Wills Group

High-Potential Solution

To sustain rapid growth, the Wills Group needed to quickly address talent and capability gaps in an objective and scalable way. SHL assessments provided increased clarity regarding high potential within the organization and enabled the Wills Group to build targeted development for emerging talent.


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About Wills Group

  • Holding company with businesses focused on retail and comfort
  • Headquartered in Maryland, United States
  • Family business established in 1928,~ 300 employees and ~$0.8bn sales



  • Sustain rapid growth by addressing talent gaps in key areas of the business.
  • Embed structured, objective and scalable talent decisions.
  • Identify and grow a stronger leadership pipeline for today and the future.



  • Objective understanding of leadership bench capabilities
  • More intentional and tailored development spend
  • Prioritizing key talent and leadership capabilities
  • Improved alignment of talent needs with business strategy and objectives
  • Embedded findings in recruiting and selection processes


Client Challenge

Addressing Talent and Capability Gaps to Sustain Continued Growth Through the solid leadership of long-tenured leaders, business diversification and strong execution, the Wills Group experienced a period of fast-paced growth in sales with record year-on-year results over the past five years. However, the impending retirement of two senior leaders and the fast pace of growth raised serious questions about future talent and leadership capability gaps. It was clear these gaps needed to be addressed if the organization was to continue its upward curve and successfully manage succession.

“We were highly execution-oriented, focused on important but short-term results,”says Melon Yeshoalul, VP, Human Resources. “As well as needing to build functional capabilities—especially in marketing and technology—we knew we needed to pivot toward building talent and capabilities that were more collaborative, more analytical, and more enterprising in mindset. We needed a stronger understanding of our leadership bench capabilities and a way to upskill and develop our emerging leaders to meet these new challenges.”

The Wills Group CEO, Lock Wills, adds, “Our previous management development program, while well intentioned, had no consistent objective methodology for talent assessment. As such, it was highly subjective and error-prone.”

It became clear that, going forward, the Wills Group needed to develop a more structured and holistic approach to talent in order to sustain its growth. The organization had decentralized learning and a highly subjective process for selecting candidates for the management development program. The Wills Group knew it needed to invest in the right people, but it didn’t have the right processes in place to identify them.

Compared with our previous method of HIPO identification, this is a far more objective and comprehensive process that has helped us understand our bench capabilities.
Melon Yeshoalul

Vice President of Human Resources

The Wills Group


The Wills Group turned to SHL for an accurate, systematic and objective process for identifying true high potential against the new organizational requirements.

We deployed our personality, cognitive ability, and motivation assessments to measure the Wills Group’s employees against our model of high potential. Not only did this process identify genuine high-potential employees (HIPOs), but it also helped the Wills Group divide its participants into two development tracks to target learning and development spend more effectively. All participants were provided with on-the-job, structured learning through SHL’s Development Coach. They also took part in an in-house immersion program exposing them to key executives and broader business areas.

We also facilitated a focused talent review session for senior leaders to discuss the assessment results and the future development plans and career paths for each accelerated-track participant. This provided the foundation for further development, implemented through classroom learning and internal and external mentors supplied by a third-party development services provider.

“We were drawn to [SHL’s] capabilities and expertise—a model grounded in research, and one of the most methodical and objective tools I found,” Yeshoalul says. “It’s not just an assessment tool; it results in a highly personalized, comprehensive, and simple development plan through Development Coach. I also think [SHL] insights, based on research and best practices, are a useful way of comparing our bench strength with respect to leadership capabilities against other organizations.”


Increased Confidence in Objective, Scalable, Structured Talent Decisions Based on ratings gathered before and after it adopted the new approach, the Wills Group now has three times more clarity on what “high potential” means to the organization and three times more clarity on how to target individual and group development. Confidence that the candidates being selected for the HIPO program are the best for the future of the organization is even higher (four times).

“Introducing new methodology into our talent processes has been a journey, and the breadth of expertise that the [SHL] team brought to the project has been key in getting stakeholders on board. As the organization becomes more familiar with the assessments and results, we’ll gain even greater confidence, and the impact the assessment program will have on development will be even greater,” Yeshoalul reflects.

Lock Wills agrees: “We now have a professional, objective methodology for assessing our talent pool. I have a much higher confidence level that we’ve identified the right talent and are providing a customized program for the growth of that talent.”

In addition, the program has acted as a catalyst for reframing what development looks like at the Wills Group and has provided an opportunity to standardize how the organization thinks about development, competencies, and talent in general. As a result of the success with our high-potential solution, the Wills Group is working with us to develop core and functional-based competencies, and it’s using SHL assessments to further close capability gaps through the hiring process.

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