices yet with a total of 90 young people joining them in 2020.
COVID has trained them as a business to think differently, and they want to take this learning forward for the longer term. They can use Teams to reduce their impact on the environment from travel to meetings and reduce exposure to road risk while making them more productive.
Eurovia UK want to maintain the higher levels of hygiene they adopted, such as hand sanitising and cleaning equipment to reduce the risk of transmission of common viruses. And their ability to respond positively, and with agility, in this current crisis, are skills they will definitely take into the world post-COVID.
The changes to working practices during the COVID crisis have also taught them to focus more on the mental health and wellbeing of employees. COVID has been a steep learning curve on many levels, but they will come out of it stronger as a business as a result.