Case Studies

Some of Our Case Studies

Below are some of the many projects we have successfully delivered to our clients across a variety of industries and sectors.

2014 Case Study Restructure

Pearson’s goal is to help people make progress in their lives through learning. They aim to be the world’s leading learning company, serving the citizens of a brain-based economy wherever and whenever they are learning. With the application of technology within the education sector and potentially being part of the greatest growth industry of the future, Pearson are projecting that 70% of their turnover is to come from digital sales by 2015, a significant shift away from publishing physical books. With a vision for future growth, Pearson has embarked on an ambitious Global Restructure Programme (GES), initially impacting over 4,500 people at Director and Senior Leadership Level in order to ensure their future success in a competitive digital marketplace. The future definition of key talent within the organisation is likely to evolve, with Pearson seeking to compete against the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple and other technology organisations for the thought leaders of our technological future.

Evaluation Process Design

Zircon was invited to work with Pearson to research and designing a selection process, identifying senior leadership talent and supporting their placement into the new organisation structure. In order to ensure that the assessment part of the restructure was conducted fairly and consistently, a globally applied methodology was developed. The purpose of this was to ensure that the most capable individuals were selected for the new roles and that the process was conducted in a way which was sensitive and respectful of those going through the restructuring process. The requirement was that the application stage should screen out individuals who did not have the Skills to undertake the role and that it should act as an effective online shortlisting process. 43% of applications were screen out and the first stage. The organisation also required a “toolkit” of evaluation materials which incorporated interviews, a business exercise and the potential to undertake role relevant ability tests.

Training of Evaluators

Pearson required internal training of over 175 senior leaders and HR professional over a 6 week period in the assessment methodology to deliver the programme within a very tight timeframe. Zircon designed a course focusing on best practice and the Pearson GES evaluation materials and also delivered 3 Train the Trainer courses to internal Pearson trainers.
Zircon and Pearson trainers collaborated and conducted accreditation within face to face training sessions and a ground breaking online training process using Insetonline. Insetonline gave us the ability to train a single course, with delegates located in different regions and countries. This provided delegates with the ability to interact with a live trainer, but also undertake group exercises with each other through webcams and virtual breakout meeting rooms. The training course mirrored the Pearson future digital strategy, bringing a global organisation together into One Pearson.
Internal Communication and Education

In addition to evaluator skills training the Pearson project team were responsible for management reporting, online advertising of roles through the Kenexa and ICIMs systems and managing the applicants at each stage of the evaluation process, sending out communications to keep them informed of what to expect and when. It was also important to educate the internal evaluator teams on the process, the storage of information and support multiple application conflicts at offer stage. As the Pearson Selection Specialist, Sarah Linton was involved with the design and delivery of over 30 WebEx sessions on the Global Evaluation Process and drafted communications at each stage of the process. She attended role profile development meetings and supported the project team with advice on assessment and management of information for development purposes.

The Evaluation Process

In order to ensure objectivity, maintain standards and provide ongoing coaching and feedback to the internal Pearson assessors, Zircon were asked to provide a quality control function. This involved a team of 5 experts who liaised directly with the evaluation teams, acting as the main link between the evaluators and the Pearson Project team. In addition a further 3 Zircon consultants were assigned responsibility to improve the quality of development data to ensure feedback to applicants was to the highest possible standard. In total there were 2071 applications for 474 roles globally. Outside North America and the Pearson Technology roles, 169 applicants were progressed to interview. The entire process from advertising roles to offer stage took 9 weeks, a considerable challenge to coordinate and deliver.

To support the senior leadership future strategic planning, Zircon was required to analyse the data produced through the GES evaluation process. Conclusions included identifying key talent at each stage, application trends and attribute (competency) performance. This report also identified appointed individuals who may need development support as a result of their evaluation to be fully successful in their new roles. The project was hugely successful and was delivered under tight time constraints, Zircon have been delighted to work with Pearson and look forward to supporting them in the future.

