Continuous Improvement Apprenticeships: Lean Six Sigma DMAIC model

Lean six sigma

The Lean Six Sigma methodology is the amalgamation of two improvement methodologies. Firstly ‘Lean’ which targets the elimination of waste in production and service-based processes. Secondly, ‘Six Sigma’ defects by reducing variation in in a particular business processes. 

Lean has a bias towards action and is underpinned by five core principles. Identifying value, undertaking value stream mapping, ensuring continuous process flow, moving to customer pull process initiation, and pursuing  perfection of the product/service, process and individual.

Six Sigma adopts a bias towards analysis and has two approaches. Firstly DMAIC focuses on the process improvement of existing operations. Whereas DMADV concentrates on process improvement planning for new processes or innovations.

People typically consider Lean Six Sigma projects as efforts to make process improvements. These projects usually follow a five-step problem-solving methodology known as DMAIC (Dee-May-Ic) or DMADV.


DMAIC and DMADV represent structured, customer-focused, data-driven cyclic approaches to problem-solving. The acronyms stand for:

  1. Define / Define
  2. Measure / Measure
  3. Analyse / Analyse
  4. Improve / Design
  5. Control / Validate

Organisations seeking to implement incremental improvements find both models highly suitable, making them valuable in various contexts.

The Purpose of DMAIC / DMADV

Define – The team and sponsor collaboratively establish the scope, goals, financial targets, and operational performance objectives for the improvement initiative driven by the Voice of the Customer.

Measure – collects data to develops detailed understanding of the current process state, collect data on process speed, cost and quality by seeking to expose the underlying causes of problems.

Analyse – Conduct a thorough assessment to identify and validate the key input and output variables (referred to as the Critical ‘Xs’) linked to the improvement goals.

Improve – pilots selected solutions. Using structured Design of Experiments (DoE). Executes a full-scale implementation / Design. The internal specifications are validated and compared to the customer wants & needs so that new process can be subjected to customer feedback before the final product or service is released.

Control – completes the improvement project work and hands-over the improved process to the business owner along with the procedures (Standard Operating Procedures, SOPs) to realise and maintain the gains / Verify – adjusts the processes, develops the metrics and tracks customer product / service feedback.

Benefits of Lean Six Sigma

When implemented successfully, Lean Six Sigma is far more than a waste reduction or a statistical analysis methodology to improve processes. It is one of the foremost methodological practices for increasing customer satisfaction. Improving process capability and improving profits, employee morale and business product / service quality.

Lean Six Sigma has been refined and perfected over many years to enhance operational efficiency, increase productivity and lower operating costs. It can improve get products and services to market faster and with fewer defects, leading to a measureable competitive advantage. 

Continuous Improvement Apprenticeships

The DMAIC model is at the heart of the Business Improvement Apprenticeships. Delivered by City Skills to help businesses enhance their business understanding by means of improved strategic linkages, project management and Lean Six Sigma skills. Used in a manner to improve performance and increase productivity. 

In addition to the government’s funded improvement apprenticeships, City Skills also offer bespoke tailored training packages to ensure your business improvement, project or change management strategies are a success.

The Improvement Leader Apprenticeship is best suited to someone with an undergraduate degree or those in a managerial role. It is perfect for those with a good understanding of their business. Or those who have improvement or Lean and Six Sigma experience under their belt.  

The Improvement Practitioner Apprenticeship suits anyone that has the responsibility or need to support change / project management. As well as those who need to develop their lean and six sigma skills.

What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Teaching?

What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Teaching?


All organisations, in almost every sector, are trying to get the best out of their people. Managers and senior leaders are responsible for ensuring teams are performing at their best in order to achieve optimal performance both for themselves and their organisation. 


Two ways of achieving improved performance are through coaching and teaching. There are some similarities between these approaches but also key differences that create different results and have a different impact. It is important to recognise these differences and how and when to use each approach when leading a team. 

Primary differences between coaching and teaching

Teaching aims to provide new knowledge and skills, while coaching aims to transfer responsibility for refining and developing knowledge and skills.

For instance, a new employee might receive instruction on using organizational systems and processes, followed by coaching to enhance these processes or enhance their own efficiency.

Teaching places ownership and responsibility on the teacher or the person with the knowledge. Coaching gives a lot more responsibility to the person being coached and encourages two-way communication between parties. 

For example, teaching may involve telling an employee the things they need to know or do in relation to their role and responsibilities, focusing on the basic duties and key performance indicators (KPIs, whereas coaching changes the conversation to being about how the employee can be accountable and take decisions to develop in the role further, improve their performance and own their KPIs.

What separates the coaching and teaching methodologies?

Both methodologies have the end goal of an individual developing skills acquiring knowledge or demonstrating new behaviours, but there some key differences between these two approaches when managing or supporting staff.

Usually, we consider a teacher as a subject matter expert in their chosen field, having more knowledge than the individuals they teach. Conversely, a coach, whether in an educational or business context, doesn’t necessarily have to be an expert in a specific skill or function. Instead, they must excel in asking the right questions and adeptly listening to both spoken and unspoken cues.

A coach imparts knowledge and introduces learnings, but also makes adjustments and provides feedback based on real-time information. Individuals receiving coaching usually possess some foundational knowledge and an understanding of how to approach the specific activity. The coach helps people “unlock” that knowledge and choose to use it in different ways by asking the right sort of questions. 

