Why it’s Important to Invest in your People Professionals

COVID-19 has propelled HR teams into the spotlight. The global pandemic has presented exceptional challenges for everyone, but never before have businesses needed to rely so heavily on the expertise and knowledge of their people professionals.

HR departments in sectors hardest hit by the lockdown have been at the heart of tough decisions around redundancies and downsizing while others have had to learn virtually (in every sense) overnight how to rapidly recruit and onboard staff, often using new technology online. From grappling with the complexities of the Government’s furlough scheme to ensuring the health and wellbeing of employees as businesses rapidly transformed to home working arrangements, it’s fair to say that HR leaders and their teams have shouldered much of the burden of the coronavirus workload.

Many successful organisations had already realised the business benefits of investing in their HR and L&D teams long before COVID-19 struck. Instead of HR and L&D being considered the poor relation of the core business, they had strategies in place specifically for the attraction, retention, and development of their people professionals. Which is why many employers place such importance on ensuring that all members of their HR teams are working towards being fully CIPD qualified.

HR Directors of the Future

An example is the multinational utility company Centrica plc which, over nine years, has invested in a 3-year graduate programme aiming to develop driven, passionate and innovative young people to become the HR Directors of the future. Central to its success are rotational placements across the Centrica Group and within different parts of HR. This enables the graduates to build the broad portfolio of skills, knowledge and expertise they need to be effective HR professionals, understand the contribution HR can make and learn about the wider business.

Also key and a main attraction of the scheme, is the provision of a nationally recognised professional qualification in HR and all graduates on the programme enrol on the CIPD Advanced Diploma delivered by Watson Martin at the start of their second year. On completion of this uniquely tailored programme – which includes a mix of one-to-one support, workshops, webinars and access to a comprehensive range of online resources – graduates know how a first-class HR function operates and are capable of delivering change as strategic people professionals.

Read how Amy Sutherland, a Centrica graduate achieved her CIPD qualification in record time!



At NatWest Group, 60 graduates have also achieved their CIPD Advanced Diploma in HRM with Watson Martin.  Like Centrica, the CIPD qualification is an integral part of the company’s Human Resources Graduate Programme which has been designed to equip participants with the key skills, knowledge and behaviours necessary to become a leading people professional. The programme is all about guaranteeing a pipeline of talent for the future and including the CIPD Level 7 Diploma helps attract and retain the very best candidates.

Grow your own HR Talent Through Apprenticeships

More companies too are looking to use government funding to grow their own HR or L&D professionals through apprenticeships.  Organisations that have a salary bill of over £3 million are required to pay a 0.5% levy through PAYE to help fund apprenticeships.  It makes strong financial sense to recover this levy through the delivery of apprenticeship training to upskill your existing HR and L&D teams.

As an RoATP* provider since January 2018, Watson Martin is currently helping more than 140 apprentices to gain their Level 3 or Level 5 in either HR or L&D.  Many of the apprentices are from large organisations such as John Lewis and Partners, Dixons, Domestic & General, Metrobank and the NHS. The apprentices work in cohorts and as well as gaining great practical on-the-job experience, they boost their HR and L&D knowledge by studying for their CIPD Level 3 or Level 5 Certificate during the programme. The qualification is an integral part of our apprenticeship offering and valued by both organisations and individuals alike.

Celebrating the success of our John Lewis Partnership apprentices



The pandemic has pushed people professionals to the forefront of organisational decision making. Now we are past the crisis management phase, HR must continue to take the lead to ensure a successful transition towards more normal working arrangements. Equipping your HR and L&D teams with the skills and knowledge to drive future change in a post COVID-19 world has never been so important.

Watson Martin offers CIPD qualifications and HR and L&D apprenticeships at all levels.  The programmes are currently delivered 100% online and all candidates and apprentices are supported throughout their qualification by an industry expert. For further information contact our specialist advisers on: 020 7932 2760 today.


*RoATP – Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers