Recommended a ‘Design by Delivery’ approach, with MBA style programme delivered over 12+ months


Post-programme 360 feedback data showed rise in all competencies while next engagement survey scores also indicated improved perceptions around career development



South East Water (SEW) has partnered with ETS to run their engagement survey for several years. One survey highlighted the need for them to focus on development and career progression to improve their employee experience. The same survey also uncovered a perception of some inconsistency across the business in how they measure talent and offer career progression.

SEW was quick to act on these insights, incorporating three key people objectives into their corporate plan – to define talent with a consistent approach, identify and retain talent and develop skills required to deliver their strategic plan. As a trusted partner, they invited ETS to propose a development programme, which would be run first for a small group of senior managers from across SEW, with a view to then being rolled out to other populations in future.



Our business psychologists worked closely with the SEW organisational development team to understand their context and aspirations before co-creating the content together. This ensured every aspect of the programme was tailor-made to address SEW’s specific requirements.

We led stakeholder interviews, focus groups and a further diagnostic (bespoke assessment for development centre) with delegates to pinpoint development areas that would have the biggest impact, both for individuals and SEW overall. This revealed five areas of opportunity around leading people, influence and impact, strategic focus, change management and business acumen.

Having collated findings, ETS provided 1:1 delegate debriefs, and a group playback to the Executive Team, to gain buy-in. From there, the design work began. Our recommendation was for a ‘Design by Delivery’ approach, with an MBA style programme lasting for 12-18 months.

The programme was split into three stages: ‘Leading myself and other people’; ‘Leading the business’ and ‘Leading with an outside focus’. Within each, modules addressed the requirements set out by SEW’s business objectives. For example, ‘Business Culture and Change’, ‘Building a Business Case’, ‘Managing Finances’ and ‘Learning from Across the Business’.  

Learning was multi-faceted with cross-sectional talent working in teams on projects to benefit SEW and the community. Projects such as the educational ‘Aquasmart’ initiative were presented back to the executive board mid-programme. Other elements included shadowing to broaden knowledge and reduce ‘silo’ working and facilitated face-to-face and expert-led sessions.

Most of the content was delivered by ETS, with a small number of SEW-specific modules delivered by in-house experts. We flexed from face-to-face to virtual learning during Covid peaks and ETS provided extra 1:1 check-ins to maintain momentum and focus on personal development.


We are delighted to have partnered with ETS to deliver a comprehensive bespoke programme aimed at future proofing our business, whilst supporting our employees with their career development. Ensuring we nurture our internal talent by equipping them with the knowledge, skills and practical experience has contributed towards effective succession planning whilst supporting our ambitious business plan, all of which is underpinned by our vision and purpose.

SEW Organisational Development Team


It was important to SEW to quantify the impact of the programme. All materials linked back to those three key organisational objectives.

Furthermore, its success was to be largely assessed by the outputs of a 360 feedback process, along with qualitative coaching outputs. Participants completed a 360 feedback cycle and coaching before the programme to obtain a base measure of competencies, and this was reprised straight afterwards, providing rich data to gauge progress.


Business Impact

The post-programme 360 exercise showed a shift upwards across all seven SEW competencies measured (see adjacent table) and, notably, a significant uplift around ‘seeing the bigger picture.’ This was considered particularly relevant to SEW’s aim of ‘doing more for less.’
Further evidence of the programme’s impact came from SEW’s engagement survey scores relating to career development. Survey results after the programme showed a significant +7% section score increase when compared with the previous survey.