Mott MacDonald - developing emerging leaders

Mott MacDonald is a global engineering, management and development consultancy headquartered in Croydon, UK. The largest privately-owned (by its employees) business of its kind, Mott MacDonald has over 17,000 employees and runs projects in over 120 countries around the world.

Emerging Leaders offers our rising stars an exciting, inspirational journey. It’s given the business a globally consistent programme that protects our future as an industry leader and secures the Mott MacDonald legacy.

Tania Heap, Group People Director and member of the Steering Committee at Mott MacDonald

A need for radical change

In response to a radically changing competitive landscape and a technology revolution, which threaten the company’s market dominance, Mott MacDonald wanted to develop people with skills and experience to guide and sustain change. “As with any large business, we must consider the speed of change in our markets, to identify what we need to strengthen for the future. We developed the approach for Emerging Leaders to make sure that our leadership increased in quality and was able to take the business forward for future generations.” explains Doug Wilson, General Manager, Global Development & Africa.

Emerging Leaders was designed to accelerate the pipeline of future leaders to join the Top 200 in the next 7 years, by…

  • Identifying people with potential to succeed at the most senior levels of leadership
  • Building the leadership capabilities of people with drive, resilience and self-belief
  • Strengthening the succession pipeline
  • Adopting a purposeful approach to career development
  • Improving retention

The Solution

  • An innovative end-to-end career development journey

    Rather than a traditional, finite leadership programme, Mott MacDonald created a career development journey to be delivered “by the business, for the business”.

    As Programme Director Paul Smith recalls “We wanted a genuine, collaborative and positive partnership. We knew this wasn’t going to be a standard leadership development programme. It needed to be something very different. The relationship with Lane4 has been robust, even challenging at times, and that has contributed to a genuinely new, exciting and innovative programme.”

    The goal was to create a development programme that would give people ownership for their leadership career journey. Together we designed a new and innovative approach, targeting a global population with significant logistical and cultural challenges around development, engagement and support.

    This involved:

    1. Leadership development – Participants across the world experienced a comprehensive 18-month blended learning programme, supported by a network of senior Mott MacDonald leaders acting as career coaches. This significantly deepens self-awareness and builds leadership capability.

    2. Career development – The focus then shifts, with a purposeful approach to building critical experiences and applied skills through on-the-job development, as people transition through roles towards senior leadership. This is an integral part of Mott MacDonald’s succession management approach.

    Lane4 knew that to change behaviour, the programme needed to help people with different learning preferences prepare, learn and apply lessons back in the workplace. These three distinct learning phases included a blend of activities – diagnostics, curated content and pre-reading, webinar content, social learning, face to face events and experiential learning, 1:1 coaching and peer support.

    Identifying the right people through a virtual development centre Delegate selection starts with a thorough online application process combined with face-to-face interviews. Candidates then attend an online development centre and undertake an online interview, a situational judgement test and a personality test. Using the evaluation data, the final candidates are chosen after a final face-to-face interview.

  • About the programme

    The 18-month programme provides these emerging leaders with practical tools and experience, based on core principles:

    • Creating stronger networks across the business. Regular opportunities for interaction between delegates in large groups, and in intimate ‘active learning groups’. There are face-to-face meetings, webinars and one-to-one coaching sessions with Mott MacDonald’s senior leaders.
    • Helping busy people learn and develop, fast. Course materials are designed in easily digestible chunks, with each chunk supported by guided investigation, analysis or reflection to embed the lessons learnt.
    • Accelerating learning through immersion. The launch event activities were designed to simulate real leadership situations, heightening delegates’ receptiveness to the principles being taught.
    • Making it memorable. Intense learning experiences like wheelchair basketball and an acting workshop were designed to stick in the mind, acting as mnemonic triggers for information recall.
    • Putting theory into practice. Modules relate to the everyday challenges faced by delegates. Coaching, individually and in action learning groups, assists the application of course content into the workplace.
    • Making it internationally inclusive. Delegates are located worldwide, so the programme had to work across time zones, calling for robust and accessible web-based course content and interactive learning.
    • Providing stretch. Every element of the programme encourages delegates to step outside their comfort zone

Key benefits of the programme

Emerging Leaders is already achieving results in terms of identifying, equipping and nurturing the next generation of leaders:

    • Identifying future leaders: 120 future leaders are already actively involved in this programme, with a further 60 about to begin.
    • Building leadership capability: A survey of cohort 1 showed 90% ‘agree/strongly agree’ that the programme has enhanced their leadership skills. All leadership dimensions have improved* since the start of the programme, according to delegates’ own rating and their line managers, peers, direct reports and team members.
    • Strengthened succession pipeline: 56% of cohort 1 have been promoted since the programme began. There is a very high perception* amongst delegates of having ‘opportunities to develop’ (average 5.91 out of 7) as well as a very high desire to ‘seek and pursue opportunities’ (average 5.86 out of 7). That is, they see opportunities and go for them!
    • Purposeful approach to career development: 95% of delegates in cohort 1 agree that the programme has helped them define their leadership career objectives more clearly.
    • Improving retention: Delegates are much more engaged than the rest of the population (70% vs 54%)

* Source: The High Potential Leader 360 diagnostic (measured pre-programme and then re-measured after participation).

Paul Smith sums up the impact already being felt across the business “What really excites me about this programme, is, it’s managed to achieve so much more than we originally expected. It’s been the catalyst for a leadership programme for our existing senior leaders and developed a fantastic level of coaching capability across our organisation. By the end of this year we’ll have 180 people actively engaged as Emerging Leaders across the organisation. It has been like throwing a stone into a pond, it’s created these fantastic ripples of positive disruption that certainly exceeded all of our expectations.”

  • 90% of delegates agreed that their leadership capabilities had been significantly improved since being part of the Emerging Leaders programme.
  • Winner of the Brandon Hall Gold Award for Best Use of a Blended Learning Programme 2019.

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