Shortlisted for HR Manager of the Year: Personnel Today Awards 2000
The introduction of telesales hit insurance broker Devitt hard in the early 1990s. Until that point the company had sold its policies via motorcycle dealers. But determined to keep up with new competitors such as Direct Line, Devitt launched its own telesales department in East London, using both existing employees and staff recruited locally.
Devitt’s employees needed to deliver high levels of customer service, so the company promoted a learning culture in which training and development helped promote a new culture among both existing staff and new recruits.
Every employee was offered training and development and the chance to gain qualifications in areas such as insurance, sales and IT. This was particularly important because Devitt was differentiating itself from other companies by promoting the quality of its policies, rather than price.
Today, 60 per cent of employees are working towards an academic qualification, and 99 per cent have received formal training. Training manager Kevin McAlpin, who has been in post since 1996, has been a driving force in this transformation. He left school at 16 and has gained qualifications throughout his career, culminating in an MSc in human resources. This has given him a strong commitment to life-long learning. He now sits on the Investors in People panel at London East Tec and has moved an increasingly strategic role at Devitt.
The growth of the business shows that the firm’s commitment to educating staff has paid off. Between 1995 and 1998, the number of direct motorbike policies increased by 350 per cent, a trend which continued in 1999. Sickness levels have dropped from an average of 8.21 days in 1996 to 6.15 days in 1999, and average monthly sales commission has risen from £127 per month to £233 per month over the same period.
Company fact file
HR manager Kevin McAlpin
Team Devitt Insurance HR department
Number in HR team Two in HR team, plus two supporting heads in IT department
Number of employees responsible for 150
Main achievements Winning external awards such as the LETEC Blue Ribbon Award for training 1999 and IIP 1998 and 1999. Devitt has also won three DfEE National Training Awards. Profitability has also increased sixfold since 1995, and the company has developed its own talent. Staff increased from 11 to 127 in 1998, and nearly all new recruits have been inexperienced
Priorities for next 12 months To expand executive coaching to all managers, supervisors and senior clerks, to embed training even further into line management and to highlight its importance throughout the company
Judge’s Comment “HR has taken a leadership role in driving through company change and culture, in order to turn around the business performance. McAlpin has shown real drive and determination. Since his appointment, the company has enhanced its service and has been awarded three DfEE awards. It has set itself demanding targets and achieved them. I was impressed by the organisation of social events for staff, which was good for morale. The results speak for themselves – sickness rates have been reduced, the company has won new business and it has achieved IIP status”