A teacher, on the other hand, introduces new ideas and topics to students who generally have little, if any, previous understanding of what is being taught. The teacher is dealing with more of a blank slate in this regard, where a coach is re-sculpting something that already exists. 

Another difference is the way in which a coach or teacher may communicate. Teaching is a generally a one-sided, directive and instructional conversation led by a ‘sage on the stage’, however, coaching is more two-way, ongoing and non-directive, where the coach is more the ‘guide on the side’, with the focus on the person being coached taking responsibility for their own decisions and actions. 

In practice

In a group situation, a facilitator might share a piece of knowledge and then leave it to the group to decide what it means for them, what’s their way forward might be and what they might do with that information now.

Generally, educators operate within a formal setting, where they establish clear roles and define specific tasks to achieve desired outcomes within a predetermined timeframe. On the other hand, coaching often takes place informally, whether it’s in staffrooms or corridors, often without the need for formal acknowledgment. This approach integrates coaching into an organization’s broader practices and activities, creating a pervasive culture.

These two methods, while sharing similar goals but differing in approach, provide alternative solutions for various situations and can yield significant benefits for different purposes.

What is the ideal approach for a leader to utilise in their team management?

A leader’s role is to guide, direct, and influence employees in the most productive and effective way possible. A teacher’s role involves fostering students’ independence in learning, requiring the use of various approaches and techniques to attain desired outcomes.

Overall leadership is naturally more aligned with coaching, so it’s helpful for every leader to be a professional coach to some degree. 

Coaching encourages and empowers individuals to think through and overcome the challenges they face in the workplace, which not only helps them develop personally and professionally, but also takes the onus away from leaders taking on more and more responsibility. This empowerment of staff can also increase employee engagement, motivate employees, and improve overall organisational productivity due to the level of trust and sense of fulfilment for all parties. 

Coaching may not provide the solutions or outcomes the leader is expecting, but with the right support and structure, a coaching culture could mean stronger, faster, and even better solutions.

People Professional

The Level 5 People Professional apprenticeship launched in September this year, replacing the Level 5 HR Consultant/Business Partner apprenticeship. Like the old qualification, this is aimed at those working in People Practice roles at a consultant level, who have the opportunity to get involved in a wide range of people activities, even if they have specialised roles. As with all apprenticeships, this is for people already in the role who are looking to increase their knowledge, skills and behaviours and gain associate membership of the CIPD.

people professional

What’s New?

The new Level 5 People Professional qualification offers a more comprehensive learning experience for apprentices than its predecessor. Whilst the core of the programme is the same, the new version looks to:

develop further accompanying skills, such as project management tools and techniques

address new key business trends, such as sustainable working practices, and

recognise the growing influence of technology and digital working on people practices

The length of the programme has slightly increased to give learners the time to focus on the increased syllabus.


The ways in which the qualification is assessed is changing to make it a quicker and slicker process, shortening from around six months to four. The Diploma, which has always been a part of the old HR5 qualification, has now been incorporated into the end point assessment which will help learners to see how the Diploma and the standards elements are intrinsically linked rather than feeling like two distinct elements.

Learners will still be expected to demonstrate the high quality of work that has always been associated with the level 5 qualification but they will now have the option of using projects and pieces of work completed over the course of the programme rather than having to time in a project to fit in with their end point assessment, which has proved challenging for apprentices in the past.

Whilst full details of the EPA processes are still being finalised, we are excited to 

be offering this more comprehensive and modernised version of the level 5 qualification.

Click Here to find out more about the L5 People Professional Apprenticeship.

Jim Blythe

Jim Blythe has worked in People Professional roles for most of the last 25 years. Supporting organisations in the UK, Northern Europe and North America. He specialises in learning and development, recruitment and organisational design, though he has been a reluctant Generalist too. He has worked in modern apprenticeships continuously since 2017. Designing curriculums and content for HR, learning and development, leadership and management and business administration programmes.

Why HR Teams are key to business stability 

Following a volatile two years, the role of HR has changed radically. 

First, people professionals were responsible for managing the effects of Brexit, then the pandemic, with HR functions became central to how businesses navigated unprecedented times and working-from-home models, but now HR teams face a tangled web of new issues related to rising business and living costs, fierce competition for talent and widening skills gaps.  

In the face of such challenging environments, HR training and qualifications will be essential to make sure HR teams are supported and CIPD accredited qualifications set the bar.

CIPD Associate Diploma

City Skills is now offering the CIPD Associate Diploma in People Management Level 5 to existing HR professionals that want to step into management roles.  City Skills Tutor Jim Blythe looks at the way training can support people professionals to help businesses to stabilise and empower their people.  

Says Jim, “HR, like so many other things in business is changing. Fuelled by first Brexit, then Covid, which made virtual or remote working essential and now the preferred model for a lot of people, we are now seeing a new set of challenges in both our personal and professional lives which HR teams are dealing with.  

“As businesses establish the best way to support the requirements of their workforce People professionals are somewhere in the middle, trying to sort through individual situations, unpicking specific problems as well as driving performance and change.  

“It means there are an awful lot of skills needed within the HR function.” 

“Despite these ongoing changes, businesses are still under pressure to ensure they have everything in place to support their remote workforce, drive innovation and meet revenue targets.  

