The evolution of staff training
Business Chief catches up with Martyn Bridges, Director of Technical Communication and Product Management, Worcester Bosch, to discuss the evolution of its training centre
Martyn Bridges is the Director of Technical Communication and Product Management at Worcester Bosch, the leading manufacturer of boilers in the UK and subsidiary of Robert Bosch. In an exclusive Q&A with Business Chief, Bridges provides insight into the development of Worcester Bosch’s training centre, which started from the ground up and has transformed into the largest training centre in the UK. The heating product manufacturer has provided training to over 16,000 installers across four training academies, 80 colleges and eight mobile trainers. According to Bridges, the key to the training centre’s success is the consistent support of its employees as it seeks new ways to teach and nurture them.
I understand that you have been working with Worcester Bosch for several years. Could you tell me a little bit about how you came to your role?
I’ve been here 34 years now, having joined in the mid-1980s when it was called Worcester Engineering. We were much smaller then, with around 100 employees selling approximately 15,000 boilers annually.
I’ve grown up with the company which has taken me to the role I have today. When I joined, the company had been in operation for over 20 years and had historically been known as an oil boiler manufacturer. It then moved into combination gas fired appliances, which not many companies in the UK were doing. I thought this was a revolutionary, pioneering thing to do and I wanted to work for a company who were forging ahead.
I’ve worked in a range of different roles at Worcester Bosch, and in 2006 I was made a Director of the company.
What are your main priorities in your role?
My priorities haven’t really changed that much for the last 30 years – our overwhelming priority is to ensure the customer gets a good deal. We want to see our boilers made to impeccable standards, and installed professionally, so the end user has reliable heating and hot water at an affordable price and it lasts the test of time. We want to ensure our boilers provide a good life and a good deal, so our obsession is on the customer.
Worcester Bosch has the largest training centre in the UK. Could you share the strategy of the training centre?
When I joined Worcester, we didn’t have a training centre. We trained installers on our boilers and we found we had to as they weren’t the normal sort of boiler. However, it wasn’t a plush facility, just a boiler plumbed in and working in our quality control department. From the early days, we knew we had to assist the installer on how to fit, commission, and how to repair them.
Soon after I joined, we built training centres at our Worcester headquarters and just outside of London at Amersham. We’ve always had a belief that the training not only gives the consumer the best professional installers, but that we also build a relationship with the installer during their time with us.
In more recent years we’ve built a new training centre and we now must train installers on several other technologies such as heat pumps and solar. We’ve also broadened our scope to train installers on topics such as finance skills, marketing and health and safety. We provide them with all the training they need to run their business effectively and to the letter of the law, including the qualifications they need to legally practice.
How does the training you provide assist with maintaining Worcester Bosch’s competitive edge?
We’ve got a training team of nearly 30 people now, which has grown because of the amount of demand we have. We train small groups of around six to eight installers to provide a personal touch and they are all hands on working on the products that we make. It’s a labour-intensive thing to do but it is a very beneficial process for both parties.
As tech is constantly changing, how do you ensure that your staff are always up to date with the latest technology advancements?
Much of the training we offer to installers is also undertaken by staff. Employees are set a certain amount of days a year where they must complete training, mostly on the product itself. We’re always looking around to see where we can improve the general knowledge base of our teams. Knowledge development is an ongoing task, and everyone embraces it.
How do you ensure that you attract and retain the right employees?
We are a well thought of brand – number one in the marketplace, with a pretty happy and contented workforce so the attraction is generally self-fulfilling. Retention relies on keeping everyone happy and we aim to provide good working conditions, investment in training and benefits. We also try to look after our employees. For example, we recently signed the Time to Change pledge to ensure we’re providing support and awareness for our employees’ mental health.
Worcester Bosch has a strong focus on sustainability, how does the development and training of your staff contribute to this journey?
The Bosch group has pledged to be zero carbon by next year, so we are recycling everything we can. For example, the heat produced by boilers in the training centre is recycled in storage buffers and then used to heat the buildings in which we’re working. The Bosch environmental policy is well known and is employed in every Bosch factory.
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What core partners are helping deliver solutions in the training you provide?
We bring in experts on an as-and-when-needed basis. We are self-sufficient and make most of what we sell, but we have training engineers from manufacturers who provide complementary products join our training sessions to demonstrate how they integrate. For example, water treatment systems complement central heating systems and we have help from companies such as ADEY, Fernox and Sentinel on that front.
How does excellent staff training position Worcester Bosch for the future?
Excellent staff training helps with the retention of staff and we’re always looking for the next technology to educate our employees on. For example, we’ve trained every member of staff on our new hydrogen boiler development and why we’re doing it.
We also constantly communicate the success of the company to our staff. This happens via a monthly communication meeting where nearly 2,000 people are indirectly brought up to speed on what we’re up to, how we’re performing, changes in regulation and our plans for the future.
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