Case Study: Leadership Training (HR for Managers) by Beth Evans

Our HR associate Beth Evans talks through a new HR for Managers course she was asked to design and deliver for a leading manufacturing client.

"Our client was one of the leading manufacturing, bottling and canning plants in Europe. They engaged us to design and deliver a new HR for Managers course aimed at ensuring all policies were commonly understood and applied by both Management and Union colleagues.

This was driven by the following challenges within the business:

•    The client has more than one set of live policies/agreements which did not always agree on operational ER practice
•    There was a requirement to upskill all to deal with ER issues in an early and informal way to ensure that they did not escalate and require HR involvement inappropriately
•    There was also a desire to drive down absence rates, decrease conversation from informal to formal case work and increase engagement and performance scores – all of which would drive real commercial improvement in the organisational bottom line

So the main course objectives became:

•    To improve understanding of UK Employment Law, local policy and custom and practice to effectively deal with ER issues
•    To reduce managerial and HR time spent on dealing with ER issues and reduce conversation from informal to formal processes
•    To continue to improve working relationships and mutual understanding between TU and managerial colleagues
•    To improve managerial skill sets to support dealing with difficult conversations with employees in the best possible way
•    To increase employee engagement and motivation going forwards

The client wanted to work positively with TU’s to produce a joint solution which supported helpful conflict resolution at work so it was important to involve them in all stages of the project.

We researched, designed and delivered a fully interactive 2 day course for the client. Instead of adopting a traditional Powerpoint based approach to this training, we wrote a complete work based story for the client, including CCTV (filmed on site) which allowed a fully immersive approach for delegates. The course began with some ‘live’ CCTV footage which was bought to the delegates, showing a fork lift truck race happening in their factory! A Supervisor clearly stepped out to stop the race and then began to berate the drivers. The delegates were thrown straight into the action – they had to decide which policies applied and how this counted as a disciplinary breach? How serious was it? Complaints and grievances are produced from all parties and then the same ‘characters’ that we saw in the film had to be interviewed. It is hugely impactful if the same person on the CCTV then walks into the training room and the delegates have to deal with the situation on the spot.

We developed the concept of ‘real time’ and ‘training time’.  In ’training time’, the course ran in a more traditional manner with time for reflection, learning and checking of hard copy policies (we pre-released this content prior to the start of the course). However, in ‘real time’ the delegates had to face the reality of the situation and interview the participants as the story unfolded in varied and complex ways – including a suspension and full hearing on day 2! Our own ‘Trade Union Reps’ were involved throughout to allow delegates to practice dealing with Union relationships at work.
There was a truly a sense of ‘being in it together’ as the delegates were at the heart of the action and this worked as a team building exercise for the cohort as well as a valuable up–skilling intervention. We supported the delegates through this experience producing a unique blend of engagement and personal challenge.

The client and ourselves worked together from the outset to monitor and measure ROI for the project. We were keen to deliver in excess of 125% ROI based on initial investment. Immediate measures were planned as a reduction in the rate of absence and reduced conversion rates from informal to formal ER processes. We also expected to see increased employee performance and engagement and the continuation of excellent working relationships with TU colleagues.

The main benefits of the course can be identified as:

•    Enhanced delegate engagement during the programme – considerably more memorable than a Powerpoint presentation on HR policies. Our course has been likened to ‘an episode of Eastenders’ – delegates did not want to leave at the end of the first day as they want to learn what happens next – even coming in early to start day 2!
•    Positive impact on TU relationships and managerial understanding of how to conduct these to the best benefit for the organization – which enabled common communication flow whether impacted individuals were speaking with management or union stewards.
•    Much improved clarity by managers on different sets of policies and procedures and how to apply these into ER situations at work

The Results?
•    90% delegates felt more confident in their knowledge of employment law, policies and procedures after the training and 100% felt that their confidence had improved.
•    100% felt that they were now more able to deal with ER issues in a faster and better way and over 70% thought that this would save them time on a weekly basis.
•    Cohort One reported an anticipated 208 hours saving of managerial time annually as a result (equating to £10k+)
•    100% reported an improvement in work performance as a consequence and over 90% stated an improvement in TU/managerial relationships
•    Absence rates have dropped a full 1% (saving over £35k) in the first quarter post training courses and continue to decline.

Direct Quotes from Delegates:
“I think the added confidence allows you to just try new skills with team, keeping morale higher and nipping any potential issues in the bud before they escalate.  I have done this on a couple of occasions with success”
“Just to add, in 20+ years at the organisation, this is the best training course I have attended.  Short, sharp bursts of info, rather than death by slide show, then the opportunity to put things into practice.  The actors and staff, presenters all displayed energy and were superb.  I would recommend this type of training to anyone.”

This work was shortlisted as a Finalist for Best Employee Relations Initiative in the CIPD Awards". 

Beth Evans, Robinson Ralph HR associate.

If your business has no HR function, you need more senior HR support and guidance, or you have a specific project you would like support with, please get in touch with one of our highly experienced HR associates or who will be happy to assist. 


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