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- Phoenix case study
As a company that prides itself on being recognised as one of Britain’s Top Employers, the Phoenix Group is constantly striving to provide top-notch development to its army of financial accountants, actuaries and legal professionals. The company outsources all of its admin and support functions, meaning that the working environment has a strong emphasis on professional services, and a workforce that has jumped through many professional hoops in the form of exams and qualifications.
In this context, Learning and Development Business Partner Tamar Hughes reiterates the importance of delivering hard-hitting, immediately applicable development that staff can put into practice as soon as they get back to their desks. The business was moving away from day-long management training sessions towards short, memorable HITS – high-impact training sessions for leaders.
Tamar and the team also faced the challenge of really selling the benefits of interpersonal skills to the workforce, establishing the value of what Tamar refuses to call "soft skills" – instead dubbing them "the really hard skills". Being able to communicate well and persuade others of your position are skills that are extremely difficult to acquire, she argues – but once people have, the L&D team has seen staff reap huge benefits from adding these skills to their toolkit.
Tamar speaks passionately about the advantages of the OPP-designed HITS, both for the immediate L&D team and the wider organisation. They have enabled much more productive coaching conversations to happen, as well as being a chance for teams to bond in a genuine sense – to see things they have casually observed about each other played out live via practical exercises, such as the zig-zag model of problem-solving. “People keep coming back to talk about the exercises and what they’ve reflected on as a result,” she explains. “One small example of this is in team meetings, where the extraverts are considering how to enable the introverts to speak and contribute, resulting in more sharing of information and expertise, and ultimately, better, more business-focused decisions."
Tamar and the team are now delivering a full programme of HITS, and adapt the content to be relevant to each team – avoiding the 'sheep dip approach' and ensuring that the sessions are genuinely meaningful for all taking part. There has been a huge uptake, including some events for big-hitting individuals in top management positions – people who Tamar admits are often hard to please! "When people start knocking on your door to tell you they’ve heard great things about the HITs and want to attend one, that’s when you know you’ve got it right!"
This feeling of ebullient enthusiasm for the MBTI ideas and the HITS is infectious – and there’s a desire to embed the MBTI framework at all levels in all departments. Over time, the team aims to add to the layers of understanding with further MBTI applications. Tamar concludes: "It’s been a wholly positive experience. We learnt so much, and now we’re passing on the benefits to the organisation. I would highly recommend it."
The collaboration with OPP was really productive – we felt like OPP’s consultant had become a member of our team. She role-modelled the coaching relationship.
Tamar Hughes, Learning and Development Business Partner. Phoenix