“In addition, HR plays a key role in developing, reinforcing the values or changing the culture of an organisation. This, in addition to pay, performance management, training and development, recruitment, and onboarding, all of which HR still covers, constitutes essential elements of a business ecosystem. 

To maintain control over all of these elements, HR teams need to stay sharp, keep abreast of what’s going on and how the world continues to change.” 

HR Qualifications from the CIPD

Learning while on the job may seem challenging, but the CIPD Associate Diploma in People Management Level 5 is designed for HR professionals who are already in the field. It helps them acquire additional practical insights into various key HR topics, such as resourcing, reward, organizational performance, and evidence-based practice. Moreover, they will develop a solid understanding of how HR contributes to achieving strategic objectives and how data can enhance performance throughout an organisation.

City Skills now delivers this CIPD Associate Diploma, which is the equivalent of an undergraduate degree, on-line for HR professionals that want take on more senior HR roles. 

Jim continues, “There are seven modules studied in all, which together cover all of the elements an experienced HR professional has to know. But of course, during a webinar if anything comes up that we feel the group needs to now, we are able to discuss that too.  This way we can make sure we include any small changes and can discuss ways of applying legislation, policies and practical elements with peers, making everything very relatable.”  

Online HR Qualifications  

HR specialists have designed and are delivering this HR qualification to assist HR and people professionals in succeeding in their studies. Wherever you are in the world, you can access this HR qualification online.  

Weekly live webinars encourage participation and interaction with other HR and people professionals, facilitated by an expert tutor who will lead the classroom environment.

Additionally, learners receive a development coach who attends regular one-on-one assignment surgeries. After each assignment, there is a session to provide support to learners as needed. 

Adds Jim, “For some businesses the Covid pandemic, subsequent lockdowns – and the move to remote working -has meant a complete change to employment terms and conditions and while some have adapted quickly, for others it has taken some time. Many people still begin and end their work in accordance with traditional working hours, while others, who do not have to commute daily, experience flexible working hours that allow for later starts or earlier finishes. However, regardless of the model, they must maintain productivity and manage performance.

“In general, businesses need to learn how to balance their workforce and customer commitments in ways that are most productive for all parties. To do so it’s important to recognise what skills a HR function needs to best support its workforce whether they are in or out of the workplace.” 

Whether you’re looking to develop your HR career or you are an employer that wants to equip their people professionals with the skills to thrive in a changing professional landscape, HR qualifications, accredited by the CIPD offer a proven approach to learning and development. 

For more information about this CIPD HR qualification visit or

South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust Achieves Continuous Improvement through Apprenticeships

South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust Achieves Continuous Improvement through Apprenticeships header

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has partnered with City Skills to deliver the  Improvement Leader Apprenticeship in order to provide support for its front-line teams to make improvements and efficiencies in all of their projects. 

Traditionally, continuous improvement in healthcare settings is a systematic approach to enhancing quality and outcomes of care, safety, patient experience and process efficiency. The goal of Lean Six Sigma-based (LSS) continuous improvement is always to achieve excellence or perfection by establishing ways of working that maximise value, remove waste and support frontline staff to identify the root causes of problems in systems and processes and develop solutions to rectify them.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has sought to enhance this approach, by recognising the importance of supporting its workforce through change projects and to achieve the high impact and sustainable improvement needed for successful change the need for dedicated support within its Learning and Development (L&D) function to engage, empower, develop, and support its wider workforce.

Gareth Gent has been in his current Leadership Associate role for two years, having previously held an organisation development role at North Tees hospital, in which he was responsible for delivering training, insight sessions and general team development.

Following his move, he found the new role had a greater focus on continuous improvement and now delivers LSS in-house workshops to all staff at all levels of the trust while providing dedicated support for projects and improvement work requests from other colleagues. 

Says Gareth, “The previous L&D team was disbanded, which ultimately led to a level of deskilling of the staff and has resulted in a lack of recognised leadership training and a lack of confidence in undertaking improvement work, which meant projects didn’t really get started.”

“Now, we try to act as advocates for change and have created processes that enable managers to ask for support, whether that’s issues with the dynamic of a team or just digital dysfunction, or whether it’s a change initiative that they want to go through. “

“We might be working with the IVF team to procure some new computers, we saved the recruitment team around 422 hours in their recruiting process for apprentices and we have recently worked with a cohort of ex-military nurses who were transitioning into the trust and requested some training on some of the tools, some skills and some exposure to quality improvement methodologies.”

“In each case, we work with the teams to understand their SIPOC, (suppliers, inputs, process, outputs customers) in order to create a project plan that can be represented by perhaps a set of related swim lanes with the process steps in the middle so we can help them pin down their process steps and start to identify areas of improvement.”

In addition to front-line healthcare, the LSS-based improvement leader role is common across all industry sectors and functions including automotive, pharmaceutical, telecoms, retail, food and drink manufacture, insurance, and hospitality, but perhaps it is more commonly associated with manufacturing processes rather than service-based transactions.

Based on guidance and information gained from the Improvement Leader Apprenticeship, Gareth and his team have created a new project management office, which acts as a hub for collaboration between colleagues. New project managers can present project ideas to the hub, and receive specific lean management training (one of the two main components in LSS – the other being Six Sigma), followed by fortnightly clinics and further training every four months as part of the project lifecycle.

