Personnel Today Awards 2007: XpertHR Award for Reward and Recognition


This award is about how reward and recognition can be strategically used and its policy measured against market and competitive pressures, including maximising staff appreciation of the package. Entries provided evidence of flexibility to cater for a diverse workforce, a clear communications plan, and how reward and recognition make a difference to the organisation and its staff performance.

Award judge

Iain McMath joined the voucher division of business services firm Sodexho in August 2002, bringing 11 years’ sales and marketing experience with him. He is responsible for the overall strategic direction, oversees UK investment and development, and ensures the delivery of a high-quality service.

The sponsor

XpertHR is an online service providing indispensable information and support for HR professionals. It is one of the most comprehensive HR intelligence resources available for a single subscription. It provides an employment law manual, case law, best-practice case studies, model policies and documents, and a 24/7 legal advice service from specialist employment lawyers.

THE AA
The team
: HR
Number in team: 100
Number of employees the team is responsible for: 7,600

About the organisation The AA has been trusted by motorists since 1905. It is the largest motoring organisation in the UK, with millions of members, and more dedicated patrols than any other motoring organisation.

The challenge Changes in ownership, history and customer-led reorganisations resulted in the AA group functions and office-based pay, bonus and grading structure becoming seriously fragmented. It was failing to keep pace with the needs of the business and staff, and was out of step with the market.

What the organisation did



  • An HR proposal was put forward to transfer 1,000 staff from the 100 different grades, pay structures and employment contracts across six businesses, to just six staff grades and one management grade.
  • During 2006, through evaluation and benchmarking, a costing model was devised and union agreement reached. In 2007, proposals based on individual job performance and competency were put to staff on a voluntary basis, with a 98% level of success and minimal cost.

Benefits and achievements



  • Delivered a streamlined pay and reward scheme focused on delivering business performance.
  • Eliminated more than 70 grades and sub-grades.
  • Transparent HR processes have removed the threat of equal pay claims.
  • The business now has a consistent and flexible performance-driven pay and reward system, without any significant increase to its cost base.
  • HR has delivered a consistent, fair, more progressive reward and recognition package to improve staff morale and retention.

The judge says: “Resolving legacy issues around pay and grading is inevitably fractious – add in the complexity of more than 7,500 staff across multiple roles, and it becomes very high risk. The AA’s approach was both innovative and fair to all stakeholders.”

The British Library
The team
: HR
Number in team: 30
Number of employees the team is responsible for: 2,100

About the organisation The UK’s national library serves business and industry, researchers, academics and students. Each year, six million searches are generated by the British Library online catalogue, and nearly 400,000 people visit its reading rooms.

The challenge Since 2003, the library has had to remain relevant in the information revolution to maintain market share of priced services to meet rising expectations of users and government and to develop and motivate staff to meet these challenges.

What the organisation did



  • Developed a reward and recognition scheme in-house.
  • Established individual performance/achievement of objectives and pay by incorporating the need for change into the company’s annual pay negotiations.
  • Launched a staff benefits package including a family-friendly flexible working hours scheme, childcare vouchers and an on-site nursery.

Benefits and achievements



  • Performance-related pay and bonuses improved performance and service delivery.
  • Turnover reduced from more than 16% to 10% over the past two years.
  • Use of web services has risen from 5.2 million unique visitors from May 2006, to 7.9 million in June 2007.
  • Reading room user satisfaction has exceeded original target of 96%.
  • Developed clear pension scheme, numerous wellbeing and financial benefits and a formidable employment package.

The judge says: “Changing culture is difficult in any environment, especially in the public sector. But working within public sector restrictions, it has used considerable skill to change to a performance culture which is measurable, while achieving buy-in from all parts of the business.”

Liverpool Direct
The team: Liverpool Direct
Number in team: 2
Number of employees the team is responsible for: more than 1,000

About the organisation Liverpool Direct is the largest public/private partnership of its kind in the UK, and was formed in 2001 between BT and Liverpool City Council. It employs more than 1,000 staff working in a contact centre, ICT revenues, benefits, HR and payroll, learning and development, and service delivery.

The challenge Liverpool Direct wanted to promote a performance culture by recognising the importance of rewarding and celebrating special efforts, hard work and commitment from its staff, where they would feel challenged to do their best, and valued for their contribution.

