Role-play delivers pathway to communication success

The world of make believe has helped wastewater managers boost their communication confidence during the launch of a pay and careers programme unique to the water industry.

Drainage and water utility specialist Lanes Group plc has used a professional actor to carry out innovative role-play training for line managers who play a vital role in Pathway to Success.

Pathway to Success provides transparent, step-by-step career paths for specified job roles. For the first time, it links pay with personal performance and skills development, supported by measurable data.

The programme supports colleagues working on the Lanes wastewater network services maintenance contract for Thames Water.

James Brewer, Learning and Development Specialist for the Lanes Thames Water operation, said: “Pathway to Success represents one of the biggest change programmes Lanes has ever been through.

“It introduces significant benefits for our team members, for Lanes and for Thames Water. However, we recognised early on that the people and communication skills of line managers would be vital to its success.

“Using an actor to role-play various potential scenarios proved to be a powerful way for our managers to test these skills and learn a lot from each other in a safe environment.”

The training, called Creating Star Performers, was devised by training specialist The Method. It helped show line managers how to carry out Pathway to Success progress reviews with their team members.

The actor took on the personas of colleagues reacting in different, sometimes challenging, ways to the review process.

These were first role-played in closed group sessions. Then, days later, the actor telephoned each manager out of the blue in character to test their people skills in a live work environment.

Field Manage Lui Ballentine said: “The training was excellent. Pathway to Success is new for everyone so I want to explain it properly. It’s exciting for people to see they can choose a career path at Lanes. But they also have to know what they need to do to achieve it.”

Lanes has introduced Pathway to Success, which is guiding the careers of around 900 field and office employees, to help create a stable, high performance workforce at a time when skills shortages are a major concern in the water utility industry.

Eighteen months after its introduction, it is already proving to be a powerful tool for matching changing skill requirements with recruitment and succession planning to achieve long-term operational objectives.

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