Preliminary Case Study for B.E.S.T.

This is a case study of OnePlusOne’s delivery of B.E.S.T. to a housing association; our first ever delivery for an organisation in the social care sector.

Background and context

Progress and development in the field of organisational psychology is proving many conventional workplace practices to be redundant or even harmful – and in need of fresh thinking.

One example is the notion that a good employee can and should be expected to leave personal or emotional troubles ‘at the door’ – in preservation of their productivity. This kind of compartmentalisation is now acknowledged as unrealistic, and instead employers are acknowledging that a more holistic approach is needed for the sake of both wellbeing and productivity of their staff.

Another example is the idea that people in management roles can be expected, without training, to display the very specialist skills needed for good people-management, in addition to the professional skills that earned them the role. Employers and researchers are increasingly acknowledging that these ‘soft skills’ require training and investment.

The following is a ‘pre-pilot’ case study of B.E.S.T. – a staff training intervention under development to meet these needs.

The case

We approached a housing association that provides social housing in a number of regions across England. They had identified a need to help and train managers to recognise and respond well to the emotional & relational welfare of people in their charge. In early discussions with the housing association, it was clear that they welcomed a new approach for manager-employee relationships, and were keen to find new ways to implement this.

A group of 11 experienced Regional Heads, Regional Managers, and Senior Officers were put forward to attend a session of B.E.S.T. training. This is one of the very first steps in the piloting of this new training intervention.

About OnePlusOne and Brief Encounters Skills Training (B.E.S.T.)

OnePlusOne is a relationship research charity that develops resources to strengthen relationships, help couples and support parents. OnePlusOne applies the latest research to real-life situations and collaborates with people on the front-line.

OnePlusOne has developed Brief Encounters Skills Training – or B.E.S.T. for short – for delivery to companies and organisations around the UK. The aim of B.E.S.T. is to train managers to handle the personal issues of their employees and, in doing so, to support their organisations’ duty of care and reduce business risk.

B.E.S.T. works on a simple three-step model that teaches managers to:

  1. Recognise the signs of relationship distress at an early stage
  2. Respond using the brief encounters model to help people understand more and find solutions
  3. Review and refer where appropriate


What was the impact?

Improvement in ‘recognise’

Participating managers stated before the training that they were least confident in their ability recognise the signs of relationship distress at an early stage. Only 30% agreed or strongly agreed they felt “able to recognise when an employee or client is experiencing difficulties with their partner”. After the training, the number of those agreeing and strongly agreeing shot up to 91%.

Improvement in ‘respond’

Before the training, only 60% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt “able to handle difficult conversations about an employee’s or client’s relationship with their partner, when it is evident that it is impacting on their lives”. After the training, 100% felt able or very able to handle these types of conversations.

Improvement in ‘review and refer’

Managers were asked whether they felt “able to help an employee or client access relationship support services if needed”. In response 60% of managers gave a higher score on this question in the post-assessment than they had in the pre-assessment. After the training 100% of managers felt able or very able to help employees or clients in this way.

Satisfaction and intention to use the training

A full 100% of managers reported on their post-workshop questionnaires that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the training. Also 100% of managers agreed or strongly agreed that they were likely to use the Brief Encounters® model to “help have conversations around relationships with employees or clients” in future.

Lessons & reflections

Reflecting on the mentality of the managers, the trainer reported on the professionalism of the housing association staff and their openness to engage with the training. From the outset the managers were motivated to be there. They believed they had a duty of care to the staff and clients they interacted with, and they wanted more ‘tools in their toolbox’ to do the best they could in their role.

“These were all experienced managers, and all acknowledged that ‘leaving it at the front door’ was not appropriate. They wanted more tools in their toolbox to manage their teams more effectively, to meet their teams’ needs as effectively as possible, not coming feeling that they were doing it badly or lacking confidence – they have been doing it, though relying on own skills – training will allow to do it the best that they could.”
B.E.S.T. Trainer, OnePlusOne

The managers themselves readily acknowledged there was currently a culture of ‘leaving it at the door’ and agreed that this attitude needs to be challenged and addressed.

“It’s good that the session validated that it’s only natural for people to carry their troubles to work so to speak, as traditionally being able to leave your private life outside of work has been seen as the correct thing to do.”
Course feedback from managers

The post-training questionnaire showed that training was well received and managers intended to use the skills they had learned. The pre-post assessment scores showed a self-reported improvement in the three key areas of development – ability to Recognise, Respond and Review/Refer when difficulties with relationships arose. Further qualitative feedback also suggested the training was well received.

“I believe the art of short, supportive, coaching conversations was beautifully demonstrated and would be beneficial to all managers within the organisation. The content and delivery of the training was enjoyable and informative.”

“The training course was very thought provoking and had good tips and phrases on how to manage sensitive situations. Great trainer – thank you.”
Course feedback from managers

What next for B.E.S.T?

Preliminary feedback from this case study suggests that B.E.S.T. training can successfully meet its own targets, as well as the aspirational goals of its participants. By continuing to carry out more pilots, with consistent analysis, it is hoped we can build a more comprehensive, evidence-based picture of the longer-term, sustainable change. Further numbers will allow us to build up enough statistical power for a quantitative analysis of the impact. We would also seek to establish whether the training leads to longer-term decreases in presenteeism and improvements in workplace relationships in the longer term.

Further training is planned with more organisations in the care sector, but also with a FTSE 100 organisation. Implementation in different sectors and work cultures will help us assess whether there are differences in needs and impact between these groups. We will follow these with a pre-pilot ‘proof of concept’ report.