Personnel Today Awards 2006

Award profile

This award recognises effective approaches to the selection, recruitment and retention of employees. The judge looked for successful examples of developing and motivating staff, and innovative ways of attracting the right applicants. New methods of recruiting, measuring and assessing capability and performance, career management, succession planning and competency testing were all relevant. The judge also sought evidence of organisations gaining a competitive advantage from their strategies.

Award sponsor

Hays Human Resources, part of Hays plc, is one of the UK’s leading specialist HR recruitment consultancies. It places people in permanent, temporary and lucrative interim jobs across the entire spectrum of generalist and HR positions, and provides exceptional levels of service for both candidates and clients, taking great care to identify the right people for the right positions.

Category judge

Jane Burt runs her own HR consultancy, with clients such as BP and the Samaritans. She has also held senior HR roles in the financial services sector at companies including Abbey, Liffe and PKF, focusing on mergers, acquisitions, start-ups and cost reduction. Burt’s non-executive work includes roles for a number of charities.

The shortlist

The Activate Partnership
The team: The Activate Partnership
Number in team: 20 Number in HR function: 84 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 17,000

About the organisation

‘Activate’, which stands for Assisting Communities to identify Vocational Areas of Training and Employment, is a partnership project between Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital Birmingham, the children’s and women’s hospitals in Birmingham, and the region’s Strategic Health Authority.

The challenge

To address business-critical staff shortages, improve the employment prospects of disadvantaged groups, and engage with local communities. The organisations also wanted to demonstrate the NHS’s ability to lead on training and diversity.

What the organisation did

It set up Activate to improve access for black and minority ethnic (BME) groups to fully support its equal opportunities policy and, in conjunction with West Midlands Learning and Skills Council, to provide:

  • Advice and guidance

  • Pre-employment training and work experience

  • A career-planning qualification

  • Job search support

Benefits and achievements

  • 245 of the 704 people who started training have gained employment so far.

  • 30% of these are from a BME background.

  • Activate’s success led to the Learning Hub project to help local and disadvantaged people to gain employment at University Hospital Birmingham.

  • Managers are increasingly prepared to recruit via non-traditional routes.

The judge says: “Activate has delivered results in recruitment and retention for five NHS trusts, which demonstrates the power of teamwork across organisations, resulting in a win all round. The model has been extended to other areas of the public sector.”

Carphone Warehouse
The team – Customer Management
Number in team: 25 Number in HR function: 180 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 9,500

About the organisation

The Carphone Warehouse is Europe’s leading independent retailer of mobile phones and services.

The challenge

To maintain competitive advantage by growing its people, the company changed its recruitment and retention strategy to source and retain the very best candidates.

What the organisation did

  • Created a specialist in-house resourcing function managed by external provider Reflect.

  • Trained managers in competency interviewing techniques.

  • Provided career development advice.

  • Developed assessment centres with bespoke exercises and psychometric testing procedures to hire the right candidates.

  • Provided an average of 16 days’ off-the job-training for each employee.

  • Issued reward and recognition credits, worth more than £800,000, through its employee recognition scheme, Carat.

Benefits and achievements

  • Achieved a cost saving of more than £450,000 in the past financial year.

  • Cost-per-hire rate for roles up to £40,000 reduced by 47%.

  • Now fills 39% of roles through promotion or transfer.

  • Reduced the number of staff leaving within first six months by 25%.

  • Reduced average time to hire from 57 to 27 days.

  • Reduced use of external recruitment agencies by 50%.

  • Ranked sixth in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For survey in 2006.

The judge says: “This is a great example of an investment in people delivering an increase in sales and contribution to bottom-line profit, while being a great place to work.”

Metropolitan Police Service
The team – HR Directorate
Number in team: n/a Number in HR function: 932 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 48,626

About the organisation

The Metropolitan Police Service (Met) employs 31,141 officers, 13,661 police staff, 414 traffic wardens and 2,106 police community support officers.

