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Hampshire County Council (HCC) became our first member to use our recently introduced Qualifications Programme Management (QPM) service.

Before we hear more about how HCC utilised the QPM service, let’s explore what the QPM service is and how the service could support a Professional Qualifications Programme at your organisation.

Running a programme of Professional Qualifications as part of your membership engagement is a great way to develop and embed the customer service skills of your employees. The framework requires that you set up an internal infrastructure to support delivering a successful programme, including the allocation of an internal Programme Manager.

Some organisations would benefit from having an expert support service to run the Qualifications either initially or ongoing. The Institute Academy team is delighted to be able to provide this expertise where a need has been identified and subject to sufficient volume of engagement.

Who is the QPM Service for?

It is an Institute Academy delivered service for those organisations that require expert support to:

  • Manage higher volumes of employees through The Institute’s qualifications
  • Start up their qualifications programme to The Institute Standards
  • Develop their in-house capability to run and manage a successful programme
  • Deliver an Institute Qualifications programme where resource to manage it internally is a challenge
  •  Roll a programme out regionally or nationally over a period of time using The Institute Academy team to manage the first roll out per region.

This service is exclusive to members and is subject to 30-50 people being on programme.

What does the QPM service offer?

A member of our experienced Academy team will provide a mix of on-site and remote support to manage your agreed programme for you and includes:

  • Implementation planning
  • Start-up/Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) management
  • Monitoring and maintaining progress through review meetings with Coaches/Practitioners and
  • Assessors
  • Assessment planning and organising
  • Providing an end of service summary of Return on Investment (ROI) – great examples of change/impact
  • For larger programmes further days are available at a fixed day rate

What commitment is required?

You will need an allocated owner- to support success, commitment and buy-in as well as:

  • Act as internal champion and escalation point
  • Share reporting, updating and ROI within their organisation
  • Identify Practitioners, Coaches and Assessors (arranging for required set-up details for VLE to be provided to The Institute programme manager)
  • Input to and sign-off of implementation plan with your Academy Learning & Development (L&D) Consultant
  • Attend any agreed launch meeting and support any communication
  • Celebrate and recognise success
  • Monthly review with L&D Consultant (phone or face-to-face)
  • Invoicing contact
  • ROI articulation and business results reporting and meeting at end of programme (two hours)

Shadowing opportunity

You may wish to use the service for a first-phase programme – set up with the view of becoming self-sufficient for phase two onwards. In this case, the internal contact can shadow our Academy Consultant and would also:

  • Attend Coaches workshops and review sessions
  • Shadow VLE management and monitoring
  • Shadow Assessment organising
  • Results management
  • Attend forums

How did Hampshire County Council (HCC) use the QPM service and what difference has it made?

Within Hampshire County Council the Hampshire Shared Service partnership runs Human Resources, Payroll, Recruitment and finance Services for nine public sector partners across Hampshire, Oxfordshire and three London Boroughs.

They developed their Customer Service strategy which focused on developing an integrated programme of training and development utilising the services within the Academy.

Their programme of employee engagement and people development included

  • First Impressions
  • Service Impact
  • Train the Trainer for First Impressions & Service Impact
  • Service Management
  • Professional Qualifications

Jo Martin, HCC’s Training and Culture Manager commented that “this really made a tremendous difference for us. They (employees) have had the opportunity to be creative, innovate and put their ideas forward. It’s about them feeling valued in the role that they play”.

Why did HCC decide to use The Institute’s QPM Service?

HCC wanted to embed a learning culture and support manager/colleague cohesion; they wanted to learn from The Academy how best to implement and support a successful professional qualifications’ programme with a member of their team shadowing and learning to be able to become self sufficient.

Stephen Highfield, HCC’s Qualifications Programme Manager commented “The Qualifications Programme Manager service has really made a difference because it has helped us identify best practice solutions that have been tried and tested in other organisations.”

How did the Professional Qualifications fit into the people development strategy?

Their plans identified that individuals would undertake FirstImpressions then be offered the opportunity to undertake a Professional Qualification, being given the opportunity to demonstrate their applied learning from attending FirstImpressions.

Sean Stringer, HCC’s Head of Corporate Customer Services commented “We got tremendous value out of The FirstImpressions and ServiceImpact training, it’s aligned to our vision, our strategy, and our values, and that works really well in terms of consistency across the service. We also found the ServiceManagement training to be incredibly helpful, in terms of transforming our managers into managers who focus on engagement first and really lead from the front.”

How did the QPM Service work practically?

The first stage involved our Academy team spending time at HCC getting to getting to know

Sean, Jo & Stephen, and clearly understand requirements. The Academy Team were then able to plan and develop a spreadsheet over the course of the first 12 months, incorporating timelines, launch activities, identification of practitioners, coaches and assessors to name but a few.

Developing the Implementation Plan for the Professional Qualifications Programme was key in the next stage. This included mapping timeframes, activities and numbers and was a collaborative approach involving the Internal Champion, Strategy Lead and key members of the Academy Team and their Institute Client Development Director (CRD), Sue Hopson. A member of The Academy Team, Fiona Bazalgette, was assigned the role of Institute QPM, a role which would involve working closely with the Stephen the HCC Internal Champion.

A mapped programme of support, activities and communications over a 12-month period was developed and agreed and this included regular engagement with the Strategy Lead, Internal Champion, Coaches, Practitioners & Assessors at HCC, CRD, Senior Manager Academy, Finance & Business Support Teams. The Programme was structured to support a new cohort of approximately 10 Practitioners undertaking a Professional qualification each quarter.

