Human Qualities - Discover the potential within

Case Study


Talent Development Centres - a tool to break the glass ceiling?
By Clara Kirwan, Occupational Psychologist, Human Qualities


As leading experts in Talent Development Centres, Human Qualities has collected Development Centre performance data from more than 500 managers and professionals globally. Our latest research, based on the analysis of this data, has resulted in some interesting findings, with significant implications for the way organisations search for Talent.


Our initial analysis revealed that leadership frameworks across the large global organisations cluster into seven key areas seen as critical for successful senior leadership. These range from interpersonal areas such as ‘Communication, Influencing and Negotiating skills’ to areas more strategic in focus such as ‘Driving Innovation and Change’. This initial profiling enabled some useful benchmarking across different sectors and provided the basis for some further investigation into leadership trends and practices.


One aspect we explored was gender difference in performance. It was interesting to find that females scored significantly higher than males in the cluster areas of ‘Communication, Influencing & Negotiating Skills’ and ’Teamwork, Leadership & Relationship Skills’. In the other five leadership clusters, there were no significant differences between males and females and therefore males did not score better on any of the other areas. We know these findings support a multitude of research into gender differences in workplace behaviours such as studies showing a link between women's more highly developed social and emotional skills and charismatic leadership or the studies which have demonstrated that women are more likely to adopt a collaborative negotiation style.


Our research clearly demonstrates that females have some key leadership strengths which, if effectively harnessed, can lead to benefits for an organisation. Yet, it is still undoubtedly the case that females hold fewer leadership positions than males. In the UK specifically, women hold only 28% of directorships, despite making up 46.7% of the overall UK workforce. Indeed, only 21% of participants on our development centres (targeted at high potential individuals) were female, perhaps highlighting the need for organisations to become more balanced in their view of future leadership talent across their businesses and look at identifying talent earlier in order to build an effective talent pipeline.


Our research findings endorse the fact that Talent Development Centres not only reflect and corroborate real life phenomena, but are a crucial mechanism for organisations to identify, and develop, their emerging stars. This research highlights again just how essential it is for organisations to unlock the potential of all their future leaders and strike a gender balance when developing their talent management practices.


As part of our research, we also analysed this data looking at nationality, region, function and job level. If you would like to find out more so that you can benchmark your own organisation's practices, we would be delighted to share this with you. Contact us on

Human Qualities - Discover the potential within