Applying skills intelligence nationwide



very organisation claims to be ‘forward-looking’, but few are genuinely as foresighted and progressive as Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

With a remit to ensure Scotland’s businesses and people develop the skills they need to achieve their potential, the public sector agency needs to plan for the whole country in the long term but also deliver on a daily basis.

Fused by the merger of several organisations in 2008, the EFQM model originally helped the SDS leadership team develop a unifying purpose and shared culture during a period of internal change and re-alignment.

More recently, the EFQM model has helped SDS to lead from the front when it comes to organisational agility, adaptability and continuous improvement.

Over the last year, we’ve all witnessed first-hand just how fast the world of work is changing. The pandemic ac-celerated many of those changes, but SDS didn’t skip a beat.

“One of the benefits of having assessors coming in from other sectors is that they tend to always bring some fresh thinking and their experience is like gold dust. They’re like a critical friend – encouraging us to look beyond our own environment and even further towards international best practice.”

Damien Yeates, CEO, SDS


SDS CEO Damien Yeates says, “The EFQM model helps us ensure we are fit for purpose as an organisation. We believe that working with the model made us incredibly ready to cope with COVID-19.”

“It helped us clearly understand the nature of the challenge of mobilising over 1700 people when we went into lockdown. We transitioned to an online environment almost overnight and we stepped up communications too. Our staff were so engaged, and they truly went above and beyond.”

Over the last few years SDS has shifted to a distributed approach to purpose-led management. “We empower people to do their jobs using what we call Everyday Leadership, which is based around ‘the three Cs’ – clarity, competency and control,” says Damien.

“As an organisation we were already raising the bar by the time the pandemic came. We’ve been asking ourselves for so long ‘What can we push for? How can we improve? How can we truly understand the value our customers are looking for?’ So, when we really needed to be, we were incredibly well prepared. The framework had given us real rigour.”

That rigour also applies to ensuring that SDS constantly measures and improves its performance. Quality assurance and continuous improvement are key parts of SDS’s philosophy.

In 2021 Skills Development Scotland was awarded EFQM 7-star recognition.