Meet the team

MatchFit Operations Director, Emily Courtney

What were your key roles before joining MatchFit?

I worked for the recruitment company Reed for 15 years. It was here that I first met Bradley, [MatchFit Managing Director, Bradley Honnor], during a contract that Reed Learning was running with a number of Education Departments in several prisons. Most recently I worked as the HR & Operations Director for Reed Learning and had responsibility for the operational delivery of training services and internally for managing the HR function.

For lifestyle reasons, on leaving Reed five years ago, I set up my own consultancy. During this time, I worked with a wide range of firms and projects including most recently a contract with Microsoft and a year working on the Fox/Disney integration.

I kept in touch with Bradley and he approached me to see if I would be interested in working with him at MatchFit. The timing could not have been better, and I have been with the firm since September 2020.

Why did you join MatchFit and what are your key areas of responsibility?

I joined because I was excited by the opportunity and, having known Bradley for so long, knew it would be a good fit. My responsibilities are operational and centred around the delivery of our services. I work closely with the Ministry of Justice team on how we can best deliver our services to client groups based in a number of geographies and with a significant number of staff. On a wider scale I am charged with ensuring we have the right processes and people in place as we grow.

What makes MatchFit stand out from your perspective?

I have always liked variety in a role and I like the breadth of what we do here at MatchFit. The fact that we are working with a client the size of the Ministry of Justice creates challenges, but it is also interesting to work with a client that has so many moving parts and employs so many people. It is a partnership in every sense of the word and exciting to be a part of. As a company we embrace a modern flexible way of working. We access expert help when we need it to support the small nucleus of the business, and all bring different skills.

What have you found most challenging and most rewarding about the role so far?

The biggest challenge is the breadth of opportunity presented by working with a client like the MoJ. The increased use of technology in everything we do is also a challenge given the need to integrate systems with our clients and, of course, the impact of Covid-19 on the delivery of our interventions. In terms of what is most rewarding, it really is the fact that what we do makes a real difference to those who take part and that everyone is enjoying being part of it. It is positive, forward thinking, different and as I said, offers real value.

Have you found any unusual ways to relax in lockdown?

Like many people in lockdown, we have acquired a puppy, Pippa, who is seven months old. I think with everyone being in lockdown pets have become so popular with families who are now spending all their time at home.

Given the restrictions placed on us all, I have never walked my local streets or around my local area as much I have in recent months. The importance of being able to leave the house and get some fresh air has never been as starkly illustrated as it is currently.

In a ‘normal’ world, what’s your favourite thing to do when you have free time?

I know it might sound a little trite but it really is the ability to spend time with friends and family. I miss the simple things like going to a café or the pub with friends at the weekend. Outside of that, the freedom to go swimming, which has always been something I enjoy and have missed during lockdown.

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MatchFit and a Pivotal 2020

Bradley Honnor, Managing Director of intervention and talent development company MatchFit, hasn’t always operated in his current line of work. But it’s precisely his diverse background that has allowed him to get a better feel for the human psyche.

“One way or another my background has always been in and around people development, whether that’s physical, mental or emotional health. I’ve always had a passion for looking at a person’s ‘whole health’ which is really where MatchFit’s concept of working with people holistically came from.”

For Bradley and MatchFit, people development is more than just learning to do your job more effectively. With physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual health so intrinsically linked, all aspects need developing for full potential to be realised.

“It’s a concept that always grabbed me”

One of the models the team uses is ‘Existential Four Worlds’ – professional, social, natural and spiritual. The model focusses on the notion that it’s not enough for someone to be professionally successful and at the top of their game if their social and intimate world is lacking. If their life is all about work, or socialising or even physical health, they are out of balance and, for many, that’s not success.

“The real definition of success and high performance is someone who has all of those things in balance. That aligns with my counselling and psychotherapy background, and is central to the MatchFit concept.”

When it comes to the question of what MatchFit wants to achieve for clients, the answer is simple: results.

“And those results are defined by the client,” Bradley says.

 MatchFit works with clients from the outset to fully understanding what they are looking to achieve with individuals, teams and the organisation generally. An in-depth analysis of where they are now and where they’re trying to get to is essential if the team is to realise its goals.

