Rewarding Futures

The partnership that defied convention to assess talent

Main Image

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.

I’ve worked with the team at Vana on many occasions over the years, engaging them to hire senior talent in a number of businesses. Both Debbie and Jo offer great insight and expertise, but above all they deliver results. I would happily recommend their services.

Scott Fishburn, HR Director, DFS

“Debbie and Jo are high-integrity recruiters who take time to understand organisational needs; commercial and cultural. VANA have worked in partnership with us a number of times, enabling us to secure some excellent senior HR hires.”

John Burgess, Head of Talent & Leadership Development, AXA Group

“I have worked with Debbie both as a candidate having introduced me to ING Direct and Invensys, and as a client supporting me with key hires in both organisations and more recently at DAS.  Both Debbie and Jo are exceptionally well networked, I trust their judgement completely and would highly recommend Vana.”

Kate Banks, ‎Group Director of HR & Legal Services at DAS UK Group

'Debbie and Jo are first class headhunters of HR talent. They take the time to fully understand the brief and culture of the organisation before suggesting any candidates for opportunities. Thank you Vana for sourcing quality hires for my team.'

Helen Norris, Head of HR - Nationwide Building Society

I have worked with Debbie both in the search for talent and also as a candidate, in both situations Debbie has been faultlessly professional. Debbie builds strong relationships exploring briefs to ensure she has a deep understanding of what the business and candidate need, allowing her to deliver a real match.

Ian Marchant, Retail HRD, Greene King plc

Candidate experience is really important to me in recruitment, because that is someone's first experience of an organisation - your organisation. As I see it, the recruiter is part of YOUR brand and their actions impact on YOUR reputation when they act for you. The candidate remembers the experience of applying for a job and not always the recruiter involved.

My experience as a candidate of Jo's was exceptional. Jo kept me informed at every stage, questions were anticipated and I always knew where the process was. Also, Jo was present as a person and not as a remote handler. This shows me that any candidate that Jo places would be treated in exactly the way I'd want them to be. I recommend her without hesitation.

Geraldine Buckland, Director of People, Bristol Water

Debbie and Jo are great recruiters of HR talent; they have successfully worked on a number of key senior hires for us both in the UK and internationally.

Jonathan Wright, Group HRD, Murphy Group

Debbie has recently supported me in securing my first HRD role. Her observations and feedback were very insightful and assisted me greatly in navigating the recruitment process and learning about the company and environment I'll be stepping into. Totally dependable, unbiased and a good judge of character, I would highly recommend her to act on your behalf with prospective employers. I haven't worked with Debbie yet as the employer but wouldn't hesitate to do this if the need arises.

Anita Calverley, HR Director, Yeo Valley Farms

The thing about Vana Resourcing is that Debbie and Jo actually care – about you as a person, your career and your business. Yes they deliver great candidates and opportunities but they make sure that the fit / opportunity is right, challenging both sides in a positive way when needed. They’ve supported my career for the last 10 years, including introducing me to my current HRD role, and I have no hesitation that they will be my first point of call for future candidates and opportunities.

Suzie Noble, Chief People Officer, Brightside

“I have worked with Debbie and Jo several times, they stand out from the crowd as a sourcer of talent and when managing you as a candidate, I simply haven't worked with anyone better. Commercial, thorough, expert and with a sense of integrity that means you are only ever recommended to organisations that suit you - and as a hirer you only get talent that works for your organisation. As a hiring organisation, working with a partner like Vana is simply irreplaceable.”

Head of OD, Vodafone

Debbie brings accurate and current insight on HR Talent. Her ability to recognise top people in their field and actively nurture relationships over a long period of time sets her apart from her peers. Debbie is refreshingly honest , she keeps confidences and is not afraid to challenge both candidates and hiring Executives to ensure the right outcome for all parties. I would have no hesitation in recommending Debbie or Vana Resourcing for a critical HR hire.

Barbara Duffy, International HR Director leading on Talent, L&D, Resourcing,OD

“Debbie introduced me to OVO Energy, and she not only found me the right role, but an organisation whose ethos matched my values.  I have since worked with Vana to recruit almost my entire senior HR team! From HRBP's to a Reward Lead and most recently a HR Director. Vana really understand the importance of culture fit."

Kim Atherton, Chief People Officer, OVO Energy

I have worked with Vana Resourcing for a number of years representing me in my own search and as a client. Debbie and Jo are professional and efficient but unusually for this sector, genuinely caring about both client and candidate experience in equal measure.

Jonathan Edge, HR Director UK & Ireland at Ideal Standard International BVBA

“Jo is highly professional, knowledgeable and proactive. It’s not often that a recruitment consultant really interviews you in the same way a prospective employer would.”

Simon Amesbury, SuperGroup plc

What a refreshing delight to work with a commercial partner who understood my business, had national and regional awareness, a handle on the market, an effortless connection with candidates and could tolerate my Everest-like expectations.

I will continue to work with Debbie and Jo again on my incessant drive to solve the talent conundrum of the coming years.

Keep up the great work, you are a credit to the industry.


Stephen Robson, HR Director, Global O&Supply Chain at Kingfisher plc

"The team and I have worked with Jo now on a number of occasions for various recruitment assignments. I have always found Jo to be consultative and considered in her approach but above all honest and straight forward! She has a great understanding of her market place and is always at the end of the line to offer insight and market knowledge. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vana and look forward to our continued relationship."

Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society, Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society

I've known Jo for a number of years and worked with her as a client and candidate. What's great about working with Jo is that you're guaranteed an honest perspective and terrific insight to the market. She nurtures her relationships in a natural and engaging way: put simply - she knows her stuff!

Marie Aitken, Chief People Officer

I initially engaged Debbie to undertake a search for a Head of OD. She is consultative in style, and took time to gain a comprehensive insight into our organisational culture and HR journey, delivering an excellent shortlist of candidates and a super hire. The feedback from our candidates on their engagement with VANA has been equally positive. Jo and Debbie has since supported me with several other senior hires within the People organisation at RLG, and we enjoy an effective working partnership.

People & Corporate Affairs Director, Royal London Group

“I have worked with Debbie as both candidate and client. In both contexts I have found her to be super-efficient, thorough and a pleasure to do business with. She listens really well, responds quickly and is flexible to evolving demands. Debbie is up there in my top 3 recruiters.”

Sue Round, Head of Talent and Organisational Effectiveness, BP

I have worked with Debbie and Jo for many years as a candidate looking for opportunities and a manager looking for talent.  I have always been impressed by how Vana strive to ensure that there is the best fit in terms of candidate values and company culture.

Sarah King, Head of HR, Triodos Bank