European Commission

In 2016, the European Commission renewed its ambitious plan to strengthen managerial excellence at the middle management level. Hudson delivered on this ambition with a coherent plan consisting of Assessment Centres, multi-rater (360°) feedback, Personal Development Plans and coaching.

Managerial excellence in middle management

The Human Resources and Security department of the European Commission oversees recruitment policy, training and career management, social policies and working conditions for Commission staff. This Directorate-General, amongst others, delivers HR-services from recruitment and career development to retirement enabling human resources to be used effectively, optimizing their contribution to the Commission's political priorities. Within this department the Middle Management Policy unit is responsible for defining, implementing and leading the new Commission policy for its middle managers to an enduring success.

Promote managerial excellence

In 2016, the European Commission decided that assessment centres were to be compulsory within the middle management selection procedures. The goal was to promote managerial excellence, by selecting and rewarding managers with the right set of skills, competencies and attitudes, by providing them with the support they need to improve, develop and grow, and by giving them opportunities to expand their horizons and test new grounds.

The Middle Management Policy unit aimed for a solution that integrated selection and development.
Flaminia Bussacchini
Head of Unit Middle Management Policy

The idea was to support managers that went through a selection procedure and were appointed the middle management function. Our goal is to provide them with the support they need so they can make the transition to their new role. To do so, we needed a proactive partner. Besides the idea of an integrated and developed support for middle managers, the Middle Management Policy unit wanted to offer a feedback service mechanism to middle managers. The objective of this feedback service mechanism was to build on the achievement of the onboarding programme offered to newly appointed middle managers.

“We also needed to support already established managers”, specifies Flaminia Bussacchini. “This was something different as we are talking about the vast majority of middle managers who have been on a middle management role for quite some time. The goal was to offer them the possibility to learn how their staff and their superiors perceive them and what managerial competencies they should further develop.”

Our approach

To support the Middle Management Policy unit in its mission, Hudson delivered three different services.

1. Observing middle managers’ attitudes and behaviour

First, Hudson is responsible for organising tests and exercises to assess candidates’ management potential. The results of which are used to assess and appoint internal and external candidates for middle management positions (AD 9 – AD 14). The Assessment Centre permits to systematically assess candidates in accordance with the Commission’s Management Competency Profile. With the Assessment Centres and the revision of the competency framework we want to offer the Directorate-General Human Resources and Security a perspective on how Hudson has observed a middle manager and on his or her attitudes and behaviour.

Hudson translated the duties of a middle manager into a competency profile. Using a scientific methodology based on observing and benchmarking the behaviour of the participants, the Assessment Centres are mapping the patterns in behaviour and are determining to what extent certain competencies have been developed and/or need further development. “The Assessment Centre approach is very valuable in the decision-making process. It is an official and mandatory part of the selection procedure for middle managers. The report brings additional insights in the decision-making process.”, Flaminia Bussacchini continues.

Hudson does not make a - yes or no - recommendation on the candidate.
Flaminia Bussacchini

2. Setting up Personal Development Plans and coaching tracks

The second part of the three-stages consists of Personal Development Plans (PDP) for newly appointed middle managers. These PDP’s support middle managers to help them settle well in their new role. “The Personal Development Plans are key in the transition between an old role and a new role”, Flaminia Bussacchini declares. “Success in your old role does not mean that you will be automatically successful in your new role as middle manager. I have been through this transition myself and I know the importance of being supported through this process.”

The middle managers participate in a personal coaching pathway that focuses narrowly on their points of development. The coaching tracks at the European Commission take six to nine months in which experienced coaches guide participants in the acquisition or further development of professional skills such as building effective and well-functioning teams, but also focusing on the challenges that came with the COVID-19 crisis or focusing on the content of their new middle management responsibilities.

“The Personal Development Plan and the coaching track is something we really want”, says Flaminia Bussacchini. “We want to offer support and a personal development programme which helps middle managers to identify their personal objectives. It’s greatly appreciated and offers the added value of having someone with whom our middle managers can discuss personal matters in a confidential manner.”

3. A developmental journey

Finally, in order to support developmental opportunities for middle managers, the European Commission in 2019 and 2020 piloted in a few DGs a 360° multi-source feedback survey mechanism. “The feedback survey is a start of a developmental journey for the middle managers”, says Flaminia Bussacchini. “Not the feedback as such is important, but the action you take based on the results of the feedback. It is about providing the middle managers with a broader perspective. The feedback mechanism is the start of the journey and not the end. We used to say that the middle managers are the backbone of the organisations. For the quality of management at the European Commission it is important to offer them an opportunity to learn more about themselves.” To implement this mindset Hudson offered a solution based on a multi-source feedback mechanism. This allows stakeholders in the broad circle around the participant to provide their perceptions: honest professional feedback on the middle manager’s current professional behaviour. Several sources give their perception about the participants’ strengths & weaknesses on a number of competencies. Participants can therefore get a unique look on their competencies and compare their self-perception with the perception of others, based upon their current behaviour.

The objective of the 360° multi-source feedback survey is purely the development of the participant as the feedback survey provides greater self-awareness and becomes a crucial building block to initiate and encourage further personal development and targeted actions. “After the debriefing with Hudson, we provide follow-up by offering guidance on how best to develop the identified managerial competencies to volunteering participants”, Flaminia Bussacchini continues. “This is something new in supporting the development of newly appointed middle managers. Now we want to invest into supporting already established middle managers. The gateway to do this is the feedback survey mechanism.” For many organisations a survey mechanism stimulates a more open feedback culture. Within the European Commission, it was not the objective, but it certainly serves that. To stimulate this more open feedback culture it also should be valued and encouraged by the organisation. Feedback survey mechanism is paving the way for that shift but it’s not its objective per se.

How remote services do stimulate a closer alliance

Due to COVID-19 in 2020, the European Commission has successfully made the transition to remote services. Hudson developed a digital platform to organise the Assessment Centres, feedback sessions and coaching tracks. It is interesting to observe the impact of this evolution, Flaminia Bussacchini admits. “In my opinion the remote solution is a win-win”, she says. “The quality has certainly not diminished and for the coaching tracks we see a higher take-up. The middle managers don’t lose the commuting time.” The Hudson coaches also observe an even more human, closer alliance since delivering the services remotely.

Quality meets speed

Hudson organised up to 300 Assessment Centres a year combined with individual PDP’s and two 360° multi-source feedback survey pilots with more than 130 people. “In support of our objective to improve the quality of middle managers at the European Commission I would recommend it. The feedback I received from colleagues who take an Assessment Centre shows that they are solidly, professionally and pleasantly organised”, says Flaminia Bussacchini. “For us it is a pleasure to see how responsive Hudson operates, which is key in situations where Assessment Centres need to be organised in a short period of time.

Last but not least I would like to emphasize that I also appreciate the day-to-day collaboration with the dedicated Hudson Public Sector team.
Flaminia Bussacchini

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