Facilitating that journey from where they are now to where they want to be, and doing that in a way that the client recognises the change and can see the results, puts a stamp on those success measures and allows them to say: “This is what we set out to do and this is what we’ve done.”

It’s also about not looking to achieve your goals at all costs

“Employees’ wellbeing needs to be at the centre of everything we do,” according to Bradley. “We’re looking to create a high performing team, and we do that for the long term by creating a healthier and happier team.”

MatchFit works for organisations that buy into the notion of holistic development and are fully committed to making changes.

“We’re not really looking for clients that see staff development as an off-the-shelf or a tick-box exercise. For us to work successfully with an organisation, they need to be reaching above that. Total commitment, right from the very top and through all employee layers, is essential.”

MatchFit works with a range of organisations, from relatively small SMEs right through to large corporates. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is one such client.

“We are partnered with the MOJ’s central HR function, which means we’re able to use our expertise as external partners and utilise the teams’ expertise and internal understanding of the MOJ,” Bradley continues.

This is the best of both worlds from MatchFit’s perspective. There’s no guesswork when it comes to understanding culture and the door is open in terms of the time, resources and people-availability to do that exploratory work in a way that’s quite unique.

“Our partnership approach provides the edge to understanding and implementing precisely the right intervention with the staff group you may be working with. People are also more prepared to be open and honest, and talk about their and their organisation’s imperfections, and the challenges they face personally.”

Going forward, this is the type of close working relationship the MatchFit team is looking for in clients.

“Without this close way of working, you remain on the outside and, to a degree, are second-guessing what might be happening on the inside and what interventions are really needed,” Bradley continues. “Clients need to be committed to partnering and following through on what needs to be done, not just be enthusiastic at the start of the process and then lose motivation half way through. It’s really important that we see the programme through to the very end, whilst being prepared to pivot and change the approach when needed.”

Like any business, MatchFit had to think very hard about the impact of Covid-19 and how the pandemic affected their business and the clients they work for.

The reality of putting people’s wellbeing at the centre of everything we do has never been more relevant.

Employees working remotely and being more isolated has thrown up additional challenges for management in terms of changing cultures and bringing teams together.

“We’ve been able to make a huge difference to clients struggling with this challenge and have expanded quite significantly as a result over the last year or so,” says Bradley.

The partnership approach has been a hugely important factor in the team’s ability to make a positive impact during the pandemic, but so too has their ability to pivot quickly to virtual interventions. In normal times, the team’s work is face-to-face in groups or one-to-one, so material and delivery methodology needed adapting to suit virtual delivery.

“We are making as much impact on outcomes as when the work was all face-to-face, so that’s really got us thinking about what’s possible virtually and dropping some of the assumptions that everything we do needs to be in person.”

So whilst the initial fear was that Covid would hit the team’s ability to work effectively with clients, the opposite has been the case and the volume of work has grown substantially.

“I was definitely of the view that to empathise and really engage, the work had to be face-to-face but my perspective has changed completely and, despite all the troubles and worries, 2020 has been a turning point for us as a business” Bradley says.

The team is constantly adapting their model to adapt to changing environments and new opportunities.

“Because our partnership approach has worked so well for clients, we are now looking at how we can engage our customers’ internal resources more effectively. We’re aiming to deliver our methodology, programmes and interventions at greater volume whilst enabling our clients to achieve economies of scale.”

This includes creating three different models of client engagement. These range from a managed service through to the client working almost completely independently of MatchFit, yet utilising their intellectual property and intervention modules alongside a MatchFit quality assurance programme to maintain delivery expectations and quality of service.

“The flexibility to work with clients in different ways is the future for us at MatchFit. We are in a unique position to offer customers proven methodologies and interventions with a model that allows customers to use their own internal delivery resources to make the whole programme more affordable and scalable,” Bradley confirms.

For Bradley and the team at MatchFit, 2020 has been surprisingly positive. By being open to suggestions, embracing technology and the challenges of Covid-19 the business has gone from strength to strength. The future for the company, as they say, is looking bright.


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