The challenge

The Met recognised the importance of recruiting a workforce that was representative of the community it serves and understood the community’s needs. It set out to redress the balance of under-represented groups in its workforce to achieve this goal.

What the organisation did

  • Revised its recruitment strategy to include targeted, innovative recruitment methods.

  • Staff from the Met careers team, recruitment, marketing and advertising and an external advertising agency developed a recruitment bus to target communities that are under-represented in the police force.

  • Ensured the bus had space for interviews and presentations as well as equipment such as internet access and touch screens.

Benefits and achievements

  • The bus has visited more than 20 different communities and cultural and religious events, including Chinese New Year, Gay Pride, and the opening of Europe’s largest Hindu temple in Stanmore in May.

  • Its first trip to Haringey, north London, last December collected 105 registrations of interest in police officer posts – 75% of which were from black and minority ethnic and female enquirers.

  • It collected 32 registrations of interest when it went to an Islamic Centre in Greenwich, south London.

The judge says: “The bus takes recruitment into the heart of the community, raising the profile of police vacancies and challenging perceptions by offering an informal way to engage with potential recruits.”

Nottingham City Council
The team – Corporate Human Resources
Number in team: 16 Number in HR function: 132 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 13,200

About the organisation

Nottingham City Council provides government services for 275,000 people. Its vision is for a “safer, cleaner, ambitious Nottingham – a city we can all be proud of”.

The challenge

Nottingham is the seventh most disadvantaged local authority in the country, with high levels of deprivation and poor – though improving – levels of educational achievement. The council set out to boost levels of employment in Nottingham’s most disadvantaged communities and ensure its workforce is representative of the community.

What the organisation did

  • HR developed and launched the Local Jobs for Local People (LJ4LP) initiative.

  • HR helped to form the working groups given the task of boosting the number and quality of work experience placements and apprenticeships, and also set up a council-wide job fair team to increase the visibility of the council at local fairs.

  • Held ’employment academies’ across the city.

  • Developed two-year ‘city careership’ programmes for year 10 and 11 pupils, which led to a post-16 apprenticeship and rther qualifications or permanent employment.

Benefits and achievements

  • City residents made up 54% of the workforce in March 2006, compared with 46% in November 2003.

  • 402 people have completed training in employment academies.

  • 234 have found permanent employment.

The judge says: “This is a terrific example of using innovative recruitment and training methods to benefit the council and the local community. By targeting the local unemployed and students, it has filled roles with people from Nottingham which it had found difficult to fill.”

Royal Bank of Scotland
The team – Resourcing and Development
Number in team: 240 Number in HR function: 2,000+ Number of employees HR is responsible for: 137,000+

About the organisation

Founded in 1727, the Royal Bank of Scotland Group is now one of the world’s leading financial services providers and one of the oldest banks in the UK, with offices in Europe, the US and Asia.

The challenge

The bank wanted to find a way of quickly and efficiently evaluating the suitability of potential employees. It was seeking characteristics that would lead to successful performance and job retention in customer service and processing roles.

What the organisation did

  • Its in-house organisational psychology team created the ‘suitability screen’ psychometric tool, which can be delivered online, by automated telephone system or by a telephone assessor.

  • Teamed up with external researchers, practitioners and academic experts, to trial the tool with 1,150 participants.

Benefits and achievements

  • The suitability screen is now being successfully used to recruit candidates across the group.

  • It removed the need to ‘pay per click’ for an external online test provider, representing an estimated saving of more than £340,000 in the first year.

  • Speed and ease of assessment has been improved.

  • Candidates can now go from initial enquiry to an interview booking while completing a rigorous and robust selection process.

The judge says: “This a very good example of a significant project that will have far-reaching business and HR benefits. The tool is delivering cost benefits as well as efficiency in a selection process for high volumes of people, while at the same time increasing the quality and retention of new hires.”

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