ADA: preparing its people for business and personal success

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 9 August 2011



Jarvis, E. (2011), "ADA: preparing its people for business and personal success", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 10 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

ADA: preparing its people for business and personal success

Article Type: HR at work From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 5

Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in HR

ADA Technology Services Ltd is a UK-based IT managed services and co-sourcing specialist. We combine strategic business understanding with technical expertise to deliver IT support from a co-sourced or fully outsourced perspective. This can be managed on a project-by-project basis, as a supporting IT service or as a complete IT managed service.

We provide global IT services including infrastructure, storage, virtualization, disaster recovery, data centers, hosting, business applications, IT consultancy and ongoing support. Our remit is growing in line with an increasing demand by businesses to outsource or co-source their IT function.

ADA underwent a management buyout (MBO) in 2006. One of our key post-MBO objectives was to significantly increase company growth over a five-year period and place our employees at the heart of the business. In order to achieve this, the success of the business had to be aligned with individual success and a wide-reaching learning and development program needed to be created and implemented. Not only would this grow our existing talent but attract high-potential recruits to the business and support employee retention.

Placing employees at the heart of the organization

The strategy was a two-fold approach, which included the launch of “The Academy” and the integration of ADA’s performance appraisal system (PAS).

The Academy

ADA’s academy program was launched in 2006. Designed as a graduate scheme that aimed to recognize the talent of graduates who were just embarking on their career yet had little experience in the commercial world, The Academy focused on candidate potential as opposed to proven industry experience.

Following a three-day assessment, selected Academy recruits are allocated to their individual roles. As part of The Academy, graduates are immediately appointed as executives and given achievable sales targets to meet. They then undergo a rigorous training program, comprising in-house and external training providers covering business, technology and commercial modules. One key element of the program is that the graduates have the opportunity to be mentored by ADA’s chief executive officer (CEO) David Rabson who, as a former sales director at ADA, is well placed to advise and guide new starters.

The performance appraisal system

ADA’s PAS was developed in parallel with The Academy. While The Academy provides a clear structure and a clear progression path specifically for ADA’s sales team, the PAS enables all 70 employees throughout the business to develop their career and share the financial success of the organization.

The system is bound by corporate goals as determined by the board. All employees share one common goal, which is to achieve a pre-determined profit figure by the end of the financial year. The second goal is team oriented. The third and fourth goals are aligned with corporate goals, however, they are chosen by individuals with the aim of supporting their ongoing career development.

The PAS structure is as follows:

  • If goal one (the corporate goal) is achieved, every employee receives 5 percent of their salary as a bonus.

  • If goal two (the team goal) is achieved, then those within the team receive 5 percent of their salary as a bonus.

  • Individuals achieving goals three and four will receive an additional 5 percent of their salary as a bonus.

Importantly, each goal is not dependent on the other so if the team goals are achieved and the corporate and individual goals are not, employees will still be rewarded with the appropriate bonus. Prior to the implementation of PAS, ADA had developed a basic mechanism for conducting appraisals. Still focusing on career progression and development, the system provided a clear path for employees although one that did not directly link performance and success with bonus-related pay.

A combination of providing staff members with a clear reward structure and recruiting highly motivated employees meant that the implementation of PAS was embraced and provided additional motivation for the growing workforce.

Closing in on skills gaps

On a macro-level, and in addition to The Academy program and the PAS, ADA places a significant amount of resource into highlighting skills gaps and addressing them accordingly. Employees’ skills are identified through a number of systems, including:

  • personal development plans;

  • MySAP (My Skills and Performance) program, which seeks to highlight skills gaps and areas for development;

  • regular employee satisfaction surveys;

  • a comprehensive induction process with the entire board; and

  • CEO mentoring program.

The CEO mentoring program runs every quarter. Three members of staff, who have been identified as requiring additional development, meet with ADA’s CEOand are provided with guidance and leadership that will help them achieve corporate and personal goals.

Ongoing evaluation

Success is evaluated through a number of approaches including: individual academy members’ performance; certification and accreditation, such as ISO and Service Desk Institute standards; customer and employee satisfaction surveys; and profit-by-employee measurement.

Profit-by-employee measurement is perhaps the simplest of measurements and an effective tool to evaluate The Academy and establish where improvements can be made and skills developed. As the PAS is underpinned by corporate goals and objectives, establishing whether or not ADA’s efforts to grow and develop its staff have been successful is straightforward. Key performance indicators are either met or not and if corporate, team and individual goals are met and employee engagement is positive, then overall business success has been achieved.

Strategy translates into growth

We have recently announced that a large part of our 44 per cent growth achieved over the last two years is down to The Academy program. The program has welcomed over ten graduates since it launched in 2006, nine of which still work within the business. Each academy member demonstrates year on year growth and plays a pivotal role in developing the company.

The Academy also plays a significant role in employee retention with ADA’s overall staff turnover at less than 5 percent. Moreover, The Academy alumni have all credited the program as playing a critical role in their decision to work for the company.

External auditing has illustrated that we are delivering positive outcomes around our ongoing learning and development program following implementation of the PAS. Our last Investors in People report praised ADA for placing learning and development “at the heart of the organization’s culture.” Other findings confirmed that we have the following:

  • “Open access” to training and development for all staff.

  • Exemplary communication practices for cascading all training and development activities to staff.

  • Excellent tools for evaluating employee training and development outcomes.

  • A holistic view to skills and a willingness to develop and broaden the skills sets of all staff.

  • A robust system with regards to performance appraisal, which enables staff to set targets for themselves.

Based on our current position and commitment to developing and rewarding our people, we have over-delivered on our five-year plan and are now on course to achieve unprecedented growth over the next five years. The Academy will continue to underpin business success from a sales perspective, while the PAS will evaluate and reward business and personal success. Our key assets are undoubtedly our people and our work to date demonstrates that increased turnover can go hand in hand with personal growth, skills development and a satisfied workforce.

Emma JarvisBased at ADA Technology Services Ltd.

About the author

Emma Jarvis is HR Manager at ADA Technology Services Ltd. An accomplished HR professional with 15 years’ experience of working with leading companies including Merrill Lynch and Europ Assistance, she joined ADA Technology Services in 2004. Having carved a reputation as a specialist within her field, she was tasked with establishing and developing ADA’s HR department. Since 2004, she has been instrumental in growing an expert team of HR professionals and has overseen the implementation of ADA’s widely regarded performance appraisal system. Emma Jarvis can be contacted at:

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