Balloon Challenge 2022-2023


Every three years, we run our Balloon Challenge for staff. This is a one-year personal development challenge that we choose a select group of employees to participate in.

The Balloon Challenge is an improvement initiative that aims to help our staff to develop new skills and competencies, helping them to be better at their jobs.

We have long held continuous improvement as a tenet in the business. Our goal is to help our customers make ongoing positive changes in their businesses. In refining certain core skills, our employees can not only further their own careers, but can also contribute to our continuous improvement for customers. In improving themselves and developing leadership skills, they will in turn be delivering better services for our clients.

The third Balloon Challenge.

Balloon office logo and staff

We started running the Balloon Challenge in 2016. So, this November, we’ll begin the third Balloon Challenge.

At Balloon, we have five staff levels: contributor, professional, expert, leader and director. Once an employee has six months’ service and has reached the second level – of professional – they are eligible to apply for the Balloon Challenge.

We normally take six people onto the Challenge. This year, seven applied, but we found all were worthy, so we have extended the scheme to cover all applicants this year.

Anatomy of the Balloon Challenge.

Balloon staff meeting

There are 11 one-day learning sessions across the year, plus additional set tasks to be completed outside of the classroom.

We use our own staff as well as external consultants to deliver the sessions. This year, some of the sessions will also be run by one of our ex-employees, who now undertakes training and mentoring.

This year’s classroom sessions are:

  • Project management
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Perception and critical thinking
  • Communication: impact and influence
  • Change and time management
  • Strategic thinking for non-financial managers
  • Relationship management combined with stress and wellbeing
  • Leadership
  • Presentation skills

In a change from previous years, the sessions are about the person this year. This asserts the premise that the challenges should understand themselves first before understanding the tools and management techniques available to them. In this way, there is a greater emphasis on wellbeing and self-perception.

Then there are another two sessions. In September 2023, the participants will take part in the London Challenge. We spend the day in London as a whole company. Staff are broken into teams, each led by a Challenge participant. The teams have tasks to complete across London, with points earned for completing them.

Upon returning to the office, the team uses its points to buy materials, with which they are then tasked to build something. So, the better the team is led, the more tasks they can complete and the more points they can accrue.

Paul Woods, Professional Development Manager, is responsible for the Balloon Challenge. He comments, “The London Challenge not only brings together the whole company, but also allows the Challenge participants to trial out their leadership skills.”

As part of their application, participants agree to take on a project that lasts the whole year. Reflecting the principles of our continuous improvement scheme, they are asked to choose a topic or area of the business where they can feel they can make an improvement. Then, they spend the year putting into practice the skills they are learning by applying them to their chosen area of work in their aim to deliver an improvement.

Then comes the final session. Using their new-found presentation skills, they give a project review presentation on their year-long personal improvement challenge. With a pass or a fail at the end, there is a lot at stake.

This year’s Balloon Challenge participants.

Balloon staff working on laptop

Taking part in the Balloon Challenge this year are:

  • Sitara Duggal
  • Chris Wijnen
  • Jessica Fleming
  • Marcelina Loboda
  • Callum Joy
  • Jeffrey Bradburn 
  • Sam Gorton.

We wish them well as they embark on an exciting year of learning, self-reflection and personal development.

Building on the successes of previous Balloon Challenges.

Balloon staff member working on laptop

Our previous programmes have helped enhance the skills and development of a number of our current staff, including these current senior managers and directors:

  • Ed Napier-Fenning, Sales & Marketing Director
  • Veronika Simekova  – Account Manager
  • Anna Klysik – Service Delivery Manager
  • Chris Marsden – UK Project Delivery Manager

Paul Woods concludes, “With most of our management team here at Balloon having gone through the Balloon Challenge, it has proven to be a very worthwhile programme, for Balloon and our staff”.