Personnel Today Awards 2006: shortlist

Award profile

This award recognises the effective use of technology by HR teams to bring about business benefits. Entries explained what changes have been implemented, why they were necessary, and how technology has facilitated this. Evidence was provided of the impact technology has had on helping to achieve strategic objectives.


Vizual Business Tools delivers powerful HR software solutions that combine a highly flexible e-business platform with a rich suite of HR functionality. Established in 1996, Vizual Business Tools has a portfolio of solutions to meet many business needs, including HR, payroll, training, recruitment, and time and attendance.


Martin Reddington gained his MBA at the Roffey Park Management Institute in 1999. In January 2000, he was appointed programme director of e-HR transformation at Cable & Wireless. This programme received prestigious acclaim at the National Business Awards and Human Resources Excellence Awards in 2002. He is now CEO of Martin Reddington Associates.


Crown Prosecution Service
The team – Learning and Development
Number in team: 50 Number in HR function: 123 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 8,700

About the organisation

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the government department responsible for the prosecution of most criminal cases in England and Wales.

The challenge

The CPS had to recruit an extra 450 lawyers in 2004-05 and fulfil business-critical learning and development needs to meet business demands such as 24-hour legal cover for the police.

What the organisation did

  • A team of five learning and development staff worked with Futuremedia to design and develop the virtual Prosecution College.

  • It provides more than 100 hours of interactive flexible e-learning programmes.

  • It was delivered using the original IT infrastructure in the CPS, so the team developed methods to engage learners without having to invest in new technology.

  • The team invested £298,000 in the development of the college without any extra investment from the year-on-year budget.

Benefits and achievements

  • The college currently has 3,000 registered users – more than one-third of the workforce.

  • Vast savings (the lawyer induction programme saved £348,000, and the equality and diversity course saved £187,680).

  • E-learning has led to faster promotion for Crown prosecutors.

  • Standardised learning material.

  • Lawyer induction time reduced by 40%.

  • 18% more staff believe there is opportunity for development and growth in the CPS compared with previous staff survey in 2002.

The judge says:

“The development of e-learning content and tools designed to enhance skills and knowledge has transformed the approach to legal education and training nationally and internationally.”

The team – The People Portal Project Team
Number in team: 6 Number in HR function: 200 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 13,000

About the organisation

British Sky Broadcasting is the operator of the UK’s largest digital pay television platform.

The challenge

Its HR service was not giving staff what they needed. It was expensive, inconsistent, and was not integrated with the rest of the business. It set out to implement a business programme for business leaders, managers and workers designed to meet staff needs.

What the organisation did

  • Defined a new HR operating model and secured funding of more than £1m to implement the People Portal programme, which delivers:

    • Full self-service to staff and managers.

    • 15 automated transactional HR processes.

    • A fully interactive, portal available from staff PCs and kiosks.

    • HR service centre (HR2020) technology to ensure that new service standards are met.

  • The team also:

    • Held 30 workshops with employees to understand the People Portal’s requirements.

    • Provided employees with blended learning and support.

    • Measured the performance of new services against the pre-agreed service level agreement.

    • Built a service for its 5,000 employees without e-mail access to receive alerts.

    • Piloted People Portal kiosks for the 1,000 or so staff without any computer access.

Benefits and achievements

  • Achieved the whole process in a year, ahead of schedule and within budget.

  • Programme is on track to deliver a return on investment within two years.

  • 89% of employees now say they can find what they were looking for.

The judge says:

“BSkyB has moved from having an HR database and static intranet site to a fully e-enabled service.”

Marks & Spencer
The team – Marks & Spencer Resourcing Team
Number in team: 8 Number in HR function: 100 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 65,000

About the organisation

High-street retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has more than 450 stores in the UK, and 150 more stores worldwide.

The challenge

M&S already used automated systems to handle the 325,000 job applications it receives a year. It wanted to refine this process, enable people who might be excluded to apply for jobs, and establish a personal link with candidates.

What the organisation did

  • Used e-mail merging techniques to personalise online communications.

  • Enabled candidates to provide anonymous feedback on the recruitment process.

  • Created a website for new recruits.

  • Integrated interactive voice response technology to allow individuals without internet access to apply for jobs.

  • Developed a bespoke online psychometric questionnaire to select potential shop assistants.

  • Created automated online assessments for applicants for senior roles.

  • Ensured candidates could view and apply for vacancies in real time.

Benefits and achievements

  • Now recruits 58% of staff via the internet.

  • Online assessments have improved diversity.

  • The automated application process increased efficiency by more than 60%.

  • 97% of applicants rate the experience as excellent, good or very good.

  • Recruits are more engaged and graduate retention has improved.

  • Awarded Best Technology Innovation at an online recruitment industry awards ceremony.

The judge says:

“The innovative online recruitment process eliminates manual data input and permits a small team of recruiters to manage and communicate with every applicant in a personalised and responsive fashion.”

Spirit Group
The team – Talent Management
Number in team: 18 Number in HR function: 50 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 38,000

About the organisation

Spirit Group is an entrepreneurial pub company with about 1,800 pubs, restaurants and hotels. It is now part of Punch Taverns.

The challenge

In 2003, a development programme for staff identified as potentials for future executive roles included a project to revamp and merge the outdated performance and personal development review processes. Spirit also wanted the review process to be consistent across acquisitions.

What the organisation did

  • Developed Spirit Explorer to link reviews of performance, behavioural contribution and personal development needs.

  • Set up half-day coaching sessions for more than 300 managers on how to conduct performance and development reviews.

  • Designed, developed and implemented a system in-house to review performance results, core values, succession potential and create a performance development plan.

  • Enabled real-time reporting for managers and HR teams to gauge progress.

Benefits and achievements

  • Achieved development, launch and managerial training within the £55,000 budget.

  • Designed, developed and launched the electronic version within a £25,000 budget.

  • Spirit Explorer enables the collation of quantifiable data on performance, behaviours, career aspirations, succession potential, talent management and development planning.

The judge says:

“Technology has been used to transform the succession and talent management elements of the company’s HR strategy. The sophisticated and user-friendly electronic process allows quality talent management plans to be built on robust performance data and real-time reporting.”

The Sunlight Service Group
The team – HR Department
Number in team: 3 Number in HR function: 6 Number of employees HR is responsible for: 7,000

About the organisation

The Sunlight Service Group is the UK’s leading supplier of textile rental and laundering services. It employs more than 7,000 staff.

The challenge

Its strategy has focused on introducing technology to support its growth and profitability, primarily through attracting and retaining the best people. The board set out to find an HR system that could provide web-based recruitment, figures on staff turnover and absence, and manage training.

What the organisation did

  • Implemented software to manage payroll and HR data, improve processes and deliver a more effective service.

  • Implemented a fully integrated HR and payroll solution, offering web recruitment, people development, absence monitoring, and comprehensive management reporting.

  • Trained 90 people across all company sites to assist with online recruitment.

Benefits and achievements

  • System was rolled out within nine months, ahead of schedule and £7,000 under budget.

  • Absence was reduced from 4.1% to 0.97% in a year.

  • Staff turnover has been reduced as the system highlights problem areas.

  • Recruitment is faster, more efficient, and has reduced administrative tasks.

  • The board has recognised that the system has had a measurable impact on the company and has helped to support business growth.

The judge says:

“The priorities for action were seen as attracting and retaining talent, better management of staff turnover and absenteeism and improving the quality and accessibility of HR information. The fully integrated HR and payroll system has delivered excellent results.”

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