TNS-Global, a global market research and intelligence group had set itself the strategic goal of being recognised as the global leader in delivering value-added information and insights that help clients to make more effective decisions. The custom research sector had seen significant consolidation of spending by major multi-nationals on a global basis. Clients were demanding a focus on cost effectiveness and quality of data collection, increasing the demand for analysis and insight, and insisting on product, process and relationship innovation. Though its market presence in Europe had grown through its acquisition by WPP in recent years its performance had not met expectations. In addition, the results of the employee survey came as a shock to many senior leaders.
With People Development as one of the core principles supporting the group’s strategy, these set of circumstances led the leadership team to take the first steps in this priority area. The Head of Group Learning & Development, explains: “As TNS evolves to meet its strategic aims, we need to ensure that our people have appropriate skill sets and can operate at the level required to take the group forward in a changing business environment. We also need to attract the right talent in a highly competitive market. In order to achieve this, we identified a number of key actions and, in 2006, we took significant steps towards their achievement.” The first of these was the commissioning of Performance Equations to develop and implement a pan-European senior leadership programme.
Our initial approach was to diagnose the senior leadership performance requirements implicated by the strategy and key business goals. Our point of view is that in order to ensure that development input improves capabilities, but ultimately has a strategic impact on business performance, all our interventions are performance diagnosed in advance. This creates a real insight into the key issues in the business and how leadership performance can address those issues and affect a business improvement.
The insights gained enabled us to propose a senior leadership programme that both addressed the key business issues, built on the TNS leadership competency framework, and gave participants practical understanding of how improvements in their own performance would directly address the real business challenges they faced.
The Maximising a Sense of Leadership programme was a delivered over two years to small cohorts of senior business leaders from across the European business, covering a total population of 96 participants. The programme itself comprised of three parts: a business challenges / performance investigation prior to attending; a three day residential programme, and individual coaching support for three months after the programme. The three day programme had delegates working through their real business challenges identified in their pre-work. With the additional data of 3600 feedback, they were taken through a series of experiential activities in which they were able to apply simply, practical tools and approaches.
The post programme one-to-one coaching centred on promoting responsibility for action and supporting participants in working through workplace plans. 84% of participants reported 100% completion of their action plans; the remainder achieving almost full completion. One participant from the custom research business in Germany said: “I found the post course support especially helpful in keeping me focused and helping me with the practical problems of applying what I learnt.”
The Head of Group Learning & Development commented: “Of all the suppliers who we approached, Performance Equations went to the greatest lengths to understand TNS and what it was we were looking for. Their ability to listen, flexibility and desire to give us what we wanted meant they met completely our brief to create a programme that is practical, and offers easy, simple tools that can be well understood and instantly deliverable.
Overall it has been very well received. One of our delegates has written [in the in-house magazine] that it was one of the best training programmes he has attended since joining TNS, and that it was great fun. This is especially significant when you consider how much training our senior managers will have followed in their careers with TNS.”
Another senior participant, the UK & Ireland Finance Director, added: “The course was excellent and I got a lot out of it personally. The course leaders from Performance Equations were first class; engaging and able to bring experience from other organisations to the course to good effect.”
Since the programme there have been significant improvements in the employee engagement and development goals the company set. The talent management and succession planning reviews have identified a 17% increase in the talent pool. The employee engagement score saw a jump of 14 points to 70 from the previous years results, putting TNS in the upper quartile of companies in the benchmark database. A greater number of employees than before reported a good understanding and commitment to the organisations’ strategy, and expressing pride in the company. But more importantly, inproviding a strategic link between leadership capability development, employee engagement and improved business performance, the first half year results show significant underlying growth.