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Optus Transforms Its Business and Its New Leaders

Need:

Design and deliver a program to provide support to
first-time leaders.

Solution:

A learning journey for leaders employing Interaction Management® system.

Results:

Optus Graph
of leaders’ managers report frontline leadership capability has improved

“[Leadership development program participant] has been able to highly engage a team that was lacking direction and motivation. She has established structure through setting clear expectations of performance and values required of direct reports … resulting in increased engagement and improvements in performance and efficiency.”

 

—Observer of Participant in the SCORE Foundations program

Supporting a Critical Career Transition

Optus is a dynamic organization transforming itself from being a telecommunications provider to a multimedia technology organization. It identified a need to better support individuals transitioning into leadership roles for the first time. 
Optus partnered with DDI to create the SCORE Foundations program. This five-month learning journey comprises five half-days of courses from DDI’s Interaction Management® system addressing some of the key challenges first-time leaders face—having effective conversations, providing timely feedback, learning how to set goals and monitor progress, and how to deal with under-performance. Managers of participants attended a virtual briefing on core concepts and committed to coaching their direct reports throughout the program and beyond. The blended learning journey featured practical, engaging intersession activities throughout to embed learning and support on-the-job application. 

Participants used a tailored learning journal to capture their insights and reflections. The program culminated in a “Celebrating Achievements” session during which participants showcased their unique learnings to their peers and managers. As a graduation gift, participants received a copy of the book Your First Leadership Job to inspire them to continue on their leadership growth journey.

Leadership Capability Has Increased 

Optus undertook an impact evaluation study to measure the effect the program was having on workplace behavior. This involved program participants and observers (managers, peers and direct reports) rating participant behavior before and after the program. The evaluation also surveyed other key levers that affect team performance and business outcomes. 

When measuring key behavioral objectives of program modules, 96 percent of SCORE Foundations participants reported frequently displaying these positive behaviors after the program compared to 63 percent pre-program. Their observers also reported improvement indicating that 82 percent of participants frequently displayed these behaviors post-program compared to only 63 percent before the program. 

Participants and observers were also surveyed about the overall improvement in the participants’ leadership abilities. The increase was more than double that of the global benchmark, an overall improvement of 23 percentage points compared to the global benchmark of an 11 percent increase.

Leadership bench strength has improved remarkably: 67 percent of managers of program participants indicate an improvement in frontline leadership—attending this program has clearly enhanced the capability of these leaders. One manager commented that a participant “changed his communication style, which his direct reports responded well to and lifted performance.” Another says a participant is now “less reactive and less emotional. He has become more pragmatic, more objective, and more confident in his ability to lead.”

More Effective Day-to-Day Conversations

“The communication and discussion planning skills learned in this course have been invaluable to overcoming obstacles in my daily role.”—Participant.

A key focus within this learning journey was the ability for participants to skill-practice during the classroom sessions using practical tools like DDI’s Discussion Planner. Peer partnerships were established so that participants could receive coaching and support from their fellow learners between formal learning sessions. Just-in-time online advice, interactive online skill practice, and a series of auto-generated reinforcement messages in the form of videos, texts, questions, pictures, or hyperlinks were used to increase retention of course concepts and encourage on-the-job application of new skills. This appealing mix of learning methods led to the following program support and sustainability outcomes.

As a result, 97 percent of participants say they are displaying effective communication skills after the program compared to 69 percent before attending the program (a 42 percent behavior change). Observers rated these skills at 67 percent pre-program compared to 88 percent post-program; a 32 percent increase in behavior.

As part of the measurement study, participants provided examples of how they are using the Key Principles and Interaction Guidelines (DDI’s proprietary tools to build conversational capability). Examples of the feedback they shared: “I have utilized the discussion planner in preparing for difficult conversations to ensure they remain on track and drive the desired outcome”; “I now listen to the conversation rather than over talking or finishing the sentence for the other person.” 

Better Equipped to Handle Poor Performance

 A strong focus of the SCORE Foundations program was for leaders to confidently and consistently manage poor performance. Observers reported a 56 percent improvement of participants’ ability to coach others when they are not meeting performance expectations (50 percent of participants did this before the program compared with 78 percent post program). Managers concur: 80 percent of managers reported they feel the program has increased the participants’ focus on developing their employees. In addition, 85 percent of direct reports feel their managers are more focused on their personal development since attending the program.

One participant shared, “I have taken on [the task] to improve the performance of the consistent non-performers in the team, provided guidance and clear expectations of performance and deliverables to all team members which resulted in significant improvements in delivery performance and clearly a more happy team.” A peer commented that a participant is “more assertive with her team and holds everyone to account.” A manager says that a participant “has cultivated a good culture in his team creating an environment that encourages high performance.”

Better Leadership Is Driving Engagement and Commitment 

The SCORE Foundations program has not only improved specific leadership behaviors in the workplace, it is having personal and team impact, too. Participants themselves report high levels of engagement in being a leader at Optus and feeling like a valued employee by attending the program. Their enhanced leadership capabilities are having a similar impact on their direct reports too.

“Before the program I was inclined to take on any new work or projects myself. After the program, I am more inclined to assign the work or program to one of my team while supporting and helping where required. This has meant that they feel valued and gain skills and ownership as well as being engaged.” 

All respondents rated significant improvements in productivity and efficiency, with participants and their teams seeing enhanced collaboration as a result of the program.

A Positve Impact on Team Success

In the face of a rapidly changing business environment, SCORE Foundations was modified to include a module around implementing change and creating an agile work environment where people are more open to change. The program continues to be delivered to new leaders. In one business unit, it has been modified to be delivered to more experienced frontline leaders and their managers to strengthen leadership capability at multiple levels.

 

Talk to an Expert: Optus Transforms Its Business and Its New Leaders
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