Case study

South West Geotechnical


If you have visited the new Ikea store in Exeter, or have flown from Heathrow, you will be benefiting from the skills of South West Geotechnical Ltd.

The Tiverton-based firm is a specialist ground investigation company working on behalf of a wide range of clients across the UK and provides a complete and comprehensive service in both the geotechnical and environmental aspects of site investigations. Recent projects have included consulting on the groundworks for the new Ikea store.

South West Geotechnical has highly qualified engineers, years of experience and, crucially, its own UKAS accredited laboratory – one of the most comprehensive testing facilities in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

As South West Geotechnical enters the next phase of its growth, it was identified that a comprehensive strategy developing its most important resource – its people – was needed. The company teamed up with Perspective HR to review and update the HR system – including a staff meeting to chat through the changes.

New contracts were produced for all employees, supported by a detailed handbook and a suite of resources for effective recruitment and selection.  Key to this process was taking time to discuss the new system.

“A good friend of mine has been an Perspective HR client for years so I had an inkling of their bespoke and hands on approach to HR. What we soon realised was that everything is about leadership and developing your people.  I now realise that a modern HR system underpins it and provides leaders with the skills and confidence they need to develop teams and individuals. This in turn has huge benefits for the business.”

Neil Forrow – Managing Director

Our Work

With a huge body of technical skills evident across the company in terms of engineering, site work and in the laboratory, it was time to invest in leadership skills for the senior team.  Action Centred Leadership (ACL), the tried and trusted approach to the functions of leadership – what you actually have to do – was the answer.

A number of senior employees, including Neil himself, attended a two-day ACL course at the Land Rover Experience Centre near Honiton. The course included a diagnostic of each delegate’s leadership style and the ACL theory was reinforced with a series of exercises where everyone gets the chance to lead a task.

An added bonus is the sharing of knowledge and experience of the delegates as they explore the functions of leadership. This culminates on day 2 with each standing up and outlining how they are going to use ACL to achieve a task, develop the team and get the best out of each individual.

Neil also attended a Strategic Level ACL course in the Spring of 2017, looking at the additional functions to ensure the strategy and objectives are clearly understood, communicated and acted upon consistently across an organisation.

Neil said: “What really struck me was how ACL gives a clear structure for action that you can apply at work. You leave knowing what to do and how to do it. We spent a lot of time looking at how to develop individuals and the techniques to get all teams working together in an organisation. We extended this by looking at the wider ‘teams’ such as clients, and partner organisations. ACL brought clarity to a lot of our thinking and has given our managers the confidence to continue our business growth.

As a result of the training we have a clearer management structure, a better understanding of roles within the business and a more effective approach in how we deal with new projects. This ultimately means the business is better prepared for the future.”

Perspective HR specialist and accredited ACL leadership trainer Trevor Vanstone said:  “It was an absolute pleasure to work with a company that recognises that developing its leadership and employment skills is one of the keys to future growth.

South West Geotechnical has huge expertise and an impressive portfolio of clients.  Having their own laboratory gives them a clear advantage in their market.

So often you hear of senior employees who are recognised for their technical expertise and then put in a leadership role without any support. South West Geotechnical did not fall into that trap – they realised early on that developing staff across the board is key and that includes the leaders.”

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