Haines Watts is one of the UK’s top 15 accountancy practices. Success and rapid growth have evolved into a complex, widely spread organisation with more than 60 offices, each featuring its own structure, strategic objectives and vision of what ‘potential’ might mean.
Haines Watts’ Group Board decided the time was right to reinvent leadership development throughout the business. What it needed was a flexible programme that could support talent, leadership and career planning at all levels rather than one simply aimed at nudging people into the next upwards position.
And while retention wasn’t an issue, the board knew it was better to act now to keep it that way, rather than fight later to retain their best people.
“We saw some fantastic organisations but the Leadership Trust just got us,” said Olivia Parrish, Group Head of HR at Haines Watts. “The difference was they didn’t come in with a very strict formula. They convinced us that their framework approach works, and it offered such a degree of flexibility around our needs as an organisation. They also helped us understand what some of those needs were; our complexity meant it wasn’t all visible or obvious at the start.”
Working as partners the Leadership Trust helped Haines Watts fashion a programme where everyone identifies then develops their own leadership objectives relevant to them, their team and their business. “Because of the vast number of services we offer to our clients we know that our leaders of the future will require a wide range of skills to fit in with a flexible business,” added Olivia Parrish. “We needed to build a sustainable leadership structure for the organisation, and at the same time it offered a huge opportunity to throw away the rule book when it came to developing leaders.”
In Haines Watts’ view, the adaptability of the programme has been one of its greatest successes. Within just a few months they were able to see future leaders making fresh and fundamental decisions about their priorities and where they wanted to go. There were also some dramatic impacts on individual performances.
The programme, which was deliberately structured to remove status barriers, has also helped participants understand the impact they have on everyone they work with – clients, peers and teams – and there’s now a better understanding across the organisation of what great leadership means.
“Importantly people are seeing a change in those on the programme – a change in how they do things and how they behave,” concludes Olivia Parrish. “People who aren’t on the programme are talking about it and how they can get on it. There’s a real buzz. At what is still an early stage in the process, this is more than I could have hoped for.”
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