At VCA we are in the privileged position of having been closely involved with the FRS across the UK for over 20 years, whilst remaining impartial and independent. We collaborate with a broad range of Services, either as our clients, through the increasingly popular Best Practice Networking events (which we facilitate) or our Best Practice/ Assessment Forum (with over 64 members from over 40 services).

Here is our perspective on this year from the work we have been engaged in.

From the CPG Assessments (Crew Manager to Strategic Manager – 10 FRS’s)

Case Study

Candidates are improving how they demonstrate certain key factors. For instance, they are more readily referencing the importance of evaluating progress, and identifying means to do so. They are more aware of the importance of managing team well-being, although often less clear on exactly how to approach it. Consideration for different approaches to learning and development still needs to improve; there is still a reliance on training courses as the main method, and although coaching might be mentioned, mentoring, buddying or shadowing are rarely identified as useful/ accessible ways to create learning opportunities. There seems to be a better understanding of opportunities for sharing best practice and seeking opportunities for partnership approaches. There has been a shift towards greater involvement of teams in generating ideas and solutions, although empowering them to deliver this still needs to be further embedded.


The majority of candidates approach the interaction using an open and approachable style, however the ones who complete the exercise most successfully are able to balance this with also being clear on expectations and addressing the more challenging aspects of the scenario sensitively, but directly. Although some candidates may still adopt a strong ‘tell’ style, a more consultative/ collaborative approach is now more prevalent. There seems to be further scope for developing conflict resolution skills, and for candidates to consider individual skills, motivations and preferences and tailoring approaches around these rather than taking a more blanket approach to generating solutions. There is generally a good orientation towards change and taking responsibility for this, although less clarity at times over some of the key mechanisms needed to support this.

From the Candidate Feedback Sessions

A strong majority of candidates are positive and appreciative about the opportunity to have a video-call feedback session.

They are open to reviewing their assessment performance in relation to their personal approach at work, and how this could be enhanced, for their own benefit and that of others. There tends to be good levels of self-reflection, and understanding of the value of a strengths- based approach, for themselves and the team.

There is still plenty of room for the development of a culture of positive, constructive and regular feedback, up and down, to be established; many individuals see this as something they receive from their managers but are less oriented to providing it, or encouraging ways to gain feedback themselves from team members at all levels. The majority feel that opportunities for constructive and regular feedback in the FRS are rare, although their own role in progressing this has often not been fully recognised.

There is generally a good level of interest in the discussion around behaviours and different leadership styles, and how these impact on team functioning.

From the Best Practice Networking Events

There’s a huge amount of commitment and resourcefulness across busy HR/ L&D departments, but also a heavy workload. Most teams are trying to implement a wide variety of initiatives aimed at improving practice around assessment, appraisal, morale, culture and performance.

There’s a lot of cross-over in processes being developed. There is plenty of scope for sharing what you’re working on, although how to achieve this isn’t always clear. With time pressures, it isn’t always prioritised, despite the opportunity this could present in terms of time saving.

It isn’t always clear what different initiatives will deliver. For instance, 360 feedback process can be costly and time-consuming, and the specifics on return on investment can be un-clear.

There are plenty of developments in the field, with pockets of progress on some areas which have traditionally been difficult to resolve, such as fair/relevant methods of assessment for promotions, objective appraisal or ‘career conversations’ processes, accelerated progression, and development planning.

For more information on the FRS Best Practice Forum and how to join, click here.

Further Ideas

We’re very keen on improving our own practice and the contribution we can make. Some suggestions for 2024.

  • Follow up Feedback Sessions – six months after the initial call.
    Objective – to follow up progress, reminder of objectives, coaching and discussion.
    Benefits – support and focus, contribute to positive morale through recognition of efforts and continued encouragement/ support for career aspirations and development of successful leadership behaviours in role.
  • Leadership Quality Workshops in Practice– small group, interactive, on-line sessions to support individual practical leadership development. For instance, ‘creating a positive team culture- proactive ways to support morale and well-being in your team’; ‘developing your team- creative approaches to learning and growth’; ‘Communicating well- presenting your views effectively in writing and in person’. It could be identified in their feedback reports if a candidate might benefit from this.
  • Best Practice Sharing ‘bite-sized’ Meetings– regular short workshops, each focused on a particular topic, to encourage idea generation, sharing of resources and practical support for HR/ L&D professionals with shared challenges. Small groups to facilitate on-going relationship building and collaboration.


Trending Improvements Observed in Assessment Candidates

Case study
• Recognition of effective ways to evaluate progress.
• Understanding the importance of managing team well-being.
• Recognising opportunities for sharing best practice and partnership approaches.
• Involving teams in generating ideas and solutions.

• Use of collaborative and approachable style.
• Identifying need to embrace change and taking responsibility for this.
• Recognition that discipline route is not necessarily the most appropriate.

Feedback Sessions
• Positive and appreciative attitude towards feedback.
• Open to reviewing their assessment performance and linking it to their personal approach at work.
• Self-reflection and understanding of the value of a strengths- based approach.
• Interest in discussions around behaviours and different leadership styles, and how these impact on team functioning.

Trending Areas for Development Observed in Assessment Candidates

Case Study
• Identifying how to manage team well-being in practice.
• Consideration of broader approaches to learning outside of training courses, e.g. mentoring, buddying, shadowing.

• Conflict resolution skills; addressing negative behaviour sensitively, yet with clear expectations/boundaries.
• Harnessing individual motivations and preferences and tailoring solutions to capitalise on these.
• Identifying own role in/autonomy to proactively support change.

Feedback Sessions
• Development of a consistent, embedded culture of positive, constructive and regular feedback (up and down).
• Understanding of responsibility to role model positive behaviours around work-life balance, well-being, feedback and support seeking.