Fit for the Future with Cirrus: a case study
The National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has achieved ambitious, dramatic change to become a pioneering and profitable trailblazer. This has been achieved through the Fit for the Future transformation programme, supported by Cirrus.
Founded in 2008, NNL is the UK’s foremost source of nuclear expertise. Government owned, it has a turnover of £85 million and employs over 800 people. A high percentage of employees are scientists, technicians and engineers.
Fit for the Future, launched in 2012, supports NNL’s vision to deliver the best nuclear science and technology solutions in the world, and is informed by NNL’s core values of integrity, impact and innovation. Previously, NNL had been a non-commercial, hierarchical and reactive organisation.
Fit for the Future combines a range of elements to achieve its overall objectives of securing NNL’s role in national programmes, and becoming a more commercial, people-centred, customer-focused organisation.
Liane White, Acting Director of People Services at NNL, is enthusiastic about the relationship between NNL and Cirrus: “We have a true partnership which goes beyond a client/supplier relationship. The Cirrus team has a very flexible approach and we work collaboratively together. It is important to us that Cirrus bring their knowledge of working with other organisations during periods of transformation to us. They’ve successfully helped us to introduce creative ideas and innovative solutions.”
The programme is championed by MD Paul Howarth and the entire leadership team. They are active role models for behavioural change and regularly communicate the case for transformation and discuss progress across the organisation.
At the heart of Fit for the Future is a transformational, holistic leadership learning and development programme. Designed and facilitated by Cirrus, the programme is closely aligned with Fit for the Future objectives, and designed to develop the skills and behaviours leaders need to effect real cultural change.
The modular programme draws on wide-ranging learning methodologies and leadership theory and practice to ensure that learning opportunities are maximised. Separate modules focus on self-leadership, team leadership, performance leadership, and the application of learning to real business challenges. It is tailored to meet the needs of different groups of leaders within the organisation: senior leaders, emerging leaders and line managers who are ‘learning to lead’.
This innovative programme uses role playing with professional actors to explore challenging business situations in a supportive environment, and supports leaders to achieve personal goals through individual coaching. It is regularly reviewed and adapted to meet changing needs.
The Catalyst e-Portal is a rich online learning and communications resource which tracks learners’ progress and offers ongoing opportunities for learning and assessment.
Alongside this, the interactive Career Pathways application enables employees to explore different career paths within NNL. It clearly sets out the qualifications, training and responsibilities associated with each role, and provides guidance. The majority of NNL employees are scientists, technicians and engineers. Many had felt career paths were unclear, so this has highlighted career opportunities beyond traditional management paths.
Cirrus also worked with NNL to develop a refreshed brand identity and a new employer value proposition, created through a series of focus groups. This communicates the uniqueness of the NNL brand and what it represents for employees.
A modernised approach to branding and communications has led to new, engaging online and printed materials with a stronger visual element and less reliance on extensive text. They communicate the case for change and enable employees to take responsibility for managing career development.
In addition, employee recognition has improved as a result of the Impact Awards, which provide formal recognition and genuine celebration of achievements.
NNL’s transformation to an organisation that is increasingly commercial and customer-focused has led to significant increases in revenue and considerable cost savings.
Quality has improved dramatically, and the amount of ‘rework’ issues has significantly reduced.
Customer service has also improved, and NNL has exceeded its targets in this area. Customer satisfaction is now 91% ‘good or better’.
Employee engagement has increased and the latest employee engagement survey saw markedly more positive responses to statements around customer focus, transparent internal communication, career progression, and performance management.
A leadership impact survey and focus group evaluation demonstrates a significant improvement in leadership skills and behaviours. Leaders are more self-aware, able to adapt approaches to different situations, and are having quality conversations to create an environment of trust and build performance. The executive team’s more open, collaborative style of leadership has been noted during the evaluation process.
Diversity has improved. In 2009, only two women held leadership roles – in 2014, that figure has increased to eight. Female representation across the business is steadily increasing.
In October 2013, the Board confirmed that Fit for the Future had exceeded its target. It has modernised the organisation and created significant cultural change.
Quotes from participants
“Without exception, this leadership programme is better than anything I’ve ever done before.”
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and how my colleagues and I interact as a team.”
“This programme has taken us to places we’ve never been before.”
“I went into this programme hoping leadership could be learned and I’ve discovered that is true.”
“I feel a lot better about my role and how I’m doing my job.”
“I’ve now got things into perspective and no longer have self doubt.”
“I didn’t feel capable of coaching but I’m doing it now and doing it successfully.”
“I wanted to leave a business legacy and my new found coaching skills are helping me do just that.”
“I’m no longer solving people’s problems but acting as a sounding board and allowing people to talk more.”
“I’ve learned more than I realised. I’m doing things differently.”