Edinburgh Fringe Festival Society

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival Society is a charity providing support and advice to the artists, producers, venues and visitors who, each year, create the largest arts festival in the world. They use Thomas assessments to help both their senior team and operations team to meet their full potential.

The challenge

As the body that drives success for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe each year,  it's crucial that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society are ahead of the curve and constantly adapting to the market to ensure a smooth lead up to and running of the festival. Recognising this and determined to fulfil their mission, the Fringe Society recently identified a need for change within the organisation which began with a full review and re-organisation.

The re-organisation resulted in the alignment of all the operational functions within the organisation. A new team was created to do this, headed up by Lyndsey Jackson, who was recruited as Head of Operations; a new role which was created as part of the process. The re-organisation therefore presented change both at senior management level (with the addition of the new Head of Operations role) and also within the new Operations team itself.

Lyndsey explains, “The changes at senior management level freed up the Chief Executive, Kath, to focus on more strategic thinking, set the new business plan and ensure the team around her were operating at their best for the benefit of the organisation and ultimately the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.” Part of this involved driving a culture change, which needed to be spearheaded by the senior team in order to be fully implemented across the business.

For the Operations department, there was a need to come together as a team with shared goals and objectives. Between them, the team held good knowledge and skills due to their longevity within the organisation, but the individuals had previously worked disparately across the organisation. A united team mentality was essential as the team supported and serviced the organisation through their various roles in Legal, HR, Box Office, Admin, Premises, IT and Finance; so a consistency of service was needed in order to fulfil their remit effectively.

The solution

With HR firmly in the Operations team remit, Lyndsey decided to consult with Thomas International to identify the solutions that could help both the senior team and the operations team meet their full potential. At this point and on the advice of Thomas, the Fringe Society decided to profile all the senior team using PPA. The half-day session with the team, followed by one to one coaching between Thomas and the Chief Executive, Kath, helped Kath to better understand how best to manage her team.

With the foundations set following the re-organisation, a new business plan was needed to take the organisation forward and buy-in from across the business was essential.

By applying learning from the PPA back in the workplace, the Chief Executive and senior team were soon able to draft their new five year strategic plan by utilising the strengths of each individual in the team. 

Lyndsey Jackson, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The planning also enabled them to hold informed business planning conversations as a team rather than as individuals, ensuring stronger integrations and less silo activity.

“The new business plan is ambitious and innovative, with new approaches and demanding roles and expectations for the organisation. This required a shift in mind set for everyone,” explains Lyndsey. “By using the insights from the Thomas assessments in an offsite environment, we were able to do just that by reviewing ourselves and making adjustments individually to meet the new ways of working.” 

Lyndsey then repeated the same activity with her own team to help them work better together by helping each individual understand themselves as well as their fellow team members. “The training day and exercises with Thomas helped the team to understand how best to communicate with each other in order to get the most from each individual.” shared Lyndsey.

Not long after the investment with Thomas, two key individuals left the organisation. With the knowledge Lyndsey and Kath had gained through the work with Thomas, they decided to scope the ideal profile for the two roles and use them as a guide when recruiting new candidates for the positions. This was particularly important for the PA vacancy to the Chief Executive, where a strong working relationship between the two was required for organisational success. The GIA assessment played a key role for this recruitment as the results from Kath's GIA identified that she processed information very quickly, and therefore frustrations could come into play if the new PA was unable to process new information equally as fast. As a result of this, Kath and Lyndsey decided to assess candidates with both the PPA and GIA assessments from Thomas when recruiting for the two vacancies. Using the interviewer guide, they were able to steer questions in the interview to gain insightful answers and identify the best fit for each role.

The results

Following the Fringe Society's introduction to Thomas, the recruitment procedures are being fully reviewed and relaunched, resulting in a thorough, considered and well informed decision-making process when recruiting new employees. Thomas assessments now form a core part of the process for permanent recruitment as well as for key seasonal roles each year.

Following the successful recruitment process, the Fringe Society is reviewing recruitment across the business, aiming to provide better support for those who have no interviewing experience. They also kick-started a bigger review of the HR function as a whole.

There has been a successful shift in mind set which meets the needs of the organisation. There is beginning to be a better understanding of each employee as an individual which has opened up the opportunity to have new conversations within a safe environment. This has helped managers to manage their teams more effectively.

Lyndsey Jackson, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Lyndsey continues, “with a consistent framework and clear structure for conversations, we aim for consistency across recruitment, appraisals and general day-to-day line management.”

Cultural change is a long process and with a HR function that is only 18 months old, “we are really early in our journey” stresses Lyndsey, “but the foundations are well and truly laid, the organisation is more knowledgeable about its people and managers are better equipped with the insights Thomas have brought. This is an exciting and positive time for the organisation and hopefully the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a whole."

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