The Role of National Training Awards in the United Kingdom

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There is a well known cliché among business circles that an organization is only good as its employees. This suggests that the success of an enterprise depends not only on the quality of the product or service it delivers, but also on the quality and commitment on the part of the employee towards the success of the organization. Over the years the concept of employees being what is known as human capital has evolved. With increasing competition in the market place at the national and international level, the need to hire and maintain a qualified and committed work force is essential. This requires, among other things, training of the employees on the part of the organization.

This training which is usually the responsibility of the human resource department has been a relatively thankless job. It has also to a large extent, gone unnoticed even within an organization. The establishment of the National Training Awards (NTA) is a corrective and even visionary step in this regard. This paper attempts to find the role of NTAs in terms of improving employee development in the current political, economic, social and technical environment in the United Kingdom.

The National Training Awards

The concept of recognition of outstanding individual and organizational performance as a result of employee training was the basis for the formation of the National Training Awards. This not for profit organization was set up in 1987 by the then Department of Education and Science and is managed by an organisation called UK Skills. The NTA is now under the responsibility of the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills and is still run by UK Skills. (What are the National Trading Awards?).

Since its inception, the awards have been given every year to individuals and organisations across six categories namely Individual Award, Partnership and Collaboration Award, Large Employer Award, Medium Employer Award, Small Employer Award and Providing education and training Award. There are awards at the regional and national levels. The former is given for performance reflected at regional levels and the latter at performance that is recognized across the whole country.

The regional and national awards will be initially given at the regional levels by organizations assigned the responsibility of finding the right candidate. There is no limit for the number of awards given at the regional level. Only one national award can be given (in each category for individuals and organisations). At the end of the year, National winners at the regional level will assemble in London where one award in each category will be given at the national level. This is referred to as the Winner of the Year Award.

The Importance of recognition

It is the basic nature of a human being to be appreciated and recognized for sincere work in any field. The factor holds good for human resources and employee training also. The job of employee training (usually under HR department) will be the responsibility of designated training officers and related staff. Training and maintaining a qualified, dedicated and motivated work force largely goes unnoticed in most organizations.

Even if it does get recognized, it will remain within the organization only. Even though people like to receive recognition and appreciation, many find it difficult to give it to deserving people. Every employee will like to be recognized by their superiors, peers and by the organisation itself. According to an article titled ‘Employee Recognition Rocks’ this recognition does not take place in many organisations. The article further explains that most managers feel that there is no need to recognize a person for doing something he is supposed to do (as a part of his duty).

The article provides the results of a survey regarding what employees feel about being recognized. “Fifty-five percent of the respondents said that praise and attention from their supervisor would make them feel as if the company cared about them and their well-being. As you might also expect, money, benefits, and events such as company lunches ranked high, too. But recognition from the supervisor ranked above all other choices.” (Heathfield 2008).

Appreciation respect and recognition also plays a part in the concept of employee engagement. Employee engagement is about the level of commitment an employee has towards his work and organisation. “Employee engagement is the thus the level of commitment and involvement an employee has towards their organization and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organization.” (Vazirani 2007, p.2).

An article by Robin Stuart-Kotze says that level of employee engagement declines in direct proportion to the length of his service in a single organization. In other words, the longer he/she serves, the lower will be his level of engagement. One reason for this decline is the lack of appreciation and rewards. “They start off keen and try to perform at their best. But if they receive no support, or get disrespect, zero encouragement or acknowledgement, praise or reward, they learn that being “engaged” is a mug’s game.” (Kotze 2008).

In this regard the NTA has done a tremendous both as a pioneer and a motivator in the field on recognizing employee training. A review of literature has shown that this award is being taken very seriously by many organizations in the UK. Over the years, the award has become the most prestigious form of recognition for individuals and organizations in the country. “The National Training Awards are the UK’s number one accolade for businesses, organisations and individuals that have achieved lasting excellence and success through training and learning.” (National Training Awards Case Study: Background. 2008). This form of regional and national level recognition will have a chain effect within an organization.

The employees will feel proud if their company and training manager gets recognized and will b motivated to get themselves trained. The training manager (HR in most cases) and his staff will feel motivated to do a good job in the hope of being recognized. The top management will also support and motivate training staff in the hope of getting an award. There will be competition among organizations themselves to be a recipient of the award. The existence of both individual and organisational awards will motivate an individual and a team to do a better job of training employees. This will create a win-win situation for the individual, organization and the economy as a whole.

