Q & A with Sophie Coulthard, principal consultant at Judgement Index
Sophie works with organisations to support the selection, development and wellbeing of staff using the Judgement Index assessment. She is passionate about improving culture and creating positive working environments that support individuals and teams to thrive.
She has led research with projects organisations using the Judgement Index to look at the value-based behaviours of the participants and has worked with other sectors such as social care, professional sport and hospitality.
Sophie will be presenting a live session called ‘How wellbeing is the key to unlocking performance’ as part of APM’s Think Differently: redefining diversity in projects virtual five-day event on Tuesday 22 September, 1.15 - 2pm. Further information on how to register and full programme details are available here.
What inspires you about your job?
It always inspires me when someone contacts us a few months after taking the Judgement Index assessment to tell us what changes they have made in their life, sparked by something they have seen in their results. For many, it’s the realisation that they don’t take time to fulfil themselves outside of work. While this is common, particularly for people in high-pressured roles, there is something about seeing their results on paper that gives people the “aha” moment to make a change.
This can be as simple as blocking out their calendar to create space for personal activities or passions, knowing that taking the time for these things will actually improve work performance in the long run. I was recently contacted by a woman who had taken up golf because she knew it would give her the escape she needed from all of her commitments and allow her to focus on herself.
What project are you currently working on?
My own! In the last year I’ve been taking the science we use and turning it into a complete wellbeing and personal development platform. In my work I’ve found that the barriers to performance nearly always come down to wellbeing and yet many companies don’t go deep enough to support personal wellbeing, their focus is purely on what happens in the workplace.
My hope is that this new tool will be able to reach a much wider audience as people will receive their results online and be able to put together their own personal development plan using support content from within the platform. During lockdown we decided to make the tool available for individuals as well as companies, given that wellbeing support is set to be even more crucial post-2020.
How can the Judgement Index be applied in the project profession?
The Judgement Index assessment uncovers both strengths and potential risk or development areas that may not be uncovered at an interview or obviously displayed in a team member.
If there is a high-risk or sensitive project, it is important to identify these in people as someone who is under a lot of stress, lacking concentration and has weaker problem-solving ability is more likely to cause a mistake or have an accident. When capacity for good judgement is weaker it is often caused by a wellbeing issue which could be hidden by an individual, or even not fully realised and this can have damaging results.
We also work with projects companies looking to spot their next superstars and a lot of our research has focused on rising star project professionals so that companies can give them the support and resources to develop and thrive.
Why is a culture of wellbeing in the workplace so important?
A culture of wellbeing is about supporting the team to be their best inside and outside of work, whatever that might look like. I’ve worked with companies who think they have a culture of wellbeing because they have a beer fridge and plush break-out areas, but the beer fridges were to encourage the team to stay in the office later which doesn’t support the wellbeing of someone who wants to get home and spend time with their family.
Companies with a true culture of wellbeing will know that they are getting better performance and better quality of work from their staff. In 2020 when the boundaries between work and personal life are more blurred than ever before, the companies who adapt and promote wellbeing first will see better outcomes.
How do you think the coronavirus pandemic has impacted wellbeing in the workplace?
Companies are finding that many of their wellbeing initiatives are now redundant as yoga classes and perks apps simply don’t meet the needs of employees right now. Recent research has found that people are struggling with feeling isolated, feeling unsupported, burnt out and an ‘always on’ expectation from management. I think everyone has felt Zoom meeting fatigue over the last few months too.
Companies should be thinking about how they support employees with these feelings and how their policies reflect this support. There’s no use in having a ‘no emails after 6pm’ policy if it’s ignored by management and makes staff feel pressured to respond.
Leadership and focusing on the human aspect of the workplace has never been more important than now and I think the companies who are coming through the pandemic in a strong position are the ones who are considering each individual and their personal circumstances.
Visit here to register for Sophie’s ‘How wellbeing is the key to unlocking performance’ session and for full programme information.