Gary Millns, Head of our in-house learning and development centre, the Aztec Academy, explains what the Academy does, and how it plays a key role in shaping the Aztec culture and delivering brighter futures.
For a fast-moving Group like Aztec, it’s essential to create and nurture a culture where learning is prioritised, valued and everyone feels their personal development is invested in. Our Aztec Academy is known for designing and delivering excellent quality learning, and pushing the boundaries of what a learning and development function should look like. It’s a complete in-house training function with the tools to ensure everyone feels fully motivated and supported so they can reach their full potential.
Gary has overall responsibility for the Aztec Academy, and leads a dedicated team of ten passionate training enthusiasts, including seven trainers and three people supporting the team to deliver exceptional continued learning.
The team provides a broad range of training courses and e-learning modules across three distinct areas:
• employee inductions and ‘soft skills’
• training on internal systems and procedures
• and professional qualifications and technical updates.
Gary takes the lead on management and leadership training. As he recalls: “When I first joined, our trainers were ‘generalists’. But as the Group kept getting bigger, the Academy needed to grow with it. Now, all our trainers have their own specific areas of expertise. This means we are all playing to our strengths. Everyone in the team is accountable for their area, and motivated and empowered to make it their own.”
Getting it right from the start
As you would expect from a client-focused business like Aztec, the employee induction is designed to leave a strong cultural imprint. Teams are encouraged to welcome new recruits before they join, so that they don’t feel like a stranger on their first day. The recently enhanced week-long induction programme provides an insight into different areas of the business, as well as an understanding of the Aztec values and behaviours. After that first week, new recruits are given a support programme aimed at helping them pass their probation, and setting them on the path towards a successful career with the Group.
As Gary explains: “The Aztec Academy really sets the standard – and the tone – throughout the Group. We’re passionate about making sure everyone gets the best out of working here, and we encourage certain values and behaviours across all levels of the business. We don’t just train people to do their job. We give them learning experiences that go far beyond that. And we do this because we know it helps them to build better, lasting, relationships with our clients.”
The switch to virtual learning – lockdown 2020
Of course, the lockdown caused by COVID-19, and the resulting switch to remote working for some 1,000 Aztec employees, had a significant impact on the learning and development team, but the team quickly adapted to working from home, and ensured everyone at Aztec was able to do the same. Gary explains: “Moving everything we do ‘online’ all of a sudden was a big ask, but the team responded magnificently. We were able to get everything up and running within three weeks. Plus, the new digital approach meant we were able to start capturing valuable data that allows us to see what training is working well and what hasn’t, and is used to support the decisions we make.”
Part of this includes redesigning existing learning methods and modules to make them more engaging and interactive. Learning from home can be demanding, with numerous distractions, it’s easy to “log on and tune out”. To avoid this, the team is designing digital learning experiences that keep people engaged and help to broaden thinking.
During lockdown, when working from home, we quickly developed specific training to support all our employees. From our leadership team to our trainees, we provided support through a number of courses such as “Leading Through Transition”, “Managing Performance Remotely” and “Keeping Remote Teams Connected”. These courses are now part of our standard learning as we remain ready for anything as a business!
What does the future of the Academy look like?
The future for the Academy is to not only design and deliver high-quality learning, but to also to be responsible for developing the best ‘talent’ across the business. To achieve this, everyone at Aztec will be given their own personal roadmap – which will allow them to think about where they are in their career, and to decide on where they want to be in five or ten years’ time.
As Gary explains: “The way we think about work is very different today vs even ten years ago. People don’t expect to stay in the same company for their whole career – they want new challenges and experiences. We want people to take responsibility for their own career progression, and the Academy will provide all the coaching and support they need to fulfil their career aspirations and potential. And there is so much variety and opportunity at Aztec, from regular career opportunities to secondments and international relocations – the sky is the limit! Not everyone wants to be a manager or a leader however, and that’s fine too. We are always ready to have strategic conversations about someone’s career, and to help them plan their next step, whatever that might be. We want everyone to feel happy and motivated in their role, at every level.”
We want the Academy to be known for nurturing talent, and giving our people the opportunity to grow as the business grows. There are so many opportunities in Aztec – where’s your application? The Academy team are ready to welcome you!