The importance of training employees

Organizations across the world are now facing increased competition due to globalization and free trade. The scenario in the UK is no different. In such a situation it is essential not only have competitive products and services, but also a trained, qualified and motivated work force. This is a factor that is needed to provide high quality goods and services in the first place. A competent work force is also necessary for an organization to survive and grow.

For this, the most important factor is workforce training. Increased competition will also necessitate in learning new techniques and adapting new technology that is being developed at a fast rate. Hence, training is required not only to reinforce old skills and knowledge, but also to learn new ones and to gain more knowledge. Training is also essential for employee productivity and even retention. It will also help in maximising the full potential of employees.

All these factors are essential for an organisation’s success. “Overall, training impacts organizational competitiveness, revenue and performance.” (Wilke 2006). Unfortunately, the situation in many organisations is that enough importance is not given to this aspect. This is especially true during recessionary periods. It is natural for organizations to cut costs. But employee training costs are one of the first areas that management will look to cut costs. According to Wilke, this is not a good practice. He also suggests some ways to optimise training costs by formulating and implementing a comprehensive training plan.

The plan should take into consideration the following factors. The first one is to establish a need for training, i.e. whether a training is needed in the first place in a department. The next is to find out which section of the employees needs to be trained and for what purpose. The training has to b in accordance with the goals and objectives of the organisation. Next is to decide the persons who will be in charge of training. It has to be decided whether the training is to be done in-house (less expensive) or to engage professionals from outside (probably more effective). It has also to be ensured that the training will be productive in terms of the actual job done by the employee. Finally and most importantly, a method of evaluating and monitoring the training process should be incorporated.

Training can also help reduce employee turnover, which is a problem faced by many organisations. The article ‘Training and your employee retention rate’ says that “according to a study done by the ASTD in 2003, 41% of employees at companies with poor training planned on leaving within a year vs. 12% planned departures at companies with excellent training.” (Training and Your Employee Retention Rate: If your employee retention rate is low, your training is probably to blame, Accelerated Training Solutions.).


The National training Awards for 2008 will be held in December 2008 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London. Last years winners, held at the same venue include diverse organizations and training experts. They include Ernst and Young (with Swan HR Solutions and MJC Associates) “for workshops that help trainees develop skills by helping charities solve real-life business issues.” (TJ The Publication for Learning and Development: National Training Awards Winners. 2008). Bentley Motors for managerial training, Southern (train operator) for training to transform leadership style and organizational culture and the National Maritime Museum for training gallery assistants.


It can be seen that the National Training Awards has created an impact on employee training practices in the UK. The way the awards are viewed by individuals and organizations has also been discussed. The importance of employee motivation through recognition and rewards has also been reviewed. Though the awards are aimed at improving organisational effectiveness and performance, its ultimate effect can be felt in all sections of the society. The motivated and trained employee will be an asset to the organization as well as the society he lives in. The awards should include government departments also.

Only then will its political effect will be reflected. The staging of the Olympics in London in the year 2012 will pose a major challenge to the city and the country as well. It is only three years away. Countries like China have successfully staged the event in 2008. On the economic side, countries like India are fast developing and are even a competitor in many fields like information technology. The UK will be ready to face all these challenges to a large extent if more and more organizations take these awards seriously. Many jury members have said that this trend is catching up and it is being increasingly difficult to pick the winners. It can be concluded that the setting up of the awards has been a visionary step and will help the country to stay competitive in the years ahead.


HEATHFIELD, Susan M. (2008). Employee Recognition Rocks: Employee Survey Pinpoints Recognition. Web.

KOTZE, Robin Stuart. (2008). Whatever Why Employees Stop Caring About Work. BNET United Kingdom: The go to Place For Management. Web.

National Training Awards Case Study: Background. (2008). Motivation Marketing. Web.

TJ The Publication for Learning and Development: National Training Awards Winners. (2008). TJ Online. Web.

Training and Your Employee Retention Rate: If your employee retention rate is low, your training is probably to blame, Accelerated Training Solutions. Accelerated Training Solutions.

VAZIRANI, Nithin. (2007). Employee Engagement: Abstract. 2. Web.

What are the National Trading Awards? Nationals Training Awards. Web.

WILKE, Jeffrey D. (2006). , Jacksonville Business Journal. Jacksonville Business Journal. Web.