FAB Core Management Skills Programme - a modular training programme for first line managers
With an ambitious strategy and challenging targets, M&S Money recognised at the end of 2005 that it needed to ‘raise its game’. Understanding the huge impact that ‘front line’ managers have in driving up levels of performance, they brought in business psychologists Kaisen Consulting to focus on developing the Team Leaders and Section Managers of their Call Centre.
Following the change in ownership from Marks & Spencer in 2004, there was a need for M&S Money to be more operationally effective and profit-focused. Employee survey data showed that morale amongst call centre advisors was low.
The business approached Francesca Fox and the team at Kaisen, who proposed a series of training modules to enhance the management skills of 200 Team Leaders and Section Managers and enable them to deliver high performance in their teams.
Having secured support and buy-in across the business, M&S Money and Kaisen worked in partnership to design a series of practical and interactive development modules. Fundamental to the FAB Core Management Skills programme is developing managers’ ability to influence the Feelings, Attitudes and Behaviour of individuals in their teams through skills-based activities based on managers’ own ‘real life’ scenarios and issues. After initial design, a ‘Pilot group’ (including the Management Development Team) went through the programme and gave feedback. This allowed M&S Money and Kaisen to work together to make sure the programme would have the desired impact.
A psychological approach to development first line managers
With lots of experienced managers already in place, M&S Money were keen to implement a programme which was different from anything that the managers had experienced before. For the programme to be successful, it was clear that it needed to look, feel and be different. Using business psychologists ensured that specialist psychological expertise was provided rather than ‘just another leadership training course’. Kaisen built the programme around the following principles:
- Applied psychology - powerful psychological theory made simple, practical and applicable for front line managers including goal setting theory, social learning theory, motivational theory, self-efficacy and the psychology of change
- Skills development - in-depth, personalised feedback and development for managers provided by a team of expert psychologists on skills such as running a team brief, giving feedback and communicating a business change initiative
- Accreditation - everyone was signed-off to the same standards with ongoing assessment to ensure that skills were being transferred to the workplace. Additional support was provided to managers not meeting the required standards
- Transfer of learning - content focused on situations and issues directly relevant to the managers involved using ‘real-world’ examples which could be directly applied to their teams. This included one module where the delegates brought one of their direct reports to carry out a real live coaching session.
Each manager received approximately eight days of training over a three to four month period, applying psychological theory to Team Leadership, Coaching, Change and Communication.
An important feature of the project was that it was not a ‘sheep-dip’ approach, mandatory for all first-line managers. Although each module has pre-determined sign off standards to achieve, each module also had a ‘pre-accreditation’ option. This means that if a manager believed that they already had good coaching skills, for example, they could undertake ‘pre-accreditation’: written and practical exercises designed to assess current skill level. If the manager reached the pre-determined sign-off standard, they are not required to attend the programme.
Evaluation and Business Impact
Approximately 200 managers have been through the programme. Its reputation in the business has been so strong that managers were ‘queuing up’ to get on the programme.
At the reaction level, feedback from delegates include:
- "I now have more tools I can use to deal with different situations and people which will give me more confidence as a leader"
- "The FAB course is practical, adaptable and really helped me build confidence in my management ability"
- "A fantastic programme developing both technical skills and confidence to achieve your goals"
At the behavioural level, results from a post-training 360 degree feedback survey were compared to the scores pre-training.
Managers reported a 15% improvement in their management skills with the greatest development in the area of using feedback to drive performance, their ability to motivate their team and an increased ability to support others through change. Post-training, they rated themselves most strongly at being able to act as positive role-models for their teams.
Senior managers reported a 12% increase in Team Leaders’ and Section Managers’ skill-sets. Greatest development seen in the managers’ ability to address poor performance by giving ‘tough’ messages and in the managers’ ability to motivate teams.
From a broader business perspective, the results have been impressive. The business has seen an increase in consistency in people management skills across the business. This has also led to a number of sideways moves as Team Leaders and Section Managers have greater people management skills to apply to different areas. There has been a significant shift in the culture towards productivity and performance, which has been supported by data for advisor absenteeism, retention and sales performance. All of which have shown a significant improvement both by individual department and across the business as a whole.
- Increase in sales: Increase in unit sales of 53% equating to revenue of £97,200
- Reduction in absenteeism: Absenteeism down from 4.08% in 2005 to 2.86% in 2006 saving approximately £350,000
- Department specific measures:
- Improvement in Recovery Income from £553 per hour in Jan 2006 to £1,349 in Sep 2006;
- Customer Satisfaction ratings increased on 7 of the 10 items surveyed (Customer Services);
- Compensation reduced from £11,550 in April 2006 to £4,500 refunded in October 2006 (Customer Services);
- Fraud cases dealt with increased from 5 per hour September 2005 to 16 per hour September 2006 (Fraud)
In October 2007, the project was awarded a National Training Award, awarded to businesses, organisations and individuals who have achieved lasting excellence and success through training and learning. The programme has also received attention in both Call Centre Focus and HR Director magazine, which have featured the project as a case-study of good practice.