De Montfort University

Enhancing the skills and confidence of Business Partners to improve effectiveness and commercial focus for De Montfort University

Enhancing the skills and confidence of Business Partners to improve effectiveness and commercial focus for De Montfort University.

The challenge

De Montfort University (DMU) was undergoing an organisation-wide resourcing project, embedding a new strategic planning approach that would enable them to maintain a competitive position in the market and be seen as an employer of choice.

To achieve this, DMU wanted to move to a powerful cross-functional partnering model and ‘rebrand’ their HR, Finance and IT departments from traditional silo approaches to a coherent team of Business Partners who would be recognised across the University for their strategic thinking.

Through developing people skills such as communication, the ability to influence, relationship building and teamwork, this bespoke programme began embedding the behavioural changes needed to successfully step-change to the new strategic approach.

Why Connor?

Having previously delivered career transition (outplacement) services to DMU, we already had an in-depth understanding of their culture. This, combined with our people development expertise, scientific rigor and passion for what we do, made us the ideal service delivery partner.

The approach

To ensure we fully met the desired goals, we conducted a top-level diagnosis to gain a deep understanding of the functions in scope, outcomes required, broader business strategy and current ways of working.

We then designed a bespoke development programme which comprised of a series of workshops, delivered across 6 days. Each module was led by expert facilitators who not only understood the context but had walked in their shoes by working in operational business partnering roles.

The workshops were designed to coach and develop:


      1. The role of a Business Partner – Helping individuals understand a ‘proactive partnership’ approach, improve effectiveness and commercial focus and develop core partnering skills.
      2. Understanding communication Using the VoicePrint diagnostic tool, we provided the team with a 360 view of how they use their unique voice and how this may help or hinder them within the new vision for Business Partners and ways of working.
      3. Personal impact and influence Across 2 days, we combined VoicePrint feedback with skills development and scientifically based behavioural change content to embed understanding of what audiences need in order to be positively influenced.
      4. Coaching for high performance – Across 2 days, we developed coaching skills and provided practical tools to help the Business Partners understand how to align voice and influence with the leadership continuum, spot strengths and development areas.


Embedding sessions – were conducted which gave additional coaching in areas where the team felt they required extra focus. A programme review was also conducted to ensure the Business Partners’ development was on track.

Active learning – teams were assigned to carry out a project looking at commissioning across DMU. Working alongside partners from each discipline as well as a business mentor, the teams worked to define a corporate approach to commissioning, including the development of a strategy, operational processes and guidance. They were invited to present their findings and conclusions at a ‘Graduation Day’ event to the group, mentors and other key stakeholders.

Programme review – an assessment to ensure that all changes and developments sat in line with outcomes set at the start which enabled immediate measurement of ROI and visibility of additional development requirements.

The outcomes


    • 88% of attendees rated the programme as excellent, confirming objectives were successfully met
    • 100% of attendees said they now felt confident to suggest alternative solutions to the faculty managers to solve their issues and problems
    • 78% of attendees said they now felt confident to own project and service deliveries and be responsible for client satisfaction
    • 100% of attendees would recommend this programme
    • 100% of attendees said they now felt consistently confident in thinking broadly about how a problem or potential solutions may affect other faculties / directorates / business partners
    • Based on the success of this programme, DMU’s COO would like to see the programme rolled out across all other functions, so that all Business Partners’ skills and confidence are developed in this way.

What the client said


“The results of this programme have been phenomenal in a very short period of time .. the individuals who have taken part have really benefitted in terms of skills development and self-awareness and the impact this will have across the University is really going to be significant .. I would definitely recommend Connor to deliver a similar type of programme somewhere else.” Marcella Avis, Director of Faculty Operations


“As a result of this programme, I now have a greater understanding of the expectations from DMU for partnering. I have developed thinking more strategically and I delegate the day to day operational tasks to relevant teams more confidently.” Programme delegate


“I now have better connections with other business partners and the ‘permission’ to be a more forthright business partner.” Programme delegate


“The attendees are now more assertive people, more challenging. I will be knocking on department doors to ask why partners such as the Finance Business Partner are not in the current decision making group. Often life doesn’t just offer you a seat on the Senior Leadership Board, you need to sell the virtues of you being on that board. This programme has helped equip our Business Partners to do that.” Ben Browne, COO


“I wasn’t sure what to expect from the programme, having gone through similar programmes before. The expectation was far surpassed by what was delivered. I got so much out of it in terms of speaking and engaging with other partners but also having an opportunity to self-reflect and develop my own style and engagement with the business. Overall an excellent, engaging and fun programme.” Nikki Seymour-Smith, Programme delegate

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