Personnel Today Awards 2007 The Rialto Consultancy Award for Excellence in Business Partnering

This award is for organisations that can prove they are aligning HR and business strategy. HR professionals are increasingly exhorted to become strategic partners, and entrants needed to show how this role helps their organisation improve customer service, boost competitiveness, reduce costs, speed delivery and drive product innovation, where relevant. The judge looked for an explanation of the scope and nature of the business partner role, and how it is integrated with other HR functions.

Award judge

Paul Sparrow is director of the Centre for Performance-Led HRM at Lancaster University Management School. He has published more than 100 books, journal articles and chapters, and consulted with major multinationals, public sector organisations and inter-governmental agencies. His research covers cross-cultural and international HR management, HR strategy and changes in the employment relationship.

Award sponsor

The Rialto Consultancy is a business transition, performance and HR consultancy. The team draws on more than 80 years of expertise to deliver a range of performance improvement solutions. It focuses on three key integrated practice areas: resourcing people who deliver guaranteed value optimising individuals and teams to deliver competitive edge and revitalising individuals and organisations through effective career transition.

The AA
The team: HR
Number in team: 100 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 7,600

About the organisation The AA is the largest motoring organisation in the UK, providing breakdown cover, insurance and associated motoring products.

The challenge In late 2004, the AA had new owners and stretching targets. This created the need for a new HR organisation structure designed to support delivery of the business strategy, targeted with growing profits from £100m in 2005 to £300m in 2008.

What the organisation did

  • Built a new HR structure around the business partner role.
  • Business partners managed outsourcing contracts (for temporary labour, private medical insurance and flexible benefits) to help deliver savings to the business.
  • Introduced new employment contracts so 96% of patrols accept flexible working.
  • Launched performance management measures and incentives.
  • Introduced a cross-business model of carrying out pay negotiations with unions.

Benefits and achievements

  • Profit has grown to a forecast £257m in 2007.
  • Employee numbers have reduced from 1,700 in 2005 to 1,300 in 2007.
  • Attrition has reduced from 52% to 21%
  • Temp costs reduced from £4m to £3m.
  • Employee engagement scores increased from 2.9 to 5 out of 7.
  • AA insurance achieved a 45% increase in profitability between 2004 and 2007.

The judge says: “The HR structures mirror three strategic business themes – business focus, low-cost, high-quality operations and brand differentiation. It provided clear evidence of improvements in business metrics around profit and added value per employee, with cost savings resulting from the use of business partners in negotiations. Improvements in staff engagement are evidenced throughout what is a challenging business improvement programme.”

ABN Amro
The team
: HR
Number in team: 10 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 3,809

About the organisation ABN Amro is an international bank, in the UK global and regional hub for financial markets, asset management, operations, information technology and a range of group services.

The challenge In the global market for talent, there was a need for better links between HR and the business to ensure that the strategic goals, challenges and requirements of each business unit were being met. Productivity is a key metric of success.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced business partners in 2005, ensuring HR mirrors the business, with each management team having a dedicated business partner.
  • Business partners looked at unproductive businesses/individuals and helped leadership come up with the right solution.
  • Coached business leaders to understand the significance of people issues.
  • Applied stringent cost management by improving HR processes.
  • Hired more experienced staff for key roles.

Benefits and achievements

  • The new model ensures the people issues associated with any business decision are kept to the fore.
  • HR headcount was reduced.
  • The business maintained its fixed costs and created revenue through a creative, strategic approach to recruitment.
  • Productivity increased by 25%.

The judge says: “The entry outlines the introduction of a team of 30 business partners, subsequent shifts in performance metric scales, and strategic resourcing activity within the equities business. The business partners link into the business structure and have helped solve business problems. Although the use of a business partner, shared service and centre of excellence approach is fairly traditional, business leaders offered good testimonials about the effectiveness of the new structure.”

The team:
Retail Resourcing Team
Number in team: 5 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 16,000

About the organisation E.ON UK is one of the UK’s leading energy suppliers, the second largest electricity generator in the UK, and owns the second largest distribution network in the UK.

