Learning & Skills Council Case Study: Maximising Your Potential

LSC_contained_logo

Client Profile

Industry sector: Public Sector

Number of employees: 3,500

Location: England

Challenge

This programme is linked to a number of major interlinked organisational changes culminating in the disbanding of the LSC in April 2010, with LSC employees being transferred to one of the following areas: a new organisation called the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA), part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families; another new organisation called the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), part of the Department for Business Information and Skills; or into Government Offices, Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) or local authorities nationwide.  During 2009, LSC employees were ‘matched’ to appropriate roles either through group ‘block matches’ of entire teams or departments, or individually through a more complex process of assessment.  Unavoidably, for some employees these matches did not meet their preferences, for example in terms of role or geographical location.  With a number of local LSC offices being closed, these changes resulted in the relocation of regular workplaces for some employees.  For many others, however, these changes represented excellent career development opportunities.

It was important that all LSC staff felt well supported and equipped to cope with uncertainty and anxiety.  Any development programme would need to energise participants, build resilience, retain expertise, focus on wellbeing and facilitate a positive view of the challenges that lay ahead.  Whilst the organisation was strongly committed to providing development opportunities, it was also recognised that participants had to take responsibility for shaping their own futures.  In this sense the focus on career engagement encompassed life goals and wellbeing more generally, not just in relation to the immediate organisational changes but with a longer-term life perspective in mind.
This is reflected in the programme aim:

  • A modular programme for all LSC staff to inspire individuals to take a proactive and positive approach to their future.

The words highlighted in bold go some way to defining the programme: impactful, inspiring and motivational, whilst also enabling participants to actually do something positive and practical to define and fulfil their potential.  This programme was therefore a blend of stimulating messages delivered by engaging facilitators, supported by materials that participants could dip into as they prepared for the inevitable transition, and revisit later at any time when evaluating life changing decisions.

Solution

Programme Design, Structure and Delivery

The key principles for the programme were to:

  • Develop a programme that would support all staff through transition; one that would feel and look very different, with the ‘wow factor’
  • Put individuals at the heart of the transition by empowering and energising them to take control of their future and ongoing development
  • Overcome the natural resistance to change
  • Use a psychometric tool, ©Strengthscope (which was completed as pre-work, with reports distributed during events) to identify individuals’ energising strengths and encourage them to play to these strengths
  • Introduce simple but very effective techniques to reduce stress, improve happiness, develop resilience and increase wellbeing
  • Utilise a range of practical activities involving a combination of individual reflection and pair or group discussions in order to stimulate thinking and share experiences
  • Involve leading experts in the field of positive psychology in the design and delivery
  • Engage a team of dynamic, inspiring and sensitive facilitators from a&dc to deliver the programme

Following a thorough design phase involving detailed research, reading and analysis to develop the programme along with a rigorous piloting phase, the programme structure was finalised.  Roll-out began in May 2009, with the programme comprising of the following elements:

  • A Leadership Masterclass event for LSC Directors to officially launch the programme and gain leadership commitment from them to ‘champion’ the programme with their teams
  • Three modules for all staff, with the second and third modules building on the ideas presented during the first one:

Module 1: ‘Maximising Your Here and Now’: an inspiring one-day event introducing core  themes such as personal choice; control and responsibility; the exploration of key principles and takeaway tools from positive psychology; and a review of participants’ ©Strengthscope reports and reflection on personal values

Module 2: ‘Maximising Your Future’: a half-day event giving participants space for deep  reflection on their personal journey in life to date, and consideration of their priorities for the  future using a range of tools such as the ‘Wheel of Life’

Module 3:  ‘Maximising Your Brand’: a half-day event focused on coping with change, building a personal brand, and encouraging participants to consider how they make an impact in the short and longer-term when faced with new environments

  • Programme workbooks providing a source for pre-work and post-programme support
  • One-to-one feedback and career coaching options
  • Signposting to other relevant existing learning resources
  • A comprehensive evaluation strategy

Attendance on the programme was non-mandatory, with positive word-of-mouth recommendations from participants who attended early events encouraging other colleagues to attend.  The maximum number per event was set at 25: we deliberately aimed for relatively large groups in order to generate an energy and enthusiasm within the room, with most sessions involving 12-18 people.

Programme Distinctiveness

The programme was leading edge in terms of the range of psychological concepts and research that the main themes were based around.  Key principles from the field of Positive Psychology formed the basis of the programme, such as: Learned Optimism, Flow, Strengths, Resilience, Positive Thinking and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.  In addition, ideas from Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming were also integrated and delivered through practical blended learning without psychobabble!  Consequently, participants felt the benefit of the most recent research in happiness, positivity and mental fitness without being overwhelmed by excessive background input and theory.

The programme also utilised a range of modern delivery mechanisms to ensure that the programme was memorable, enjoyable and impactful for everyone.  These appealed to all the senses, for example through the use of music to create an uplifting, reflective environment; and through materials such as posters and postcards printed by professional graphic designers. Finally, a specially filmed DVD was recorded on location to deliver key messages in ‘bite-sized portions’: this both helped to ensure that all participants were able to hear important ideas directly from a topic expert, but also to ensure that the events were different and memorable, and to encourage them to think in different ways. This film clips were also made available through the LSC intranet for participants to revisit and download key messages in their own time.

Outcome

Over a 5-month period from launch, over 1,000 participants attended this programme.  A comprehensive evaluation process highlighted a range of powerful outcomes for participants:

1. Immediate workshop participant feedback indicates high levels of perceived value and satisfaction, such as participants:

  • Valuing the opportunity to have some quality thinking time at a time of major change
  • Finding the tools and techniques practical and relevant and the sessions delivered without psychobabble or anyone feeling patronised
  • Making a number of potentially life changing personal decisions to improve their health, happiness and sense of life-fulfilment.

Some sample participant quotes are listed below:

  • “I am usually a ‘glass half empty’ person and I am now able to have some perspective on situations facing us in the near future.” 
  • “This event has been by far the most informative and useful training session I have attended.”
  • “Facilitators all brilliant – very knowledgeable, inspiring – events well managed.”
  • “Really enjoyed the day – best training I’ve had by far in the last 7 years.”
  • “I came this morning feeling stressed and tired and not really wanting to come, but through the combined energy of both presenters I feel there is potential within me to do something about my situation and make a difference to my life”
  • “The ABCD technique we were introduced to I found truly liberating.”
  • “The relaxation technique, for me is probably going to have the greatest impact on my life.”
  • “Seeing my strengths articulated on paper is extremely helpful. Reading my report I was able to recognise myself.”

2. Post-workshop participant feedback via online evaluation surveys points to high levels of perceived usefulness and enjoyment, with scores from over 900 participants indicating:

  • In response to the question ‘How do you rate the extent to which the event met its objectives, 91% of participants responded ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’
  • In response to the question ‘How do you rate the presentation and style (eg variety of learning styles used), 88% of participants responded ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’
  • In response to the question ‘How do you rate the effectiveness of the trainer/facilitator, 90% of participants responded ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’

What the client says

“Working with a&dc we have designed a programme that is leading edge and taps into recent research and thinking, delivered without psychobabble. Through this innovative programme we have created something unique and memorable for our employees. a&dc have consistently demonstrated the highest standards of reliability, quality and professionalism, a deep understanding of our needs, and have provided facilitators who are both inspiring and knowledgeable but also sensitive to our context. This programme has benefited the majority of LSC staff attending: individuals have reported genuine moments of inspiration, providing them with the best possible springboard for their future roles.” Phil Quinn, Head of Learning & Development, LSC.