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Building a culture of continuous improvement

Sodexo Justice ServicesSodexo Justice Services operates over 120 facilities across the world with the objective of changing lives for the better. Despite the challenges of working under high levels of political and public scrutiny, SJS has earned a reputation for delivering excellent, ethical, innovative and rehabilitative services. Within the UK, SJS operates five prisons on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and Scottish Prison Service, including HMP Forest Bank which is one of the largest prisons in the UK.

First opened in 2000 and extended in 2008, HMP Forest Bank has been recognised as a leader in a number of areas including its pioneering work in drug rehabilitation. Running a prison has many unique challenges and having a motivated, innovative and proactive culture is critical to Forest Bank’s success. With this in mind SJS selected Wickland Westcott to design and run a series of inspirational workshops for all staff and managers at the prison. The aim of the workshops was to reinforce the behaviours required for the prison to be successful, and to help participants understand the contribution that they make to the culture and performance of the prison as a whole.

The first series of workshops were attended by all staff. They drew on examples from inside and outside of business to highlight the power that individuals have to shape the culture of organisations. A central theme was the impact that everybody working together to continually improve things could have at Forest Bank. As well as using engaging examples from sport, business and psychology, participants were also given practical exercises to help them identify ways in which they could demonstrate other key characteristics such as Pride, Enthusiasm, Ownership and Teamwork alongside Continuous Improvement in their everyday work. Research following the workshops revealed that 82% of staff had identified practical actions they could personally implement, and felt motivated to make these improvements. The workshops also led to the development of Team Action Plans within the prison, which provide a consistent link between the prison’s strategic objectives and individual PDR discussions.

A second workshop was then designed for all managers within the prison. This focused on the impact that managers can have within the organisation, with the aim of building their capability to lead as well as manage. This event was designed to amplify the effect of the first workshops, ensuring managers felt empowered to support improvements identified by their teams. Practical exercises were again used in conjunction with input on best practice guidelines, for example in terms of how to deliver clear, impactful feedback. Research following this event showed that 90% of participants left the workshop having found it relevant to their specific situation, with 89% having identified specific actions that they were motivated to implement to increase their performance as a leader.

Forest Bank’s Leadership team has capitalised on the energy created within these short interventions to build momentum behind the prison’s strategic and operational plans. The workshops have also supported the successful re-award of Investors In People, along with measurable increases in staff engagement.

Prison Director Trevor Shortt comments: "We worked with WW at an important part in our evolution as an organisation. I was keen that front line staff understood the critical part they each play in the delivery of the whole business of the prison. WW helped me communicate this message and develop some very practical tools to support and sustain it. I was particularly pleased with the way in which the Team Action Plans brought front line teams together around common objectives and created the glue between Personal Development Plans and the Organisation's Business Plan."