The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) was created in 2001 from the merger of 72 Training and Enterprise Councils, which were part of the Department for Education and Skills, and the Further Education Funding Council.
The LSC's mission is to transform the education of people aged over 16. It aims to achieve this by acting as a broker between employers and educational establishments. It works with businesses to discover the skills that are needed, and then provides funding to colleges to run courses that will provide those skills. It has 4,000 staff - 90 of whom are in the HR department.
David Russell, national resources director, recalls that, by 2003, the LSC had run into difficulties. "We lacked leadership throughout the organisation and so were merely maintaining, rather than transforming, post-16 education," he says. "Businesses didn't feel we understood their needs, and various lobby groups were making their disappointment at our performance known to government ministers."
He points out that the first chief executive, John Harwood, did an excellent job of managing the largest ever public sector merger, and establishing a new organisation. Russell believes that Harwood coped admirably with having 47 local directors and seven national directors reporting directly to him. Harwood retired in 2003, leaving the LSC with the job of finding a new leader to take it forward.
In April 2004, the LSC placed advertisements in the national press and then hired Veredus, a firm of recruitment consultants, to help it reduce the 60 applications to a shortlist of six.
"Most of our applications had been from the public sector, but some on the shortlist were private-sector candidates. We found it hard to evaluate them because their experience was so different from that of the public-sector candidates," Russell says.
He brought in business psychology firm OCG to conduct interviews with the candidates. In these interviews, the psychologists prompted candidates to discuss their childhoods, early careers, emotional relationships, fundamental motivations, and other personal issues.
Russell and his panel then used the reports from these psychological interviews to structure the questions they asked in two subsequent, more traditional interviews.
"We had used other occupational psychologists before, but found their reports to