Says Gareth “The project management office helps us give colleagues the support and guidance needed to keep their projects moving forward. We provide practical experience of the tools that support the ‘define’ element of the Lean Six Sigma methodology in particular and apply this to each project so the project teams actually get things done and we see the progression between our sessions. We then use improvement clinics every two weeks, which is like a safe space for three and a half hours where any one of the project team can bring that project back to us to review. At the end of four months, they’ll deliver a presentation back to the Trust on the improvements their project has made or the efficiencies it has gained.”

In his role, Gareth interacts with colleagues from across the Trust, who all have different abilities, requirements and knowledge of project management and continuous improvement techniques. While he is mindful of the different audiences, he is committed to ensuring that all LSS techniques, tools and strategies taught are consistent and accurate.

“I like to hold myself, and my professional credibility to high standards. I didn’t have a recognised continuous improvement qualification and felt that if I was teaching others, it was something I needed.  If I want projects to be credible, I need that for myself. From being on the apprenticeship I could see that actually a lot of the ways I’ve been taught in the past about quality improvement were wrong. If you are taught incorrectly, you practice incorrectly. 

The apprenticeship is not only helping me improve my own knowledge, but it’s helping me to design new content to deliver internally to our staff too. It has taken my levels of learning right up.”

If you would like to know more about Business Improvement apprenticeships, get in touch.

Seven Behaviours for Success

There are many elements needed to make a business successful. Broadly, these include; effective project and budget management, understanding and satisfying customers’ needs and wants while being able to deploy internal key resources effectively. 

However, one of the main drivers of business success is the on-going behaviour of its workforce. When employees, managers and leaders practice certain behaviours consistently and are able to translate values and vision into purpose and actions, companies become more successful.

To really make a difference, these behaviours must be adopted and promoted at all levels. It is largely one of the responsibilities of an L&D team as an extension of the HR function to see that these behaviours are more widely adopted. Over time, consistent practice of them makes for a positive and enriching company culture that, in turn, fuels success. 

Below are some key behaviours that can be fostered across all sectors, to promote business success. 


If there is anything that is likely to prompt stress responses in employees it’s volatility, uncertainty, complexity or ambiguity in their role. As a result of the current V.U.C.A environment, caused by so many recent challenges, many organisations are seeing increasing levels of stress and mental ill-health amongst their workforce, as they strive to manage all the change being thrown at them.

While it’s important that the organisation as a whole works to address and mitigate this, there is an important role for L&D teams in developing programmes to focus on these specific areas, and equip employees with suitable tools and skills to manage some of this on their own.

Workforce Agility

The Covid pandemic brought recognition for the need to develop greater workforce agility. Despite enforced periods of labour restriction and constraint caused by lockdowns and furloughs, businesses still had to offer a similar- or sometimes different – service with fewer members of staff. 

The businesses that performed well, those that were able to thrive or pivot successfully, generally had a high level of cultural development within their organisation that pre-dated the pandemic, and were able to weather the storm. 

It brought workforce agility to the fore; that ability for an existing workforce to pivot and apply their existing skills, knowledge and behaviours to other roles as and when the business required it. It required a high level of specific role-relevant competence but also a degree of more general ‘business skills’ that could be applied to other roles. 

Capacity for change. 

‘Do what you always do, get what you always get’, or worse, ‘we always just do it that way’. In order to succeed, particularly in a changing landscape, employers need to think differently and develop a capacity for change within their workforce. Individuals may not have all of the skills required to take on new roles or responsibilities but they must, as a bare minimum possess the attitude to try and learn them. 

While a generation ago, training undertaken at the start of a career might have been sufficient to sustain a job for life, now the half-life of training- i.e. how long the impact of training lasts- has shortened to less than five years. It means that anyone entering the workplace 10 years ago may simply not have the skills needed to fulfil roles today.

Make it happen, attitude.

Attitude is the way a person thinks or feels about a specific situation, action or experience. It encompasses their particular emotions and the way in which they respond towards someone or something. Attitude is a specific disposition that combines factors like beliefs, opinions, experience moods and emotions. It can be learnt. Maintaining a positive attitude can help develop healthy coping mechanisms in times of stress or challenge.  Someone with a ‘can-do-attitude’ is more likely to overcome obstacles, find more opportunities and achieve goals, both personally and professionally than someone who hasn’t.  


In order to achieve optional performance, all departments need to work closely together and be available to support each where necessary. This cross-departmental working requires effective communication and collaboration to allow quick decision making and implementation when rapid change is needed. 

Creating partnerships 

Collaborating with the right external partners is another vital component to business success.  Long gone are the days of insularity when organisations developed and produced everything in-house. Today, that method is a sure route to failure and rather businesses that collaborate with external partners find they can be more nimble, more efficient and most likely to succeed.

Look for strong partnerships and benefit from the expertise of others, which can shorten your time to market for new products, and introduce new talent and new thinking into your company. 


While it may have killed the cat, curiosity brings many benefits to the workplace. Being curious, having a willingness to consider other options and look outside the confines of a role, department or organisation to discover other opportunities or possibilities can lead to faster product development, providing better solutions to challenges, increased agility, and increased readiness to move in different directions.

In the past, Learning & Development (L&D) teams have focused primarily on providing training and testing for knowledge or skill retention. But the role of learning in the workplace has grown. Today, L&D teams must influence employee behaviour to elicit optimal performance across many roles not just those focused on skill repetition.

