Ceridian HR Director of the Year Award

Award profile 

This award is for the HR director who demonstrated outstanding leadership. Entries explained the difference the HR director has made to their team and to the organisation as a whole. Candidates demonstrated that they have developed an effective HR team and presented evidence of their contribution to the business.

Category sponsor

Globally, Ceridian serves more than 25 million employees across 110,000 businesses and is one of the few providers delivering HR services locally and internationally. Ceridian provides 75% of the Fortune 500 corporates with HR, payroll and employee assistance programmes. Ceridian’s mission is to provide outsourced HR solutions that maximise the value of people. Learn more at www.ceridian.co.uk

Category judge

Angela O’Connor joined the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in 2002, where she heads the national HR team. In 2005, she was named HR Director of the Year at the Personnel Today Awards and Personnel Director of the Year at the Telegraph Business Awards. She is the president of the Public Sector People Managers Association (PPMA), formerly Socpo.

Shortlisted HR directors

Sean Wheeler, Malmaison & Hotel Du Vin Hotels

The team – 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

Following the merger, the firm needed to preserve the separate brands while operating under the same leadership with many shared support services.

What the HR director did



  • Created a web-based performance management and communication tool, which also covered succession planning, training needs analysis and key people indicators.
  • Introduced team coaching to improve individual and team performance.
  • Provided English lessons to encourage diversity and help overseas staff settle in.
  • Developed food, wine and bar schools to improve skills and showcase talent.

Benefits and achievements



  • Within 16 months of starting its talent management programme, 70% of general managers have been grown from within and 90% of deputies and head chefs have progressed through the ranks.
  • Labour turnover has significantly reduced to 40%, well below the industry average.
  • About 65% of all appointments are from within, cutting recruitment costs in half.
  • Working hours have been reduced from an average of 50-55 hours a week to 40-45.

The judge says

“Wheeler was the driving force behind a long list of key initiatives, including performance management and communications, succession planning and skills analysis, accelerated learning techniques, team coaching, emotionally intelligent management development programmes and staff recognition schemes.”

Stella Littlewood, Arup

The team – HR Team
Number in team: 27 Number in HR function: 86 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 7,000

About the organisation

Arup is a global company of designers, engineers, planners and business consultants, providing a diverse range of professional services to clients around the world.

The challenge

When Stella Littlewood joined Arup in 1997, she identified an urgent need to modernise the company’s HR policies and to bring them in line with legal requirements and best practice.

What the HR director did



  • Introduced total reward statements globally, which enabled employees to viewthe full monetary value of their rewardspackage online.
  • Introduced competency-based appraisals, e-learning and a new leadership programme, ‘Leading Arup’.
  • Launched an employee assistance programme to provide staff with advice on work and personal issues.
  • Installed a global portal for staff data management available to all employees through their PCs.

Benefits and achievements



  • Staff turnover stands at 12% compared to industry average of 21%.
  • Arup has been in the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Companies to Work For for the past four years.
  • In a Fortune 500 survey, Arup scored 18% better than average on the statement: ‘My company takes a genuine interest in the wellbeing of employees.’

The judge says

“This entry showed clear leadership. Stella Littlewood was the driving force behind the introduction of a large-scale change programme and the introduction of a range of HR service and policy improvements, developed by more than 100 project team members from all over the company.”

Paul Turner, West Bromwich Building Society

The team – People
Number in team: 27 Number in HR function: 27 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 850

About the organisation

West Bromwich Building Society (WBBS) is the UK’s ninth largest building society and has assets of more than £7bn. It distributes products and services through more than 50 branches, primarily in the West Midlands, and by telephone and internet.

The challenge

WBBS has undergone a radical change in fortunes in the UK financial services sector. It was a troubled, tired, criticised dinosaur and needed to be turned into a fast-moving, confident business, focused on its customers.

What the HR director did



  • Created a culture-change group to formulate a work ethos that supported its values while delivering business results.
  • Introduced a new measurement system to gauge the attitudes, mindsets and beliefs needed to attain the company values.
  • Created a ‘people board’, which reports directly to the main board.
  • Put the executive team through a stringent and accredited coaching programme.

Benefits and achievements



  • In the past year, WBBS has been recognised in 14 best practice awards.
  • Created a coaching culture that encourages employees to be more innovative and creative.
  • The introduction of the people board not only aligns HR activity to corporate strategy, but puts HR in the middle of business activity.

The judge says

“WBBS has enjoyed renewed success in business terms, and central to this has been a refocusing on staff and customers. The HR director set up a culture-change group with the aim of developing a culture that supports the firm’s values while enabling the delivery of targeted business results.”

Wendy Dean, ANC Express

The team – Human Resources ANC
Number in team: 6 Number in HR function: 6 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 1,700

About the organisation

ANC Express is a delivery service with 85 collection and delivery depots across the UK.

The challenge

To integrate the company’s new mission statement – ‘Delivering Peace of Mind’ – into the company culture. This required changing the HR department’s reputation for ‘sandwiches and bandages’into being a strategic business partner on the board.

What the HR director did



  • Began development of the ANC Academy for technical, management and workforce development.
  • Created an internal recruitment agency, Resource Solutions, to combat the spiralling costs of hiring agency staff.
  • Started a new driver training division.
  • Created a comprehensive, easy-to-understand induction pack for employees.

Benefits and achievements



  • Reduced absenteeism by 13%.
  • Achieved a 45% reduction in employee turnover in the past three years.
  • The creation of the driver training division has reduced costs by 9%.
  • The internal recruitment agency Resource Solutions showed a £324,000 profit in2005-06.
  • Three-quarters of all vacancies are now recruited from within.

The judge says

“The HR director is clearly at the heart of the business and is given responsibility for a number of wide-ranging areas. She has a clear understanding of how to bring value back into the business through a range of interventions that can easily demonstrate benefits to the bottom line.”

John McCluskey, Cabot Financial (Europe)

The team – HR and Training Team
Number in team: 8 Number in HR function: 8 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 310

About the organisation

Cabot Financial is a market leader in consumer debt purchase.It has grown rapidly since its launch in 1997, from 50 to more than 300 employees.

The challenge

Maintaining a motivated, capable workforce while keeping a healthy work-life balance in a rapidly expanding firm.

What the HR director did



  • Developed work-life balance initiatives, such as shift options and part-time working, including flexible privileges for top performers.
  • Introduced a comprehensive, four-month induction programme focusing on self-development, performance improvement and career progression.
  • Developed industry-specific skill and compliance procedures to map competencies and behaviours.
  • Launched a programme to monitor individual customer service performance, encouraging and recognising outstanding results.
  • Created a staff consultation group.
  • Introduced a bespoke, automated HR database.

Benefits and achievements



  • HR supports and underpins the entire business strategy, supporting all employees to ensure they work in line with business needs.
  • Working towards the ISO 9000 management standards and Investors in People Profile 4, which represents an organisation demonstrating excellent practices.
  • Absence rates have fallen below 4%.
  • HR was vital to the success of a recent refinancing bid, amounting to an investment 40% greater than expected.

The judge says

“The HR director has introduced a phenomenal range of practices to ensure that all staff experience products and services from HR of the highest quality.”

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