How professional training is helping the UK’s top employers to recruit and retain talent

How professional training is helping the UK’s top employers to recruit and retain talent

Written by guest blogger Nicki Hayes 

With employees from six of this year’s accredited UK top employers studying with Professional Academy, we thought it was time to explore how professional training helps organisations to win and keep top talent …

Last month saw key HR press celebrating those exceptional UK employers who had made it onto this year’s prestigious list of Certified Top UK Employers. The Top Employers UK Certification is awarded to organisations that achieve the highest standards of excellence in employee conditions. Only the very best organisations are certified. The process of gaining certification is rigorous, involving in depth research into employee conditions across nine areas of HR:

  • Leadership development

  • Learning and development

  • Performance management

  • Talent strategy

  • Workforce planning

  • Onboarding

  • Career and succession planning

  • Compensation and benefits

  • Culture

Professional Academy is committed to working with organisations to helping them to deliver in all nine areas and is delighted to see so many friends, old and new, on this year’s list.

"Tomorrow’s leaders need training to realise their potential,” Alison Coleman, The Guardian’s Top Employers UK Supplement.

“Congratulations to all the companies that made it onto this year’s list – and to their employees. The Top Employers Certification Seal is only awarded to companies that achieve the highest standards of excellence in employee conditions. They care about their people. They create rewarding environments with exciting career opportunities. They listen to their employees and act on feedback. They invest in innovative HR technology and professional training and they implement benefits and wellness programmes that ensure a healthy happy workplace. They are, indeed, exactly the sort of companies everyone loves working with,” advises Martin Hutchins, managing director of Professional Academy.

“Having witnessed candidates from some of this year’s accredited companies (Whitbread, Vauxhall, Santander, Manchester Met, DHL and ARM) acing their exams with us, we see daily evidence of the ambition, commitment and drive demonstrated from employees of organisations that gain certification. Indeed, we strongly encourage all our corporate clients, wherever they are, to enter for the 2016 scheme (the scheme is International),” adds Martin.

But why should organisations bother investing in employee development in today’s competitive environment? Isn’t there a danger that you’ll invest in your people and they’ll just move on to a better offer?

This, apparently, is a question that Professional Academy are asked less and less, thanks to the awareness that awards such as this raises, nevertheless, Professional Academy’s managing director, Martin Hutchins, is quick to answer:

“Well – of course – if you don’t focus on the other areas in the certification process too – there is a danger of this, but we truly believe (and see daily evidence) that if you get all these elements right, not just learning and development, but leadership development, performance management, talent strategy, workforce planning, onboarding, career and succession planning, compensation and benefits and, of course, culture – then you will recruit and retain the best people,” advises Martin.

“Each area is taught in our CMI accredited (and other bespoke) courses and all our tutors and coaches are committed to keeping this bigger picture in mind, helping our corporate clients to succeed.”

According to Martin there are four reasons why investing in employee development is not a choice, but a necessity.


  • Retention:

You hold onto your best people by offering a clear pathway to new skills and behaviours, recognised qualifications and career progression.

  • Recruitment:

Showing a clear commitment to nurturing and developing your staff makes you a more attractive career prospect.

  • Succession planning:

Promoting within ensures continuity and keeps valuable skills and knowledge inside the business.

  • Performance:

A better-trained, better-motivated workforce means better performance in every area and greater profitability – quite simply more effective and more efficient.

“Our clients’ experiences show that investing in your staff drives engagement and improves retention, recruitment, succession planning and performance. It creates a virtuous circle where both your employee engagement scores and your profit margins continually expand, as explained by my colleague Andy in this previous post,” Martin advises.

So who stands out amongst this year’s crop for Professional Academy?

“It’s impossible – and frankly wrong- to pick one of the Top UK Employers. All are remarkable. What stands out for me this year though, is the innovative ways in which many are delivering professional training. Although there have been reports that e-learning is not as cost effective and efficient as more traditional approaches (CIPD Cornerstone OnDemand Learning and Development Survey 2014), many of this year’s accredited companies are using e-learning to deliver their L&D plans.

“My guess is that these companies, like Professional Academy clients, are developing more interactive solutions than have been available traditionally, making digital learning accessible at the point of need (rather than it being a case of ticking boxes on your screen at a prescribed time). This enables people to submit modules at their own pace and convenience and we know how much of a difference this makes,” Martin advises.

“In fact, what stands out for me wider than that, is the place that technology now has in helping HR departments to meet their goals. Reading about some of the innovative ways in which HR is encouraging (rather than banning) the use of social media (with one accredited company running periodic crowd-sourcing workshops enabling their employees to engage with each other, for example) was truly inspiring,” he concludes.


If you want to find out more about Professional Academy’s approach to developing in-house learning and development programmes, please download our in-company training brochure today.

If you are considering going for Top Employer UK 2016 accreditation, take a look here.

If you are not UK-based – do not fear – the Top Employers Institute runs accreditation programmes throughout the world; indeed, many of our overseas clients are accredited too. Take a look here.