Embedding the Super-Skills™ that underpin effective dialogue, Virgin Trains has changed its communication culture. Find out how.
Changing a company culture to improve conversations is a process that requires time, commitment and buy-in. Most importantly, leaders at all levels need to be equipped with both the right mindset and the right skills.
Virgin Trains have worked closely with The Right Conversation, an organisational dialogue expert, to assess the state of conversations in the organisation, introduce the five key Super-Skills™ of great conversations and embed this change throughout all levels of the organisation.
We’ve now arrived at the final stage of Virgin Trains’ transformation. Ready to discover how the success of the programme was measured?
Part Six - measuring and embedding the Super-Skills™ programme
Organisations are built on conversations and Virgin Trains is no exception. Improving organisational dialogue is not about a quick ‘in the moment’ fix, but an intervention into the culture of the business that would position it for future success.
This meant that introducing conversational leadership to Virgin Trains could not take place in isolation - it would need to be embedded deep into its management development Future Leaders Programme, which was also undergoing a change in design.
As of early 2017, about 180 members (72%) of Virgin Trains’ leadership population have been through the conversational leadership programme, and some of the 45 people going through the Future Leaders programme have completed the programme too. The feedback from participants has been very positive, with many noting it has not only transformed how they talk at work, but also how they talk with their partners, children and loved ones at home!
While a lot of the outcomes of the programme aren’t yet tangible, the company has seen that the focus on conversational leadership has driven an increase in leaders asking for 360 degree feedback from peers and direct reports. There has also been a renewed focus on leadership visibility and the company is seeing evidence of managers getting out and talking to colleagues in every part of the business – suggesting they are feeling more assured about how to communicate effectively.
Virgin Trains is also using the content of the programme to drive conversations to support the launch of its new performance management process. This, in turn, should also help the business measure the success of conversational leadership in the future.
What Virgin Trains plans for the future
Looking ahead, the company is seeking to understand the impact of face-to-face conversation, as well as ‘conversations’ that take place through different forms of technology, such as Yammer. Virgin Trains wants to consider the impact of how employees ‘type’ as well as how they ‘talk’.
The programme will need to adapt in years to come – especially as the age profile of the workforce changes - but overall, conversational leadership has become a deeply embedded part of the employee engagement strategy in Virgin Trains.