Kier Group has been named National Trainer of the Year in two out of 14 categories at the 2008 National Training Awards, organised by government body UK Skills

The company was singled out for its success in growing and developing staff talent under its Executive Leadership Development programme, and for a programme to train disadvantaged young people in site skills in partnership with Sheffield Homes.

The leadership development programme began life in 2004, when Kier realised that a high proportion of senior-level vacancies were being filled by external hires, and that staff turnover was running at 18%. ‘That wasn’t a comfortable place to be,’ recalls Paul Sealy, head of organisation development and training.

Kier decided on a three-year development programme to give rising talent the skills to lead its five business units. First, it developed a competency framework for senior executives – a set of core behaviours and skills on issues such as strategy, people leadership and health and safety. To address each area, it developed eight training modules on topics including customer focus and personal influence and persuasion.

Since 2004, one or two cohorts of 12 staff have embarked on the programme each year, and there are currently around 130 delegates at various stages. The result? Vastly more internal candidates are promoted to internal positions, and 60% of the delegates in the first five cohorts are in director roles. In fact, as it proved so successful, Kier decided in 2006 to extend the same opportunities to existing directors.

The cost is round £5000 per trainee, or ‘half the price of putting someone through an MBA course, and they end up with skills that are much more specific to our industry.’ Sealy adds: ‘Some companies see leadership development as a quick fix. For us, it has to be developed over a period.’