To develop a more rounded L&D function, many businesses are using their apprenticeship levy to invest in L&D practitioners. Learning & Development apprenticeships empower your teams to unlock the human potential of your organisation by implementing tailored learning and development opportunities across all areas of the business to address skills gaps and create a positive set of behaviours.


The Role of L&D in a VUCA World

VUCA World

What is a VUCA world? Today’s world could be described as somewhat chaotic, partly because of the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and partly because of the enormous shifts that businesses across the UK- and indeed the globe- have had to make in response. 

The pace of change has been terrific in the last two years, it has torn up good business plans and forced employers to adapt and pivot in ways never thought of before.

We characterise such an environment as VUCA. The American military originally coined the phrase VUCA to adopt a specific perspective on viewing the world. It has become more prevalent over recent years and is an acronym for an environment dominated by:

  • Volatility: where things change fast but not in a predictable trend or repeatable pattern.
  • Uncertainty: where major “disruptive” changes occur frequently. In this environment, the past is not an accurate predictor of the future and identifying and preparing for “what will come next” is extremely difficult.
  • Complexity: where there are numerous difficult-to-understand causes and mitigating factors involved in a problem.
  • Ambiguity: the causes and the “who, what, where, when, how, and why” behind the things that are happening are unclear and hard to ascertain.

As a result, many organisations are working hard to establish what this means for them, and what they can do to minimise the impact of the VUCA world on their business objectives.

However, the truth is that while VUCA may be the latest buzzword, but this constant evolution is not really anything new. Businesses have been facing a bold, dramatic change in their specific industries for many years; the difference today is that it tends to be much more overt, tangible and extremely fast-paced.

The key to surviving in a VUCA world is to think big, but not necessarily long term.

The challenge

The challenge is that because of its very nature very little can be done to brace against the impact of a VUCA world – its terms inherently describe unpredictability, making planning ahead difficult. The response, therefore, needs to be about changing mindsets and preparing your people to deal with change, rather than putting predefined plans in place to protect against it, and this is where L&D has an important role to play.

There are many areas in which L&D can support businesses and their employees to survive in the VUCA world, but there are certain key areas that can offer maximum impact.


Many would argue that leadership has never been more important than it is today. In the face of fatigue and burnout, employees need to remain engaged in the overall vision of the business. They need inspiration, honesty and trust in their leaders. 

In this instance, the role of L&D is to support leaders in developing the right skill set, mindset and tools to bring out the best in their employees. In a V.U.C.A world, leaders also need to be able to empower their managers and team leaders to be able to respond to challenges independently, while remaining in line with the overall vision for the organisation. As a result, the focus of power and responsibility needs to shift from the individual at the top to the levels below who can really lead or react to change. This means training and development for all levels of management. To become inspirational, rather than directorial, leaders need to develop skills in innovation, communication and influencing, so L&D teams need to create the right sort of material to focus on these skills. 

Professional Competence

Having the right staff in the right role, with the right skills, is certainly nothing new when it comes to building a successful business. However, in a VUCA world, on top of these specific core skills, having broader business acumen allows employees to respond swiftly to changes. Clearly, this is only feasible if employees are not only competent in the necessary skills to start with but also have the capability and capacity to take on something new when required. 

L&D’s role is to support a workforce to develop specific role-relevant competencies, but also to provide a broader, more general set of skills in line with the evolving needs of the business. Whether that is a greater understanding of the wider principles of the business, or greater knowledge of business strategy, more of the workforce needs more general skills to be able to adapt and use those innate skills elsewhere.

These include areas such as problem-solving skills, leadership, communication skills, and project management. These are skills that employees would benefit from at all stages of their career, regardless of their specific duties or external factors.

Personal Resilience

If there is anything that is likely to prompt stress responses in employees it’s volatility, uncertainty, complexity or ambiguity in their role. As a result of the VUCA world, caused by so many recent challenges, many organisations are seeing increasing levels of stress and mental ill-health in their workforce, as they strive to manage all the change being thrown at them.

While it’s important that the organisation as a whole works to address and mitigate this, there is an important role for L&D in developing programmes to focus on these specific areas, and equip employees with suitable tools and skills to manage some of these on their own.

The importance of organisational culture in a VUCA world

As well as personal development, resilience and competence, there are some bigger picture areas where L&D have a part to play, and these include the holistic approach the organisation takes towards instilling a company-wide culture.


The culture of an organisation transcends hierarchy or business silo which is often the focus of L&D teams. Creating development pathways within business units or promoting workers to managers has its rewards but for the true resilience, agility and empowerment needed to thrive in a V.U.C.A world, L&D teams must create a behaviour of learning. 

Self-directed learning

The need for rapid skill development necessitates a system that supports this and for many employees, this is taking the form of self-directed learning. During a busy workweek, people seldom have the time to engage in day-long seminars, which many consider outdated. Many prefer bite-sized educational content. Therefore, it’s crucial for L&D functions to be ready and equipped to support their learners in this manner, enabling a learner-led approach that is essential in a VUCA world.

Agile working

Just as learners need to be proactive in their continued learning, L&D teams need to be ahead of the business curve in how it reacts and responds to witnessed or predicted changes. This doesn’t just mean creating new training programmes in response to learner needs, but rather the ability to use available business information to spot trends, make quick decisions, and reallocate resources were necessary in order to be an enabler for personal and organisational growth. 

