“Our people required a straightforward way to help them manage their own performance.”
This case study shows the benefits of an organisation introducing a competency framework with external support to help their workforce achieve high performance standards. The results show significant improvements sales, marketing and customer service in the face of difficult trading conditions and internal restructuring.

Facing The Challenge

The UK Sales and Marketing Director said “Most of our business comes from the south east, and has been won competing against multinationals with recognised brand names in the business services sector.” The company was operating independently with its own Board and operations until 2003 when they acquired a new PLC trading identity.
The project sponsor saw his own role change from being responsible for a small team in the south east to UK Director of sales and marketing. In the last 5 years he has had to introduce lean working processes to reduce costs in the face of increased competition, whilst achieving levels of customer service which ensured that, despite high growth, their customers remained loyal. This has involved re-structuring employee roles and responsibilities and a creating a slimmer management structure. A competency-based development system has been fundamental to these changes.

Overcoming Barriers

The main challenge was to free up management time to steer change to the strategic direction of the business without losing the momentum of entrepreneurial growth. “We needed to promote self-management and responsibility for self-development. This meant consulting with all staff about why change to the way we worked was essential to continued profitable growth, and getting their ideas to make working processes more effective. Consultations took a lot of time and we started with high-performing individuals who were more confident with change and who had high internal credibility. This built a cadre of inter-departmental champions who sent positive signals to others across peer groups.”
“We also ran a series of development programmes which were tailored to particular teams and individuals by a qualified business development expert Clive Bonny. These included one to one coaching. Clive also facilitated outdoor teambuilding at a specialist centre just outside London. These activities improved motivation, personal communication skills and how to achieve more with less support. It helped people recognise the challenge of change involves learning new skills to get more done with fewer resources. Having fun at the same time and demonstrating team support in an active learning environment enabled people to accept new roles and responsibilities with less fear of failure.”
During this period of high growth managers kept track of reality with surveys of customers and staff using externally standards proven in the financial services sector. Performance gaps were quickly and easily assimilated into key activities for teams to address. Tarry even spent two weeks working as a customer support representative on the telephone taking front line calls. The change programme focused on identifying people’s values and aligning values with behavioural competences which could be easily recognised. This enabled employees to assess and measure their own performance. It also helped managers recruit new people and develop them quickly for specific roles.

Reaping The Rewards

The Director saw remarkable improvements to his team’s sales performance in the last 5 years since introducing a competency framework. “Competences should be evident by behaviour at work and not based on vague perceptions. They can be kept simple by focus on the 20% activity which produces 80% results. They should be reviewed regularly and linked to team and organisation priorities so people can see their relevance.”
The new process has helped them to achieve an increase in profitability by 41% and an increase in turnover by 60% to £90 million. The Director’s team were able to sustain an increase in client units managed by 55%, whilst the employee retention rate of 90% is many times better than the industry average. “I am now having to look for more challenges as my teams are managing themselves so successfully.”