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BBC Case Study: A future focused career strategy

Client BBC
BBC and globe

Key takeaways

  • The BBC’s investment in careers supports their need to adapt in a highly competitive broadcasting environment, with a focus on building a ‘One BBC’ culture that attracts and nurtures diverse talent, whilst also creating opportunities to grow and build capability across the organisation.
  • The BBC are working with The Career Innovation Company to refresh their career strategy and offer evidence-based career development to inspire and upskill employees, leaders and career supporters
  • The work enables the BBC to foster more internal mobility and skill building via the BBC ‘s placement schemes, which give direct exposure to working in other parts of the organisation.

I think it was brilliant. Only way it could be improved, is if (my wish) you could make it mandatory for all.

Workshop participant

Context and challenge

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) holds a unique place within British society and in the broadcasting industry. This large and complex organisation, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2022, now operates in a highly competitive and rapidly changing media environment. In realising the crucial importance of attracting, retaining, and developing diverse talent to its future success, careers have now taken centre stage within the BBC’s people strategy.

The BBC has always attracted talented and creative individuals and has many long tenured employees, who remain committed to its values and purpose. The transformation taking place will help to secure its future. Even so, this requires some changes in organisational culture and a fresh approach to careers and future skills, in order to build agility and satisfy the career expectations of employees.

Lorna MacDonald, the BBC’s Senior HR Business Partner, Career Development, is responsible for shaping and implementing a refreshed career strategy. Data, including internal job mobility and insights from employee surveys, have revealed that employees who are committed to the organisation can feel frustrated when it comes to navigating their career.

The BBC holds a world of career possibilities: broadcasting in over 40 languages; working locally, nationally and internationally; across platforms and genres and with a wide range of business and professional functions. The organisation is seeking to open up these career possibilities to employees whilst capitalising on the benefits that mobile careers and organisational agility bring.

The BBC also has targets around all forms of diversity to build and nurture a workforce that reflects its audiences. They are striving to make opportunity for all transparent and fair, realised through policy and behaviour change.

The Career Innovation Company first started working with Lorna and her team in 2021. Since then, the partnership has flourished, with the work evolving in line with the BBC’s strategic direction and priorities.

Career Vision A BBC that’s creative, inclusive, and full of opportunity. One with a compelling career proposition with more freedom to move around, take responsibility and grow your career.

Other considerations

Diversity and inclusion are key drivers of successful career development at the BBC. This has been considered at every stage, including workshop accessibility and input from the BBC’s active employee interest groups.

Storytelling has also played a part, guided by the belief that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see.’ Employee feedback on this issue has been helpful. Some comments, for example, focused on the number of stories featuring young people compared with mid- and late-career employees.

In parallel, a refresh of internal recruitment practices is shifting recruiters towards potential-based hiring. This avoids selecting candidates based on ‘polish’ and is being rolled out across the BBC.

I’ll intentionally seek out ways in which to develop my career and network more. Also take it upon myself to spend time with other departments and get out of my comfort zone.

Workshop participant

Actions taken

Initially, in response to the employee survey results, actions were taken to step up initiatives that would enable individuals to become active agents in their own career and provide greater access to opportunities across the BBC.

These included:

  • A new branding for careers and related initiatives to make it more high profile and visible – myCareer
  • A dedicated myCareer hub – with new career tools and resources co-created with The Career Innovation team to embed new behaviours about how to navigate careers, grounded in 7 evidence-based career skills
  • A myConversation strategy to support and encourage ongoing career conversations
  • Placement opportunities to enable employees to experience what it’s like to work in other functions or teams via the ‘80/20’ and ‘Hot Shoes’ schemes
  • Equipping experienced in-house coaches and mentors with career coaching expertise using The Career Innovation Company’s deep knowledge of career theory, practice, and skills
  • A ‘Living Library’ containing stories and information about roles across the BBC

The above tactical components have been strengthened and expanded to include:

  • A series of live virtual workshops on an open programme for all employees. Working in partnership with the BBC career development team, The Career Innovation Company designed and delivered 3 hour ‘Cultivate your Career’ workshops, grounded in the BBC context. It contained new ways to think about career growth, providing employees with the opportunity to explore their career motivators and put the 7 career skills into practice using the Career pulse
  • An open programme of 3 hour virtual workshops for team leaders – ‘Supporting Career Development’ – highlighting the role of leaders as both importers and exporters of talent, including how they can approach career conversations. Co-facilitation between The Career Innovation Company and the BBC career development team makes these workshops highly relevant and practical
  • A Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for career coaches
  • 2 Careers Weeks which included live events, panels, career stories and an interview with the Director General

The BBC Career Development team has also become the go-to team for bespoke career initiatives. They have worked with The Career Innovation Company to offer targeted team career development sessions that meet local needs including divisions affected by restructuring.

I thought it was terrific and I couldn’t believe how much ground we covered in an hour. You are such a brilliant facilitator – energetic, credible, and warm - and I love the way you weave together theory and practice …. You can see how much the BBC Coaches have built up respect for you and I’m very grateful for all the effort and research which has gone into preparing this CPD series.

Results so far

Initial results have been very positive.

Since the launch in 2021 …

  • 967 Hot Shoes placements have taken place, ranging from two days to two weeks duration. This includes 220 people who got involved in working on the Eurovision Song Contest.
  • 374 individuals have taken part in 80/20 placements, with 20% of their time spent working in a different team for 3-6 months.
  • myCareer, the digital one-stop shop for careers, has had 140k views with 1700 members.
  • ‘Living Library’ has 132 job role ambassadors, spread across 62 different role types.

Workshops facilitated by The Career Innovation Company and BBC career development team:

  • Supporting career development. 20 workshops for team leaders with a 91% positive rating. Recognition that team leaders are not there to solve employee’s career problems but enable them to find their own solutions
  • Cultivate your Career. 44 workshops for employees to drive their career development with confidence. 93% agreed or strongly agreed they would take action to develop themself or their career
  • Building in house capability. 44 BBC coaches and 140 BBC mentors have been trained in career coaching

Developing an ongoing career strategy

The BBC Career Development team recognised that a big part of realising the vision for careers is to impact processes and culture. Work needs to be embedded in the wider people strategy and a focus on careers should enable the BBC’s strategic goals. Only when it’s clear why and how a focus on careers achieves this, will it become a priority and influence change.

Working closely with the BBC career development team, The Career Innovation Company’s strategic consultants are working with key stakeholders and HR leaders to identify what’s needed to drive more internal mobility and agility. A group of Career Champions has been established, to represent different parts of the BBC and influence change at all levels, building on local initiatives that have had impact.

Technology is likely to play a key part in supporting a fully functioning skills-based talent marketplace. This will open access to opportunities and enable the transferability of skills.

To impact on careers takes time. It needs an integrated approach, rather than a ‘one and done’ activity.

Impact measures

The most recent employee survey (2023) reflects a positive shift on several indicators related to careers.

“I have opportunities to develop and thrive in my career at the BBC.”

“My manager has shown a genuine interest in my career aspirations.”

“It’s clear how I can develop my career at the BBC.”

Tracking of internal mobility data will start to reveal whether employees are making internal moves between divisions, while the sharing of real career stories will continue to illuminate what is possible.

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