Unlock the potential of your team with an expert training department.

Learning and Development Apprenticeships will develop skills and confidence to create an effective training framework that can be effectively implemented across your organisation. 

Working closely with Human Resources and other business functions, learning and development apprentices work closely with managers and senior stakeholders to identify ways to improve operational and organisational performance at all levels.

For more information contact one of our experts today. 

Coaching to Support Workforce Transformation

The last two years can be described broadly as a period of change. Employees and employers alike have had to manage transitions on unprecedented scales as the pandemic has changed how we work, collaborate and learn, possibly forever.

Throughout the pandemic, the subsequent economic and social challenges have led to increases in mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders are on the rise but throughout these challenges, employees have also shown a greater degree of resilience as they adapt to new working patterns and requirements.

The pace of change has been terrific in the last two years, it has torn up good business plans and forced employers to adapt and pivot in ways never thought of before. Organisations are re-examining business strategies, workforce models, values, and culture — often steered by new demands from employees themselves.

As people have lived and worked through the pandemic, becoming more accustomed to working from home, spending more time with family and less time commuting, it has prompted individuals to prioritise flexibility and their own personal fulfilment. This has led to a new challenge of how to show up while working remotely and while balancing personal commitments and retaining many of the benefits that working away from the office brings. 

Faced with these ongoing challenges, the role of People professionals is now even more complex. Following a volatile two years, they are navigating the perfect storm of issues related to rising business and living costs, a fierce war on talent, widening skills gaps and making hybrid working a permanent reality for those who want it.

Now more than ever, organisations are taking the opportunity to use coaching techniques to fill the gaps and provide guidance and support for their employees. Coaching is a broad term for a process that focuses on bringing out the best in others by empowering them to take responsibility for their own development in a way that aligns with their core values. Coaching also explores viewpoints and challenges negative thought processes and limiting beliefs that may prevent people from showing up as the best version of themselves. 

Individual and group coaching is proven to provide a far-reaching and deep impact on both personal and organisational growth. With companies committing to support employees on their journey, coaching opens the door to candid and ethical discussions going far beyond the reach of bite-sized learning, computer-based training, and large town hall meetings.

Coaching brings accountability and support in areas such as:

  • Managing Change – as workers transition back to the office, coaches can help employees see the opportunities available and better manage their reactions to the change happening in their internal and external environment now and in the future.
  • Managing Stress​ ​– coaching encourages employees to understand triggers and emotions tied to work tasks and team dynamics. And identify ways to cope and manage stress. The outcome is often improved self-awareness, and better prioritisation of self and goals leading to work-life harmony, and enhanced resilience.
  • Employee Engagement – coaching allows employees to explore their value and contribution to their employer and then consider how their talent can serve other areas of the organisation. This perceived investment in their professional development leads to employees becoming more engaged with the wider organisation
  • Professional Development and wellbeing– employers want to succeed, and employees have the same goal. Coaching allows employees to take more responsibility for their actions, how they continue to show up and what choices they have around how they would like to tackle short and long-term growth 

Despite the somewhat chaotic environment organisations are still operating in, partly because of the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and partly because of the enormous shifts businesses across the UK have had to make in response, all organisations are striving to get the best out of their people. 

Formalised coaching provides the space, time and environment for individuals to think deeply about how they can solve a problem, and how to move themselves – and their teams-forward. It also provides a platform for people to be held accountable for their progress.

The coaching professional Level 5 Apprenticeship, is for anyone who manages leads or works with others to provide them with the opportunity to become a professional coach. When a coaching culture is embedded throughout an organisation it can deliver a number of benefits. The apprenticeship won’t just be creating someone that can do a job, but actually, someone who will embed professional coaching skills within an organisation and empower others to take responsibility for their own development and develop more resilience to change.


How HR Apprenticeships Support People Professionals in a Constantly Changing World

Following a volatile two years, people professionals have been responsible for adapting to and managing the effects of first Brexit, then the pandemic, but now find themselves faced with a tangled web of new issues related to rising business and living costs, fierce competition for talent, widening skills gaps and making hybrid working a permanent reality for those who choose to work remotely. 

The pandemic radically changed the role of People Teams, possibly for good as they became increasingly central to how businesses navigated through unprecedented times, with employees- and businesses alike- looking to their people professionals to set new policies and create new procedures that reflected the new ways of working. The initial crisis response was largely led by HR but the way this function has continued to re-organise workforce resources and provide support has remained critical to on-going business success. 

This article explores how apprenticeship training can be a highly effective way of upskilling your People Professionals to tackle some of the key challenges they face in the current working landscape.


In a competitive marketplace, demand for talent is consistently outstripping supply. The Great Resignation has led to severe labour shortages in certain sectors as seismic contractions caused by furloughs and lockdowns have been followed by great booms in growth as industries rebounded, in some cases even stronger than before.

So many organisations struggle to attract candidates while others, fighting to retain what talent they have, are forced to make generous counter offers. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. Often giving an individual a massive pay increase creates an imbalance in the pay structure. Businesses cannot afford to compete on inflated wages alone and need to make greater adjustments to their wider reward structures going forwards. 

In addition, so much evidence concludes that a diverse workforce is a prosperous one. So in addition to recruiting the right skills, People Teams also needs to pay close attention to their EDI initiatives in relation to recruiting from different cultures and backgrounds in order to create a safe and inclusive workspace for their teams.

