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Somerset County Council transforms personal and team development with online appraisals

With in excess of 5000 staff, Somerset County Council needed a smarter way to manage their staff appraisals effectively. Starting with successfully embedding a learning culture in the organisation, performance was next on the list, and by extending their existing LMS, Totara Learn, the team built the tools to link both Learning and Performance in the one place.

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The council recognised that improving team and individual performance required more than just an annual review; it needed ongoing discussion, feedback and analysis to help learners meet organisational and personal objectives. At Somerset County Council, they based these ideals around five key principles:

  1. Agreeing and recording expectations of its people

  2. Giving people the opportunity to deliver

  3. Giving people necessary feedback

  4. Giving guidance and training where needed

  5. Giving Recognition and Reward

The council needed an online appraisal system to help them to deliver this development programme, specifically with:      

  • Functionality where employees could be assessed on their progress through feedback provided by their managers and other colleagues within the organisation
  • The ability to facilitate discussions between an employee and their appraising manager
  • A structure that would explain what needs to be done, when and by whom
  • Sophisticated reporting to enable progress of employees to be reviewed effectively by managers

The Solution

Somerset County Council already had an enthused, engaged workforce, each month averaging 1000 completed modules and 4000 log-ins to ‘The Learning Centre’ (the council's existing LMS platform).

This sophisticated performance management system had existing features that were utilised to provide exactly what the council needed and Learning Pool worked in partnership with Somerset County Council to provide direct access to this all-digital appraisals functionality.

The Council’s existing appraisals process was adapted and built into the Totara Learn platform relatively easily, enabling effective reporting and team review. The online provision allowed for information already held within the platform to be made use of and the performance ‘loop’ to be closed by the inclusion of a question on the creation of a ‘Personal Development Plan’ – another functionality of the Totara Learn platform.

The council were able to define specific appraisal “stages”, giving the team guidance on when certain actions had to be done, complete with useful automated notifications to keep everyone on track.

Performance management within the Totara system is designed to be as flexible as possible, allowing each client to use it in the way that best fits their needs and includes the ability to create goals, appraisal forms and 360° feedback.


On time delivery: The project met its timeline with Somerset County Council’s workforce now using the online appraisals system successfully and with positive feedback.

Better data, more valuable appraisals: Collecting feedback and conducting appraisals now has more value within the council aided by the powerful reporting tools within Totara Learn, which are used to transform the data collected into useful information. Whether this is a detailed examination of employee progress or high-level summaries for management review, the organisation now has all of the information they need at their fingertips. 

Totara functionality and a little bit of creative innovation has given us that elusive single Organisational Development tool that we set out to find a couple of years ago – but we and Totara haven’t finished yet!” – Hugh Griffith, Head of Organisational Development at Somerset County Council

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