Centrica fast-tracks its potential leaders

Top-performing middle managers at utility firm Centrica are being
fast-tracked through a central development centre set up to identify the
leaders of tomorrow.

Kay Penney, talent management director at Centrica, told the conference the
centre was established following research which highlighted shortfalls in its
previous approach to developing high performers and future leaders.

The study, based on a group of eight high achievers, reveals that while they
all had strong technical and intellectual abilities, they lacked basic people

Now all managers earmarked with leadership potential are put through the
development centre, which is designed to highlight the full range of
individuals’ strengths and weaknesses, including how they relate to their

The leadership candidates take part in a three-day exercise where they are
set a project which concludes with all candidates giving a 30-minute
presentation to 40 frontline staff.

Penney said the development centre is helping Centrica identify and fully
exploit the potential in its most talented staff. "We have a huge amount
of unfulfilled potential and we need to work out how to measure it and maximise
it," she said.

Only one of the 110 middle managers who have undertaken the programme so far
has proved to have outstanding leadership skills.

The company identified five people as having the potential to be outstanding
leaders and 33 with the potential to be a senior executive.

High-potential staff are fast-tracked centrally and given access to mentors
and development initiatives while the rest are handed back to local HR.

Centrica split from British Gas in 1997 and changed its business focus
through acquisitions of firms such as AA and Goldfish and now has Britain’s
largest customer base of around 19 million.

By Ross Wigham

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