How can HR apprenticeships support recruitment challenges?

An HR apprenticeship considers the role of People Professionals within a business or industry context to explore some of the factors, both internal and external, that have an impact on the role. The apprenticeship allows learners to think more strategically about the environment they operate in, not just focus on the daily tasks they are involved in which helps develop the courage and influencing skills to recognise challenges and find ways to still move forward. An apprentice in a recruitment administrator role, for example, that sees a number of applicants turn down roles in favour of counter offers from their current employers, will recognise the potential broader impact of that trend on the business and be able to influence a discussion around company reward structures to help attract more candidates. 

Hybrid working and adopting technology

Over the past two and a half years, how and where many of us worked has changed dramatically, as the majority of workers switched the office for a home desk and adapted to more digital ways of working. The pandemic forced lots of companies that lacked a home-working policy or whose leadership were against the idea to come to the table and allow it to happen, because it was the only way the business could continue to operate. Flexible working patterns are here to stay but this shift means that People Professionals have to continually adapt and support this ongoing change. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid or remote working and companies that try to be prescriptive about what their hybrid world looks like without any form of employee consultation are soon going to find that their employees are leaving to find somewhere else that gives them the flexibility they want.

How can HR apprenticeships support hybrid working?

HR apprenticeships have evolved in line with what has been a massive acceleration of change in the working environment and perhaps quicker than many company’s people policies. The CIPD diploma syllabus focuses on the way we can embrace technology to help support new ways of working. This includes the use of virtual platforms for interviews, recruitment and onboarding, along with employee relations and conflict resolution, and how to effectively navigate these areas on virtual platforms too. 


In the war on talent, one of the overriding messages is that strong company cultures will always attract better talent. The topic was brought to a head last year following the publication of an open letter to the co-founder of BrewDog James Watt from ex-employees, accusing him of creating a culture of fear in the workplace. Employee retention is fast becoming a key competitive advantage. A company’s ability to retain its talent — especially in competitive markets — has clear implications for its ability to operate at a high level, without the disruptions caused by employee turnover and the resultant knowledge and skill loss.

Money isn’t the only factor in an employee’s decision to leave a company. Research shows that between 80-90% of people who accept a counter offer from their employers leave within 12 months. They decide to stay initially, but realise that actually the new wage wasn’t enough, because the issues they were experiencing before are still there.  Writing your company culture on the walls of your office isn’t enough, if when it comes down to it, people don’t live and breathe it and it’s just not visible.

How HR apprenticeships support company culture 

To truly embed your values across your organisation, it shouldn’t just be a presentation delivered by a Chief People Officer or an HR Business Partner; it has to involve your employees in some sort of consultation and engagement process to actually define what those values are in the first place. An HR apprenticeship discusses culture, inclusive workplaces and organisational values and the mechanisms used to bring employees into the process and how to communicate and engage with them, to find out what they want. Understanding these types of activities and how to run them in the right way will help make them truly successful.

Skills Gaps 

Despite the challenges they face recruiting for the here and now, the best People teams are looking at the future horizon because so many businesses, across a range of sectors, are experiencing severe skills gaps. And as the impact of any new training may last less than five years in a role, so many that have not received regular personal development will find that their skills sets are becoming  more and more outdated.  Amidst the daily recruitment firefight, what’s really important for People teams is not just thinking about what they need to recruit or develop to fill the immediate skills gaps but also review their recruitment strategy to consider the more long-term business needs.

How can a HR Apprenticeship help fill skills gaps? 

More advanced training, such as the HR Consultant Level 5 apprenticeship, equips senior professionals with the skills to evaluate skill gaps, and identify suitable training opportunities, meaning companies can upskill current employees and offer valuable opportunities to their workforce. Both HR Support Level 3 apprenticeships and HR Consultant Level 5 apprenticeships also cover employee Personal Development, so that learners have opportunities to progress and grow within their roles. Learners will also develop first-hand experience of working collaboratively through virtual workshops and networking with peers, meaning these skills will then be transferable to the rest of the business.

Wellbeing and mental health

A survey by CIPD (2021) found that 37% of businesses have seen a rise in stress-related absences since the first lockdown in 2020; with a lack of certainty, security and disruption to everyday life being the main triggers. Although the UK has been out of lockdown for a while, the impact of mental health is still being felt, with record numbers of people reporting mental health issues. Since the pandemic, many companies have increased their focus on mental health and wellbeing, with People Professionals as the driving force behind implementing this into the company culture. 

How HR apprenticeships can support mental health 

HR apprentices at Level 3 and Level 5 include modules on employee wellbeing and how to support employees with long-term mental ill-health. HR apprentices will also learn to advise employees on how to create a healthy work/life balance whilst working remotely, to reduce the chances of mental health conditions arising. These apprenticeships will also help the learner to manage their own wellbeing, as HR as a profession continues to suffer from burnout caused by the impact of COVID-19 and many other ongoing factors.

Training your People Professionals through apprenticeships

The benefit of investing in your People Professionals is that you are developing your people, as well as your approach to your support for all employees. The changes brought about by the pandemic are only some of the key areas that HR apprenticeships can address, as the programmes are designed to develop fully rounded People Professionals from day one.HR Apprenticeships require 20% off-the-job learning along with regular checkpoints where apprentices are supported to put theory into practice as well as discuss the latest trends and techniques with industry peers. Designed by experts from the industry, our programmes are created to equip delegates with the skills, knowledge and behaviours to truly excel in their roles.