 Travis Perkins
2014 Case Study Leadership Assessments for Succession and Development

Zircon was invited by Hilary Tysoe, Divisional HR Director of General Merchanting for Travis Perkins, to conduct thirteen assessments of leaders across the Travis Perkins business, including Wickes, Key Line and Birchwood Price Tools. The purpose of the assessments conducted was primarily to select up to three individuals to be promoted to the new role of

Operations Director, however some individuals were being assessed purely for development purposes.
The thirteen assessments were designed to assess Travis Perkins leaders against a set of core values and capabilities that were selected to align with the Travis Perkins Leadership Model, Potential model and the Operations Director role requirements. The Operations Director role was effectively one of many possible next steps for these individuals and therefore the role demonstrated the leadership and thinking styles that would be required of these Travis Perkins employees, were they to progress within the company.

The assessment process was designed to be robust, objective and developmentally focused, and included numerical and verbal reasoning and personality testing, and two interviews. The first interview assessed the individuals in terms of their high potential, competence and motivations with regards to the selected values and capabilities, and the second interview validated the psychometric testing results. Following the assessment process and calibration of the group’s performance, individuals received detailed feedback reports outlining their performance, motivations, strengths and development needs, and these reports were discussed during feedback sessions in order to enable goals and actions to be decided upon.
The developmental focus of the process effectively allowed selected candidates to establish how they need to work in order to be successful in their new role, while also enabling the rest of the individuals to identify how they can develop in order to ideally reach this next level in the future.

The project was well received and successful, both Hilary Tysoe and the Travis Perkins HR Director Carol Kavanagh, and the individuals assessed provided very positive feedback and Travis Perkins and Zircon are already embarking on their next project together.

2013 Assessment Case Study Pearson Product Development Restructure and Development

There was a business requirement within Pearson to conduct a series of in-depth talent assessments of current employees for the purpose of restructure and development. Zircon worked in collaboration with Heidrick & Struggles to design and deliver a bespoke assessment centre to reflect the requirements and values of Pearson.
Pearson is the world’s leading education company, providing curriculum materials, multimedia learning tools and testing programmes to help educate a range of ages worldwide. The organisation recognises the need to reflect modern times, and is therefore advancing into the digital world to ensure they continue to provide a top-class international service.

Zircon and Heidrick & Struggles worked with Pearson to develop a two phase assessment process. Phase 1 assessed the senior leaders of Pearson Product Development using interviews to identify current challenges and changes occurring across the organisation. This enabled Heidrick & Struggles and Zircon to design a robust and accurate assessment process based upon the future requirements of Pearson, ensuring a future focus rather than simply looking at what was currently needed. This robust assessment process was then adapted and applied in Phase 2 to assess a further 69 employees of Pearson within the UK and US, with every stage being delivered in close contact with the Pearson project leads to ensure expectations were being met.

The in-depth assessment included a number of different exercises, including a business case study and presentation, a blended high potential interview, and a validation interview using the Wave personality questionnaire. Following the assessments, Zircon calibrated the results and produced in-depth development reports to support individual feedback sessions for all candidates. This was to ensure that the evidence collected in the assessments could be used constructively to support future development. Zircon then supported Pearson through a robust decision making process, considering evidence from the assessments, as well as from the candidate’s previous experience, to select individuals with the highest potential, who demonstrated ‘best fit’ for the future of Pearson Product Development.

In order to make this process a success, the project team continuously worked in consultation with Paul Marsden and Hannah Foster design and tailor all materials, conducting weekly catch-up calls to ensure delivery according to Pearson’s requirements. At all times we recognised the sensitive nature of the assessments and the importance of good project management, providing clear communication to reassure both the client and candidates focusing upon making it a positive experience for all involved. Additionally, Zircon made sure office support was available to coordinate the project from setting-up psychometrics to proofing development reports, ensuring all work was delivered to a high standard.

