Personnel Today Awards 2006

Award profile

This award recognises an HR professional or team that has added value to their organisation through an innovative, clever or determined solution. Tactical, rather than strategic, the winning intervention will show HR at its most creative and flexible. Entries had to provide evidence of: speed of reaction, thinking ‘outside the box’, clear communication, a sophisticated understanding of the business drivers, and  measurement of the benefits.

Sponsor profile

Addleshaw Goddard has one of the largest teams of employment lawyers in the UK. It focuses on the effective management of issues that can have a serious impact on client businesses – complex, unpredictable and sensitive matters, which may have a high value or affect reputation or strategy.

Judge profile

Bruce Warman was director of personnel for Vauxhall from 1988 to 2003. He was also chairman of the CBI in the East of England and a member of the Acas Council. He is now a member of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, the Accountancy Investigation and Discipline Board and is chairman of the audit committee for the Security Industry Authority.

Shortlisted teams

BT Global Services

The team – HR M&A and Outsourcing Team
Number in team: 5 Number in HR function: 245 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 30,000+

About the organisation

BT Global Services is a provider of networked IT services worldwide.

The challenge

The HR M&A [mergers & acquisitions] and Outsourcing Team came to life in February 2005 in response to increasing mergers, acquisitions and outsourcing activity and the clear requirement to combine the best internal and external practices into a comprehensive, repeatable and flexible way of working.

What the organisation did

  • Brought together, for the first time, specialists from HR and other areas of the business to discuss best practice.

  • Designed, developed and rolled out a best practice work plan on a budget of £200,000.

  • Disseminated the plan through a series of training days to ensure everyone had a basic understanding and used a common language.

Benefits and achievements

  • Raised HR’s capability to support the business through the M&A/outsourcing contract lifecycle.

  • Provided a common global framework, so that everyone in HR could refer to and understand what was involved at each stage.

  • Accelerated the delivery of bottom-line business benefits from M&A/outsourcing by focusing on people integration.

  • Provided a showcase tool for winning new business with its clients and partners.

The judge says: “Each project is unique and often complex and the HR component is critical to its success. A diverse team assessed the current HR project approach and developed a methodology that could be used in all M&A and outsourcing projects. This generated significant cost savings, greater speed and greater international cohesion.”

The AA

The team – The AA Senior HR Team
Number in team: 9 Number in HR function: 30 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 6,750

About the organisation

The AA is one of the UK’s most high-profile motoring organisations, with more dedicated patrols than anyone else, and it now provides financial services to its customers. It provides expert advice and knowledge on transport issues, which are respected by safety experts and government.

The challenge

The role of the AA’s uniformed patrol force has changed little over the years, and while it takes pride in its heritage, it has also been rather insular and reluctant to change working practices. Previous reviews of work practices had led to a wide range of different employment contracts being used. This had to change.

What the organisation did

  • Instigated a statistical review of the performance of patrols on each contract type, identifying areas of high and low performance.

  • Communicated results with the business, patrols and union officials to manage expectations and enable radical change.

  • Organised exit packages for 500 poor performers under compromise agreements.

  • Introduced a single contract of employment with an incentive scheme.

Benefits and achievements

  • 95% of patrols accepted the more flexible contract package.

  • 82% of patrols received incentives for hitting targets that improved the service.

  • AA patrols recorded a 21% rise in productivity within the space of a year.

The judge says: “AA management recognised a pressing need to improve productivity. The personnel team addressed this by introducing new contracts, new work processes and new measurement tools. Both managers and unions were closely engaged.”

Cabot Financial (Europe)

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

About the organisation

Cabot Financial describes itself as a pioneer and market leader in consumer debt purchase in the UK and Europe with an ethical policy of treating its 1.5 million customers with respect. Formed in 1997, the workforce at its Kent call centre has grown from 50 to 300 employees.

The challenge

Performance was worsening on a number of key measures, including target achievement, absence, staff turnover and customer complaints. HR decided the company needed to adopt a philosophy of high-performance to re-energise the workforce.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced a ‘Drive’ campaign, to reward the behaviours and competencies of high-achieving employees.

  • Introduced a ‘Speed’ nomination scheme for employees displaying exceptional customer service – internally and externally.

  • Employees not absent during any given month were entered into a ‘Surprise Surprise’ prize draw, with high-value awards.

Benefits and achievements

  • The HR team’s own people management and negotiating skills improved, and members were nominated for the ‘Speed’ programme.

  • A higher percentage of personal and team targets were achieved.

  • Absence rates fell from 7% to 3%, and staff turnover is down to 21% – a low figure for call centres.

  • Convinced of its positive impact on the business, the board has committed to an additional 40% investment in the programme.

The judge says: “This is a fast-growing firm in consumer debt repurchase, where customer service is the key. HR developed a strategy to raise levels of service covering training, bonuses, coaching and performance.”

Arena Housing Association

The team – HR Team
Number in team: 6 Number in HR function: 9 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 850

About the organisation

Arena Housing supplies around 12,000 homes for 30,000 residents in the North of England. It operates the ‘care and repair’ scheme for older, disabled or low-income homeowners provides assistance in helping the long-term unemployed get back into work and has a shared-ownership initiative for those on limited incomes.

The challenge

Arena had allowed sickness absence to escalate to more than 11%, and agency staff were increasingly being used to cover long-term absence and, more regularly, short-term sick leave.

What the organisation did

  • The new assistant director of HR made it her team’s mission to address the crisis.

  • Implemented fortnightly director-level absence reviews and director’s home visits.

  • Gained union support for the initiative.

  • Sourced a new and more effective occupational health provider at a lower cost than the previous service.

Benefits and achievements

  • The number of long-term sick staff has fallen from 38 to seven.

  • Absence levels have been reduced from more than 11% to 3.4%.

  • The company has made savings from a reduction in agency staff use.

  • Staff understand that the sick scheme is there to protect, rather than to be exploited.

The judge says: “This was a very small HR team with minimal financial resources. It had a clear idea of the problem – high levels of absenteeism – and grasped the nettle in dealing with this. It adopted a number of approaches, which it followed rigorously, and stayed the course even when, initially, the numbers started going the wrong way.”

Trinity-Chiesi Pharmaceuticals

The team – HR Team
Number in team: 3 Number in HR function: 3 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 150

About the organisation

Trinity-Chiesi is dedicated to the research, development and commercialisation of ethical, therapeutic products. The partnership combines Trinity’s 10-year track record in the UK and Chiesi’s long-established research capability to deliver a range of respiratory, cardiovascular and neonatal medicines.

The challenge

This three-person HR team understood that, given the company’s growth plans, it needed a compelling brand and set of values to enable it to compete as an employer of choice against much larger organisations.

What the organisation did

  • Created a strong employer brand, starting with the company’s website – the first port of call for many potential employees.

  • Involved employees at all levels to measure and accurately reflect the aspirations of the business and its people.

  • Introduced a competency framework, probationary review process, performance evaluation process, field visit reporting, career pathways and tiered benefits structure.

Benefits and achievements

  • The HR team measured an improvement in morale and a strong feeling of ownership among all employees.

  • The company saved £340,000 through a reduction in employee turnover.

  • The HR department has firmly established itself in a role central to the company’s vision.

The judge says: “The small HR team recognised that it needed to create a distinctive image for a relatively small company to stand out in a very competitive industry. It worked with great determination in these areas and achieved results in improved morale and a one-third reduction in employee turnover, saving £340,000.”

Comments are closed.