Arts Council England Case Study: Major Change 

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Client Profile

Industry sector: Public Sector

Number of employees: 500+

Location: England

Challenge

In 2009 Arts Council England implemented a programme of major change, which included a reorganisation of regions and a move to a centralised bid process for Arts funding. The cost savings associated with the programme would allow Arts Council England to provide more direct funding to the Arts. Many roles within the organisation were impacted with all levels, from Assistant to Executive Director, being reduced. The assessment of existing staff needed to be conducted objectively and fairly across all levels to identify those who could fill the newly defined posts with assessment of external candidates required to fill any remaining vacant posts.

The redeployment project began in June 2009, with highly tailored, objective and legally defensible Assessment Centres being designed for each job level, based on the organisation’s new competency framework. The client required that every affected employee should be assessed and informed of the outcome of their application for a role by Christmas 2009. This was therefore a large scale project, with tight timescales and rollout across the country, meaning there was a requirement for extensive technical and logistical support.

Arts Council England needed to find a provider who could take on board these challenges and also offer high levels of adaptability to meet potential additional challenges, such as individual Candidates’ special requirements. Given the nature of the project, there was also an element of apprehension and anxiety within the organisation. A provider was therefore required who could support the development and implementation of a clear communications strategy.

Solution

a&dc worked closely with senior stakeholders within Arts Council England to ensure a robust process was designed that would not only accurately assess suitability for the roles, but would also fit with the culture of the organisation. This meant selecting and tailoring existing a&dc Assessment Centre Exercises (AC-EXS™), providing a cost effective, yet face valid alternative to a fully bespoke option.

a&dc designed one-day Assessment Centres for:

1. Executive Directors
2. Directors
3. Senior Managers
4. Relationship Managers, Senior Officers and Officers
5. Relationship Managers with line management responsibilities

In addition to this, off-the-shelf in-basket exercises were selected for use at Assistant level.

In addition to attending an Assessment Centre, each individual would attend an interview panel run by Arts Council England. This meant that the results from any Centres needed to be available quickly for the panels to review and prepare. a&dc were able to guarantee the provision of written feedback reports on each candidate within 48 hours of the Centre being run and in most cases provided them within 24 hours.  These were used alongside one-to-one interview feedback by Arts Council England to reach a decision.  In addition to this, collective performance data was fed back to Arts Council England to support organisational development planning.

a&dc’s flexible approach to project management meant that changing circumstances could be accommodated effectively. For example, when Executive Directors needed to be in post more quickly than was originally anticipated,a&dc were able to meet the new challenging timescale requirements. This flexibility remained vital throughout the project, since ad hoc Centres needed to be run at short notice once roles became confirmed as vacant, following the first phase of assessment.

a&dc  worked closely with Arts Council England’s HR team to develop briefings and communication resources to be rolled out across the organisation. As part of this, each Candidate was sent information about the Centre itself prior to their attendance. Individuals with special requirements were contacted individually, giving them the opportunity to ask questions about the process and agree any particular requirements to be arranged. This type of open communication pre and post event ensured Candidates were made to feel as comfortable as possible. In addition, Arts Council England was able to assess the mood in the organisation through quantitative and qualitative feedback obtained from internal candidate feedback questionnaires sent online after each Centre.

The logistical requirements of the project were significant, with Assessment Centres often being run in several cities on the same day. At short notice a&dc were able to source suitable venues and accommodation at discounted rates, provide Assessors, Centre Managers and Administrators, and source trained roleplayers for all Centres across England.

Outcome

  • Staff have been fairly redeployed into a new organisational structure with no legal challenges from unsuccessful candidates.
  • Current staff were informed about the outcome of their application for roles at their current level by Christmas 2009 as promised.
  • Staff were able to apply for vacant roles at more senior levels in the second phase of the process.
  • All delivery requirements were met as the project evolved, including those that were not anticipated at the start of the project.
  • Every applicant who was invited to an Assessment Centre was able to access one with minimal travel.
  • Interviewing Panels received objective data, which allowed for an informed, unbiased decision making process.
  • Every candidate who requested a feedback report received a copy.
  • Assessment Centres were run for external candidates to fill vacant positions once all internal staff had been redeployed.