Chartered Management Institute: In my opinion

The CMI president and chairman of Crossrail on how developing the right skills and workplace behaviour is key to growth.

by Terry Morgan
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Whether you are talking about the economy, society, the environment or sport, there is no avoiding the 'L' word in 2012. 'Legacy' is a very real challenge for those who are building the London 2012 Games and want to ensure these fantastic facilities can be the springboard for economic regeneration in its fullest sense in east London and beyond.

I expect that word will be overused in the coming months, but there is no doubt about the importance of ensuring that getting the legacy right on an undertaking of this scale is just as important as the Olympics itself. In fact, those of us in other fields would do well to reflect on what lasting change we can achieve in our own roles.

Delivering an assured legacy is the genuine test of any large-scale infrastructure project, whether it is a high-profile scheme, like the building programme for the Olympics and Paralympics, or a less glamorous endeavour. Naturally, the first consideration is usually the physical impact of the work. But there is another aspect of legacy that is very close to my heart. That is the employment opportunities and skills of those who work on the project or who are affected by it.

As a 16-year-old school-leaver in South Wales, I was lucky enough to be apprenticed to an employer who supported and valued me. During my apprenticeship, I was not only taught valuable vocational skills but I learnt what it meant to be a respectable member of society. It provided me with the foundations to become a successful engineer and leader. Now, as chairman of Crossrail, Europe's biggest infrastructure project, I am passionate about supporting the next generation of managers, engineers and industrialists to realise its potential.

There have been high-profile management failures and cost overruns, such as the Wembley Stadium and the Millennium Dome, and this has provoked scepticism of large projects in the UK. Yet they provide an extraordinary opportunity to create employment and build the workforce skills needed for growth. With High Speed 1, St Pancras and King's Cross stations, the Olympics and now Crossrail, we have the chance to demonstrate that British management can successfully deliver.

Whisper it quietly, but the early signs are encouraging. The Public Accounts Committee recently praised the Olympic Delivery Authority for its exemplary management of the building programme, a point I believe we should celebrate. British managers have developed a blueprint for delivering a cost-effective games, which the IoC has now adopted as a model for future Olympic building programmes. These management and leadership skills will be a welcome inheritance for a workforce trying to lift the British economy out of the doldrums.

Crossrail has much longer lead times but we are also planning for the future. Our ambitions go beyond the provision of hard infrastructure to take into account the employment opportunities and skills legacy that we can deliver. With the Young Crossrail programme and new Skills Academy, we work with young people to develop the next generation of tunnellers, pilers and engineers, creating a legacy that will last long after the programme has been completed. That is why we have demanded all our contractors employ apprentices. This means over 400 young people will have completed apprenticeships in productive skills over the lifetime of the project, and we have established the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy, which will help further revitalise the UK skills base.

I am lucky enough to lead an organisation that invests in and develops the skills and capabilities of its workforce. As president of the CMI, I also oversaw a research programme that has helped build the business case for investment in human capital and skills development. It is clear that, for organisations large or small, the key to unlocking growth is developing the right skills and behaviours in the workforce. Organisations that implement best practice management and leadership development were found to score 23% higher on measures of organisational performance. It is worrying then that CMI's research also shows that, across the economy, investment in management and leadership development is expected to fall.

At Crossrail, we take improving the skills of our managers seriously. We have developed a skills employment strategy that details how we plan to integrate skills development into the heart of our business strategy. Our managers are encouraged to achieve the highest standards of management professionalism, and this starts at the very top. That is why I completed the Chartered Manager process. Leaders have a responsibility to promote a culture of learning through demonstrating positive behaviours.

The UK faces many economic challenges, not least the need to develop and embed productive skills across the workforce. I am committed to ensuring Crossrail plays its part and creates a skills legacy to be proud of. At every level of seniority, in all sectors, managers should be thinking from their first day in the job about the lasting change that they want to leave behind.

CV

Terry Morgan CBE, CMgr and Companion of CMI, is president of CMI and chairman of Crossrail. He was previously chief executive of Tube Lines and group HR director and then group managing director - operations at BAE Systems. He holds an MSc in engineering production and management from Birmingham University and is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Subscribe

Get your essential reading delivered. Subscribe to Management Today