Cala Homes (Thames) construction director Stephen Bennett FCIOB tells CIOB People how the company’s Construction Academy of Excellence is helping champion aspiration and best in class delivery across its workforce
What is Cala’s Construction Academy of Excellence and how does it work?
At Cala we recognise the vital role of developing strong, focused leadership across our business plays in helping us to grow our position in the marketplace.
As such, we constantly strive to support and develop our existing and future leaders. Our Construction Academy of Excellence plays a key role in enabling this.
The Construction Academy of Excellence is a bespoke, industry-recognised training programme that provides a structured career path for our site management workforce.
Unique to Cala, the core training programme has been co-designed by in-house experts and our specialist training partners.
Industry-recognised training modules have been aligned with Cala’s own high-quality standards, processes and procedures, as well as our leadership approach and cultural values.
Through the Academy, our site management staff at all levels have the opportunity to complete a formal vocational or academic qualification.
Those who wish to progress further will be supported by us to achieve Chartered Construction Manager status through the CIOB.
As part of this, we have created training programmes with modules based around leadership and site management, which cover some important technical elements too.
This provides a range of options for our site management teams to complete formal vocational and academic qualifications through the Academy.
The Construction Academy of Excellence is a bespoke, industry-recognised training programme that provides a structured career path for our site management workforce
In turn, this ensures we develop and harness the skills we need right across our construction teams to deliver excellence.
For example, our bespoke Constructing Leaders Programme (CLP) has been specifically tailored to ensure it encompasses Cala’s own standards, processes and procedures.
This means it is uniquely positioned to give participants the technical and leadership skills they need to develop into outstanding leaders, which in turn helps drive exceptional performance across the business.
We have also introduced a full leadership programme for our contracts managers through the Academy, which covers the skills needed and the activities required to help them support learners within their own teams.
The programme not only develops our current senior managers in line with the required standards for the role but creates the foundations for future career development.
To complement our core programmes, there are several additional learning and development pathways available for our construction teams through the Academy.
Across our training modules we ensure we embrace an inclusive and flexible approach that harnesses the power of blended learning to meet the needs of different learning styles.
This empowers our learners, with the support of their line managers, to choose the route that is best suited to their personal development needs and career aspirations, while helping the business to continue to grow.
What are the benefits of employer-led training programmes?
By defining our own content and approach, we can enhance and develop the essential skills our site management teams need. This equips them with the relevant knowledge and skills to work consistently towards delivering our high standards.
In particular, employer-led training allows us to develop our employees in a way that fits with our culture and values, giving them the best possible opportunity to thrive and realise their career aspirations within a business where they really feel at home.
Being able to tailor our approach means we can also make sure that the required learning outputs from our Academy courses are embedded within our Performance and Talent Management Frameworks. This creates a synergy between the training modules and the business’ commercial requirements.
What are the prerequisites for staff who want to join the programme?
The CLP is aimed at our site management teams and incorporates a blend of technical and leadership modules, which are essential for our team members who aspire to progress to middle management and beyond.
In terms of eligibility, we take a flexible approach to maximise the opportunities for involvement across our site management teams.
We do require our learners to have completed their mandatory Cala Homes HSE and Legal Compliance training and they should have had some construction site experience within Cala.
However, beyond that, we encourage a wide range of people into the Academy. We have learners who already hold leadership qualifications and others who have no previous management experience.
We enrol all our new starters in site management onto the next Academy cycle as standard and ensure we tailor our approach to suit each learner.
How does the programme help to develop both the technical skills and leadership qualities that are valued at Cala?
The Academy helps support and develop our learners into becoming effective construction leaders and connects our employees to our values.
Our core aim is to upskill our leaders to improve the effectiveness of our organisation in line with our six strategic pillars.
To do this, we work closely with a variety of different stakeholders across Cala to ensure that all Academy solutions align with our organisation’s values and business plan.
The Academy goal is to build the right capability at the right time. As such, our core programme and offerings are continuously evolving to meet the wider business needs.
