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Team Development and Employee Engagement

Summary: A focused and holistic team development programme, integrating psychometric assessment, individual coaching and workshop-based interventions, enabling a team that was not functioning well to develop a “Just Culture” and to perform and thrive.

The Challenge

Following exploratory conversations with the Director of Estates who commissioned the work, it was established the university’s Campus Support Team (Head of Service – Campus Support Managers – Team Leaders – Campus Support Officers) was experiencing significant internal challenges that were affecting the performance and wellbeing of team members. The culture and ways of working of the team had deteriorated over time and were characterised by:

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of focus and engagement
  • Lack of ownership and accountability
  • Poor levels of trust and psychological safety
  • Increasingly hostile and stressful work environment
  • Lack of role clarity and expectations
  • Incidents of bullying

An external investigation (cultural audit) completed in 2019, following a concerningly high number of accusations of bullying within the team, reported a significant division between staff members.

Furthermore, there was a need for the team to move from asset-focused security services into a person-centred campus support service, putting students at the heart. This also required tackling stereotypes and unconscious biases about the nature of the Campus Support role, reviewing recruitment practices and taking steps to make Campus Support a more inclusive work environment for women. Although this internal initiative was already underway, the programme was seen as an opportunity to further support the initiative on a cultural level.

Thus, the programme had several clear objectives including:

  • Enable a sense of closure to help the team to move forward from the external investigation in a positive way
  • Support and empower managers (at all levels) to lead and manage the service effectively and achieve the objectives successfully within the campus reset plan and of the service more generally
  • Develop and co-create how the team will work together in future, identifying positive behaviours which promote a sense of dignity and respect and enable a sense of equilibrium to be restored between staff, manager and trades union relations
  • Enable staff within the service to feel that their contribution is valued and that this personal development is designed to support them to succeed (i.e., “not just another training course”)
  • Promote a strengths-based approach where all participants can focus on providing a service for students as their core purpose.

The Approach

Given the clear challenges, it was deemed appropriate to use a strengths-based assessment tool to set the tone for positive and constructive engagement while also identifying the issues that needed to be addressed. The Strengthscope assessment was conducted for the Director of Estates, Head of Service, Campus Support Manager and Team Leader within the Department. Following the completion of the assessment, each of them attended a one-to-one feedback session with a Business Psychologist, aimed at providing a safe and confidential space for them to explore their unique strengths and how they could use those to achieve peak performance, support their professional development and manage any performance risks. This stage of the intervention further helped build trust with the consultant team which was deemed critical to the success of the programme.

The individual feedback sessions were followed by a Strengthscope Team Development workshop, delivered twice – separately to the Campus Support Managers and Team Leaders. The aim of the workshop was for delegates to explore the collective strengths present in their respective teams. The workshop enabled them to build a shared understanding of the strengths and unique contributions of each team member and identify ways they could play to each other’s; strengths to increase their collective effectiveness and improve the working relationships.

Following the delivery of the two workshops, we held a programme review with the commissioning client to discuss the overall programme and share our recommendations to address the newly identified development need that had emerged in the workshops. It was our professional opinion that failure to address them would affect the overall effectiveness and sustainability of the interventions. It was therefore agreed that we would design and deliver two further workshops aimed at bringing Managers and Team Leaders together to challenge any disconnect and tension between the two teams. It was also agreed that the Managers will be offered individual coaching to support them in developing their leadership and becoming positive role models for the rest of the Department.

The two additional workshops focused on building the collective identity of the Extended Leadership Team (ELT) (Managers and Team Leaders) and challenging the “us vs them” thinking. The design included a diagnostic aimed at measuring ‘Team Health’ and the perceptions of individuals around trust, communication, conflict, alignment, role clarity and purpose within the ELT.

The workshops further addressed important themes to enable team fluidity, including:

  • Psychological safety
  • ELT’s collective vision, mission, purpose and objectives
  • Conflict styles and dealing with conflict
  • Resilience and self-care

The team were further able to explore their Strengthscope Team profile as an ELT, their collective strengths, to further build the new collective mindset.

The final workshop further prompted the team to create their own Team Charter to articulate how they would work together to deliver outstanding service to the students. They also had an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the positive changes they as a team had been driving and how those were improving the culture and ways of working within the Department.

In parallel to these workshops, the coaching sessions offered to the Managers played a significant role in improving personal effectiveness, leadership and relationships within the team.

Light touch but effective programme management ensured agility to adapt and focus support as specific needs emerged while not losing sight of the original objectives. It also ensured alignment with other related initiatives. Communication was ongoing throughout the programme building trust, engagement and ownership.

The Outcome

Following a review with the client, the following outcomes were identified:

  • Improved communication
  • Focused and engaged team
  • Significantly improved ownership and accountability
  • Improved trust, working environment and working relationships
  • Clarity of roles and expectations

The Department was further making positive progress in converting from an asset-focused security service into a person-centred campus support service to enhance the comfort, safety, security and experience of campus users. The Campus Support Team was further promoting inclusivity by changing the recruitment processes and encouraging more women to join the team.

The programme evaluation survey that was completed following the successful delivery of the programme highlighted the positive impact of the interventions on the culture and dynamics within the Campus Support Extended Leadership Team.

Out of those who took part in the programme:

  • 7% responded that they were “Very Satisfied” and 33.3% were “Satisfied” with the overall programme
  • 8% indicated they were “Very Likely” and 22.2% were “Likely” to recommend the programme to a colleague

The Feedback

Some of the quotes from the evaluation survey highlight the positive impact on individuals:

“The whole course was very enjoyable, it allowed great interaction. The gaps between each of the course dates were about right allowing me to read through and absorb the training days. It was good working in the group exercises, this really did allow colleagues to open up and we often found we were thinking and dealing with very similar situations when managing staff.”
“A useful and insightful course that will definitely be useful in “the real world”, delivered by a great team.”

Direct feedback from a senior client further states:

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Maria, Shelly, Liz, Mike and the wider Impact team who have re-focused our team’s vision, reflected on our energisers, recognised where less and more effort needs to be targeted and found the team’s assessment really beneficial as a Leader.”
The course content and the delivery was faultless, the Management team were put at ease and able to fully participate with the facilitators. The future journey is bright and we can already see a return on investment to the service delivery. Thank you Impact.”