Training Top 125 Best Practice: Leadership Development at Birmingham Water Works Board

Seeking to develop future leaders, BWWB implemented four internal organizational development programs over a four-year period.

Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) provides water and service to customers within five counties of Birmingham, AL. The company realized ongoing employee development was crucial and it needed to find ways to develop future leaders in the organization. To meet that objective, BWWB implemented four internal organizational development programs over a four-year period.

Program Details

  • The BWWB Executive Leadership Program was developed to further educate and develop management staff to become more effective leaders. Classes focus on the core competencies management is rated against on their annual performance reviews, as well as the areas for development that are identified from the results of 360-degree assessments.
  • The Supervisory Leadership Program was developed for current supervisors. BWWB supervisors have a huge impact on employee performance and morale. Therefore, there is an expectation to operate with prudence and integrity that results in high productivity and quality. Though BWWB supervisors are required to attend annual training classes, the company strongly feels this leadership program will further develop supervisory staff to become more effective leaders.
  • The BWWB Leadership Development Program is designed to develop future leadership ability in the organization by equipping employees with the needed knowledge, skills, and tools to achieve the company’s vision and strategic objectives. In this program, participants tackle actual organizational challenges by completing both a work-related team project and an individual project of their choice. Employees devote many hours contributing to research and other activities to provide management with solid recommendations for improving operational procedures, policies, and processes. These projects have given team members the opportunity to gain more knowledge about company operations and the challenges the BWWB management team faces.
  • The BWWB Pre-Supervisory Certification Program is designed for hourly employees who are interested in being promoted to supervisory positions. The program provides awareness and knowledge of competencies necessary for successful supervision. The program aims to provide a realistic experience and practical application of supervision to help employees determine whether supervision is the right career path for them.


BWWB measures the success of its leadership programs by internal promotions and turnover rates. Results include:

Supervisor Leadership Program:

  • 79 participants
  • 31 supervisors (39 percent) promoted to higher-level positions

BWWB Leadership Program:

  • 24 participants
  • 18 participants (75 percent) promoted to higher-level positions

Pre-Supervisory (STAR) Program:

  • 136 participants
  • 61 graduated
  • 48 (79 percent) promoted to higher-level positions

Overall, BWWB employees indicate they are satisfied with the company’s leadership development programs. In BWWB’s 2017 HR Employee Engagement Survey through CEB Leadership Council, in the category “Career/Performance,” the company scored 62 percent, which is higher than the global benchmark of 55 percent and 4 percent higher than the company scored in a survey conducted in 2015.

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