Blessing White Award for Talent Management

Award profile

This award recognises organisations with a proactive approach to talent management and succession planning. The winner will demonstrate an imaginative approach to organisational talent review by the HR team, working in conjunction with others in the business. Finalists were clear about how talent management was aligned with their HR strategy and organisational goals. Evidence of a systematic approach to identifying and developing talent was essential.

Category sponsor

BlessingWhite works with some of the world’s most demanding organisations to engage and develop the talent that makes them successful. Its tools, processes and consulting enable clients to create high-performance cultures that drive bottom-line results and reinforce values develop inspirational leaders and to align staff interests, energy and talents with organisational strategy. Learn more at www.blessingwhite.com.

Category judge

Now executive chairwoman, Chris Parry set up the Centre for High Performance Development (CHPD) in 1996. CHPD is a leadership development consultancy underpinned by international research into high-performance leaders and teams in complex, fast-moving environments. It has more than 200 staff and works with blue-chip organisations worldwide.

Shortlisted teams

Carphone Warehouse
The team – Customer management
Number in team: 25 Number in HR function: 180 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 9,500

About the organisation

The Carphone Warehouse is Europe’s leading independent retailer of mobile phones and services. It has more than 1,400 stores in 10 countries, and more than 12,000 staff in the UK.

The challenge

The Carphone Warehouse aimed to open 100 stores in the UK this year and grow its contact centre business. To achieve its ambitious expansion plans, it needed to set up a career development programme to retain and enhance the best staff and create an internal pipeline of future talent.

What the organisation did



  • Developed the Next Steps and Grow Managers programmes for sales consultants to develop into branch managers, which includes defined learning activities, exposure to responsibility, and regular reviews.
  • Introduced the ASM Next Steps Academy to promote branch managers into area sales managers, with workshops on coaching, delivering quality, problem solving and reporting.
  • Adapted the Next Steps programme for managers at its call centres.
  • Appointed a dedicated head of talent management.

Benefits and achievements



  • Increased internal recruitment – 98% of all new branch managers have been appointed as a result of the Next Steps programme.
  • The company’s share price outperformed the market by 105% and quarterly profit increases have bucked high-street trends.

The judge says

“The Next Steps programme is a comprehensive approach to growing talent from within the organisation. It shows individuals exactly what they need to achieve to reach each level in the organisation. It is clearly motivational to employees who can see the opportunities for progression.”

Deloitte
The team – Audit Human Resources
Number in team: 10 Number in HR function: 180 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 10,150

About the organisation

Business advisory firm Deloitte is the UK arm of professional services company Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. It advises blue-chip clients on auditing, tax, consulting and corporate finance.

The challenge

Huge demand for qualified accountants means Deloitte’s trainee chartered accountants become highly marketable graduates, and competition for talent is fierce. The firm is built on the retention of the very best, so it needed to find a way to keep hold of its graduates, and achieve its goal of becoming the top firm for career and personal development.

What the organisation did




  • Set up the ‘Your Successful Career at Deloitte’ programme in 2005, which includes:
    – coaching on internal and external opportunities
    – career planning tools and techniques
    – a career development workshop, a one-day course on becoming an effective assistant manager, and a summer ball.

Benefits and achievements



  • Retention of newly qualified accountants has increased by 16% since 2005, saving about £640,000 in recruitment costs.
  • Staff engagement has increased as a result of the involvement of partners and directors.
  • Staff commitment levels have risen by 5%.
  • Time can now be redeployed from managing attrition to managing careers.

The judge says

“I was impressed with the way Deloitte responded to this huge challenge. Its programme is all about being honest, open and educating staff about the opportunities available. The involvement of Deloitte alumni was particularly innovative and shows the support it has built for the programme externally as well as internally.”

Malmaison & Hotel Du Vin Hotels
The team – Malmaison & Hotel Du Vin Hotels HR Team
Number in team: 6 Number in HR function: 6 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 1,200

About the organisation

Malmaison & Hotel Du Vin Hotels operate in the boutique hotel market. The two brands comprise 17 hotels across the country, and the group is now the biggest lifestyle hotel company in the UK.

The challenge

Malmaison Hotels merged with Hotel Du Vin in 2004, with ambitious expansion plans of opening four properties a year, plus acquisitions. It needed to implement development and succession plans, motivate and retain staff and enable the crossover of talent while preserving the separate identities of the two hotels.

What the organisation did



  • Developed a web-enabled performance management and communication tool.
  • Introduced accelerated learning techniques.
  • Set up wine and bar schools for staff.
  • Introduced an exchange programme to help individuals share best practice.
  • Ran English lessons for overseas staff.
  • Benefits and achievements
  • Staff turnover reduced to less than 40%.
  • 65% of all appointments are internal.
  • Cut recruitment costs by more than 50%.
  • Reduced working time by 20% to 40 to 45 hours a week.
  • Improved employee survey ratings for communication, pay and benefits and number of hours worked.

The judge says

“The key thing about this programme is [HR director] Sean Wheeler’s striking leadership in terms of persuading the board to invest in people, and creating a successful talent management strategy from scratch. The organisation’s key initiatives demonstrate imagination and a deep sense of company culture, and impressive results were achieved in a short time.”

National Probation Directorate
The teams – Training and Development/Equality and Diversity Unit
Number in teams: 4/2 Number in HR function: 120 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 20,000

About the organisation

The National Probation Directorate’s remit is to protect the public, operate and enforce court orders and prison licences, and rehabilitate offenders to live law-abiding lives.

The challenge

Disabled and black minority ethnic employees were under-represented at senior management level within the National Probation Directorate.

What the organisation did



  • It developed the Accelerate Positive Action Leadership programme to help disabled and black minority ethnic staff to compete effectively for top jobs within the criminal justice system. The two-year training programme includes:
    – residential sessions
    – three-month work placements
    – coaching support
    – mentoring opportunities.

Benefits and achievements



  • Promotions for more than 70% of participants on the programme.
  • Line managers now play an active role in supporting participants’ growth through development discussions, support for placements and development plans.
  • New networks have been created through the participants, which have been used for cross-team, cross-function and cross-region learning and knowledge sharing.

The judge says

“This programme is underpinned by a vision to address the imbalance of black, Asian and disabled representation at senior levels. The innovative learning methods are designed to have a life-changing effect on the participants, and 70% have been promoted, making this an unusually successful positive action programme.”

Network Rail
The team – Talent Management and Succession Planning
Number in team: 3 Number in HR function: 600 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 31,000

About the organisation

Network Rail was set up in 2002, and owns and operates the UK’s rail infrastructure.

The challenge

To run an effective railway and develop world-class management and leadership, senior leaders at Network Rail recognised the need to better manage the company’s talent and to develop succession planning. The organisation needed to identify leadership skills within the existing workforce as well as picking out future prospects to provide a talent pool.

What the organisation did



  • Set up the Leadership Development Group, ensuring commitment from the board and leadership from the top.
  • Devolved responsibility for employee development to line managers.
  • Acquired a state-of-the art leadership development centre.

Benefits and achievements



  • Commitment and involvement of the board has improved morale.
  • Seeing improvements with senior people looking to grow world-class technical excellence.
  • Recently acquired leadership development centre enables interaction across the organisation.
  • Partnered with other employers in the sector to encourage them to use the same model.

The judge says

“This talent development model impressed me with its systematic and holistic approach, linking individual development to organisational change. It uses a model designed to bring about cultural change and consistency across a large organisation and encompasses leaders at all levels. A wide variety of learning initiatives are used to ensure well-rounded leaders.”

Comments are closed.