Major UK University |

Major UK University

Case Study

Major UK university integrates psychometrics into their leadership development programme to help differentiate them as an employer of choice


Major UK University

United Kingdom
Behaviour (PPA)
Personality (HPTI)
Aptitude (GIA)

The Challenge

One of the United Kingdom’s leading universities is “absolutely committed to development”, not only of its students, but of its teaching staff, according to their Talent and Organisational Development Consultant, who explains, “For academics, development is about academic promotion, but for professional services personnel it is about career development within their discipline, which might not mean becoming a more senior manager, but becoming an expert in a particular area.”

With many companies freezing recruitment due to the recession, widespread retention challenges and widening skill gaps, development is increasingly important for all organisations. The consultant explains, “Even during the pandemic, we continued with our career and skill development programmes. We have a wider University Strategy and a People and Culture Strategy. As part of the latter, we look at staff wellbeing, progression and development.” 

Faced with the pandemic crisis, the university introduced a new development programme, aimed at increasing the self-awareness of academic and professional services staff. The consultant says, “We have existing senior leadership development programmes and programmes for early career managers for both our academic community and professional services staff. However, we had identified a gap between early career management and senior leadership, so we created a new leadership development programme in 2020. We wanted to make it as broad and engaging as possible, so as well as workshop activity, it involves action learning alongside psychometrics.”


The Solution

At a time when many organisations were halting development activities, the university introduced a new programme to support its people during a universally challenging time. “The objective was to offer delegates on this new modular programme the opportunity to try something new and be able to do so in a confidential setting. We use psychometrics a lot in our leadership development programmes and wanted to differentiate this programme by using a different provider. We liked the fact that Thomas assessments could be used very effectively for development purposes.”

“Completion of the assessments is a core part of the programme, and individuals also have the option of having one-to--one feedback on the longer report. The profiles aren't shared with delegates’ line managers unless they choose to do so. We do not use the assessment to inform any promotional decisions, it is purely for their self-awareness and personal development. However, the line managers do have to endorse their direct reports’ applications to the programme, and we run sessions to offer line managers guidance in how to support participants, and how they might create space for participants to put their learning into practise in their local area.”

“The connections with colleagues from other parts of the institution is important for us.  We operate with devolved, local accountabilities, which can make it quite difficult to introduce programmes that are suitable for all, but there are more commonalities than someone might expect in what is quite a complex organisation. We chose to include the Aptitude assessment because it offers delegates the opportunity to find out how they learn and develop in a confidential setting. At a later stage, we will be undertaking 360-degree feedback, and we are keen to incorporate this element of the programme into a much broader offering with respect to career development.”


The Results

Although the university is yet to see the long-term impacts of the programme, it is actively engaged in monitoring these, with a strong focus on data analytics. Reflecting on the results so far, the university consultant says, “So far, we have seen encouraging signs, such as the fact that the programme itself is oversubscribed. Word travels, and we see more people taking up the programme after hearing about the experiences of early adopters.”

“I've been giving participants feedback on the assessments, and it's been great. We have had about five cohorts of delegates and around 30 to 40% take up the option of having one to one feedback on the longer report. During these sessions, we talk through the alignment or apparent contradictions between the different reports – for instance between their Behaviour and Personality profiles. From an administrative point of view, downloading the reports has been very intuitive. The way that the reports are structured lends itself to feeding back in a fluid way.”

“Academics and professional services staff are engaging with the feedback sessions in approximately the same ratios and they are finding it really useful. The feedback has been extremely positive, and delegates appreciate the opportunity to receive confidential feedback and psychometric insights. Whether the assessments highlighted their ability to manage change or their communication with others, they can then apply learnings to their role and operate differently.”

Ultimately, integrating psychometrics into their leadership development programme is helping to differentiate the university as an employer of choice. “We are finding Perform to be a really great set of assessments for this new leadership programme. Other universities make similar commitments to development, but we do have people joining us from other institutions within the sector, who are surprised by how much we offer.”

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