Kier Group’s Donna Howard: Rekindled ambition, a promotion and a Distinction

Being on the Management Development Programme Apprenticeship at construction firm, Kier, has led Donna Howard to being a better, more confident manager. To such an extent that she has been promoted to a new role where she is excited to apply her new skills.

What prompted you to join the programme?

I work as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager for Kier Construction, a business stream which is part of Kier Group. I had previously completed a line manager course at Kier, a Level 3 programme, and it felt good to get a management qualification. I got a buzz from learning and was keen to build on my qualifications. When the opportunity came up to join the first of the Corndel Level 5 Leadership & Management programmes, I eagerly took it.


What has the experience been like?

It has honestly been the best course I have ever been on. I really enjoyed every part of it, and throughout the 13 months it never once felt like a chore. For me, the best thing is how it is broken down into manageable chunks. On previous courses, the assignments were tricky to fit in with full-time work. Because of the structure of this programme, I never felt like I was doing an assignment. You answer the modular questions and the learning platform pulls it together for you. At times, my workload was particularly heavy with large tenders yet I never fell far behind.

How was the support of your personal coach?

Sally was absolutely fantastic. She was always there to guide me and, importantly, push me. She was able to flex the programme to suit my particular situation; coaching me through identifying new opportunities to apply and evidence my learning. For example, when doing the budget module, she helped me realise that although I don’t hold a budget, I do spend money in my role and that the course content could be adapted to help me get better at budgeting through the lens of my role.

Sally helped me realise that I had ambitions for more responsibility in a new role. The seed was sown at the start of the course when we did a Personal SWOT. I completed it and showed it to Sally. She challenged me to think more deeply about the real opportunities. That’s when it became apparent that I was ready to start developing my career. I looked at what I needed to get where I wanted to be, and made sure that was built into developmental discussions with my manager. I was then given extra responsibility of adding the North East to my existing region, Yorkshire.


You’ve completed the programme during the pandemic. How was that?

Of course there was a lot of uncertainty at the time and the course kept me going during a difficult time; it kept me alert and engaged.


What are some of the tools and approaches that you have embedded in your everyday work?

I got so much out of the module on Emotional Intelligence. I always needed to demonstrate empathy in my CSR role, but I now have a much deeper understanding of myself, my team and the teams I work with. The Covey Matrix has been a game-changer too. I need to keep a lot of plates spinning and I was approaching burnout due to saying yes to everything. Learning how to properly prioritise and having the confidence to explain to others when I can’t take something on, has freed up so much time.

Due to the course, I’m no longer afraid to say no. The result is that I can focus much better on what I have on my plate, with better results.

What does your promotion mean for you?

I love working in the Kier Construction business stream, so it was a tough decision to move on. I’m about to start my new role where I have national responsibility for social value for the Kier Highways business stream. The course gave me the confidence to apply for the role, and despite it being in a whole new area of the business, I feel optimistic and excited to get started. I know that I’ll be able to draw on everything I have learnt and I’ve already been involved in recruiting my new team. I got used to doing presentations during the course so when I applied for the job I pushed myself to demonstrate my capability. I produced a 4-5 page document outlining what I would do in my first 90 days. I was accustomed to being pushed by Sally to challenge myself and go that extra mile in my course work, and I applied that ethos to my promotion application. It paid off with the interview panel being impressed by my ability to pre-empt what they wanted to see from me.


Any advice for others considering the programme?

I’ve already been telling colleagues about it and at least two have already started the next cohort. It’s energised me and has taken me to new levels of confidence as a leader and an employee. I’m delighted that I did it and that I took every opportunity to stretch myself to achieve more.

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