PPM-Yay: Bristol brings home the trophy for top transformation


23 May 2019

PPM-Yay: Bristol brings home the trophy for top transformation

Penna client Bristol City Council won big at the PPMA awards this year, securing the Best  HR/OD Transformation Programme Award. The judges recognised the merit of their transformative SLT restructure and the Penna facilitated values-driven recruitment campaign. Here’s how our partnership stole the show.

Bristol City Council had an ambitious plan to restructure its senior leadership team and develop a values-led culture.  

This wasn’t just a recruitment exercise, it was a holistic cultural transformation. The new team were pivotal in shaping and leading the organisation’s culture, exhibiting shared values and a leadership style to help build a council to be proud of.  

Top talent was proving difficult to retain across the public sector, and Bristol had felt the impact. To achieve the desired senior leadership team culture, clear development pathways, a strong EVP and communications strategy were crucial for true talent retention.  

A partnership, and a plan:

A project team was quickly assembled. HR, OD and communications specialists led by John Walsh, Director of Workforce and Change, joined  Penna in mapping out the cultural change and transformation project. 

The existing 25 director roles  were slimmed down to 16 collaborative, values-led and technically focused roles. Recruitment began in earnest.

Our search strategy saw us connect with passive candidates who were not actively looking for a new role. The target audience was high-calibre, change driven, innovative people who were passionate about public service.  

Creative communications:

Penna in collaboration with the council, designed an ambitious recruitment and attraction plan which guided internal stakeholders and future leaders along the way.

The external recruitment campaign was designed with a focus on a positive candidate experience:

- ‘One City – limitless potential’ campaign creative and microsite with a focus on Bristol’s ambition

- Targeted and cost effective online and social media advertising to reach out to active job seekers and a diverse audience

- Engagement from Mayor of Bristol – including blog posts, recruitment video and an interactive webinar to give potential candidates a real insight into Bristol as a place to live and work.

As one candidate remarked, it was this clear communication of “the values and ambitious vision for the city [which] drew me to apply”  

Bristol campaign imagery

A targeted paid-social programmatic campaign, run in-house at Penna, ensured that high-level and diverse candidates engaged with Bristol’s executive recruitment.

Internally, it was imperative that the whole workforce and stakeholders fully understood the rationale for change and were kept updated on progress. The emphasis was always on an improved culture, and better outcomes for residents as a result of the  programme.

219 applications later…

It was time to select and assess.

Longlisted candidates underwent a robust technical interview with a sector expert. Shortlisted candidates were invited to an assessment centre and final panel interview.

Personality profiling, candidate videos, written, interactive leadership scenarios, an informal meeting with the Mayor and an interview with a partner stakeholder panel all blended into a specially designed assessment centre. Designed and delivered by the Penna team, the centre truly tested our candidate’s leadership potential in the Bristol context.

The results were presented to the cross-party selection committee as part of the final panel interview. 10 appointments were made, including three internal promotions.

The new team are now taking part in a co-created development programme to help them work together effectively to deliver on the ambitions for the city.

An award-winning result:

In the words of the LGA;

“This team are offering much needed leadership to the council’s workforce. They have adopted and demonstrated daily the core values BCC has set for its staff. This refreshing new style must be allowed to prosper.”

An organisation on-board with culture change, a  reduction in management costs, a strong new senior leadership team  and a  council well-placed  to fulfil its future ambitions. The positive impact of the new leadership team in Bristol is already being felt.  

Penna were pleased to be part of Bristol’s transformation story and award-winning journey. We are experts in delivering and planning transformation agendas, and executive recruitment. To find out more about Penna’s offer please email Julie.Towers@Penna.com.