While COVID-19 has meant challenges for all companies, the advent of the ‘digital age’ has represented a fillip to those able to adapt their offering – and for one Welsh training company able to react to changed circumstances quickly, it has meant retaining its largest contract with one of the UK’s biggest retailers.
Call of the Wild, a training company whose offering is rooted in its incredible surroundings and landscapes of the Brecon Beacons, where it is based, was quick to pivot its offering when lockdown measures started being introduced in March 2020. Nine months on, it is embarking on its biggest ever online contract – a virtual management development programme for 600 managers at a large UK retailer. By moving from face to face delivery to a redesigned online programme it has meant renewal of the contract for 2021.
The company is also benefitting from a growing willingness in big companies to invest in their staff, keeping them engaged and motivated through a period when many are still working from home and juggling the challenges and demands presented as a result of COVID-19.
Some experts suggest that the e-learning industry globally would be worth $325 billion by 2025. This figure may well quadruple as a result of the enforced acceleration driven by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns. In the UK, many professional bodies including the CIPD are urging companies to invest in training their staff to enhance both mental wellbeing and boost economic recovery.
Call of the Wild’s approach to adapting to an online environment has been especially innovative as the business has developed new and unique ways of delivering its leadership courses to ensure they continue to be an immersive and challenging experience – even when completed virtually.
The company has succeeded in continuing to leverage the incredible landscape and geographical features around its headquarters in the Brecon Beacons by bringing the ruggedness of its outdoor ‘green classroom’ programmes to the screen – filming various scenarios and allowing participants to choose different outcomes.
One of its training programmes, themed ‘Behind Enemy Lines’, a course designed to develop leadership skills, improve team performance and motivation, uses footage of real geographical features and the physical challenges they present including rivers, rapids, caves and cliffs to offer participants scenario-based exercises that replicate the experience of being in the Brecon Beacons.
Through this virtual world, participants will need to display leadership skills, work as a team to journey across the wild Brecon Beacons while completing tasks and challenges to obtain clues. In one scenario, coordinates will lead the team to a downed plane in the area, where they must find the pilot and extract him from the mountains as quickly as possible.
Mark Soanes, director, Call of the Wild, said: “The reality is that we are a Welsh company based in a pretty remote location who have used the outdoor ‘green classroom’ as a powerful vehicle for learning to take place. That has always been our USP and we have based our identity and programmes historically around our location and everything that offers.
“But just as we teach on our leadership programmes, we have turned the challenges of this year into an opportunity. We have embraced the digital world, put our own unique spin on things, and that has allowed us to continue to offer our programmes to clients albeit in a different way but without diminishing their impact.
“Landing this contract, which starts in January, is significant for us and we look forward to working with many more clients of this size. We are also speaking to customers in the US and parts of Europe. We genuinely believe that what has happened in 2020 will serve us in good stead long term now.”
Call of the Wild works very closely with its clients across the UK, many of them blue chip, to create tailor-made learning and team-building sessions, identifying the specific needs and aims of each client company. Its bespoke courses focus on achieving desired outcomes by creating positive behavioural change within the workplace. The programmes all have measurable outcomes and are aimed specifically at delivering a return on the client’s investment.
£67k contract win with leading power tools specialists for Swansea’s Uplands Communications
Uplands Communications is celebrating a major contract win to the tune of £67k, having closed a deal with a division of Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd.
The deal sees the Swansea-headquartered telephony specialists supply connectivity for more than 130 users.
Techtronic owns brands including Ryobi, Milwaukee and AEG. The company enjoyed record 2021 worldwide sales of US$13.2 billion and has more than 51,000 employees.
Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We are pleased to forge a new partnership with Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd, a leaders in its field which is committed to ensuring its customers receive the best experience whenever they interact with the business.
“The past two years have been challenging for businesses across all industries, including for telephony and communications, and, of course for construction and for their supply chain colleagues.
“However, we are seeing, across the board, companies becoming increasingly aware of the need to make sure their communications are in the best shape possible and are modern and fit for purpose.
“The pandemic has brought about a sea-change in the way consumers and businesses interact with each other. Carefully-tailored telephone and communications solutions are more essential than ever if businesses want to thrive.”
Natasha Russell, Financial Accountant at Techtronic said: “We operate a multi-million pound operation across a range of products and sites and we deal with a broad customer base – both commercial and domestic.
“The solution we sought from Uplands will give us a more seamless billing functionality and smoother processes, as well as more robust day-to-day support. We are pleased to enter into an agreement with Uplands Communications and we look forward to our ongoing relationship with them.”
Uplands Communications, based at Swansea Enterprise Park, is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications.
The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.
64% of Wales employees set to leave due to cost of living
During the biggest cost-of-living crises most people will have ever experienced, only 6% of employees in Wales believe their employer is doing enough to support them through the crisis.
Even though staggering 72% believe their employer has a responsibility to support them through the current climate.
That’s according to new research from Blackhawk Network, which says that according to employees, employee benefits are no longer just added incentives, they are now a way for employers to support their staff.
