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case studies

London Borough of Camden Council: Embedding a cost-effective approach to leadership development

Pearn Kandola have worked closely with Camden Council to develop more than 100 of its senior managers. In 2014, like many other public sector organisations across the UK, Camden was facing a significant amount of change and had an ambition to transform how its leaders led to meet the challenges of change – and this was the catalyst for the project.

“The design of the public sector was changing, and we had an ambitious set of priorities to deliver – set out in The Camden Plan – which meant we had to think differently about how we delivered our services and about our expectations of our leaders,”says Emma Bown, Lead HR Advisor at Camden Council.

Camden sent out an invitation to tender and had conversations with a number of companies. Several suggested starting the project with day-long assessment events.

Emma says: “As we’re in the public sector, where we need to account for every penny and focus on delivering value for residents, it felt hard to justify spending money on a whole day out of the office. As an organisation we were becoming much more agile and digital, so it was right to translate this into how we develop our leaders.”

Stuart Duff, Partner at Pearn Kandola, says: “It became obvious that Camden wanted to improve its use of technology and was keen to find a solution that was innovative and cost- and time-efficient. Therefore, we suggested an online iLEAD development programme, which would provide similar results to a face-to-face assessment day, but was completely flexible. Participants could complete it in their own time away from the day-to-day pressures they were handling.”

Online and face-to-face coaching
Camden Council appointed Pearn Kandola for the project, which involved three main components.

First of all, participants were asked to carry out a range of assessments online, including a self-evaluation against the leadership behaviours framework, personality questionnaires, situational judgement tests, a motivation questionnaire and a series of personal development activities.

The results were then collated into a report evaluating strengths and risk areas. Participants had a coaching meeting with a Pearn Kandola psychologist, who also provided feedback and helped them to create a personal action plan.

Finally, participants joined action focus groups, where they got together with colleagues to discuss their reports and action plans and think about not only how to make personal changes, but also changes that would directly benefit the council.

Emma says: “The reports and the coaching were really useful, and that’s where the real value lay for us. Even though some people found the reports quite challenging, they were very well received overall. In terms of the coaching, it was a huge benefit for people to understand their reports in detail and have a confidential, development-focused conversation.”

What the participants said:
“It’s helped me to focus more on long-term career development rather than day-to-day work activities.”

“I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses through the self-assessment evaluation. It was a great opportunity to take a step back, to know where my strengths and weaknesses lie.”

“I thought (the action group) was a really good, open forum for people to have discussions about personal and group leadership challenges.”

“It gave me a window to the outside world, talking about how things are in the private sector in comparison to the public sector. It provided some useful insight.”