BI capability development programme
Please click here to view the latest communication (15 June 2016)
This programme has been running since the Autumn of 2013 and Prospect has been talking to BT and members throughout the programme.
If you have now failed the assessment centre twice please contact our Helpdesk for advice on 020 8971 6060
Members across the BI and PPM communities will be aware that BT has announced that there is now a requirement to obtain a ‘licence to practice’ within these roles by passing a half day assessment centre and that failure to do so at reassessment will mean individuals cannot remain in their current BI/PPM role.
People who have failed their reassessment are now being told they must leave their current role (and get some support to find a new role in a different area of work) or take a leaver package. This has not been agreed with Prospect.
As you would expect, we have tried very hard to get BT to change this position. Much to our regret we have been unable to persuade BT that this is potentially a very destructive distraction for individuals and BT.
We are also aware that conversations needed to take place between people who had failed the reassessment in BI and their line managers. Prospect did not feel it was right for these people to find out the situation from the union first. We felt it important that BT itself conveyed this message.
If you have yet to undertake an assessment/ reassessment make sure you take action as set out futher down this page. As most of this programme has now been completed for BI, we are leaving this advice available but would steer people towards the PPM pages and FAQs for the most recent information.
Concerns and alternatives
Drawing directly on feedback from our members and their managers in both BI and PPM, we have a number of concerns and issues around these programmes. We have tried throughout to offer constructive suggestions to BT to address these including:
- Treatment of double fails – our firm preference (and we had thought was the established position with BT) is to ensure these were looked at on a case by case basis rather than having just two options. We are now seeing the nature of the issues among those who have failed the reassessment and this has confirmed that a case by case approach would be fairer.
- Mismatch between the generic job standards and the requirements of an individual’s day job – it is apparent that some capabilities tested at the assessment centre are simply not part of some individuals’ day jobs. Judging from the cases we are seeing these areas tend to be where individuals are failing – especially at reassessment. We believe this issue has to be addressed – relevance of the generic standards to day jobs should be established before the assessment centres; remapping of existing role should also be considered – especially where someone has been consistently delivering in their role but now faces being removed from it.
- The pass/fail nature of the assessment centre is seen as negative. We have suggested instead that accreditation could be done more positively by allowing individuals to accumulate credits against relevant individual capabilities (drawing on evidence from the day job) over a period of time. This would be more positive, development focussed and recognise that not all jobs do everything in the standards all the time. It could also avoid very marginal fails by using evidence of performance in the day job. So, the business could continue but folk could gather different experience and learning across the capabilities in line with business requirements.
- The relationship with performance management. We have managed to stop any automatic DN ratings after a first fail. However, it now seems apparent that some line managers of those who have failed a reassessment have been told to mark people DN regardless of performance in the day job. In our view that is not justifiable and deeply unfair especially when these people are now being removed from their current roles.
We have other issues around the level at which the standards are set and the content of the assessment centre and reassessment programmes.
Our members have also raised concerns with us that the maths test and other elements may be potentially discriminatory on grounds of age. BT has told us that they have looked at this very carefully and have denied that there is. We will of course look very carefully at any individual cases where people believe they may have experienced any form of discrimination on the grounds of a protected characteristic.
Advice to members
We are aware that the announcements around a ‘licence to practice’ and the consequences of a failed reassessment may have raised levels of anxiety around this programme. That is hugely regrettable and is something we have discussed with BT.
In the union's opinion - shared by many members - this is a process that will be disproportionately stressful. It is likely to raise levels of anxiety whilst adding little or nothing of concrete value to our members' working lives or careers, or to the standard of work members do for the company.
We know that people in these communities are already working very hard to deliver key projects for BT. Adding the pressure of these assessment centres and the concerns about the consequences of a failed reassessment into that mix will add no clear value. We will be urging BT to monitor this process and its impact on those who fail, from a health and well-being perspective.
Meanwhile please ensure you do the following:
- Check the generic BI standards against the actual requirements of your day job and make clear in writing to your line manager any mismatch between the two especially if there are things in the standard that you are not required to do in your day job.
- If you don’t think your role actually matches BI then ask HR to do a mapping check of the job. Do this in writing.
- Talk to your line manager about what development work and support you will need to make sure you are in the best position to pass the assessment centre and make sure that this is planned and accounted for in your workstack. BT has said this is a requirement to stay in your role so you should be given time to do this preparation as part of your day job.
- Discuss the programme amongst your team and ensure that any team concerns are reflected back up through the line.
- Doing a regular stress MOT should be BAU in BT so consider taking a Stream risk assessment test. You could also discuss stress levels and mutual support as a team.
If members need individual advice – especially if they have failed the BI reassessment - then contact our Helpdesk on 020 8971 6060 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We will provide every support to members who are in this situation.
