University of Warwick

Training a whole team to work smarter

Setting staff up for success

Warwick’s Development and Alumni Engagement Team grew significantly following investment. They were looking for practical training to help new and existing staff succeed. So we trained the team to Work Smarter.

A Working Smarter programme

The University of Warwick is globally recognised for research, teaching and innovation. It is one of the UK’s top ten universities and one of the top 100 in the world, whilst being the youngest university in the UKโ€™s Russell Group.

Amplifying impact
The purpose of Warwickโ€™s Development and Alumni Engagement Team (DAE) is to strengthen the universityโ€™s reputation, grow financial support and advance a strategic vision.

Having already proved their worth, DAE had successfully won investment from the university to increase their staff numbers, with the aim of amplifying the impact they have for the institution.

Bringing a new behaviour framework to life

The management team wanted to set up the first wave of new recruits to succeed. They worked with their team to set out a really clear set of expectations around ways of working, values and behaviours. And they needed this to be more than just words on a poster, they needed to bring it to life.

They put together staff and senior team handbooks that gave clear information about expectations and policies on ways of working that included:

  • Making a difference
  • Collaboration
  • Solutions focused
  • Passion for learning.

These also explored how to influence well, give feedback, prioritising, and using OKRs for measurable goal-setting.

We were asked to help the team develop skills and learn tools that would support these themes. The programme needed to strengthen behaviours and habits that would bring their shared way of working to life.

A programme to build practical skills

The objective of our programme was to show people really practical ways that they could work efficiently and effectively in their team, with colleagues across their university and with external partners and donors.

We reverse engineered the Working Smarter Toolkit for DAEโ€™s situation so that it amplified their framework, and showed people:

  • How to optimise their workflow
  • How to plan appropriately
  • How to prioritise
  • How to minimise the impact of email
  • How to manage multiple channels of communication well.

By design the toolkit helped participants gain control over their work, built their confidence and supported them to feel comfortable with accountability.

An emphasis was placed on managing expectations, the ability to say no, and influencing effectively.

Leveraging the Working Smarter Toolkit meant that everybody had a common language, and were on the same page at the same time.

What we did

One of our senior capacity builders, Moyra Scott, went to Warwick in January 2023 and ran a series of workshops for the whole team. She went through the Working Smarter Toolkit which had been adapted to fit DAEโ€™s new ways of working.

The adapted Toolkit trained people to work smarter in these areas:

  1. Email best practice and Inbox Zero
  2. Calendar best practice
  3. Workflow planning and moving to action
  4. Prioritisation and project mapping
  5. Integrating with the new team communications protocol

This work with the DAE team needed to be practical and appliable, so the five modules were designed in the context of developing a new way of working.

After the workshops, line managers worked with their teams to embed and adapt the tools.


Overall we find that participants in the Working Smarter programme see their effectiveness increase as a result of the training. The number of effective or wholly effective people increases from 31% to 64%.

Levels of engagement increase from 42% to 66% and the number of people who feel productive increases from 27 to 71%.

Across all participants in Working Smarter programmes we see the net promoter score increase by 39 points.

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