Senior construction leaders are heavily involved with shaping the design of our Academy initiatives. This includes ongoing line management coaching and mentoring for learners once the programme is delivered.
The approach for the latter is dependent on the level and type of change required, but this serves to drive the required cultural change across all levels of our leadership teams, not just those undergoing the training.
It is important that the offerings of the Academy complement the group-wide leadership development opportunities, so that Cala’s approach for developing leaders is consistent across the board.
As such, we work closely with our people team to ensure that the company values and leadership principles are embedded into everything we do.
How is the Academy helping to support long-term employee satisfaction and retention at Cala?
The aim of our People pillar – one of Cala Homes’ six strategic areas of focus – is to attract, inspire, grow and retain high-performing teams through a diverse culture and purposeful leadership.
We value our employees and view our relationship with them as an important and long-term one. Employee satisfaction and retention are critical factors for us and investment into development and ongoing learning experience is key to this.
The Academy provisions and benefits form just one of our offerings for our teams. Our People team also delivers leadership development programmes across all businesses within Cala, aimed at different levels of leaders within the organisation to support their further development.
- Building Leaders Programme – aimed at aspiring or first-time leaders, supporting with key skills for stepping into leadership;
- Inspire – a programme designed to equip our middle-level leaders with the skills and knowledge to excel in their roles;
- Leading the Cala Way – a bespoke programme for our senior leaders, underpinned by the Cala Leadership Framework.
The Academy aims to develop our construction management in line with ‘what good looks like’ for their role, mapping ‘what they practically do’ against the ‘how’, which for operational teams can sometimes be a challenging area to interpret.
By aligning learners to our values and delivering transparency around what is expected through our core programmes, we can improve role satisfaction and secure the learners’ personal investment in the company.
Another key priority of our People pillar is supporting early talent, through internships, placements, degree apprenticeship opportunities and a graduate development programme.
These options, along with the opportunities presented through our Academy, help us inspire and grow our people right across the company.
What support is available for employees who want to progress further to achieve CIOB chartership?
The Academy offers a variety of optional qualifications that support career progression within Cala. Naturally, the prerequisites for CIOB are also available to our construction management teams.
In line with our robust organisational performance management and talent management processes, we are currently sponsoring 16 live learners to work towards their CIOB qualification. Six have already successfully achieved FCIOB status.
All our externally delivered qualifications have a structured support framework built into the delivery – a blend of the Academy, support coaching from the provider, and line management support.
We recognise that individuals have different learning needs, and so our approach is very much tailored to this.
The Academy aims to develop our construction management in line with ‘what good looks like’ for their role, mapping ‘what they practically do’ against the ‘how’, which for operational teams can sometimes be a challenging area to interpret
Looking ahead, how will the Academy help Cala respond to some of the macro challenges facing the industry?
To achieve business continuity and future growth, we recognise the need to deliver a consistent standard of service and productivity across all our regions.
The industry is continuously evolving and it is imperative our leaders are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to lead our site teams on what tomorrow is asking of us.
The Academy is about so much more than programme delivery. It supports the wider business in driving change for the future by building related requirements and key milestones into its core programmes, further embedding the learning and facilitating the transition towards the demands of the future within our construction teams.
We also see the Academy playing an important long-term role in fostering our future female role models as we look to address the current under-representation of women in the industry.
Sustainability is a critical focus for Cala and the Academy plays a key supporting role here in structuring the approach to timber frame implementation in our English regions.
We also work closely with the Cala Business Change team to support the introduction of new IT systems and, in areas where increased engagement is required with existing platforms, guide our managers to lead the change by applying their new skills.
As part of our wider efforts to support the health and wellbeing of our team, our Academy cohort benefit from Cala’s partnership with Samaritans.
This sees the charity deliver emotional resilience training to our team to support them in prioritising their wellbeing and achieving a positive work-life balance.
And as part of our leadership training, we make sure we equip our future leaders with the resources and knowledge to embed positive wellbeing practices across the business.
Given the level of change our industry is experiencing, the Academy will continue to adapt its approach and the initiatives it delivers to make certain our teams are supported to cope with change and manage and deliver it effectively.