DWP Case Study: Development Toolkit 


Client Profile

Industry Sector: Public Sector
Location: Nationwide


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) consists of multiple departments within one umbrella organisation. Its Talent Management strategy encompasses a ‘development for all’ ethos alongside fast track development for its top talent. Flexible tools were required which would allow DWP to make the best possible use of development resources while offering employees a real opportunity for career progression.

With around 120,000 employees, providing fair and objective access to development a critical area of Talent Management.

Each assessment tool must assess the same competencies, meaning results and feedback from each could be easily compared.


In partnership with DWP Psychologists we developed a toolkit which included 3 different options for assessment;

• Online Capability Assessment Tool
• Competency Based Interviewing Tools
• Assessment Centre Standards Guide

The Online Capability Assessment Tool

a&dc worked with DWP to design a ground-breaking tool which incorporated Situational Judgement (Action Centred) questions with Verbal and Numerical Reasoning questions, all of which related to business-focused case studies.

Three different skills can be assessed within one test: judgement/action planning, verbal ability and numerical ability.

The tool provided a stretching assessment of individual’s current abilities and effectively identified those with particularly high potential.  As such, it could be used to identify those employees who would benefit from fast track development. The qualifying elements within the a&dc Online Capability Assessment Tool would pinpoint the individuals who would gain most from accelerated development.

In designing the Online Capability Assessment Tool, a thorough understanding of the effective behaviours for success at each level was necessary.  This was gained through structured interviews and workshops.

The questions and answers used were determined by ‘Subject Matter Experts’ from within the organisation. This ensured that ‘correct’ multiple choice answers reflected effective performance within the target roles at DWP.

Competency Based Interviewing Tools

Competency Based Interviews (CBIs) produce much more reliable data about a candidate’s abilities and skills than traditional interviews. Based on competencies rather than intuition, the results can be analysed and compared with an objective standard.

We provided DWP with all of the materials their Managers would need in order to create, administer and analyse Competency Based Interviews as a tactical tool for Talent Management.

A range of Competency-Based Interview questions were written, covering all six DWP competencies. Different questions were also needed to assess employees at four levels of seniority and experience. Each question also included ‘behavioural indicators’ which help to highlight positive and negative responses.

Advice on giving feedback, generic feedback wording as well as a range of development options was provided.  This helped to ensure that positive action could be taken to address any areas of weakness in performance or experience as well as build on strengths demonstrated.

CBIs can be constructed and administered more quickly than the more complex assessment tools provided. As such, this option gave DWP a tool for assessing the development needs of many employees, quickly and at low cost.

The Assessment Centre Standards Guide

Assessment Centre events assess a defined set of competencies in the context of a variety of work simulation exercises. These events usually last one day, during which between 6 and 8 competencies are each assessed a number of times.

Those Managers who would be using Assessment Centres were given guidelines on designing Assessment Centre events. Assessment Centre Exercises from the AC-EXS off-the-shelf range which would most effectively measure behaviour against DWP standard competencies were recommended in the Guide.

The comprehensive document also included information around the practicalities of preparing for and running an assessment event.

The ability to run assessment events with a minimal level of external support presents significant cost savings in the long term, which again contributes to targeting resources in Talent Management more effectively.


By developing with DWP a combination of assessment tools, all of which are competency based, we were able to deliver flexible and accessible tools which will produce meaningful results.

These complimentary tools will provide DWP with an effective solution to managing talent, both in terms of identifying potential high flyers and highlighting opportunities to increase the skills base across its workforce more broadly.

The choice of tools within the Talent Management Toolkit ensures that all situations are catered for. Development needs can be effectively assessed regardless of varying timescales, the numbers of participants to be assessed and the availability of budget and resources. The toolkit therefore provides a flexible solution to assist DWP Managers in fulfilling employee development objectives within the organisation.