It says it’s now essential employers are informed on what employees want and ultimately need from benefits schemes to help guide them through the cost-of-living crisis.
Other key findings in Wales show 94% of employers agree that they have a duty to support their employees as the cost-of-living rises, with 79% of employees saying employee benefits play, or could play, an important role in improving the cost-of-living
Almost two thirds (64%) would leave their current job in order to find an opportunity that provides better financial support during the current cost-of-living crisis.
The findings come from research conducted by Blackhawk Network in conjunction with Sapio, to support the launch of its new Blackhawk Network Extras Benefits Platform.
Workplace benefits are hot property at a time of crisis
According to the UK-wide data, 85% of employers agree that they have a duty to support their employees as the cost-of-living rises. While raising wages might seem a simple fix, businesses are also impacted by rising costs and inflation making pay increases unviable. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing they can do to help. 83% of employees agree that workplace benefits play an important role in helping to balance finances as the cost-of-living continues to rise; and 95% of employers agree.
It is telling that almost a quarter (24%) of employees admit they’ve already used their benefits package more during the cost-of-living. In addition, almost three quarters (73%) of employer’s state that prospective employees are looking for employee benefits as part of the solution to the crisis.
Employers must dial-up on support to have real impact
The report says that dialling-up cost-of-living support through employee benefits is a must when talent is at risk. For example, salary sacrifice, where employees are offered the option to pay for services or products from their salary before they receive it to reduce tax, can be found with offers such as Cyclescheme, on technology or gym memberships, to save money that would otherwise eat into pay. However, there are still barriers to overcome.
When employees were asked what the term ‘salary sacrifice’ meant, almost three quarters (73%) admitted they did not fully understand it, including 18% who had not idea at all. In contrast, to almost all employers (98%) believing employees understand it to some degree. There is a clear disconnect between the employer and the employee, yet salary sacrifice can save employees money and help in mitigating the effects of the cost-of-living crisis.
If employers want to support employees, they need to make information about benefits, like salary sacrifice, more accessible and digestible to prove that it can have a real-life impact on their current financial situation by making their pay go further.
Over half (53%) of employees say they would be more likely to use salary sacrifice schemes if they had a better understanding of how they work. But this is an issue that only employers can fix. Better communication is essential to close the perception gap on employee benefits to be the support employees want and need during the cost-of-living crisis.
Chris Ronald, VP EMEA Incentives & Operations at Blackhawk Network said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that employers have a vital role to play supporting their employees during the cost-of-living crisis. But the rising costs also mean that businesses are unable to offer blanket wage increases.
“Our research takes an in-depth look into the current state of employee benefits and the perceptions of the employees who are in a position to use them. With the release of this research, we hope to give businesses the tools they need to improve their benefit packages so they continue to support staff throughout the crisis.”
Welsh insulation company partners with Swansea University to explore capturing carbon emissions
Brigend-based insulation company ROCKWOOL Ltd. has announced it is partnering with the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University to research the capture of carbon dioxide.
Researchers are aiming to develop new carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies that can assist Wales and the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Researchers at ESRI have been working on a process called Pressure Swing Adsorption to separate carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. To date, this has been shown to work under laboratory conditions and so the next step is to investigate how it works in a real life industrial process.
Over the next 12 months, researchers will be experimenting with different adsorbent materials and operating conditions to determine the most effective method for removing carbon dioxide. Isolating carbon dioxide from a mixed gas stream is an important step in developing opportunities for use or long term storage.
Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL Ltd, said: “Alongside ROCKWOOL Ltd.’s membership of the South Wales Industrial Cluster, I am delighted we’re partnering with Swansea University to pilot new technology designed to capture CO2 emissions and are excited about its potential in supporting the drive to Net Zero.”
The demonstration unit is being developed as part of the £11.5m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.
Darryl continued: “Taking these important steps to understand how we can develop CCUS technology further is another important piece of the decarbonisation puzzle for us as a business. The ROCKWOOL Group has long been committed to operating sustainably and in December 2020, ROCKWOOL announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.”
Professor Andrew Barron the Principal Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement, “with 2050 arriving fast, the time for research is over, it is imperative to get new technology onto industrial sites in order to demonstrate viability. Partners such as ROCKWOOL are vital in achieving this goal.”
In 2020 the ROCKWOOL Group announced ambitious, science based global decarbonisation targets that have been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The targets, which supplement existing sustainability goals, amount to an ambitious one third reduction of ROCKWOOL’s lifecycle (Scope 1, 2 and 3) greenhouse gas emissions by 2034 while at the same time continuing the reduce the carbon intensity of production.
These commitments build on ROCKWOOL’s existing status as a net carbon negative company, in that over the lifetime of its use, the building insulation ROCKWOOL sold in 2021 will save 100 times the carbon emitted in its production.
Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “These are the partnerships that will drive a stronger, greener Welsh economy. Putting world class expertise into practice is critical to our journey to net zero and this work means Bridgend will play a leading role in these exciting developments. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the project through the European Regional Development Fund.”
(Lead image: ROCKWOOL)
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