The Leadership Succession Gateway trial successfully met several objectives, including candidate and assessor experience, perception of fairness, usability of scoring and embedding a more collaborative/ coaching approach to applications for promotion.

The Developmental Coaching/ portfolio approach could provide further structure for currently used performance review ‘one to ones’ (Oxfordshire FRS do not use formal appraisals). This could be equally applied for individuals seeking promotion and those who are not, to support development and shift the culture of performance review from being a one-way evaluation from line manage to individual, to a collaborative, open, coaching style discussion.

With training rolled out at a range of levels, and organisation-wide communication about the purpose, process and benefits of the portfolio approach, cultural shifts can be made to address the negative impacts promotions activity can have on morale and well-being. This will support open and consultative performance management, and a collaborative, creative approach to development.

The Project

Stage 1

  • 1

    Candidates complete a Leadership Quality based evidence portfolio as an application for the promotions process

  • 2

    Candidates have a 2-hour Developmental Coaching discussion with an assessor to discuss their portfolio and application for promotion

  • 3

    The candidate’s Portfolio is formally scored/ evaluated

Stage 2

  • 1

    Candidates complete the Career Progression Gateway assessments (Case Study and Video Role-play)

  • 2


  • 3

    Candidates have a Developmental Feedback Session with a Psychologist

The Evaluation

The project was evaluated by reviewing several sources of portfolio and CPG exercise performance data, and candidate and assessor feedback.

Stage 1 – Candidate Evidence Portfolio and Developmental Coaching discussion

The Portfolio approach was welcomed by the majority of candidates and assessors. They liked the opportunity to discuss evidence and a more informal approach.

In general, the candidates agreed that they knew what to expect from the Developmental Coaching discussion, that it was a fair assessment, that challenge on evidence was handled constructively, questions during the discussion were relevant, and that the portfolio approach was an accurate reflection of workplace performance. Provision of online portfolio forms would add structure to word limits and format.

Most assessors agreed that the portfolio format, questions and scoring framework allowed them to complete a fair evaluation of candidate performance. The detail in their assessment notes varied, with brief notes making scoring more difficult to quality assure, which can be further addressed in amendments to the training course.

Candidate scores on the portfolio were, on average, 14% higher than CPG scores. Higher portfolio than CPG scores would be expected given the prior relationship between candidate and assessor and the nature of the direct interaction. Four assessors scored within 10% of the independent Psychologist scores. Extra practical exercises can be added to the training course to further focus on scoring and written evidence accuracy.

There was a split of positive and neutral/ negative responses over whether the discussion felt more like a coaching discussion than interview. Further opportunities for coaching role-plays and feedback within the training course would be useful to differentiate between the Coaching Discussion and interview style. A skills ‘refresher’ day within 6 months of the initial course is recommended.

Comments from assessors and candidates indicated a need for further focus on development. Further training is needed for assessors/line managers on the ongoing development element of the Developmental Coaching discussion. It may also be more appropriately managed in a later, separate discussion i.e. portfolio discussion in the initial session, follow up developmental discussion to be held later (and at regular intervals), with the first session after the Developmental Feedback Session with a Psychologist so all inputs can be built in.

For this trial, assessors were not the candidates’ line managers. This worked well in many respects with candidates experiencing a new approach independent of their usual chain of command, and most assessors reporting feeling confident in their ability to evaluate the evidence fairly. However, in order to ensure an on-going developmental relationship is practicable, and to address issues such as verifying evidence, line managers performing this role may be more realistic.

The Developmental Coaching training course for assessors was found to be ‘useful,’ ‘engaging,’ ‘constructive,’ and ‘thought-provoking’. The key benefits were in improving coaching conversations, raising awareness of coaching techniques (which could be applied across a range of settings), and relevant to organisational aims around leadership, culture and coaching.

Candidate Comments

“I think the portfolio measured against the NFCC leadership framework is a brilliant and underutilised tool to support development.”
“I believe the portfolio should be used as a longer-term, development and assessment tool for everyone to achieve advancement.”
“I felt that everybody being assessed against a national standard is the fairest process i have taken part in and fully support its continuation. This is a really good direction.”
“To complete the portfolio and then discuss the content through professional discussion is good, I liked that and it enabled me to shape my response and verbalise my current understanding, values and experience.”

Assessor Comments

“I felt this form of assessment was really useful as it allowed the candidates to bring their portfolio to us rather than us setting the question/ questions/ presentation etc.”

“I think we had quality coaching conversations… however as it was a one off , I could have supported them better in areas they needed to develop further.”
“Ultimately once the candidate was through the process they lost interest in meeting back up as well which meant any “coaching” didn’t occur.”
“I think the evaluation of the portfolio would be better completed by the line manager.”

Stage 2 – The Career Progression Gateway (CPG) and Developmental Feedback Session with a Psychologist

Only one candidate completed the e-learning evaluation survey, but they strongly agreed that the e-course improved their confidence for the CPG, that they knew what to expect from the CPG and what was expected of them, and that the practical exercises were useful. Additional comments were ‘I liked the way you could dip in and out, and importantly there was enough to allow you to be as in depth or shallow as you wanted to be. I found the course easy to follow and user-friendly’ and ‘probably the most useful I have had – having done a few in the past few years, this prepared me really well this time.’

Eight of the nine candidates completed the e-learning to some degree; 6 of the candidates completed over 75% of the course. One of the candidates unsuccessful at CPG did not complete any of the e-learning. VCA monitors the data in relation to course completion and results.

Candidates responded positively to the CPG, the majority agreeing that the exercises were interesting, challenging, and that feedback would help them improve their performance. A minority (22%) felt that they were unclear what skills the case study was testing. However, the role-play was regarded as positive for all questions by the majority.

The majority of respondents were satisfied that the Psychologist assessor had explained performance and behaviour and had developmental benefit. A recommendation for candidates is to meet with line managers, with notes of their discussion with the Psychologist, in order to build on this and determine next steps for learning and development.