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Opencast earns Skills Builder Bronze Excellence Mark

Independent technology consultancy Opencast has taken significant strides in fostering a culture of essential skills development, to earn a Skills Builder Bronze Excellence Mark. 

In giving Opencast this accreditation, Skills Builder has recognised the Newcastle-headquartered firm for the professional development of essential skills.

With the rapid expansion in the past two years of the firm’s workforce from 200 to 450 people, Opencast quickly recognised that it needed to establish systems to support its growth and its people’s’ career development and progression alongside.

Opencast Chief People Officer Cate Kalson said: “We were looking for an evidence-based framework that would allow us to focus on these essential skills and directly support people to understand what they are and how to build them. 

“When we found Skills Builder we found the skills to be a really great fit with the behaviours that we value – but with much stronger evidence and pedagogy than how we’d managed to articulate it to date.”

Opencast took a comprehensive approach to embed essential skills into its organisational structure. It conducted internal audits to identify essential skills requirements at each role level, ultimately creating a competency model aligned with the Skills Builder Universal Framework

This framework, spanning all levels from entry-level to C-suite, has clarified expectations, facilitated development planning and supported internal mobility.

Opencast’s Head of People Experience Cameron Smith added: “I couldn’t quite find the right words for what I wanted to be seeing from my team members but now I can. It’s a tool we now use every day when supporting our people.”

What are the Excellence Standards?

The Skills Builder Excellence Standards provide a powerful roadmap for businesses and organisations looking to develop a skilled workforce. They set clear guidelines for best practices across an entire business or team. Split across three key areas – outreach, recruitment and staff development – the nine Excellence Standards offer a structured approach to building a strong talent pipeline, attracting top candidates and fostering continuous learning. Excellence Marks accredit and recognise those standards, showcasing this commitment to skill development. These Marks are awarded at four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Investing in staff development 

The impact of introducing an essential skills framework is evident in the feedback we received, that the refreshed approach to development planning enables great conversations and action planning around development. 

Cate Kalson added: “We’re delighted to be recognised at bronze level for the work we’ve delivered so far in partnership with Skills Builder. We’re just getting started and look forward to continuing to embed and add to what we’ve started in people development – and extend this to recruitment and outreach activities throughout the rest of 2024. 

Raising awareness of essential skills benefits

Opencast has worked hard to raise awareness of the Universal Framework right across the business. Its people were offered the chance to attend awareness sessions outlining the personal benefits for performance and career development, but also the impact on life-long careers.

Its people participate in self-reflection against the essential skills using Opencast’s own general competency framework to identify strengths and where they want to target their progress. These self-reflections can be discussed with line managers, peers and mentors to create a collaborative environment for goal setting and development planning. 

People supported to develop essential skills

In partnership with Skills Builder, Opencast have developed new professional development guidance and templates which its people are encouraged to use. Development discussions are supported by line managers, as well as through ‘people experience partners’ (PEEPs), who use their coaching and feedback skills to provide support and constructive feedback on essential skills. 

Opencast also provides coaching and feedback training to line managers as part of its ‘Amplify’ leadership programme, PEEPs play a critical role in development conversations with consultants, and all are working towards being qualified coaches. Opencast also offers its managers the chance to attend sessions run by Skills Builder on giving specific feedback on essential skills. 

Promoting and recognising essential skills development 

Opencast has aligned its essential skills framework to its organisational job levels and performance review conversations. These conversations place equal emphasis on delivering impact through demonstrating essential skills as well as technical competencies. 

Four steps to achieve essential skills with impact 

  1. Develop a clear framework: Using the Skills Builder Universal Framework as the starting point, identify the essential skills needed at each level of your organisation. This will help provide a common language and structure for development.
  1. Build structure around development: You could start out trialling structures in a singular department before going business wide. Or you could embrace the possibilities and boost impact across all divisions. How could you place essential skills development not just next to, but fully integrated into your competency models, development plans and future talent pipelines?
  1. Invest in your managers: Train managers to give feedback and coach employees on essential skills development. The Skills Builder team has lots of examples of manager training and can use this ‘train the trainer’ model so that you can build sustainable impact. 
  1. Communicate essential skills: Make your people aware of the personal and professional benefits of developing essential skills. Through management conversations and goal setting, you can support this awareness raising as well as supporting your employees with explicit development opportunities. 

Join Opencast and Skills Builder Partnership in Newcastle on Monday 17 June for a TechNExt festival discussion on ‘Skills in Tech For Impact’. Register to join in person or online via livestream.