Case study: Hargreaves Lansdown

Organisational transformation

About Hargreaves Lansdown

Hargreaves Lansdown (HL) is a FTSE 100 financial services company and provides the UK’s number one platform for private investors. The firm has over £120 billion assets under administration for more than 1.5 million clients and employs over 1,700 people. HL is a highly entrepreneurial business and has grown fast over the past 5 years, doubling its clients, assets under administration and profit. In early 2020, HL recognised the need to ensure that the business had the collective leadership capability required to continue its growth whilst maintaining its excellent reputation for client service and delivery. Additionally, HL is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and as such needed to provide evidence of its leadership and governance capability and its plans to maintain and develop an effective leadership group.

What did we do?

Partnering with the CPO and Head of Talent, Edgecumbe first defined what leadership needed to look like to achieve HL’s future vision. Following internal research with key stakeholders within the leadership population, we produced a set of leadership behaviours under the framework of Edgecumbe’s Primary Colours® Leadership Model. Using Edgecumbe’s model gave HL the benefit of an evidence-based and memorable framework which will have longevity and the ability to embed as a shared language due to its task-focus and simplicity. Creating the behaviours underneath the tasks of the model ensured that HL’s context was translated into the Talent processes which would help to implement the model. This became HL’s own leadership model: Leading the HL Way.

We next designed an assessment process to support HL in gathering a ‘bench strength’ audit of their current leadership capability and to begin the process of individual, team and collective leadership development. The assessment process reflected HL’s leadership, had a developmental impact and was designed, communicated and delivered to the top 120 leaders within 9 months.

Developmental assessments were conducted in two main cohorts and after each phase Edgecumbe produced a ‘Bench Strength Report’. This report analysed the data from the assessments and produced insights into collective leadership capability and gaps, as well as implications for HL’s culture, resource planning, recruitment strategy, leadership development and talent strategies, and D&I strategy. Information from the bench strength analysis was also used for Board and FCA reporting.

Themes from the assessment data and individual development plans reflected a need for improvement in leaders’ coaching and collaboration capabilities. This led us to develop a group coaching initiative. We formed Action Learning Sets, drawing together leaders from across the business to provide group coaching on real business issues, to develop participants’ skills, and to strengthen social networks across organisational boundaries.

As part of embedding the leadership model, we also supported HL to apply the framework to their promotion and recruitment processes, designing and deliver these assessments as well. Edgecumbe is now working with HL on its leadership development strategy, and we continue to provide recruitment assessments and regular follow-up 360-degree feedback to track the development of leaders post assessment.

What were the outcomes?

Diversity and inclusion

The HL team had highlighted a need to increase diversity within their leadership team and the collective leadership assessment analysis provided hard evidence of the lack of diversity and some of the likely challenges this was causing the business. This data helped the D&I team to influence the business and since HL adopted the assessment process within their internal and external selection, and promotion processes we are pleased to report that they have shown a significant increase in diversity, particularly gender diversity, within their leadership population.

Leadership effectiveness

Comparison of 360-degree feedback data provided during the initial assessment process with that provided 12 months later, showed an overall small but statistically significant 3% increase in leadership effectiveness as rated by all colleagues and senior leaders specifically rated the leaders they are responsible for 4% more effective. The ratings within the interpersonal domain of the leadership model showed the largest increase across the leadership population of 4%. This is an indication of the positive impact of this process; the areas of Creating Cross-Business Alignment and Empowered & Inclusive Team Working were targeted specifically for improvement within HL’s objectives for our work as they relate to some of the structural and procedural issues HL had been challenged with.

Employee engagement

Overall employee engagement has increased by three points between May 2020 and June 2021. Coaching from managers is one of the most improved areas since May 2020, as is receiving regular, useful feedback. These improvements could represent positive impacts from this process and its emphasis on helping leaders to view the development of people as a primary function of their role; something that this process has supported them to achieve.

Leadership development

We asked HL’s leaders for feedback following their assessments and found that 97% felt able to clarify the key points of focus for their development. Two months after the end of the assessment and feedback process, over 90% of leaders had a leadership development plan in place. HL’s Head of Learning & Development confirms that line managers have been heavily engaged in conversations with their direct reports about their development plans and this represents a step forward for HL’s leadership development. External research suggests that having high-quality plans in place alongside management involvement will significantly increase the likelihood of behavioural change and resultant positive impacts.

Business impacts from group coaching

Feedback following group coaching showed positive impacts on leaders’ internal networks and collaboration across teams, their ability to find effective solutions to challenges they face, and their coaching skills.

There were also many individual comments about positive impacts, such as:

I have made meaningful changes to my team structure and my role and responsibilities which has meant my working environment is now much more productive and my team more empowered and motivated.

It provided the space and time to clarify problems, and the probing and incisive Qs others asked you helped lead to tangible improvement in how things are looking.

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Hear from HL

Working with Edgecumbe has been a highly collaborative partnership. Together we have creatively solved problems and executed solutions that have shifted the leadership capability at HL. Edgecumbe have challenged our ways of thinking and working, whilst listening to our goals and requirements and delivering over and above our expectations. They take a professional, expert and pragmatic approach that gets to the heart of the problem and makes execution easy. Their team are all highly professional and I have received consistently high standards from everyone I have worked with.

Anna Langdon, Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Talent

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