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Leeds City Council

When Leeds City Council wanted an innovative solution to increase the customer service experience in their Waste Operations department, they turned to QA to design and deliver a series of bespoke, interactive Forum Theatre workshops.

The Challenge

Leeds City Council (LCC) has set itself the target of recycling at least half of all household waste and the large team collecting the waste, the engine behind the Council’s recycling strategy, is vital to this target being achieved. With that in mind, the Council wanted to shift the cultural approach of their waste management crews, encouraging them to become ambassadors for the Council.

Based on past experience, the Council knew that standard approaches to training would not be as effective. Instead, they wanted a learning programme to engage staff in a highly interactive and innovative way.

As waste management is one of the Council’s most active areas of customer engagement, the main objective of the programme was to ensure the crews understood the critical role they play as a frontline service in order to create a first class service.

We wanted to engage the collection crews in a non-threatening environment; a lot of our collection crew staff are uncomfortable in ‘office environments’ so churning out the regular approaches to customer care training would not be appropriate for this audience.

Matthew Birkett

Service Manager | Leeds City Council

The Solution

To achieve this, LCC turned to long-term learning partner QA to design and deliver a series of innovative Forum Theatre workshops. In the workshops, actors would perform scenarios to an audience of collection operatives, stopping the scene at certain points to engage staff members to recommend the next action. The actors would then improvise what might happen based on staff suggestions.

This approach offered staff the opportunity to contribute, in a non-threatening environment, to how different approaches would play out with the public and colleagues. As well as being an effective learning tool, the sessions were designed to be an enjoyable experience.

Initially, QA met with key stakeholders from LCC to understand their vision on a detailed level. They then met with the waste operations crews and supervisors to fully understand the daily challenges faced. This element proved crucial to get to know the crews and their day to day challenges, which in turn made the learning a credible experience.

Using this information, QA designed scenarios based on staff experiences and created scripts to be performed by two actors. The scenarios included:

  • Access – This scenario focused on managing angry residents, successfully de-escalating conflict and how the impact of customer service (good or bad) can spread outwards.
  • Side Waste – This scenario focused on engaging in constructive conversations, educating residents on best waste and recycling practice and how to influence styles by focusing on the benefits of recycling.
  • Bin Placement – This scenario focused on how to deal with aggression, understanding aggressive body language and respect for diversity and disability.

Halfway through the delivery, certain scenarios were discussed by delegates in more detail and so the scenarios were reworked to reflect this real world experience. This also led to delegates creating their own bespoke case study through workshops with the facilitator and actors.

Situated in the middle of the United Kingdom, with a diverse population of 750,700, Leeds is the third largest city in England and Wales and the largest employment centre in the region.

The Outcome

Delegate feedback from the Forum Theatre has been wholly positive, with key stakeholders observing that the interactive elements of the programme ensured staff engagement throughout the process.

Of the 178 waste management staff the Forum Theatre was delivered to, 96% were satisfied or very satisfied with the workshops.

Detailed discussions during the programme have also led to the creation of a series of high level workshops for the crews, management and key stakeholders to achieve a greater understanding of the role each group perform, enhancing team work and communication.

QA's training helped us to engage the crews in a very positive way, proof of this was in the attendance, our teams vote with their feet on programmes like this.

Matthew Birkett

Service Manager | Leeds City Council

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