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Sue Waldock

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Leaders in Leisure – management development at The Rank Group


Sue Waldock talks through the thinking behind the first gaming industry-based diploma for management development.

At the Rank Group, we are  always looking at new ways to engage with our people and improve their skills and leadership qualities. This year we are launching the very first gaming industry-based diploma called Leaders in Leisure, which is an innovative post-graduate management development programme created in conjunction with Birmingham City Business School (BCBS).

Rank is a large gaming leisure company operating across multiple sites and channels. This presents us with many challenges, but we have a group strategy which places emphasis on the business benefits of developing a collaborative culture at all levels across the group. 

One of the key challenges of developing a collaborative culture is to break down silos and design interventions to bring leaders from across the group to work together to share external best practice to develop their skills. 

"Participation in the programme provides opportunities for delegates to understand the different parts of the group and to develop and embed organisational learning."

It was from this strategy that the idea first came for developing a high-level training course - no programmes of this nature existed within the gaming industry and indeed the particular challenges faced by businesses in a multi-site structure had been largely ignored by content providers and business schools.

I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to partner with Professor Chris Edger and his team at Birmingham City Business School. They have experience of building programmes with other major leisure and hospitality companies and are renowned as development experts in multi-site leadership.

The aim was to create a bespoke programme to address the specific issues posed by multi-site working and to foster and stimulate a move from a parochial individual business mind-set to a more holistic view focussing on adding more value for customers, employees and shareholders.

The programme is aimed at middle and senior management from all parts of the business. In order to ensure a transparent and inclusive process, applications were screened against a set of criteria which excluded any personal data. Initially the programme was oversubscribed so the set criteria enabled us to select the 18 successful applicants for the first cohort.

The course is a blend of academic theory coupled with a focus on practice and practical application. This leads to a postgraduate diploma in management studies with the option, on completion of the programme, to pursue an additional period of study to achieve an MSc degree. 

I worked with my own team to develop the initial concept for this course as I felt that there was a benefit to our organisation and indeed it is the increased capability targeted at our key management roles that is the main attraction for me. I am confident that participation in the programme provides opportunities for delegates to understand the different parts of the group and to develop and embed organisational learning. 

Senior leader involvement

Additionally, the involvement of senior leaders from across all parts of the group has helped to shape and inform the content of the programme to ensure that each module has direct relevance to our business. The programme development experience for the senior leaders has been further enhanced by the team from BCBS who have ensured that during the creation of the programme the senior team have been exposed to the same leading-edge thinking which will be delivered to the participants on the course.

I have been particularly pleased with the collaborative relationships formed by the senior team who have themselves used the experience to further their own development and strengthen their internal networks.

Kevin Allcock, who is our operations director of Mecca and was instrumental in developing the programme, is extremely excited about the development of Leaders in Leisure. He can see that the programme not only focuses on developing leadership, customer insight, financial and strategic skills, but also facilitates a collaborative approach to business leadership for the management and senior employee teams. 

The Leaders in Leisure course is the first in a whole programme of recruitment, training and development initiatives that we will be launching over the coming year. 

We have just embarked on another major programme to optimise the methods that we use to recruit, train and develop our employees. Project PRIDE (it stands for People, Recruitment, Inclusive, Diverse and Engaged) incorporates a number of different work streams.

Coupled with Leaders in Leisure, I feel that we are leading our industry in attracting and growing people internally and externally who can provide our customers with top-class entertainment experience, which is ultimately what The Rank Group is all about.

Sue Waldock is the group human resources director for The Rank Group. She is a chartered fellow of the CIPD and is Chairman of the employment group Business in Sport and Leisure Limited. 


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