Developing High Potential Leaders

Balfour Beatty WorkPlace


Balfour Beatty WorkPlace (BBW) recently underwent a strategic review. The result was a change in focus from an engineering business to a total facilities management (TFM) company. The change in strategy was reinforced by the arrival of a new Managing Director and a goal to be within the top 3 TFM companies in the UK. In reality this meant targeting new markets, new clients and developing new ways of working. This, in turn, meant there were implications for the future people skills which were clearly different to those the company had acquired in the previous 100 years.

The gap area identified was at the level of General Manager and Area Manager. A real talent pool of potential leaders needed to be created to fill these positions but it was not just about creating a talent pool, these leaders also needed to think differently. This meant not just ‘fixing’ something but building relationships with clients and colleagues, stepping into a new world in which middle managers actually needed to manage strategically and lead the business rather than being fixers of day-to-day operational issues. The key was to develop a group of people who could support the growth and profitability of BBW through this period of significant change.


People in the business were identified by their Directors through the Top 3 Leadership Framework as having the potential to take up Area Manager and General Manager roles within 18-24 months. Initially this was targeted at operations but has now been extended to the functional levels. A twelve month Developing Leaders (DL) Programme was created including a development centre, 360 degree feedback and two leadership modules delivered by Values Based Leadership.

Selected candidates took part in a two day development centre, a feedback-rich environment, purpose designed to reflect 48 hours in the life of an Area or General Manager. It included a number of role plays and 360 degree feedback. Following from this, all candidates took part in two modules of a Leadership Development Programme. The first highly experiential module focussed on personal leadership style and impact with leaders both leading and being led in a high pressure environment that simulates their work experience. The second follow-up module conducted a second 360 degree feedback on leadership styles and reviewed progress, learning and results and added further additional leadership skills on leading change.


The Developing Leaders programme has just completed its fourth year. The original aim was to develop people to Area/General Manager within two years and results have been impressive:

  • 88% of people who participated during the first three years of the programme have been promoted to at least Area/General Manager level, with 42% achieving more senior roles. This represents a business saving of at least £300,000 on external recruitment costs.
  • BBW also has a pool of people who are moving to more senior roles with a high existing level of knowledge and experience of the business.
  • It has created a talent pool of people ready for promotion, is a motivator for aspiring attendees and has aided in staff retention.