Personnel Today Awards 2004

Creating a distinct employer brand is now a top priority for most organisations. This award recognises employers that have made a major effort in this area. The judge looked for a clear explanation of how the brand was created and is being maintained.

Category judge: Belinda Kent-Lemon

Belinda Kent-Lemon is founder of Occam HR consultancy. She works with seven leading advertising agencies, three major media companies and a wide range of other organisations. Kent-Lemon previously worked in media and marketing.

She has a diploma in marketing and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Institute of Directors, and is an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. She is currently studying for an MSc in human resource consultancy.

Award sponsor: RightCoutts

RightCoutts, part of Right Management Consultants, is the world’s leading career transition and organisational consultancy. The firm helps to successfully manage the human side of change within organisations at all levels. Its services include employment branding, change management, performance and management development, leadership, human resources consulting and career transition.

Argos Ltd

The team: Argos Limited HR

No. in team: 3

No. in HR function: 107

No. of employees HR is responsible for: 23,000

About the organisation

Argos is the UK’s largest non-food retailer by sales and has more than 560 stores around the country.

What the organisation did

– Embarked on a total review of its employer brand, seeking a more aspirational positioning that reflected the culture of the organisation

– Focus groups with employees from all divisions of the business were established. The exercise was branded ‘Team Talk’, and consisted of two sessions with each division

– Four key themes came from these meetings, which led to the creation of four ‘brand pillars’ on which the new brand was based. These formed the basis for all recruitment material

– Argos’s own employees featured in its campaigns and became the backbone of the new brand.

Benefits and achievements

A new employer brand developed by staff and featuring staff, significantly reducing production costs

– The creation of the brand was a positive internal communications exercise that enhanced morale and pride in the business

– The new brand has contributed to the store’s sustained expansion. It has also altered internal and external perceptions of Argos as an employer.

Belinda Kent-Lemon says: “Argos performed well against all judging criteria, but I was particularly impressed by HR’s contribution to building the employer brand. The positive attitude of the company to its people has fed its strong business performance. Part-time workers are really valued too – almost every store has a team leader or management team member who joined as a Christmas temp.”

Loop Customer Management Ltd

The team: Loop HR team

No. in team: 8

No. in HR function: 8

No. of employees HR is responsible for: 640

About the organisation

The company was formed out of the customer service department of Yorkshire Water and launched as an independent business in 2000.

Loop provides outsourced customer-service management to clients within the utility sector, public sector and tourism industry.

What the organisation did

– Worked to make being ‘a great place to work’ a brand identity to encourage people to join the company

– Revamped the recruitment process, making it more applicant-friendly, sponsored local events and created a charity and community action team to donate to projects in the area

– Raised money for organisations that staff cared about, formed links with the local paper and used staff to portray the image of Loop in recruitment material

– Sponsored work-experience students and apprentices and developed branded promo-tional items to take to events.

Benefits and achievements

Staff turnover down from 32 per cent to 20 per cent, with 85 per cent of employees happy with their work-life balance

– Managers now focused on people rather than processes

– More than 50 people accepted through the first stage of recruitment are waiting for a position to become vacant.

Belinda Kent-Lemon says: “Loop’s concentration has been on the recruitment process, where it has been extraordinarily innovative in building a strong employer brand under the leadership of their HR director. In a sector where high staff turnover and low job satisfaction are rife, it has reduced staff turnover from 32 per cent to 20 per cent, and an impressive 89 per cent of employees enjoy working at Loop. “

London & Quadrant Housing Trust

The team: Group HR team

No. in team: 9

No. in HR function: 9

No. of employees HR is responsible for: 650

About the organisation

London & Quadrant Housing Trust (L&Q) is a charity providing homes to a wide variety of economically disadvantaged people. It houses 30,000 families in London and the South East every year.

What the organisation did

Developed the ‘our people’ agenda and aligned it with both business and corporate objectives

– Developed a welcome pack that reinforces the brand and overhauled the entire induction process, which includes every member of staff meeting the chief executive

– Developed staff-recognition and family-friendly benefits booklets that set out the awards and core benefits available to staff. It also developed a training scheme, where staff can choose a course not related to work

– Took HR roadshows across the organisation to coincide with the introduction of the booklets and branded schemes.

Benefits and achievements

Reduced staff turnover by 20 per cent to 11 per cent in the past two years. Sickness absence now stands at 2.5 per cent

– Became the first London housing association to win a place in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2003

– Awarded the 2003 UK Housing Award for raising the profile of social housing.

Belinda Kent-Lemon says: “L&Q performed strongly against all of the judging criteria and its entry was notable for its consistently high performance as an employer brand. The organisation’s determination to think about its people and what matters to them has worked for the company and its employees. A low-cost, but innovative, recognition policy and grandparent leave are most unusual.”

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

The team: Corporate HR

No. in team: 17

No. in HR function: 125

No. of employees HR is responsible for: 14,500

About the organisation

Doncaster Council is the largest employer in the borough, employing nearly 14,500 staff in a diverse range of positions and serving 270,000 people living in the area.

The council’s image suffered from the ‘Donnygate’ corruption scandal of the late 1990s which led to a major police investigation. This affected staff morale, and turnover had increased by 3 per cent in the past two years.

What the organisation did

Strong, effective recruitment branding has been created with a website for senior posts. Changes to its generic site give candidates more information about careers at the council.

– Streamlined press advertising, signposting people to one web portal in the borough, resulted in a 100 per cent increase in hits

– The council is working with a range of agencies to improve diversity and tackle skills shortages. It launched a major work-life balance initiative that attracted 3,000 hits in two weeks on its intranet site and includes training for all managers and the roll-out of flexible working.

Benefits and achievements

Savings of 350,000 per annum on recruitment advertising and doubling hits to the recruitment site

– Stabilising employee turnover and keeping it below 10 per cent

– Increasing the diversity profile of the workforce by recruiting more women, ethnic minorities and young people

– An increase of 20 per cent in positive employee feedback.

Belinda Kent-Lemon says: “Doncaster has worked incredibly hard to improve its performance and build an employer brand under the exemplary leadership of its mayor. Its ageing workforce has been supplemented by a recruitment campaign successfully focused on diversity to reflect the community, and it has worked hard to achieve better work-life balance and increased flexibility for staff retention.

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