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The Oxford Group - A City & Guilds Group Business

Using 5 Conversations to help embed corporate values

Our Client:

Ferring logo

Ferring Pharmaceuticals is a research-driven biopharmaceutical group devoted to identifying, developing and marketing innovative products in reproductive and maternal health, urology, gastroenterology, endocrinology and orthopaedics.

Founded in 1950, Ferring now employs more than 6,500 people worldwide, has its own operating subsidiaries in nearly 60 countries and markets its products in 110 countries. Their headquarters are in Saint-Prex, Switzerland and they also have manufacturing facilities in several European countries, South America, China, India, Israel, and the US.

Our client’s needs:

Ferring launched their Leadership Principles in 2017, starting with the leadership team. They wanted to find a way to use an experiential approach to rollout and embed these values throughout the organisation. Having previously used 5 Conversations for a different programme, they felt that it was a really good fit for Ferring and would help to bring their Leadership Principles to life through everyday conversations.

Leadership Principles and 5 Conversations have been rolled out across the organization, spearheaded by the Technical Operations Division which asked The Oxford Group to train 18 internal trainers so they could deliver 5 Conversations across the division. They started by training the leadership teams on each of their manufacturing sites in 2019, and have since been delivering the programme to other people managers.

Ferring’s Leadership Principles are:

  • Performance
  • Empowerment
  • Innovation
  • Purpose
  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Collaboration

Our solution

A strong example of how the Leadership Principles programme worked is at FSMP, one of Ferring’s manufacturing sites in the Technical Operations Division.

Initially, we took the top 130 leaders for the whole Technical Operations Division through a 5 Conversations taster session and then followed up with a Train the Trainer session for the individuals who would be responsible for rolling out the programme to the rest of the division. After that, it was over to them, although we were on hand to help provide support and guidance.

This is a programme that has had a lot of support from the FSMP leadership team and there was a very clear plan working top-down within the site, with a focus on getting engagement at each stage before moving on.

They started with a masterclass for the senior leadership team who were then tasked to start using 5 Conversations with their direct reports. 5 Conversations was introduced to the Management Team in a half-day workshop a few months later and the leadership team gave them each a copy of the 5 Conversations book to read.

A couple of months later again, 5 Conversations was introduced to the rest of the site as part of the Leadership Principles event, a big team-building day for all employees. The managers who had been through the earlier workshop were group and activity facilitators on the day.

The day kicked off with a presentation from Leadership Principles employee ambassadors and was then followed by their site director, Esteban Uriarte, who introduced 5 Conversations. Conversation 1 (Establishing a trusting relationship) was then used as an icebreaker.

Following this, participants were split into mixed teams for three different hour-long workshops on each of three key themes chosen on the basis of findings from Ferring’s employee engagement survey. These themes were Trust, Communication, and Who does what and 5 Conversations was linked in throughout where relevant. Following each workshop there was a debrief session.

Each group had facilitators who stayed with them for the whole day as they moved through the different activities. Their role was to observe, take notes and participate in the debrief. All facilitators had been given training in advance of the day to give them a refresher of 5 Conversations and how to present themselves in an authentic way. They were also given a guide with questions for each workshop linked to emotions and behaviours that would help them facilitate the debriefs.

The organisers also created a booklet for participants which accompanied the day and gave them the opportunity to take notes for three reflective questions to go through after each workshop. The booklet also prompted them to track their emotions throughout the day. It was stressed that this booklet was confidential to the participant so that they could be completely honest about themselves.

The day was then wrapped up with Conversation 3 – showing genuine appreciation.

Having set the tone and the expectations with all of the site employees, the management team then followed a month later the full-day 5 Conversations workshop.

The outcome

Strong support from senior leadership in combination with a phased introduction of 5 Conversations has been the key to the success of this programme at FSMP. Giving time between each intervention to allow the learning to embed has really helped to create buy-in at every stage and throughout the site, driving the narrative around 5 Conversations and building a common language for all.

Managers were apprehensive in advance of the Leadership Principles event because it meant presenting themselves and delivering training in a different way to what they were used to. However, the tailored support and training they received in advance helped quell their nerves and, once it started, they really enjoyed the day.

Acting as facilitators was an excellent opportunity for the managers to apply what they had already learnt in their earlier 5 Conversations half-day workshop and this really brought the conversations to life for them. For example, using Conversation 1 allowed them to introduce themselves to their groups in a different way to normal and employees immediately responded in kind, building different relationships.

Keeping emotions as a red thread throughout all activities had a powerful impact on the day and engagement. Also, introducing the topic of trust and the conversations early in the schedule really accelerated the pace of the day.

Feedback on the day was all really positive. 92% of participants recommended repeating the events across different divisions and 98% valued the chance to collaborate with participants across multiple departments.

The next step for FSMP is to run full 5 Conversations masterclasses for all employees at the site. This will be accompanied by a communications campaign to keep 5 Conversations alive in everyone’s minds and build on the momentum that they have already created.

In their own words

A real progression compared to last year! I preferred this year's workshops. New workshops, better than last year. This year the workshops were much more participative for the whole team. This year's themes were really great! It's a good introduction to the 5Cs. The themes were well illustrated. Several activities for one workshop was a plus! The workshops showed what was expected for each role, allowing a good sharing on the activities. Activities that motivate to reflect and exchange with colleagues: a challenge that makes you want to give the best of yourself…


Good improvement and more comfort compared to the previous year. Clear improvement in facilitator-led discussions: better exchanges this year with facilitators who were really involved. More spirit and desire to include the shyest people without forcing them and in a good atmosphere. My facilitator really made me want to participate. A real improvement compared to the previous year.


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