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International law firm Clifford Chance has developed a unique graduate development programme in conjunction with The Positive Group to raise awareness of the importance of psychological well-being in the workplace.

The Performance Optimisation Programme (POP) is aimed at developing more resilient individuals who are able to sustain their performance with the capability to cope and adapt when faced with periods of pressure and challenging situations. POP provides the Firm’s future trainees with a supportive environment and evidence-based tools and techniques from cognitive, behavioural and positive psychology to build psychological resilience which in turn will enhance their performance, health and quality of life from the start of their careers.

Laura Yeates, graduate recruitment and development manager at Clifford Chance, comments: “We are committed to raising awareness of and tackling the stigma that can be attached to mental health issues. POP is the first initiative within the Firm that focuses on providing targeted preventative measures to a specific employee group. We believe we are one of the first law firms in the country to come up with a programme that helps develop and sustain the psychological wellbeing of trainees.”

“The best predictor of an individual’s engagement, motivation, energy and quality of life in any organisation, is their level of psychological well-being. It is an honour to be working with Clifford Chance who recognises the importance of this area of development in its future leaders and talent,” says Dr. Brian Marien, founder of The Positive Group.

Delivered across the accelerated seven-month Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the Firm’s two-week trainee induction programme, POP is a comprehensive modular programme comprising two face-to-face workshops and monthly communications to provide tools and techniques to help individuals remain resilient under pressure. Regular contact helps to encourage participants to practise and embed the programme tools as well as adjust their patterns of thinking and behaviour.

“Over the first 12 months of introducing POP, we have seen a decrease in absence levels and are able to spot individuals who may require Occupational Health support at an earlier stage. We continue to develop and refine POP towards our main goal of normalising mental health issues and building psychological resilience. We are also considering ways to tailor components of the programme for other employee groups within the Firm,” Yeates adds.

In recognition of POP, Clifford Chance in March won two Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) Development Awards for 2014 – the Overall Graduate Development Award and the Strategic Alignment Award. Commenting on the awards, AGR said that the “judges praised the initiative’s “bravery” in tackling resilience, which is a key problem area for many employers. The programme provides a number of key transferable learnings including fantastic methods for equipping graduates to spot potential stress issues themselves.”