Balloon Challenge 2022-2023 review.
In November 2022, we launched the third iteration of our personal development programme, the Balloon Challenge. Over the past year, six staff have taken part in this initiative, with some transformative results.
As a part of our continuous improvement efforts, we run the Balloon Challenge as a platform for employees to explore and expand their horizons. Designed to encourage new skills and competencies, it enables the participants to grow and excel in their roles. In turn, they are better equipped to anticipate, understand and meet our customers’ needs, delivering exceptional service and solutions that truly make a difference.
Throughout the year, the participants undertook 11 full-day educational workshops, supplemented by additional practical assignments to reinforce their learning.
The team members had sessions that developed their abilities across: project management, coaching and mentoring, perception and critical thinking, communication skills, change and time management, strategic thinking , relationship management, presentation skills and leadership.
This year’s Balloon Challenge was more focused than ever on individual development. The idea is that having greater self-awareness improves the mastery of various necessary management techniques and strategies. There was also more emphasis on wellbeing and self-perception.
Alongside the development sessions, those taking part in the programme dedicate the year to formulating and developing plans for a personal project.
Reinforcing our commitment to continuous improvement, the Challengers identify a specific business area where they see potential for enhancement. Throughout the year, they actively use the new skills and knowledge acquired from the programme, applying them directly to their selected business project.
Sitara created and implemented a new technical degree apprenticeship scheme. With the aim of investing in local young people by offering supply chain software degree apprenticeship positions. Balloon funds the tuition fees for successful applicants from local schools, while also providing paid work experience at the company while they complete their degrees. Sitara introduced value to the local community and Balloon One whilst taking action on the recognised skills gap across the STEM sector.
Chris’s project focused on the handover process within our customer support system. Recognising the importance of having seamless transitions during the support process, his ongoing initiative centres on enhancing internal handovers by improving vital support documentation. Chris’s challenge journey also saw him being promoted twice through the year, he is now the Regional Support Manager (Europe). A testament to the value Balloon Challenge can bring to those who embark on it.
Jessica’s project examined how Balloon can more effectively assess customer satisfaction and performance ratings. She refined the questions we pose in our customer net promoter score (NPS) survey and broadened the channels through which the feedback is gathered, giving the company a more comprehensive understanding of our customers’ experiences. During her project, Jessica increased the customer engagement for the feedback survey significantly and gathered invaluable feedback for Balloon One.
Callum’s keen eye for numbers lead him to investigating transactional sales, with a particular focus on how they might be applied to our Geo2 product. He researched the likely outcomes of charging customers solely on a per-delivery basis using a SaaS model and explored whether this approach would be more appealing and beneficial to our customers. Callum has done a brilliant job in exploring ways in which Balloon One can adapt in an everchanging economy.
Jeffrey’s project looked at transitioning the Balloon product portfolio into the cloud. By shifting from a traditional server-based approach to a more modern, cloud-based infrastructure, the project sought to assess how Balloon could enhance the scalability, flexibility and accessibility of its products, while also delivering improved uptime and a reduced risk of data loss. This brings significant value to our clients.
Sam’s project transformed our approach to project management, setting a new benchmark for efficiency and productivity in our operations. Sam implemented a new structure for how project management is conducted at Balloon One, we have already recognised efficiencies gained for both our customers and our employees. The project identified key areas for improvement and streamlined the company’s project management workflows.
The London Challenge.
Towards the end of the Balloon Challenge, the whole company is involved in the process, getting together for the London Challenge.
Here, the entire UK workforce was split into six teams, each led by one of the Challengers. The teams have to complete a number of tasks around London, earning points as they do so.
Teams can then use those points to ‘buy’ materials that will help them to build a marble run. Competing against each other, the London Challenge helps evidence the leadership and team management skills of each participant.
Sam Gorton’s team won the London Challenge, achieving the highest grading based on some pre-set criteria.
Final project presentations.
In the final session, the participants each delivered a presentation to the company, reviewing their individual year-long improvement projects.
The presentations were appraised by some of the management team and those running the Challenge. In combination with these presentations, the Challengers are assessed on their overall participation and their growth throughout the process.
Paul Woods, Professional Development Manager for Balloon, is responsible for the programme. He says: “I’m pleased to say that everyone passed, and each was presented with a graduation trophy.”
The Balloon Challenge has been a successful catalyst for change, inspiring the Challengers to aim higher and achieve more.
Reflecting on the outcomes, Paul says “By focusing on personal growth and professional development, the Balloon Challenge has helped these individuals to not only meet but exceed their potential.”
He continues, “We have seen them grow as individuals and witnessed some amazing project outcomes. While some projects will deliver in the longer-term, it has been exciting to see others that have already been very successful.”
Paul highlights Sitara and Sam’s projects as stand out examples. He elaborates “Our expectations for Sitara were that she would develop a detailed plan for her apprenticeship project by the year’s end. However, she surpassed this and drove her initiative forward with such efficiency that, by September, the company had already welcomed three apprentices.”
He continues, “Sam’s project management process has made a tangible difference to how we manage our projects, streamlining our workflows and enhancing our efficiency and productivity.”
The next Balloon Challenge.
Building on the success of this Balloon Challenge, we have decided to run the programme with greater frequency. The plan is to start the interviewing process for the next round in October 2024, with an official start of the next challenge in December 2024. This marks a significant shift in our approach, moving to every two years, instead of three.
This is also a response to the growth of the business that has expanded our workforce. With more staff, we have a larger pool of potential candidates who can now benefit. Paul concludes, “It’s exciting to be able to offer this valuable development experience to staff more frequently. In doing so, we aim to continuously support the professional growth of an even greater number of our employees.”