Sandra Blyth, Senior Manager Academy commented “The Academy held professional qualifications’ taster sessions to provide information for individuals to make informed decisions about registering to undertake a qualification or to become a coach. We were delighted with the response and the enthusiasm to get involved. We have seen this enthusiasm and commitment continuing whilst practitioners are working towards their qualification and preparing for assessment”

Once the Implementation Plan had been developed, Practitioners and Coaches were identified and registered by our Business Support Team on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) the portal where all Professional Qualifications Progammes are managed. Practitioners were registered on the Communications Qualification and Team Managers were registered on the Customer Service Coach Qualification.

Ongoing engagement & Support

During the following months the Coaches attended their Coaching Professional Qualification Workshop, Coach Review and Coach Preparing for Assessment support sessions and had regular opportunities to attend Coach surgeries – facilitated by The Institute QPM and the Internal Champion.

Practitioners were supported throughout their qualification with regular meetings with their Coaches and also had opportunities to attend Practitioner surgeries. The Team Managers undertaking the Customer Service Coach Qualification undertook peer coaching. A Yammer group was also set up to support sharing ideas, and posting questions with ease.

There were regular weekly/fortnightly calls The Institute QPM & Internal champion and monthly review and progress meetings – attended by the Internal Champion, Strategy Lead, Client Development Director (CRD), Senior Academy Manager and Institute QPM. There was a strong focus on quality, with Passports being regularly reviewed on the VLE and support and guidance shared with the Coaches and Practitioners as required. Quality Assurance reviews were also undertaken by The Institute QPM and Internal Champion. The 2 internal Assessors at HCC committed fully to the Assessor Development Programme, enabling them to be equipped with the knowledge and expertise to conduct internal assessments for up to 80% of Practitioners going through the Programme, with The Institute Assessing the remaining 20% in the first year.

Fiona Bazalgette, Internal QPM commented that “Stephen, the Internal Champion took every opportunity to shadow and learn by attending the Coaching the Professional Qualifications Workshop, the Coach Review & Coach Preparing for Assessment sessions, Practitioner and Coach Surgeries and VLE 1:1 sessions to support VLE management, monitoring, & Assessment organising. It was also great to see Stephen at a regional QPM Forum”.


During the ROI review meeting, which took place at the end of the 12-month QPM service period there was an opportunity for all key stakeholders to reflect and identify the outcomes, measures of success and impact including direct links to business results.

Stephen Highfield, Internal champion shared that using the same coaches to support the Practitioners through the second cohort has resulted in the coaches being more confident in their coaching.

Stephen commented that “The Institute QPM’s help to me was invaluable, I gained great insight and learnt so much from Fiona and we also had a great working relationship.”

Fiona Bazalgette, Institute QPM observed that Stephen has grown in confidence in the QPM role and clearly also really enjoys the role and is now equipped with the knowledge and expertise to be self-sufficient as the Programme continues to be successfully rolled out as a key part of their wider employee engagement Programme.

There was a high focus on quality and internal benchmarking throughout the Programme with Coaches and Practitioners regularly coming together to discuss experiences, share evidence examples and benchmark against Institute Professional Qualification standards. Passport submissions were Quality Assured via the VLE throughout the Programme, with regular and timely feedback to support individual growth and deeper understanding.

This quality-focused approach will be important as HCC consider applying for Approved Centre status.

Celebrating success

Carolyn Williamson, Deputy Chief Executive made a surprise visit, to present Leanne Brighton a Senior Admin Assistant in the Order to Cash Specialist Support team with her certificate and congratulations for being the first practitioner to go through the ICS Qualifications training and pass her end point assessment. Leanne was recognised for her positive outlook, her motivation which was inspiring throughout the qualification, and the impact the training had, not just on Leanne but on her work as well.

Leanne Brighton, the first Practitioner to achieve her communications qualification said about her experience “It’s been genuinely rewarding with an unexpected and positive effect on how I work.

I want to encourage any others who are thinking of taking on this qualification, to please do it because it will make you realise how important you are as an individual to the Organisation and if you come away feeling as positive about the outcome as I have, you will not regret putting the work in. It’s not a difficult qualification to achieve, if you’re willing to put the extra time and work in, as it’s based entirely around the work you do every day.I definitely plan on working on more qualifications available as I can appreciate their value when I see how my work has improved.”

“Clearly the confidence of our staff has grown immeasurably, because they’re being invested in and recognising their role as being a profession. In terms of successes, they are all very clear, and it’s hugely satisfying for all of the team to know that although they’ve put huge amount of effort into the change programme over the three-year period, it’s absolutely paying dividend: we’re at the highest customer satisfaction at 88% – and that’s above the aspiration that we set ourselves, which was at 80%” – Carolyn Williamson, Deputy Chief Executive

Stephen said “Well done Leanne, our Customer Satisfaction scores continue to improve, and high-quality customer service is at the forefront of everything we do. Leanne’s behaviours and commitment are great examples of how our people help us to be the best at what we do.”

Stephen’s comments are further supported by the results that the Shared Services Partnership have seen in their benchmarking Survey Results.

In their recent ServCheck employee survey they achieved a score of 73.3, which is 12 points higher than their previous measure in 2018 and 14.82 points higher than their original measure back in 2016. Their customer satisfaction results have shown a similar improvement with a current score of 69, an increase of 4.4 points on 2018 and an incredible 30 points up on their baseline measure in 2016. A really great set of results showing a really strong improvement across the board.

Sue Hopson, The Institute’s Client Development Director for HCC said “These results directly link to the Institute’s structured development framework, which was developed as part of a transitional project that the Shared Services Partnership have been undergoing over the last 4 years. It is fantastic to see the tangible difference that Sean and his team have been able to make, fully utilising their Institute membership to support them on this journey.”

Jo Martin, HCC’s Training and Culture Manager adds “For our staff, it’s made a significant difference, they’re seeing real value in us investing in them and making sure they have the right opportunities to deliver the best customer service.”

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