Personnel Today Awards 2008: Award for HR Impact

This award recognises an HR professional or team that has added value to their organisation through an innovative, clever or determined solution, showing HR at its most creative and flexible. Entrants provided clear evidence of speed of reaction, thinking ‘outside the box’, clear communication, a sophisticated understanding of the business drivers and measurement of the benefits.

Awards judge: Nick Holley is director of the HR Centre of Excellence at Henley Management College. His background combines extensive experience as an Army officer and Merrill Lynch futures broker, along with 16 years in senior development roles at large global organisations. Holley has implemented large-scale organisational change, as well as leadership and people development schemes.


Shortlisted teams:

British Telecom Global Services
The team: Major Programmes Practice (MPP)
Number in team: 9 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 2,814

About the organisation

The Major Programmes Practice (MPP) provides a world-class team that enables BT Global Services to bid for and profitably deliver transformation programmes for government and non-government organisations.

The challenge

To meet the growing need for management of major technology programmes in all sectors by establishing a new business dedicated to delivering complex large-scale programmes, bringing together people with appropriate high-level skills and experience.

What the organisation did



  • Launched a talent management programme including 360-degree reviews, coaching and mentoring, workshops to build leadership skills, allowing candidates to participate in projects beyond the scope of their normal responsibilities
  • Sponsored candidates for Cranford University’s MSc in programme and project management
  • Partnered with Oxford University’s Said Business School to launch an MSc in major project management.

Benefits and achievements



  • Achieved a retention rate of 100%
  • Created a credible pool of leaders ready to succeed to senior roles in the organisation
  • Created a pool of trained coaches and mentors to develop a coaching culture across the organisation
  • Won buy-in from 100% of talent management participants
  • Achieved 100% pass rate for BT MSc students – one finishing as top student for the year.

The judge says: “BT established a new business that required a high level of performance and delivery capability. HR worked closely with the business, challenging conventional thinking and putting in place a comprehensive talent programme that has delivered a big shift in BT’s ability to deliver major programmes.”


Thorntons

The team: People Strategy Team
Number in team: 6
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 2,600

About the organisation

Thorntons is a retailer and manufacturer of confectionery products, and is renowned for its chocolate. Established by Joseph William Thornton in 1911, now it has almost 400 shops and cafes and a turnover of £180m.

The challenge

Thorntons needed to attract and retain the best staff to drive sales and business contribution in its stores. But staff turnover was rising, leading to customer complaints and poor sales performance. Satisfaction surveys and exit interviews revealed the two key factors behind the turnover rates were pay, which was felt to be uncompetitive, and contract hours.

What the organisation did



  • After a series of presentations, the company invested an additional £2m in the retail payroll budget – the largest investment in people in its history
  • HR and Retail worked together to benchmark pay rates against competitors and devised a system linking individual pay to sales turnover and performance against defined criteria
  • Trialled increased working hours in selected stores to determine the impact on sales performance, contribution and other business indicators.

Benefits and achievements



  • Store manager labour turnover reduced by 43%
  • Overall staff turnover reduced by 16% – the lowest level in a decade
  • Customer complaints fell by 21%
  • Increased retention of good performers by 25%
  • Staff who agreed ‘My salary is fair for my responsibilities’ increased from 16% to 58%.

The judge says: “Thorntons identified a direct correlation between labour turnover, customer complaints and sales. Based on detailed research, it implemented a number of trials that proved the link between improvements in key people measures (satisfaction, retention and absence) and hard numbers (sales, customer numbers and contribution).”


Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming
The team: Ladbrokes HR
Number in team: 9
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 14,000

About the organisation

Ladbrokes is the leading bookmaker in the UK, and the world’s largest fixed-odds betting company. It employs more than 14,000 people in five countries, with more than 2,500 betting shops.

The challenge

Ladbrokes had been experiencing tough trading conditions for the past few years, facing stiff competition from online rivals and rising costs from new legislation. It wanted a high-performance culture, but it was accumulating under-performing staff. Research revealed this was caused by gaps in knowledge and skills, and a lack of understanding about why their performance ‘mattered’.