‘The project team worked extremely hard to meet all our requirements for this project. They ensured to provide a flexible and adaptable service to meet our every need as the project evolved, maintaining constant communication from beginning to end. The meticulous delivery significantly contributed to the success of the project, with Zircon providing a project director, project manager, and project coordinator throughout to ensure nothing ‘slipped through the net’. Paul Marsden, Pearson Change Director.

‘Thank you to Heidrick & Struggles for introducing us to Zircon and for making this very challenging project possible. We gave the team tough deadlines, strong requirements and high standards to achieve. The team were professional and responsive and provided a credible, reliable and well-organised service, which undoubtedly complemented their detail focus and broad experience within talent assessment and management. As a result the Zircon team developed a bespoke, in-depth assessment design which clearly aligned with the future needs of Pearson, enabling the selection of high potentials to drive the development and restructure of our business.’ Hannah Foster, People Director, Pearson Global English.

Royal London
360 Degree Facilitated Feedback Case Study

Zircon was invited by Carolyn Leitch, Lead Organisational Development Consultant for The Royal London, to deliver twenty-one facilitative 360 feedback sessions to sixteen sales managers and five leaders across four national locations.

The 21 feedback and coaching sessions were structured in order to enable the employees to identify their core strengths, development needs and three key development areas/targets for 2014. The leaders also worked with their coaches to identify how the targets could be achieved and what they would need to do next. Using the data, Zircon provided a high level calibration report which highlighted emerging themes across the two populations and rank ordered the leaders in order of effectiveness. Using The Royal London’s leadership framework, Zircon identified the areas where leaders felt they were performing well, and where they felt less confident.

The project was well received and successful, both Carolyn and the individuals provided very positive feedback and there is every intention of working together again in the future.

Recruitment and Selection E Learning and Training Case Study

Zircon were invited by Jane O’Niones Learning Specialist for E.ON UK to design a new in house Recruitment and Selection Development programme for E.ON hiring managers. The development was created from line manager feedback and the output of an External Diversity Audit carried out by Clear:

• A series of line manager workshops throughout 2011 told E.ON that managers needed to know more about their recruitment process, how to assess and provide appropriate feedback
• An External Diversity Audit of Recruitment at E.ON, told them they do a lot of stuff really well, but in other areas their practice would benefit from applying consistent methodologies.

The purpose of the development was to share recruitment and selection best practice, to up-skill hiring managers in the use of in depth assessment methodologies. It was important empower and up-skill hiring managers to make robust selection decisions, in order to build diverse and high performing Talent within E.ON.

Zircon spent time working closely with the E.ON Resourcing team to understand the needs of the client and identify the future standard of recruitment and selection. As a result of the internal research, Zircon designed a strategy document and straw model for E.ON. This outlined the long term E.ON business drivers, the key requirements for the Hiring Manager population, as well as example content to be included in the training course.

Once approved, the E Learning Materials and 6 Module Development Workshops were designed. These included E learning and Workshop Development Materials for the following 6 modules:
1. Recruitment
2. Assessment Skills
3. Interviewing Skills
4. Delivering Effective Feedback
5. Designing Assessment Centres
6. Calibrating Assessment Events

The Development was designed so that E.ON hiring managers could choose between a four or six module course, depending upon their level of involvement in recruitment. To support ongoing learning Zircon also produced a best practice guide for the hiring manager to use following the training. E.ON and Zircon worked closely to ensure the content of the course was aligned to E.ON’s needs and expectations.

Once designed the materials were piloted with E.ON hiring managers – the future recipients of the training. Throughout the project Zircon were open to feedback and responsive to E.ON’s requests, investing time to ensure the content was accurate and mirrored the language and style of E.ON.

To ensure the Development would be successfully embedded into E.ON, a 2 day ‘Train the Trainer’ session was created so that the internal facilitators at E.ON could roll out the programme. Overall E.ON appreciated how Zircon spent time working closely with the Resourcing team to understand their requirements and valued Zircon’s commitment to the project, providing the right individuals or specialists when required.

