Spotlight on…Dave Buglass

Dave Buglass tells TJ about his award-winning year and a moment of epiphany

After spending more than 20 years in finance, HR and most of the learning and development disciplines, Dave Buglass, head of organisational capability & development at Tesco Bank, probably had his finest year of achievements in 2014. He picked up two awards in November, both for Learning and Development Professional of the Year, one with TJ and the other from HR Network Scotland. Buglass has clearly started to get his views and challenges into the HR and L&D space on how we as a profession need to change.

Buglass feels 2014 was dominated by his many ‘Jerry Maguire moments’ which have helped him develop a personal ethos and philosophy throughout his career and which now sees him fully committed to the idea that ‘simplicity’ is the way ahead. The application of this thinking has seen his team receive recognition for their achievements in delivering many new strategic development projects to support the launch of Tesco Bank as a retail challenger bank.

In the past five years, Buglass has built a successful centralised team who have delivered on pretty much every aspect of the learning and development remit, at a crucial time in financial services when increased regulatory pressure was placed on all banks following the banking crisis of 2008. From implementing a learning management system and full suite of regulatory training, to designing induction programmes that saw the business go from 200 to 4,000 employees in five years. His team have been under constant pressure to develop initiatives at rapid pace, at times throwing out the old methods and working in a more agile way. At every stage of the way, he has challenged his team to consider how, from a commercial aspect, these initiatives help Tesco Bank deliver on their promises to their customers.

The interview

Why training and how did you start?

I joined my local branch of RBS in 1998, straight from sixth form in Berwick-upon-Tweed and very quickly I was placed on the accelerated development programme and sent to work in Edinburgh. I got involved very quickly in a transformation programme for branches where I was asked to lead the training work stream; working with external suppliers to develop the skills of branch staff using new multimedia training and a virtual classroom platform. From there, I was hooked, and at the end of the programme I moved into the bank’s training function in Edinburgh and asked to develop our technology-based learning proposition.

Who or what inspires you?

With regards to what inspires me, whether that be in work or when I’m coaching on a football pitch, there is no better feeling than seeing people perform at the best of their abilities and improve their skills at the same time. I’ve always had a real interest in all aspects of people development and engagement and my current portfolio at work now sees me owning recruitment, learning, talent and employee engagement – so in short, the end-to-end colleague experience.

With regards to who inspires me, over my career, there have been individuals who have guided me and advised me but this year I’ve had a huge amount of fun casting myself as a bit of a Jerry Maguire of the HR and L&D world. Jerry Maguire was a Tom Cruise character, from a film of the same name, who woke up one night after having an epiphany on how he believed the world should be and that it needed to be much simpler.

I hold the view that as HR professionals and ultimately L&D professionals, we often hide behind books and jargon that frankly noone understands other than us, and at times, we are the least colleague-centric function, putting our needs in front of others. My view this year has been very much one of simplicity, cutting out the jargon and getting to the basics of why we’re here, which is to improve colleague capability and enhance the experience for the customer.

What has been your lowest moment, and what your noblest hour?

I don’t really dwell on low points and while there have been a few projects that could have gone better, I am generally a positive person who uses these experiences to learn and ensure that I don’t make the same mistakes again. If we can’t make mistakes and learn, then we shouldn’t come to work.

Noblest hour, well that has to be the two awards in November. I didn’t know I’d been entered by the team and while I had a positive feeling about the award in Scotland, I had no idea about the TJ one. When my name was read out at the Brewery, I initially couldn’t get up. I even think the photographer struggled to get a smile when I was on the stage! A very proud moment.

What and when was your career turning point?

In short, it has to be joining Tesco Bank after 19 years at RBS. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time there and had worked on international projects but I recognised it was time to move and do something different. Tesco offered me the safety of financial services but also the chance to move into the retail world. I have had great support from my personnel director, Therese Procter, who has encouraged me to be brave, take risks and challenge the normal that we get every day. That has allowed me to build a great team and deliver many different aspects of the learning proposition within the business. I’ve found it at times a challenge working in a business that is not in the centre of the development proposition, with the group often setting their expectations of what we need to deliver, however, in the five years since I joined, I have been able to work closely with them and can now influence how we can help them evolve too.

Describe your best learning and development experience?

The last five years! I have centralised three training teams into one centre of expertise, centralised all our training budgeting and forecasting, delivered programmes for contact centre new joiners all the way up to devising a skills development programme for our board, getting to spend time with them regularly. I don’t think many L&D roles out there would have been given the chance and space to do what I’ve been allowed to deliver. Linking back to the support I have from above, I have simply got on with it and at times not asked for permission, just taken it. That has allowed me to enjoy and shape the role to ensure that my energies and skills have been best utilised at all stages.

However, my customers internally may answer you by saying that my commercial approach to how my team work with the business and how we demonstrate our value add has probably been one of the highlights too. Many HR and L&D professionals struggle to demonstrate the value add they deliver – for me that has always been number one on my agenda.

What’s next in your career?

At 44 years old, I still have some miles to go yet, and with the growing portfolio I have, I feel I’m in a great place to capitalise. I believe that the role of the HR function, and at the same time that of L&D, will change radically. The environment we operate in is changing more quickly than ever before and the days of developing programmes that take months to build and months to deploy will fast disappear. As a function, we need to be more agile and disruptive with the business, challenge them on their objectives and demonstrate how we can help them improve their bottom line. Learning is no longer an aside; it needs to be much more integrated into the workflow and on the job. I know we’ve been talking about 70:20:10 for quite a while now, however, it would be interesting to see how really embedded or understood this is. Learners are much more consumer-savvy now so the use of strong marketing principles and development of campaigns will play a very much bigger role in how we get our ‘internal customers’ to use our services. I can foresee a role of head of colleague experience appearing in the next 12 months.


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