The challenge E.ON’s business strategy was to compete in the energy sector on customer service, not cost. This required a whole new approach to recruitment – a challenge compounded by limited brand awareness and rising cost per hire.

What the organisation did

  • Outsourced operational responsibility for recruitment to TMP.
  • Reduced costs by advertising across a range of different media.
  • Occupational psychologists worked with high performers to identify key competencies.
  • Held weekly ‘dashboard calls’ to analyse activity and make improvements.
  • With TMP, it reviewed all candidate communications to make E.ON an employer of choice.

Benefits and achievements

  • An 11% decrease in cost per hire.
  • Employee referrals (as a percentage of hires) rose from 6.2% to 20%.
  • Online applications rose from 40% to 72%.
  • Attrition at 13 weeks reduced from 25% to 15%, and annual attrition reduced from 56% to 25%.

The judge says: “The entry provides useful linkage of the recruitment process to the importance of customer service, and the movement of call centre activities back to the UK. The resourcing practices are professional, supported by occupational psychology practice and the teamwork demonstrates good project management disciplines. There are improvements in recruitment efficiency metrics and good evidence of customer satisfaction gains.”

Metropolitan Police Service
The team: HR
Number in team: 3 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 52,000

About the organisation The Metropolitan Police Service is the Police Service for London, covering an area of 620 square miles and a population of 7.2 million.

The challenge Devising innovative ways of tackling crime so local police are better equipped to deal with local issues and improve relationships and consultation between businesses and the police.

What the organisation did

  • In 2004 it set up the Employer Supported Policing (ESP) programme, where businesses can support their staff to become special constables (with training at Hendon Police Training School).
  • Several departments in the Met work together with ESP partners – integrating with existing processes – so people go from new recruits to special constables in six months.
  • It is developing the programme across the UK.

Benefits and achievements

  • Businesses benefit by having patrols local and relevant to their line of work.
  • The Met benefits by having a highly visible police strength in fighting crime.
  • Sharing intelligence, contacts and tackling crime is done in a joined-up way between the Met, businesses and individuals.
  • Half of shop managers said theft had reduced, thanks to the ESP retail scheme ShopWatch.
  • Fifty organisations support ESP, delivering 500 extra crimefighters to the capital.

The judge says: “An innovative partnership between organisations that impacts on the nature of human resource management. The impact on business metrics such as shoplifting and shrinkage can be shown, alongside developments in the quality and calibre of staff. The scheme also made effective use of resources.”

Vodafone UK
The team: Vodafone UK HR
Number in team: 220 Number of employees the team is responsible for: 10,100

About the organisation Vodafone UK has 17.4m customers and is part of the world’s largest mobile community, offering a wide range of voice and data communications.

The challenge Vodafone UK’s commercial strategy is ‘Winning in the Market’, which aims to deliver business growth and a distinctive positioning by placing customers first. Business partners had to bring together business units and make the strategy work.

What the organisation did

  • Three years of investment in an HR transformation programme.
  • Built a shared service centre and HR centres of enterprise, enabling HR business partners to become true strategic partners.
  • The top 500 leaders each have a strategic partner who can make the link between commercial imperatives and HR implications.
  • Increased use of technology – self-service HR portal (AskHRplus).

Benefits and achievements

  • Vodafone is the only UK mobile operator to increase its market share.
  • Business partners spend 50% of their time driving the Winning in the Market strategy.
  • AskHRplus has 5,000 queries a month, managed by specialists, so freeing business partners’ time.
  • HR operating costs have been streamlined, and recruitment costs have reduced.
  • The UK model is valued as a ‘model of excellence’ and is being rolled out to Vodafone Group.

The judge says: “Although the model of business partners, service centre and centres of excellence is a relatively well-tried route, the linkage into the business strategy is well-articulated. There is collaboration with other functions, and the initiative is linked to a strategy of building leadership and capability within the company. The entry provides good testimonials from business leaders alongside evidence of a successful business strategy, and improvement in engagement.”

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