UK Commercial Bank Senior Leadership Team Development Programme

“The UK CMB leadership team held a series of strategy and team building meetings (4 in total) over a 6-month period, with the aim of taking a high level strategic direction into detailed execution plans, whilst enhancing team dynamics and understanding. Zircon assisted with the design of these workshops and was also the lead facilitator. Amanda Potter was the prime contact for both design and facilitation.

The 4 step process was extremely well designed and executed with a natural flow from one session to the next. Amanda took the time to research requirements with key stakeholders in advance of the sessions and was willing to challenge and suggest alternative approaches. This was done in a very constructive fashion.

Amanda’s facilitation was very good, she was assertive, probing and challenging when needed, whilst encouraging participation. Amanda has very strong listening and observation skills and provided very valuable but confidential feedback to the individuals involved in the meetings which acted as personal coaching to enhance their individual performance.

There were also action points from each of the meetings with regular calls post meeting to make sure action was taking place or to see if help was needed. Amanda is very good in this role with strong insight and good skills at delivering feedback – overall it was a great experience”.

Written by; Noel Quinn Group General Manager Regional Head of Commercial Banking, Asia-Pacific

PC World
Assessment Process Design

Zircon was invited by PC World to design a new selection process for their Customer Advisors. The aim was to design a valid and reliable selection methodology, which was also efficient and user friendly. The process designed included a competency based application form, an online psychometric numerical and verbal reasoning test, an online personality and emotional intelligence questionnaire and a competency based interview.

Helen Charles, HR Manager PC World reported the following:

“The selection process designed by Zircon has been very successful for our organisation. PC World Staples Corner recently needed to fill 14 Customer Advisor vacancies. After receiving the application forms the store invited 60 candidates to complete the online psychometric test and questionnaire. On the basis of these results, they invited 16 candidates in to interview. The Store successfully recruited 14 of those 16 interviewed which is an 88% success rate at interview.”

As a result of the success in PC World, Zircon Management Consulting Ltd is now a supplier to Wickes where Helen Smith (Nee Charles) is the Head of HR.


In 2007, Zircon were invited to work with Alstom, a world leader in transport and energy infrastructure. Zircon were invited by Alstom to conduct one to one in depth psychometric assessments for coaching and in depth- Executive Coaching over a three year period. During our time working with Alstom, we provided four Zircon coaches each working with two to three Alstom senior level Managers and Directors.

In addition, Zircon worked with Alstom to design and facilitate team development building on the work of the one to one coaching and psychometric assessment work. Zircon continue to support Alstom and we are now into a new era of career coaching within Alstom.

A 2011 Case Study HSBC Insurance UK – Sales Development Function

There was a business requirement within HSBC Insurance UK to conduct a review of the organisational design of the Sales Development Function. HSBC Insurance UK and their HR function worked together on the design of the new structure and had a clear vision for the Target Operating Model (TOM). This vision was shared with Zircon during the briefing stage of the project and as a result there was an excellent understanding of roles and responsibilities both from HSBC’s and Zircon’s perspective. Zircon was hired to identify and design 2 new roles within the team, and then assess the potential and performance of the current sales force, in order to identify their suitability for the new roles.

Zircon provided a comprehensive proposal (including costs) which suggested a clear understanding of the Client’s requirements. Weekly conference calls for the Project Management team which were arranged and lead by Zircon, where meeting agendas and papers were circulated beforehand and minutes of meetings including responsibilities, actions and timescales were circulated afterwards. Throughout the process meetings were well planned, organised and structured to gain maximum output from the time available. This was especially important when Zircon facilitated key milestone events, such as the stakeholder engagement interviews and meetings, for buy in and commitment.

