BACKGROUND

AXA Insurance is a financial services organisation which operates globally. AXA recently acquired a number of insurance companies in the UK with the intention of increasing its market share in the general insurance market.

The Requirement

The CEO of AXA in the UK recognised that in order to attain this goal, the business needed to change the culture within the organisation. A vision and set of values were developed for the business and a major change programme initiated. A core work stream of this programme was a leadership development programme for the organisations’ top 250 managers. AOC was appointed to design, deliver and evaluate the leadership development programme. The timescales were tight, with all participants needing to participate in the first stage of the Leadership Development Programme within six months.

Leadership Development Intervention

Learning Needs Analysis (LNA)

AOC undertook an extensive Learning Needs Analysis throughout the business. This identified the key skills required to be an effective leader and audited the current skill profile. As a consequence, we worked with AXA to develop a set of management competencies linked to AXA values. The values and competencies underpinned the Leadership Development Programme.

Leadership Development Programme Design

AOC identified as part of the LNA that in order to create a leadership team capable of and willing to deliver the AXA vision and live the values, key skills development was needed initially in the following areas:

• Self awareness
• Leadership style
• Influencing skills
• Managing a high performance team
• Team briefing
• Motivation
• Managing poor and under-performance
• Coaching skills
• Commercial awareness

We designed a leadership development programme using a blended learning approach to address these areas. The programme was preceded by a leadership briefing by the CEO, 360 degree feedback (an orientation and one to one debrief), managers’ briefing and on-line pre-course work.  Participants used the results of the 360 degree feedback to begin the creation of a Personal Development Plan prior to attending a leadership development workshop. They refined and added to this Plan as the leadership development programmeprogressed.

We recognised that in order to sustain the culture change programme, AXA needed to embed the leadership skills throughout the organisation.

A key part of the leadership development programme were Action Learning Sets (groups of seven people from mixed grades and divisions). Each set committed to meet on a regular basis to share experiences and learning together with an AOC facilitator.

Six months after the beginning of the Leadership Development Programme we held a series of reviews with the 250 participants where the progress they had made with their individual Personal Development Plans was discussed. As part of this review participants undertook a further diagnostic based on the Leadership Compass. This identified further areas of individual learning and development needs to be an effective leader.

In the next stage of the programme we designed a series of elective interventions, linked to the Leadership Compass. These included amongst others topics:

• Presenting with impact
• Creative thinking techniques
• Project management skills
• Using emotional intelligence at work
• Business and critical thinking skills

The design of the Leadership Development Programme used a wide range of blended learning techniques to appeal to different learning styles. These included case studies, simulations, role plays, group, individual exercises and one to one coaching.

Delivery of the Leadership Development

AOC delivered the first stage of the programme over a three month period for 250 people in cohorts of twenty one participants. The training modules in this part of the programme were mandatory which meant that all the leadership team shared the same messages and experience. Participants worked in action learning of seven people, each led by an AOC facilitator. The same facilitator then led the action learning set review and diagnostic at the start of the next phase of the programme. The modules in this stage were elective, with the facilitator team delivering the different training modules required. We also provided executive coaching and 20% of participants elected this option on an on-going basis.

Evaluation

We co-designed an evaluation process with the client using Kirkpatrick four levels of evaluation. This involved gathering learner reaction forms after each leadership development intervention, repeat of 360 degree feedback after 12 months as well as feedback from participants’ line managers and direct reports about observed changes in behaviour and the tracking of business benefits.

The programme received very positive comments from all those who attended with 98% of people rating it good and very good. Improvement in 360 degree results were seen in 91% of participants and 87% of line managers and direct reports reported positive changes in behaviour. In addition organisational KPIs were attained including an increase of 3% in employee satisfaction.  The leadership development programme was seen as making a major contribution to creating a culture of coaching and empowerment throughout the organisation.