What the organisation did



  • Placed greater emphasis on recognition and reward, maximised staff involvement and made better use of available technology and resources.
  • Introduced learning and development initiatives for all staff, including mentoring and coaching.
  • Developed staff involvement schemes, including focus groups where they have their say. These led to the implementation of the Liverpool Direct STARS (Say Thankyou And Reward Someone) scheme – an electronic tool which connects to the company’s monthly and quarterly recognition scheme.

Benefits and achievements



  • The benefits service demonstrated the best ever claim processing speeds (from 28 days to 20 days in the last quarter).
  • 100% of the calls answered by its contact centre are within 20 seconds.
  • HR and payroll service successfully reduced late submissions from 22,000 to 250.
  • More than 8,000 places were filled on learning and development courses.
  • 93% – up from 90% – of Liverpool Direct’s customers are seen in the city’s one-stop shops within 15 minutes.

The judge says: “Liverpool Direct’s entry was impressive as its programme is centred on developing a performance culture across the business, creating an inspirational environment that encompasses involvement and diversity against clear deliverables.”

Park Lane College, Leeds
The team: Dragons’ Den
Number in team: 120
Number of employees the team is responsible for: N/A

About the organisation Established in 1966, Park Lane is now the largest further education college in Leeds. It prides itself on offering the widest choice of courses with the highest quality of teaching. On 1 August 2007, Park Lane College Leeds merged with Keighley College (now Park Lane College Keighley), taking the total number of students to more than 45,000.

The challenge Senior management recognised that there was a strategic need to become more innovative at all levels, and combine this with a better way of recognising the innovative thinking that already existed within the organisation.

What the organisation did



  • Collaborated with Applied Acumen to launch an ‘Innovation Day’ scheme, where teams of staff from all parts of the college were given the task of putting forward an idea to help the college in a tangible way.
  • Each team was allocated a mentor, who had previously received specialised training.
  • The innovation day was held off-site with a panel of judges from local businesses, including O2, CBI and Barclays Bank, acting as the ‘dragons’.

Benefits and achievements



  • Overall college performance was enhanced and staff gained confidence, resulting in raised morale.
  • The scheme proved that individuals are capable of achieving, and new stars have emerged.
  • The mentors now use their training with direct benefit to the organisation.
  • There is real enhancement of the college in the eyes of local business.

The judge says: “Park Lane College had the courage to step significantly outside its comfort zone and challenge its processes and structure by collaborating across the whole scope of the college to capture the talent within the business.”

Virgin Mobile
The team: Virgin Mobile
Number in team: 24
Number of employees the team is responsible for: 1,350

About the organisation Virgin Mobile is the UK’s largest mobile virtual network operator, with more than four million customers. It was the first consumer brand to enter the mobile marketplace when it opened for business in November 1999.

The challenge Appreciating the best in one another is a quality that is encouraged at Virgin Mobile. Shout! was launched in 2003 to encourage ideal behaviours, and create opportunities for people to thank one another for going the extra mile. But it also created the opportunity for potential abuse.

What the organisation did



  • Introduced Shout! slips, which are readily available from dispensers. The slips are placed into a prize pot for a draw at the end of every month. The Shout! slip makes it clear exactly why it is being given.
  • Offered big monthly prizes and an end-of-year draw offering holidays to Barbados, New York or Richard Branson’s game reserve in South Africa.
  • The monthly draw takes place in front of around 20 staff each month, and the adjudicator seeks consensus and judgement regarding the validity and credibility of the Shout! slip.

Benefits and achievements



  • The scheme attracts on average 1,500 submissions and keeps staff engaged.
  • Employee satisfaction surveys show that more than 60% think the scheme is very good/excellent, while 23% think it is average.
  • Shout! has been held up externally as an example of what a good recognition scheme should look like.
  • It generates a ‘wow’ response during induction and has become synonymous with the company’s generosity and ‘people focus’ for which it is renowned.

The judge says: “Encouraging performance behaviour in a sustainable way is one of the hardest tricks to master. By giving ownership to the staff and trusting them not to abuse the responsibility has reinforced company values and the dynamic behaviour associated with the business.”

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