What the organisation did



  • Defined performance model, processes and clear key performance indicators and leadership competencies
  • Designed performance development training materials, assessment processes and technology
  • Linked strategy, behaviour, competencies and performance to a £2.5m bonus pool
  • Gained highly visible support from the managing director
  • Promoted all the changes through internal communications.

Benefits and achievements



  • 97% of shop staff agreed the briefings/training were effective
  • 95% agreed the learning and support material was effective
  • Mystery shopping scores increased from 68.8% to 76.4%
  • Organisational compliance scores increased by 21%
  • Improved individual performance helped to deliver an 11% year-on-year increase in ‘gross win’ (income minus customer winnings)
  • Reduced sickness absence, saving the equivalent of £30,000 a month.

The judge says: “Ladbrokes’ HR department needed to respond to a tough new trading environment. It identified a comprehensive programme of compensation and benefits, and implemented communications, training, process and performance management changes that have had a measurable impact on the bottom line.”


The Wallich
The team: HR team
Number in team: 4
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 194

About the organisation

The Wallich is a charity that provides supported housing services to homeless people in Wales. Established in 1978, it supports more than 500 people a day, and has more than 190 employees.

The challenge

The Wallich is largely dependent on funding from the Welsh Assembly. Plans to devolve this funding to local authorities threatened to affect the way it ran its services, so it needed to look at ways to maximise efficiency and outputs to secure its future. But research revealed that £224,000 was spent on absence in 2006, with an average of 15 days sick per employee, draining limited resources.

What the organisation did



  • Total revision of sickness management policy and setting targets for reducing absence
  • Absence management training for managers
  • Introduced an occupational health provider
  • Introduced health and wellbeing initiatives including work-life balance training
  • Featured health and wellbeing workshops at annual conference
  • Implemented new sickness and wellbeing policy.

Benefits and achievements



  • Reduced cost of absence by £47,000 to £175,000 in 2007
  • Saved £70,000 or 980 days sick leave through occupational health support and more stringent management practices
  • Achieved an average of 7.7 days per employee as of March 2008, (charity sector average is 10.5 days), and set to save another £70,000 in 2008.

The judge says: “The Wallich faced a change in funding that threatened its service provision. This required a reappraisal of its cost drivers, identifying a huge hidden cost in employee absence. HR put in place a detailed two-year strategy that has had a clear measurable impact on its cost base and put it at the top of charity sector benchmarks.”


South Tyneside Council
The team: Organisational Development & People
Number in team: 30
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 7,000

About the organisation

A local authority in the North East of England, employing 7,200 staff, and serving a community of about 150,000 people.

The challenge

Most of the council’s workforce is female (72%), and 38% of its part-timers are women, many of whom have childcare responsibilities. Those struggling with such arrangements are more likely to be unhappy at work, with increased absence and decreased performance and productivity. It wanted staff to better balance work and family commitments to improve wellbeing, satisfaction, motivation and commitment, boosting performance and service delivery.

What the organisation did



  • Introduced the innovative ‘Stuck not Sick’ scheme, which allows staff to take emergency time off instead of calling in sick
  • Removed core hours from its flexible working scheme, introducing earlier start times and later finishing times, and increased the number of days’ flexible leave staff could take per month to two days
  • Allowed as much paid time off on compassionate leave as needed instead of taking sick leave.

Benefits and achievements



  • Sickness absence has fallen by 25% since 2002-03, saving just over £1.5m
  • Staff turnover is below the sector average at 6.4%
  • Over the past five years, the council has gone from being rated ‘fair’ to a top-performing ‘four-star’ authorityunder the government’s assessment framework for local authorities
  • Reduced sick leave and increased satisfaction levels.

The judge says: “South Tyneside Council introduced a novel approach to promoting flexibility, combining a ‘hard nose and a warm heart’. This has resulted in improvements in key numbers such as absence, sickness and staff turnover, feeding through into cost savings and improvements in service provision resulting in the council securing a four-star rating from the government.”

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