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The partnership that defied convention


When Ideal Standard’s HR Director considered inviting in an external resourcing business to interview the company’s talent, colleagues elsewhere thought he’d “be nuts” to do so. But this is exactly what happened when Jonathan Edge (pictured above) approached Vana HR Resourcing to assess Ideal Standard’s talent pool, and their suitability and potential to progress upwards through the company.

We asked Jonathan to share the story from his perspective.

What prompted this approach, and your decision to work with Vana HR Resourcing?

JE: Ideal Standard has moved in the last three years from a long period of famine as almost all our work is predicated on the building industry. We’ve seen a significant uplift in our business, but this has come on the back of years of redundancies and under-investment in training and development.

I joined in late 2015 with a brief to equip the organisation for growth. With no training or succession plans in place, we undertook a full succession process and found lots of critical gaps with even fewer successors. We then sought to create a talent pool and develop these individuals with a succession plan in mind. Several development modules were run over 18 months for this group, and the final module concentrated on their own career choices which culminated in the delegates, after 2 days of contemplation, landing on their next role of interest.

I’d already worked with Vana on search and selection exercises in my last two organisations. I’ve always found them to operate very differently from the majority of recruiters (in particular they’re honest, care about the placements, give good insight and advice, and most importantly represent both myself and the organisation positively). It was at this point in the process where they came in.

What was Vana Resourcing’s brief?

JE: The brief was twofold:

  • Firstly, through interviewing individuals against a profile for their next role, we asked Vana whether they would actually shortlist each person for the role of their choosing.
  • Secondly, and more importantly for Ideal Standard, was to externally benchmark our talent pool. This saw Vana creating a short report for each individual interviewed. This information was vital for conducting the talent review with the UK board and taking the decision whether or not to invest in the future development of the individual and, if so, their development plan. 

How was this initiative presented to those being assessed? What was their reaction?

JE: We presented this to delegates at the final career module in a very careful and considerate manner given the potential reaction from the group. It was offered as an opportunity for their development and a chance to receive some first rate feedback from an external perspective where they were calibrated against non-Ideal Standard employees. The reaction was mixed; for most it was nervous excitement, and inevitably lots of questions for us about who Vana Resourcing were and our relationship with them. A few individuals were very worried and spoke later in more detail about the process. One participant however was on maternity leave but still met with Vana to conduct the interview!

What overall did you learn from this exercise?

JE: Our main learning regarded the value of most of our talent group. What was particularly interesting from the assessment activity was an external view on their flight risk and also external worth in the marketplace based on Vana’s experience with candidates in general. Whilst I wasn’t specifically looking for insight on Ideal Standard’s culture, having worked with Vana before, I took the opportunity to ask for their views on the company. What I had back was an interesting perspective on our sales function in particular and how they operated together, and this added value to perspectives on Ideal Standard that I’ve received from other consultants.

What positive outcomes did you see from this process? 

JE: All delegates were very positive following their meeting with Vana. They’ve commented on the investment Ideal Standard has made in them through the talent process and Vana’s feedback. The information was a valuable addition to the talent review we conducted in early September. Interestingly, one unintended consequence from this process is the value that individuals have now placed on themselves. This may well have come from the talent programme, but it’s become more apparent since Vana’s interviews. People are more self-confident which has led to more managers highlighting flight risks – however, as yet, we have still to lose anyone to another organisation.

Would you recommend this process? 

JE: This is the first time I‘ve ever done this. I have colleagues in other organisations who would be understandably wary of allowing in recruiters to interview their talent pool, but because my relationship with Jo and Debbie at Vana is one built on trust, I had no such concerns. Given the success of the process, and the reaction from delegates, I would definitely do this again and recommend other organisations consider likewise.

So, in conclusion, how was this experience from Vana’s perspective? Co-Director, Debbie Flowers, offers her thoughts.

I’ve enjoyed working with Jon for some years in various organisations, but when he invited us to play a key role in Ideal Standard’s internal talent programme – their first – it was a huge honour.

Whilst we’re used to assessing senior talent, this was something quite different. Jon was incorporating a new modular aspect; for Ideal Standard’s talent to be interviewed and assessed by me on their readiness for a trajectory role, enabling individuals to gain an insight for themselves on their experience and potential, and for Ideal Standard to consider an external market view on their profile. We were also evaluating a cohort that spanned HR, Finance, Sales, and Customer Service roles. 

This was an incredibly fulfilling project for two reasons:

  1. The people I met: what talent programme participants had in common was that they were all on a voyage of personal discovery (I sensed it was the first time they’d looked at themselves this closely). Whilst initially perhaps sceptical about this module, I think they found it refreshing to discuss their career and potential with someone outside Ideal Standard, and how they might pursue their own personal development to compliment the direction that the company was taking.  
  2. Jon’s a great guy to work with, and I know he was genuinely passionate about this talent programme. It was clear that this positivity extended to the talent cohort who appreciated the investment being made in them by Ideal Standard, and the opportunity for self-assessment and meaningful personal/career development.

Overall, it was a great project to be involved in, and we’d happily welcome another similar opportunity!


If you’d like to understand more about how Vana Resourcing delivered this work for Ideal Standard, and how this approach could work in your organisation, please contact Jo or Debbie – either by phone (01225 487201), email (, or via LinkedIn.