In a customer-centric economy, businesses increasingly seek competitive edge through the quality of their management and staff.
This has been understood by Lex Service, which three years ago moved to transform itself from an automotive dealer into a transport services provider, combining retail with fleet management and support activities such as roadside assistance. Recognising that HR would have a major role to play, the company upgraded the function, giving it a seat on the board for the first time.
Led by group HR director Debbie Howard, the department focused on influencing the strategic agenda and developing the strength of the brand. It helped plan and integrate major acquisitions such as the RAC, and introduced a leadership culture with strong customer awareness.
Details of the new strategic direction were shared with a cross-section of employees who were then asked to describe the leadership behaviours that would either reinforce or impede it. That provided a common set of management competencies, which were applied to all HR activities.
A central aim was to encourage HR teams to focus their efforts on areas where they could add value. This was helped by outsourcing functions such as payroll and employee helplines, and focusing on coaching activities and providing business partnership. Each individual in the department was asked to analyse where they were spending their time and what they needed to do to shift the emphasis.
The success of HR’s role is evident at the bottom line in a strong improvement on profit and shareholder value. The level of employee satisfaction has also increased – turnover is significantly down and internal promotions have increased more than threefold. Two major brands, RAC and Lex, have been developed and the balance sheet is sufficiently cash-rich to fund further organic and acquisitive growth.
West Bromwich Building Society people development division
Worcestershire County Council HR team