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Speak Out – building a better workplace 

The Submarine Delivery Agency (SDA) is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence. The SDA was established in March 2018 to strengthen the procurement and in-service support of nuclear-powered submarines by setting up a new delivery organisation to manage the UK’s submarine Programme.  Its workforce is made up of military and civilian personnel.

The task

There are many definitions of culture, but the simplest applied to this training was ‘the way we do things ‘round here’.  This hints at the largely subliminal nature of culture and the unconscious set of assumptions that define SDA’s view of itself and in turn what behaviour it legitimises or proscribes.  With the forming of a relatively new organisation SDA recognised that by bringing the entire workforce together through a series of interactive training sessions, they could help develop a shared culture and set of behaviours that provided the backdrop to creating inclusive, productive teams.


Following research involving focus groups with a cross section of staff from across the SDA to establish current culture, behaviours and performance, a programme was developed.  The result was an interactive face-to-face training solution incorporating live scenario based learning (written to reflect research) and skills development practice, to enhance and support the learning outcomes of the programme.    Themes, issues and content were shaped by the client and were flexible to accommodate different cohorts of participants, including contractors.     Topics included:

Topics included:

  • Understanding our individual and collective responsibility to build an inclusive workplace
  • Increasing confidence and skills to identify and challenge unacceptable behaviour
  • Identifying behaviours to be encouraged and avoided in the workplace
  • Exploring assumptions and perceptions relating to bullying and harassment
  • The value of bystander responsibility
  • Raising awareness of support available for personnel
  • Creating an action plan for change

Over 50 sessions ran across the country.  All staff were involved in identifying behaviour standards and now recognise their responsibility to act if they experience or witness unacceptable behaviour.

Leaders are key to embedding the behaviours identified during the training.  At the SDA leaders at every level understood their role in inspiring their team and role modelling the standards of behaviour that they expect from their team.  Creating an environment where everyone has a voice and where calling out behaviour is both expected and accepted.    Challenging unacceptable behaviour in all its forms and encouraging bystander responsibility are all behaviours that reflect a healthy organisation.

What next

As a result of the training 89% said they were clearer as to the behaviours to encourage and avoid.   Having been through a cathartic shared learning experience, the SDA can now build on this momentum through a programme of reinforcement, communication and recognition.  The programme resulted in an action plan detailing a plethora of recommendations to be implemented at individual, team and organisational level, all of which will support the SDA’s Diversity and Inclusion objectives. Including:


    • Development of SDA values and set of behaviours
    • Wider promotion of Fairness Equality Adviser (FEA)
    • Developing a set of leadership and management initiatives a with D&I at the core
    • Adjusting performance management processes to include behaviours
    • Appoint lead FEAs at key sites

“Recognising that we are a new Agency, we have put in place the first steps towards an ambitious programme of improvement activities to provide a working environment that is rewarding, enjoyable and establishes the SDA as a thriving place to work for our workforce.” 

Ian Booth SDA Chief Executive