Performance management implications
Obviously many people were concerned that a fail in the Assessment Centre would automatically result in a ‘Development Needed’ mark regardless of the performance in the day job. From what we can see, that hasn’t happened in practice when people have had a first fail.
However, it is now becoming apparent that where people have failed the reassessment line managers are being pressured to mark them DN.
If you believe you have been marked down unfairly as a result of either a first or seond assessment then contact us on 020 8971 6060
The maths test!
Lots of people have complained to us about the maths test. BT is sticking with this – it is a standardised test that looks at mathematical capability. You do need to answer as many questions as possible in the time and it is probably worth guessing those you don’t have time to complete. NB if you fail the maths test alone you don’t need to retake the whole assessment centre.
Lots of people have queried the speed of the test and the need for super quick thinking. Many feel that this is unrealistic and possibly discriminatory if someone is older. We have pressed BT to check all of the assessment centre tests including this and the overall pass rate for any evidence of bias on grounds of age, disability, ethnicity, gender and part time status. BT have now completed this check and have stated the following:
“We have reviewed the diversity information which is available for the participants of the BI capability development programme looking at gender, age, length of service, disability and ethnicity. From this review, we have concluded that there is no obvious bias in the process.”
You can get additional training/support materials to help strengthen skills in this area:
- there are a large number of courses available through the ALP
- subject matter experts
- trial tests
- a flip book on BI techniques
The case study
People have also felt that the case study doesn’t reflect their real life work particularly around the speed of analysis required. We have raised this with BT and they have emphasised that the main purpose of this test is to see if the participants are using the right analytical approach and framework, rather than whether they can get the maths right in the time.
But I don’t do this in my day job!
This issue comes up time and time again when we talk to people who have gone through the assessment centre – even people who have passed. Our advice to these people is as follows:
- Make clear in writing to your line manager which parts of the role that are set out in the standard are not part of your current day job. That gets the current situation on the record. Ideally do this before you go through the assessment centre but often this doesn’t come up until after you’ve been through it.
- Sit down with your line manager and ensure that you have a proper discussion about how you can build the experience, skills and knowledge to make sure you pass second time round. This must be recorded in a proper action plan (not the same as a PM coaching plan but see below). Be specific. At our pressing, the guidance to line managers now requires this and includes the need to redesign jobs if needs be so people get the opportunity to work in areas across the job standard.
- If this isn’t happening for operational or other reasons let us know. We know there are lots of re orgs going on and that the pressure to deliver in the day job will often take precedence. However, line managers – working with HR if necessary – are expected to help people get the development, including job redesign, that they need to help them pass the assessment.
In some exceptional circumstances it may be that you and your line realise that actually the main focus of your role is not BI and it should be remapped elsewhere. This must be evidence based – if it isn’t or you are concerned then let us know.
Another scenario that may come up is that you realise that the level of your role is wrong ie it is too high and that therefore the standards you are being assessed against are too high. That could happen and if you think that might apply in your case talk to us.
If you have a DN mark then this should be related to your performance in your day job. It may well be that the Assessment Centre highlights area where there is a known existing shortfall. If you have a DN rating then you should have a coaching plan setting out the development required. This should incorporate any feedback from the Assessment Centre.
Make sure you agree a plan
We dislike the term ‘fail’ but if this is the outcome for you on the first assessment then your first step should be to agree an action plan and a reasonable timeframe to deliver that with your line manager. BT has suggested that the guide timeframe for this should be 4-8 weeks and that should not be prescriptive. Individual circumstances and business needs will vary and it’s important that you work out what’s reasonable with your line manager.
The types of support might include on line learning, access to mentors, subject matter experts or coaching from your line or others in your team. People still need to do their day job, take leave etc so it’s important that there is flexibility in the timeframe. You may need support to experience different capabilities which should be agreed through job redesign with your line manager.
If you don’t get the support then keep a track record of this. Chase it up if needs be. Do be proactive on this and don’t let things drift. Let us know if this is not happening. You can also get in touch with the programme lead for your LOB or the central team.
If you don’t do key elements of the job standard as part of your day job make sure that is recorded as part of your normal performance management discussions.
What about the reassessment?
The reassessment application form requires you and your line manager to confirm that you both agree that standards have been set, you are meeting these and are ready for reassessment. Your line manager will be required to give evidence of development actions against the capabilities in the standard.
That’s why it’s so important for you to sit down and discuss the action plan and to make sure this is delivered well in advance. That’s especially important if you realise you don’t have some elements in the role as part of your day job. You can find the reassessment form on the programme website – ask to discuss this with your line manager before it is submitted. The programme team will check this form before people are admitted for reassessment.