A Radical and Gripping Intervention

A 2 week, live action simulation and mock tribunal, bringing workplace bullying and harassment to life.


AXA PPP healthcare wanted to educate its employees about legislation and company procedure in cases of discrimination and harassment, and approached Steps to create a radical training exercise. The resulting programme infiltrated the organisation and had 1,800 staff members gripped for 10 days.


Steps worked with partners Synergy Employment Law, to deliver a simulation exercise which followed a fictitious employee taking a claim for religious discrimination to an employment tribunal. The intervention featured professional actors portraying employees in 'live' scenes in the office, a dedicated intranet site which kept staff up-to-date with the latest developments, a film of the alleged discrimination instances and spoof coverage of the 'damaging story' in the local press. The events gradually unfolded over a two-week period and culminated in a mock employment tribunal which was staged live

"Providing this type of training is like running a fire drill: you hope it will never be needed but you have to be prepared in case the worst happens," said Matthew Newman, HR Projects Manager at AXA PPP. "Working with Steps and Synergy, we succeeded in creating impact with an unorthodox approach that fully engaged our employees, who followed it like a soap opera. It raised awareness of the issues and created much more interest than a traditional training course ever could."

Professional actors from Steps portrayed the fictional employee and other characters, including her manager and her husband, enacting 'live' action sequences at the company's head office in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. "The live action took people completely by surprise, when what appeared to be real events started happening around them," said Matthew Newman. "Steps were exceptional in their empathic understanding of what would work in our organisation. As well as providing the actors, they also wrote the scripts, conducted and facilitated the 'live' tribunal and were instrumental in shaping the whole story."

AXA PPP created a dedicated intranet site in order to make the simulation accessible to all staff. Employees could read 'blog diaries', take part in discussion forums and vote in online polls. Spoof newspaper pages were created, showing local press coverage of the story and the negative reaction of customers. The site recorded over 16,000 hits over the two-week period. Steps also produced a short film depicting the characters in each of the scenes that staff had read about in the blog diaries.


"This exercise got enormous numbers of employees considering and discussing aspects of employment law as well as issues relating to discrimination, harassment and bullying," said Matthew Newman. "It created a debate about what it means to be a responsible employer and a responsible employee. It also gave us the opportunity to highlight the advice, support and assistance that we offer should anyone ever face work or personal problems of this nature in real life. It was definitely one of the most successful training interventions we have ever run."

This intervention went on to win the People Management Award for Business Impact through Learning and Development.

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Quote Mark Steps were exceptional [and] succeeded in creating impact with an unorthodox approach that fully engaged our employees. It was definitely one of the most successful training interventions we have ever run. Quote Mark Matthew Newman, HR Manager, AXA