The benefits of a collaborative, co-creative client/supplier relationship Co-creation G4S
Change is the only constant
In addition to the challenges of managing a large (602,000 people), diverse and globally spread (125 countries) organization, the company is in a process of change:
- Locations in NW Europe and S/SE Europe have been brought together only in the last 2 years. This is part of an overall merger, acquisition and consolidation trend that has led to rapid growth in recent years.
- Companies located in Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Finland have all integrated their Cash operations, which constitute roughly half of G4S’s global business, together with their security operations, also very recently.
- A number of public setbacks and resulting poor share performance forced the exit of long-time CEO Nick Buckles. Mr. Ashley Almanza, a very recent arrival at G4S as CFO, and new to the security industry, was promoted to CEO in his place.
How to become a change agent?
Partly because of this rapid growth and the shifts at the top of the organization, G4S decided to invest in leadership development. G4S needed to develop its capabilities to implement the solutions strategy and to deliver future performance. This would help stabilize the company, communicate a consistent company culture and potentially boost morale. In order to design, develop and deliver a European Leadership Program, the Regional Human Resources Director – Europe, Peter Agergaard, was looking for a new external leadership development company to partner with. He wanted something new, creative and different, something other than the standard management development program with its emphasis on cognitive knowledge and skills training. Preferably something with more strategic relevance, personal development and real-world application. Additionally, because of all the recent worldwide acquisitions of smaller security companies, he wanted a program that emphasized the values of G4S – namely an open, creative, proactive organization which made a transition from a man-hour provider to a solutions provider. The key to the program should be to transform the leadership of G4S from problem solvers to change agents with a shared vision.
You need a different approach
De Baak was awarded this assignment because of its unique features in approach and ability to co-create with G4S:
- Action Learning: four strategically important projects were defined to act as a platform for learning, as well as providing business results for the company at completion. The projects were based on the classic Reg Revans formula for Action Learning: P + Q = L, where P stands for programmed knowledge, Q for the structured questioning process, and L for learning.
- Online collaboration: given the fact that the course participants on the program and their respective Action Learning project teams were geographically spread across Europe and the Middle East, a method for supporting synchronous project collaboration was created.
- Upper management support: each of the Action Learning projects was supported by mentors who worked directly with the team, and a project sponsor from upper management who were ‘owners’ of the projects, responsible for implementing the end results.
- Employer branding: part of the success formula for leadership development programs is visibility within the organization. Letting colleagues know that the company is investing in their personal development is a significant motivator. Therefore, this program is being promoted via internal marketing channels.
- Flow: from and to existing management/leadership development programs.
- Entrepreneurial methods: by encouraging the participants to seek out resources both within as well as outside the organization, as well as linking the Action Learning project to all levels, the course helps to support the entrepreneurial development of the participants.
Setbacks are a part of life
The difference is in how we react. One week before the first module was set to take place – after flights and hotels had been booked, and all other preparations for the participants traveling from all over Europe (some as far away as Estonia, Bulgaria and Israel) had been made – G4S instituted a company-wide freeze on all ‘non-essential expenses’, especially travel and accommodation. In practice this meant that the first module of the European Leadership Program would not be able to take place as scheduled.
Because of rapid growth and the changes that entailed, resulting in the relative instability of the company, it was of vital importance to employee morale, as well as the reputation of the HR department, that the program began as scheduled. There was a great deal of anticipation among the selected candidates as the course approached, and a considerable investment had been made in partner selection, program design and development. This meant that canceling, or even postponing, the European Leadership Program would be a serious setback for everyone involved.
Flexibility is key
De Baak proposed an interim solution to G4S: to begin the online Action Learning projects as scheduled, but treat it as a prelude to the actual program. The first face-to-face meeting for the program would be delayed until the next financial quarter, when the freeze was expected to be lifted. This solution demonstrated to the participants that, despite this setback, they are valuable to the organization and very much worth the investment in their personal and professional development. It also helped projects that potentially have significant business value to the organization to progress, and demonstrated to G4S at all levels that the HR department is flexible and creative in finding solutions in developing its people, despite setbacks. In addition, it began generating returns on the significant investment already made in the development and design process of the program.
And then the participants did meet each other in real life…
The European Leadership Program comprises three modules, each of four days’ duration.
From the first module it was clear that strong relationships had been built between the participants and that they would benefit for a long time after the end of the program from the internal network they created during the ELP
Module 1: Leadership & you
In the first module, the participants discovered more about themselves, their personal values, strengths, pitfalls, and weaknesses and their preferred leadership style. Techniques for giving feedback, adapting their style according to the needs of the people they lead and coaching skills were practiced in a wide variety of exercises. Their personal reactions to change and insights about cross-cultural collaboration were also covered during module 1.
Module 2: Leadership & the Organization
In this module, the participants learned more about their communication style and how they could make a real impact in their organization by improving the way they presented their message to the people they work with. Some basic financial knowledge that every leader should have and the big financial picture of G4S as an organization were brought in by the CFO Europe and the regional CFO Southern Europe, stepping in as co-trainers. Risk management, difficult conversation and change relating to the organization were covered as well.
Module 3: Leadership & the outside world
In module 3 the scope became even wider, now looking at the outside world, spotting strategic choices for G4S regarding mergers and acquisitions. Participants learned about their personal strengths regarding innovation and through different exercises they developed their own strategic thinking, detecting opportunities for growth for the whole organization.
Development of a strong partnership
This proposed solution, as well as G4S’s willingness to accept it, proved that the collaborative, co-creation relationship that was established early on between De Baak and its client, G4S, has benefits that extend far beyond the simple design of the program in its initial stages. “This relationship has set the tone for a long-term collaborative relationship that extends into the delivery of the course itself. It is expected that this mutual respect and give-and-take from both sides will continue to benefit both parties long into the future. The projects are currently running and all of them appear to have been successfully launched. It is expected that they will mainstream with the programmed knowledge offered when the formal face-to-face portion of the course begins. Not only will the participants have had significant contact with each other in the meantime, they will have built a store of shared experiences that can form the basis for cases over the entire course.” – Peter Agergaard, Regional Human Resources Director – Europe G4S
G4S plc, based in London, is the world’s leading international security solutions group, specializing in outsourced business processes in sectors where security and safety risks are considered a strategic threat. G4S employs over 602,000 people in more than 125 countries and is the world’s second-largest private sector employer. Europe accounts for 47% of the company’s turnover, with the remaining 53% divided between North America and developing markets.
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