In Conversation with: Wendy Ratcliffe

By 1 August 2019 No Comments

Head of Assessment and Learning

1. What roles have you held before joining Oxford HR?
Since 2012 my area of speciality or focus has been leadership assessment and development.  I worked as an Executive Development Director at Cranfield University’s Centre for Customised Executive Development.  From 2015, I have held roles in the private (e.g. Selfridges Group) and public sectors [both central (e.g. Ministry of Justice) and local government (e.g. Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea), with responsibility for talent, organisational development, learning, engagement and leadership assessment and development.

My passion is helping organisations and the individuals they employ maximise their performance, making a positive difference by helping others realise their potential.

2. What point in your career path led you into the Assessment & Learning role you are in now?
At Nokia as a Mobile Internet Applications (i.e. mobile email, multimedia messaging, gaming, mobile ecommerce, location-based services etc.) Global Business Development Manager, I facilitated conversations between engineers and our clients guiding conversations into products and/or solutions.

I was tempted by a promotion to the role of Solutions Architect.  I wasn’t however an engineer and realised I didn’t want to become one but wanted a profession like my engineering colleagues.

This prompted a long look at my career aspirations and motivations and I realised that I had always had an interest in psychology, choosing my marketing degree as I saw it as commercial psychology, so I decided to embark on a career in psychology.

3. Could you highlight the key areas you will be working in with Oxford HR?
Oxford HR’s Assessment and Learning team will focus on:

Assessment for selection
This means we will help clients to gain agreement on the role for which they are recruiting, using scientific techniques to facilitate agreement. We can then help to design an assessment process and/ or bespoke materials, including psychometrics (if required) to robustly assess the criteria that will identify a recruit that is the closest organisational capability, potential and cultural fit.

Our solutions are contextually and culturally relevant and aim to ‘give back’ and build relationships by providing strengths based, constructive, useful candidate feedback, contributing to positive candidate reactions.

We aim to build strong relationships by doing the right thing for our clients and their candidates.

Assessment for development
We will help our clients to release employee discretionary effort by understanding their employees and providing relevant targeted strengths focused development.

We can, furthermore, help our clients to ‘grow your own’ by identifying internal candidates that have the ability or potential to take on more responsibility. We can therefore assist our clients with their succession planning.

Executive and career coaching
At Oxford HR we believe that coaching can help individuals to be their best selves.

We will provide coaching goals and support for recruits’ first 100 days to guarantee fit and performance. This is particularly beneficial to ensure diverse hires succeed.

We are committed to supporting leaders at all levels who are working to create a better world – people who are addressing critical world problems, exploring innovative solutions and inspiring others to do the same.

Board and team development
Sometimes whole teams rather than individuals need support or coaching.

We will support organisations with bespoke interventions for new teams, teams that require remedial interventions or those that want to increase their performance to become high performing teams.

Contextual leadership development
We can design bespoke contextually relevant leadership interventions to achieve necessary leadership behavioural shifts to realise organisational strategy aspirations.  We will employ a scoping, design, delivery and evaluation approach.

4. What value do you think Organisational Psychology could bring to For Purpose Executive Search?
Rigour undoubtedly, by this I mean clarity regarding, for example, what knowledge, skills, abilities, aptitudes, attitudes, behaviours, motivations etc. distinguish an excellent Secretary General or CEO from one that could be contextually unremarkable or underwhelming.

Once agreement is achieved, we can help to design an assessment process and/ or bespoke materials, including psychometrics, if required, to then robustly assess the criteria that will identify a recruit that is the closest capability, potential and cultural fit for an organisation.

This approach decidedly increases the likelihood of a successful hire, reducing the search timescales, risk, reputational damage and cost of an unsuccessful appointment. Consequently, being of benefit to both organisations and candidates, as the latter avoid an unnecessary career set back.

5. Have you felt a shift in the last 5 years, both in the UK & globally, towards an increased focus on Leadership Development?
Gallup believe that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor, they believe employees join organisations but leave managers.

In short, better leadership, better results…

The focus on leadership development didn’t exist about five years ago. Now most organisations either have or are recruiting a Leadership Development Manager(s). In many cases previous Learning and Development Managers are now tasked with leadership development. The challenge posed by internal leadership interventions is whether internal HR and Learning and Development staff have the mandate, gravitas and experience to drive real behavioural change in line with organisational strategic aspirations.

6. In your years of working with organisational leaders, can you highlight some qualities that consistently come out as being desirable for senior leadership positions?
A leader is someone who has followers…

What is needed today is context relevant performing collaborative leadership. A transactional leader leads with their head and a transformational leader leads with their heart/ connecting with others, it is helpful to balance the two styles.

Leaders that get to know team members and understand their strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, development areas and how the team will work together optimally and strive to give team members clarity regarding aspirations, ‘where we are headed’, are more likely to be successful.

7. In your career, which organisation have you most enjoyed working with and why?
I am thoroughly enjoying working at Oxford HR.  My colleagues are people of substance, that have led meaningful purposeful lives and are values led.  I’m learning daily on a professional and personal level, which is important to me.

8. Which organisation would you love to work with and why?
I would love to work with WWF. The WWF is the world’s leading independent conservation organisation, which aims to ‘create a world where people and wildlife can thrive together’. My first love was conservation. And safari is one of my favourite things to do. There is nothing as restful and inspiring as watching wildlife go about their business/ interact with one another. We should as a priority seek to preserve our wildlife and mitigate our environmental impact for our children and grandchildren.


Ruth Davis

Ruth Davis

Ruth joined Oxford HR in 2018 after completing a BA in international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She completed multiple economic development courses, in addition to her dissertation which she wrote on the Anglo-American response to the AIDS epidemic, looking at international relations through a human rights lens.