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Joanne Hellen

The Keil Centre

Business Administration Manager

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“Our people are our principal asset and key to our success.”

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This is an interview with Ken Gray, Director and Joanne Hellen, Business Administration Manager, at the Keil Centre, an organisation made up of chartered psychologists and ergonomists. The Keil Centre are the first organisation in Scotland to achieve Investors in People (IIP) Platinum status. We caught up with them to find out what they do that really makes the difference.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: You're the first organisation in Scotland to get Platinum IIP status. Pick out two or three key reasons why you think you've achieved this, maybe something to do with your approach to people practices rather than specific initiatives.

KG/JH: Given the nature of our business, our people are our principal asset and key to our success. This means that we have always valued the contribution our staff bring to the business – both in terms of client-facing delivery and our internal operations.

Whilst the professional qualifications and experience of our staff are crucial in delivering our services, we appreciate that everyone has additional skills which they can bring to the business.

We have always encouraged and benefitted from staff consultation, as it  brings new ideas and perspectives, rather than a simple top-down approach.

Whilst we have individuals responsible for certain aspects of the business, feedback is always encouraged across the organisation and a collective input to areas such marketing, innovation and business development encourages staff engagement and the feeling that everyone is contributing to business success. 

Staff have autonomy to make decisions themselves, combined with the knowledge that colleagues are on hand and approachable when support is required.

As a result, people are deeply motivated to deliver their best. This comes from the openness and transparency of communication and their involvement in setting the business agenda.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Your core values are Collaboration, People Focus and Professional Integrity. How do you ensure these are embedded within the fabric of the organisation? And how do you ensure new recruits fit in with the culture and values you have established?

KG/JH: In first establishing these core values, we adopted a consultation process to gather ideas from our staff about how they believed The Keil Centre operates.

From this emerged some clear themes and behaviours, which now form the basis of these three values.

Rather than imposing desirable concepts from above, this “bottom-up” approach helped to gather a holistic view on what it meant to staff to work at The Keil Centre.

Staff have autonomy to make decisions themselves, combined with the knowledge that colleagues are on hand and approachable

Alongside technical ability and experience, we recruit our staff on the basis of competency frameworks which were developed internally to ensure that they demonstrate the right behaviours in their role and reflect our core values.

Regardless of the role they fill, all competencies are based on meeting the requirements of our Client Management cycle, so that consultants and support staff are working together to achieve a successful outcome.

Their roles complement and support each other, rather than remaining distinct functions.

These competencies also form part of our bi-annual performance review processes, which ensure staff can regularly measure their development and exchange two-way feedback with their managers.

Our day-to-day working practices encourage collaboration among team members.

Our collective focus on quality is reinforced by collaborative working, involving people in decision making.

Monthly business meetings, weekly meetings at team level, working groups and informal interaction are all used to involve staff in delivering our services and improving the business. These processes acknowledge that everyone has individual and complementary skills to contribute and can learn from each other.

Our collective focus on quality is reinforced by collaborative working, involving people in decision making, sharing information, and empowering people to take responsibility for the quality of their work.

Our professional integrity stems from the application of our expertise in a responsible manner – so avoiding the “hard sell” with our clients, instead seeking to understand their issues and develop solutions to address these.

We aim to be experts in our field, and focussing on regular training and development and cross-company working support this.

At all levels of the organisation, staff want to do their best for our clients.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What's your approach to leadership at Keil? What behaviours do you expect your leaders to role model?

KG/JH: Leadership has always been a strong feature within The Keil Centre.

Approachability is key to this, with two-way communication strongly encouraged within a very open, transparent culture at all levels of the organisation. Staff involvement in monthly Business Meetings and annual Away Days enable Leaders to communicate their vision for the business and staff to be clear about the business’ ongoing performance and objectives.

Our Directors are trusted by people to take the organisation forward because of their passion and understanding of the business.

There is mutual trust both across the Company between functions and also vertically between levels of responsibility, as demonstrated in the high levels of autonomy and collaboration.

Our Directors are trusted by people to take the organisation forward because of their passion and understanding of the business.

Alongside running the company, they also deliver client-facing services alongside their consultant colleagues. As a result, they set a strong example, being experts in their own field and maintaining high standards which, in turn, motivates others to do likewise.

Future leadership capabilities are defined within our Director competency framework, which provides potential Directors with a clear structure within which to identify development opportunities and transition into these roles.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What's next after Platinum IIP accreditation? Where do you go next? How do you improve?

KG/JH: We are delighted to receive this top level accreditation from IIP.

As a company who works with other organisations to support development of strong leaders, cultivate capability and sustain strong teams, the recognition from IIP that these characteristics are deeply engrained within our own company culture is extremely satisfying.

As we continue steady growth of operations in both UK and Australia, our objectives going forward are to continue developing and maximising the potential of our team.

To ensure continued success, we need to focus upon succession planning and staff development to attract talent and grow expertise to support the sustainability of the business for the future.

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Joanne Hellen

Business Administration Manager

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