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Competitive Edge Through People DevelopmentIn a fast changing business environment the need to be competitive is essential. Nowhere is this more so than in the world of insurance and financial planning. One organisation has found an original way of ensuring sustained competitiveness through the development of its people. Scottish Life has recently invested heavily in a new and innovative way of enhancing its performance as a business through the appraisal and development of its senior management.
The 60 strong management team took part in the 6 - week process, which helped managers to identify and become familiar with the job specific competencies relevant to their role. The programme, which was designed and delivered by future factory comprised three methods of assessment, these were: a 360 degree appraisal (skill coach), based around some of Scottish Life's key competencies; observer assessment and feedback; and one to one discussions, based on psychometric tests that had been completed. A key facilitator with future factory explains, 'the programme we designed was aimed at raising the level of awareness and responsibility for individual management performance across the business, in order to identify where improvements in that performance could be made. During the time, the focus was on a number of core skills, identified as key business drivers, and this enabled managers to see where changes in their approach would have the biggest impact.
During the development centres, which were based at Johnstounburn House near Edinburgh, the participants undertook 3 practical activities. During the first and second set of activities the managers experienced a number of future factory's experiential learning tools called Sign Lines and Taking Stock. These involved working together to complete a pre-determined set of tasks. While the activities were reasonably straight forward, and involved a degree of hustle and bustle, commotion and fun, they appeared to involve little more than planning, resource allocation, decision making, and teamwork. In actual fact, on other level, the exercises replicated and simulated work practices that revealed the methods and practices of the employees.
The third activity, Leading Figures was carried out as a team exercise. In this simulation of a commercial operation, the team had to achieve a financial goal that was symbolised by a 'points' target. Working together and meeting their individual responsibilities, the team was tasked with building a construction, which had to meet the customer's specifications. This discipline involves several levels of real commercial practice, including manufacture - the construction of the piece - while meeting compliance and legislative demands. There was also the added pressure of resource allocation tasks, which mean the participants had to juggle supplies to get the best possible returns from available resources. As if that was not enough, there was also a continuing professional development task to be completed at the same time.
The effectiveness of the programme was enhanced by continual observation and half a day of intense one to one coaching. As a result of the partnership between future factory and Scottish Life, the management team is now in a stronger position to meet the challenges of the changes assailing the financial services industry. As a group and as individuals they have an all round picture of where they are and where they are going. This in turn gives them valuable tools to ensure that Scottish Life stays at the forefront.