Fives ways HR Can Embed Company Culture 

Fives ways HR Can Embed Company Culture 

Company culture is a topic of increasing interest since the pandemic. Companies are keen to highlight their values; some adorn office walls for all to see. But while they are talking the talk, are they walking the walk? 

While employees are told to live and breathe a culture, sometimes they just can’t see it to believe it.

Culture has also become a source of competitive advantage. A company’s ability to hold on to its existing workforce or attract new talent — especially in competitive markets — has a big impact on its ability to operate effectively without the disruptions caused by employee turnover and the resultant knowledge drain and skills gaps.

Employee Bargaining Power

Demand for talent is consistently outstripping supply – it’s an employee’s market. It has led to severe labour shortages in some sectors as seismic contractions caused by lockdown have been followed by great booms as industries rebounded, in some cases even stronger than before.

It increases the power to negotiate terms with employees, who, following a long period of pandemic-induced self-reflection, are much more in tune with what they want and are prepared to fight for it. Gen-Z in particular is looking for organisations with purpose. They’re looking for organisations that do put their money where their cultural mouth is and if they find that businesses aren’t living up to their promises, they are happy to move on to another opportunity that might offer more of a balance. 

But company culture means more than just what goes on in the boardrooms and offices of a business. It’s how people interact with each other, from senior executives to those who have recently joined the company. With such a breadth of influence, the human resources department plays a unique role in how company culture operates both directly and indirectly.

Their interaction with candidates sets a bar that other discussions, behaviours and interactions can be measured by. HR’s implementation of processes, rules and regulations helps to steer employees to behave or act in a certain way.

Here are five ways your People Professionals can embed a company culture:

Values-based interviews 

The process of embedding values starts at the recruitment stage. Of course, businesses will use a strong cultural message to attract candidates, but when recruiting it is important that the values of the business are aligned to those of your new and existing workforce. Including values-based questions in the interview stage, allows the hiring manager to test out candidates’ values to see whether there are some synergies.  It also helps the candidates to understand whether your business is the right organisation for them. 

Integrate Core Values into your Performance Management process

Defining a company’s core values is important, but it’s actually only the first step. The greater challenge is how to integrate these into the day-to-day life of your business. Core values provide a motivation to make a difference but also set a standard by which employees’ performance and behaviour are judged. It’s important not to just focus on outcomes people achieve but the way in which they do it and the values that they demonstrate whilst doing it because there’s no point having a project manager who gets a new system over the line, but actually has done it whilst burning out everybody that ever worked in this project team.

Celebrating values and behaviours 

Shouting about examples of people, particularly those in senior positions, living and demonstrating the values and behaviours your organisation wants to embody is a great way of demonstrating that they manifest throughout the organisation. Establish mechanisms for colleagues to champion good behaviour with awards or celebrations that recognise specific company values on a regular basis. This will enable your People team to keep your values front of mind. On the flip side, employees should have permission to call out those same leaders and hold them to account, publically, by staff for not modelling or demonstrating the values they are keen to espouse. 

Cascade your values 

A lot of businesses will cite the words collaboration and innovation as two of their values. But these words may mean very different things to different organisations. Being able to work with people across an organisation is important, as is being able to innovate but these terms, without clear definition can be meaningless. And, in order to really embed these values across an organisation, they shouldn’t just come from the HRBP or HRD within the leadership team, who tell the workforce what the values are and why they think they are important. It needs to be a far more consultative process. 

Consult your workforce

If you want a workforce to buy into a set of values, they have to feel that they have some ownership of them. Having a set of clearly defined values that the workforce buys into is the foundation of a truly engaged organisation. Begin a process of consultation and engagement to actually define what those values are in the first place because this will lead to a more successful embodiment of them. 

How an HR apprenticeship can support company culture

Company culture, inclusive workplaces and values are a key focus for the HR Apprenticeships delivered by City Skills. Apprentices are encouraged to explore their own company values and learn how to employ certain mechanisms to bring employees into the process, and how to communicate and engage with them. They learn the values of certain activities and how to implement them successfully to embed culture within a workplace. 

The apprenticeship also encourages group participation and discussion, which provides a safe environment to discuss some of these complex situations and learn from the best practice of others. This method offers insights into something many will have had little exposure to before. 

Successful completion of the apprenticeship validates that a level of embedded learning has been achieved. This means somebody in an HR position will be more competent and able, with the necessary knowledge and skills to have a larger impact on developing a company culture than those that are new to this area of HR.

Culture is an overriding principle that supersedes a hybrid working model, a pay structure and recruitment methods. Organisations looking to attract new talent or stem the tide of the ‘Great Resignation’ therefore shouldn’t rely on flexible working options alone. Workers don’t usually leave for just one reason, so more money, the opportunity to work from home, more flexible working hours and even four-day weeks, won’t necessarily be enough to keep employees on board if there are other deep-rooted failures within the organisation.

Embedding culture in any business is a challenge, particularly if owners and senior leaders aren’t engaged in the process, but HR is key to the manifestation of values and culture throughout an organisation.  You have to work at it, you can’t just advertise them on the walls.