HSBC were seeking to establish a cost effective but reliable and valid assessment and development process using a range of tools the assessment. The assessment process included the use of psychometric evaluations, a potential interview, a 360 intervention and a validation interview. Honest assessment of the validity of the assessment exercises resulted in reducing the process and utilising some elements as a screen to further assist with containing costs. Zircon designed and executed a robust assessment process checking in at regularly intervals that their planned actions met the businesses needs and made timely amendments based upon feedback.

A total of 47 HSBC employees completed a variety of online psychometric questionnaires, were assessed by their managers and participated in a 4-hour assessment session for the new roles. The final selection decision meeting was excellent and Zircon facilitated a robust and challenging debate which resulted in all parties being happy with the overall decisions.

Lloyd Glasgow has confirmed that since the implementation of the WBDM model there has been an average increase of 12% pure growth in sales across the network on Insurance products and a 21 % increase in value and 22% increase in volume on sales from coached individuals (by WBDM’s) compared to colleagues that have not been coached by a WBDM. It is hoped that via the expansion of WBDM’s (subject to a business case) further increases in value and volume of sales can be achieved.

Toni Atherton, HR Generalist, HSBC BANK PLC HBEU

Iron Mountain

Since 2008 Zircon have been working with Iron Mountain to identify the talent in a key area of their organisation and develop that talent further through individual feedback sessions and follow-up team workshops.

We integrated information from 360 feedback as well as using psychometrics to identify personality preferences, management capabilities and cognitive capabilities. A Team of 7 Zircon consultants worked closely with individuals, sharing feedback from the various psychometrics and 360 and agreeing potential areas to focus on for development. During the one to one feedback sessions, we focused on highlighting individual strengths and how those strengths might be harnessed further, as well as discussing potential strategies to improve development areas and enable people to function more effectively when out of their comfort zone.

The workshops followed up on the individual feedback sessions and enabled people to share their feedback and discuss team approaches as well as individual ones. The purpose of the workshops was to improve team effectiveness and develop individual self awareness as well as awareness of others’ preferences and individual style.

The project was well received and successful, resulting in us working with another area of the business in a restructure and individual development planning exercise, which should be finished by mid 2010.

In 2009, Sportingbet the online gaming company invited Zircon to investigate and report on their level of employee engagement across the Sportingbet international businesses. Sportingbet plc is a British e-gaming operator traded on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market . Sportingbet operates local-focused sportsbooks, virtual games and casino sites, and the online poker cardroom, Paradise Poker. Overall, the company has over 2.5 million registered customers in 200 countries, who place over one million bets (casino, poker, sports and virtual games) per day.
Zircon conducted focus groups, senior level interviews, and remote worker interviews to identify the 10 critical drivers of employee engagement. These were then validated against the Towers Perrin, the Corporate Leadership Council, the CIPD and Mercer models of engagement. The drivers included:

• Leadership and Direction – providing a clear vision of what the organisation is striving to achieve and how it will get there
• Management Effectiveness – inspiring staff with the confidence and motivation to achieve their best
• Reward and Benefits – ensuring consistency and fairness in the way employee effort and hard work is rewarded
• Resources and Learning Opportunities – providing the environment, tools and knowledge for all staff to do their job well
• Customer Focus – ensuring customers are provided with the service they want and expect
• Organisational Commitment –having pride and belief in Sportingbet as the best place to work
• Inclusion – enabling staff to feel valued and trusted to input into the way the organisation works
• Communicating Information – developing and encouraging open communications & knowledge sharing across Sportingbet
• Fair Treatment – treating all staff with respect and encouraging them to feel valued
• Team Cohesion – creating a truly supportive environment and network for staff

A total of 525 Sportingbet employees were invited to complete the online 60 item Employee Engagement survey over a 2 week period. The results found that 69% of the work force are engaged and committed to Sportingbet. It has been shown that high performing companies tend to have engagement levels of 74% or more. We are now working with Sportingbet to devise action plans for driving the engagement level to 80% well beyond the 74% high performing companies benchmark.

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