Case study

Developing High Potential Talent At Scottish Water


Scottish Water provides water and sewerage services to the whole of Scotland. They are accountable to the public through the Scottish Government. YSC Consulting partnered with Scottish Water to develop a robust and consistent approach to identifying individuals with short and long-term leadership potential across the business, building the foundation for individual development journeys in the process.

With high retention rates and high levels of employee engagement, Scottish Water had identified the need to grow their leadership talent pool, to accelerate progression to leadership roles and to build the succession pipeline. Increasing the visibility of this breadth of talent to senior stakeholders was a key aim. A direct objective of the program was an appropriate managed move for participants.

A number of challenges were considered, including:

  • Upholding Scottish Water’s value of all employees having talent, while making decisions about leadership potential.
  • Kick-starting individual development journeys in preparation for a two-year accelerated development program.
  • Taking a partnership approach to build line manager and HR capability internally to identify and develop leadership potential.
  • Managing the logistics of tight project timelines to meet the business need.
  • Engaging senior leaders through aggregate analysis of the population.

Building on Scottish Water’s newly refreshed and integrated talent strategy, the solution utilized YSC’s expertise in identifying and developing leaders. At the same time, it was important to grow the internal capability of Scottish Water leaders in this area, which also informed the overall approach. For rigor, consistency and external benchmarking, the identification process was underpinned by YSC’s JDI Model of Potential.

Input around the model enabled senior Scottish Water ‘Talent Spotters’ to shortlist a pilot group to take part in an individual developmental assessment. This consisted of online psychometrics and a semi-structured interview with a YSC consultant followed by a written feedback report and follow-up feedback and coaching session. From this group, a smaller cohort was selected to take part in the Future Leaders Program. Line managers received input on how to interpret the feedback and shape development plans for all individuals in their different contexts.

Following the assessments, high level and in-depth aggregate analyses were conducted to understand common development and cultural themes across the group and to evaluate against wider industry benchmarks.

YSC also resourced Scottish Water to provide specific development for their leaders through:

  • Workshop input on the theme of storytelling and leadership.
  • JDI 360 surveys and one to one feedback for a senior cohort of future leaders.
  • A development guide for individuals and line managers full of creative and practical ideas and resources.

Observed benefits have included:

  • Ten managed job moves, including six promotions, in the first six months of the Future Leaders Program. All of these represented significant leadership transitions.
  • An increased focus on and time devoted to leadership talent and succession within the Executive Leadership Team.
  • Initial positive performance against Scottish Water’s leadership talent metrics, including demographics (with younger and more female participants than the wider peer group), directorate succession plans, retention rates and 100% completion of development plans for both programs.
  • Positive feedback from the wider business resulted in a repeat of the process the following year, refreshing both the talent audit and Future Leaders Program.
  • Initial high-level themes informed the focus of the Future Leaders Program design and ensure relevance to participants
  • Further analysis informed the business of how the population benchmarks against other organizations and wider market trends.

“YSC has added real value to our leadership talent identification process through the use of the JDI model of potential and robust and insightful candidate assessments. It has been a pleasure working with the team at YSC – they are professional, efficient and refreshingly easy to do business with.”

Strategy, Leadership and Talent Lead