Personnel Today Awards 2001 update

Shortlisted
teams for the totaljobs.com Award for Communication Strategy.

This
is a new category in the Personnel Today Awards and is aimed at HR teams who
have used employee communication effectively to achieve business objectives or
to support organisational change

Montgomery Watson Harza
Programme management team

What the team did

In January 2000, environmental engineering consultancy Montgomery Watson
secured a five-year contract with United Utilities (formerly North West Water)
to deliver solutions in order that the utility could meet a series of stricter
water quality and environmental regulatory requirements. As part of this the
consultancy had to manage the transfer of 250 employees from the previous
provider and merge different cultures and values into one company.

To smooth the transition MWH came up with a communication strategy that
would keep employees informed throughout the merger. Individual meetings were
held for the entire 365 employees to allay any concerns they may have and this
was followed up with a second meeting. A set of core values and a performance
management system were established and promoted through mouse mats, cards,
posters. Regular monthly briefings were also scheduled in order to get
feedback.

Why they did it

Montgomery Watson wanted effective business communication to be a
cornerstone of the new organisation and to ensure employees knew they would be
kept fully informed about any changes affecting them. In addition by placing
emphasis on feedback employees were encouraged to comment on what they felt was
and wasn’t successful. "Our main concern was to avoid imposing
things," explains HR manager Dominic Kirkbride. "All of the
initiatives were planned with staff who had input and involvement in the design
and implementation and feedback was encouraged from the start."

Benefits and achievements

The staff surveys have allowed the company to measure the effectiveness of
the communication system, while feedback from employees has allowed continual
development of the system. The business now runs more efficiently and, says
Kirkbride, has become a "homogenous group" rather than a set of
factions.

The team

Number in team 4
Staff responsible for 400; 150 agency subcontractors
Senior HR and development adviser Julia Clatworthy
HR administrator Anne Carr
HR adviser Katie Ledwith
HR manager Dominic Kirkbride

Nationwide Building Society
Corporate Personnel-Reward

What the team did

Reviewed its pay and salary management systems and developed the idea of a
"job family culture" where pay progression is fairer and more
transparent.

To communicate this a plan was devised detailing responsibilities and how
the message and methods fitted together. A brand was also created for the
initiatives under the banner of "valuing your contribution". The
company used a range of media from individual booklets and letters to
presentations, briefings, videos and the intranet.

Phil Austin, Nationwide rewards consultant (not pictured), says,
"Within a year we have changed communications and established a set of
reward principles which are in keeping with the values of the organisation, and
which are used as a yardstick to measure all our reward initiatives."

Why they did it

With the previous system it was nigh on impossible to move upwards from the
minimum point on a pay scale. There was no correlation with the market as well
as inconsistencies between jobs. "We saw the need for a transparent
mechanism where employees could see how they could get to the target pay levels
for their jobs," says Austin. But with another year of the scheme to run,
most employees will reach their target wage levels within the next year.

"Employee feedback shows the positive response rate has improved from
31 per cent to 53 per cent and we aim to keep it moving that way," says
Austin "We believe that this work could not have succeeded without
comprehensive, clear and constant communications."

Benefits and achievements

All jobs are benchmarked against the competition and conform to market
rates. The number of job descriptions have also been halved.
"Communicating this meant challenging preconceived ideas and thinking
laterally about how we could get the message across to employees,"
explains Austin. "But now everyone understands their target pay levels and
that they are as good, if not better, than other organisations."

The team

Number in team 8 in rewards team, 45 in corporate personnel team
Staff responsible for 15,000 nationally
Rewards consultant Adele Lightwater
Rewards administrator Debbie Mitchard
Administrator Sue Weaver
Senior manager Paul Bissel

First Choice Holidays
HR department

What the team did

Following the acquisition of Unijet by First Choice Holidays,
the two companies had to be integrated and restructured into two new divisions:
First Choice Holidays and First Choice Independent Travel Division. Effective
communication was deemed critical to the success of the integration programme,
especially as there was still some bad feeling caused by previous integration
activities. All communication was branded "Building on success" with
a First Choice’s "Bob the Builder" character so employees would
instantly know what the communication was about.

Managers, employees and board members received regular updates
from the HR team, backed up with an internal newsletter and a poster campaign explaining
what the merger was trying to achieve. All organisational change announcements
and updates were circulated to all parts of the business using e-mail and fax.

To encourage employee feedback, a dedicated e-mail site,
Building on the Success Bulletin Board, was set up so employees could post
questions and receive answers within 48 hours. This access also extended to the
"absent" workforce, some 1,400 reps located overseas during the peak
holiday season, with 40 European gateways. For those employees who didn’t have
access to e-mail, "Listening walls" were positioned in the staff
restaurants so they could also anonymously post questions on the board to the
HR team.

Why they did it

To retain the key skills and expertise of the employees, while reducing
headcount and maintaining motivation. The most critical aspect of the
restructuring was securing feedback from employees about what First Choice was
trying to achieve, and the company had to admit that it didn’t have all the
answers. "We saw this as a major change in the business and that we
couldn’t afford to do it behind closed doors," explains Jackie Robinson,
director of HR.

Benefits and achievements

Using technology, for the first time, to support communication
across the business. The transition has been managed sensitively during a
difficult period of organisational change. Employee surveys indicate widespread
acknowledgement and appreciation throughout the whole organisation.

The team

Number in team 7
Staff responsible for 4,000
HR director Jackie Robinson
HR manager Sue Chatfield
HR manager Jackie Simmonds
Recruitment coordinator Nicki Cook

Judge’s comment
John Smythe, Chairman, Smythe Dorward Lambert

Montgomery Watson Harza

"Montgomery Watson successfully put in place a comprehensive communication
strategy that supported the needs of both managers and employees. It achieved
the end results, adding great value to the company."

Nationwide Building Society

"The HR team has been successful in contributing to the vision, culture
and operation of the organisation. The success lies with them listening to
their employees."

First Choice Holidays

"The bold principles of face-to-face communication and feedback
demonstrate the influence the communication team had at a top level. This alone
is an invaluable contribution to the organisation."

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