Personnel Today Awards 2008: Delivering Business Improvement Through People Award

This award is aimed at teams that showed demonstrable improvements in business performance in their organisation through effective people policies. Entrants were given credit for investing in HR approaches that delivered tangible business results and maximised staff potential. The judge looked for examples of how the organisation developed performance management systems to measure and support its improvement plans.

Award sponsor

Investors in People UKprovides a proven framework for helping employers to deliver business improvement through their people based on international best practice. The accredited body promotes and recognises best practice in the field of people management.

Award judge

Mark Wilcox is director and founder of RedThread Consulting. He works with leading organisations on developing leadership, managing talent and delivering change. Wilcox was previously the director of people and organisational development at Sony Europe. He has recently co-authored the book Re-energizing The Corporation: How leaders make change happen.

Shortlisted teams

Malmaison and Hotel du Vin
The team: HR
Number in department: 9 Number of people in organisation: 1,500

About the organisation

Malmaison and Hotel du Vin is a lifestyle hotel company that specialises in hotels that dare to be different. It won the Best Places to Work in Hospitality in 2008.

The challenge

With two distinct and successful brands operating in the same market and expanding rapidly, the company needed to exploit the opportunity of bringing together the two separate workforces. It also wanted to retain and motivate staff who were used to an owner culture and had little experience of formal processes and structure. It wanted to put development and succession plans in place to feed its proposed expansion that preserved the distinctive brands but allowed cross-over of talent.

What the organisation did



    • Introduced a web-enabled performance management and communication tool for an at-a-glance view of the people health of the business


    • Created development programmes for faster and more effective learning with online learning booths, skills schools and English lessons


    • Provided top team coaching and management development programmes that used emotional intelligence to boost awareness of self and others


    • Offered staff recognition schemes, competitions and awards


  • Significantly improved work-life balance through better rotas, flexible working and additional staff.


Benefits and achievements



    • 70% of general managers are internal promotions, with female to male ratio rising from 14% to 33% in two years


    • 90% of deputies and head chefs have been progressed through the ranks


    • 68% of all management appointments have been made at zero cost through strong talent management and employer branding


  • Average staff turnover rate of 25% compares well with the rest of the industry.


The judge says: “Given the strength of both the brands involved in the merged business, the challenge to get the best of both worlds was significant. The team’s range of performance management, communication and development initiatives has managed to do this in a sustainable and continuing way.”

Broadway Homelessness and Support
The team: HR
Number in department: 8 Number of people in organisation: 170

About the organisation

Broadway Homelessness and Support is a charity providing a range of services supporting homeless people from street to home.

The challenge

The charity’s survival and ability to deliver on its corporate objectives depended on a culture of high performance, not just internally, but also in the 1,500 external customer organisations it supports and trains in performance management systems with government funding. Broadway and its client organisations have been able to reshape their services to succeed and continue to attract funding.

What the organisation did

It developed an explicit HR vision and strategy that focuses on performance management and staff development by:



    • Identifying critical core behavioural competencies for staff and managers to be effective, creative and innovative with staged expectations for different levels of seniority.


    • Devising a framework of leadership and people management competencies to enable, empower and coach staff to optimise their performance. Line managers are also held accountable through upwards appraisals.


    • Creating key working standards for front-line staff with induction, expectation-setting, training and service quality measurement.


  • Setting up a monthly supervision session so that the 360-degree performance appraisal and personal development scheme is a live and ongoing process that includes feedback from homeless clients.


Benefits and achievements



    • In a survey of 14 homelessness charities it was the highest scorer in nine of the 11 sections


    • 97% of staff were clear about what was expected of them


    • 91% believe they work with colleagues who are committed and professional


    • 71% of management appointments were made internally


    • Sickness absence rate of 2.3% compared to 4.2% in rest of voluntary sector


  • Listed in the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Small Companies for three years.


The judge says: “The Broadway team has redefined the job for the charity sector by its relentless drive for quality and improvement. By not accepting second-rate for its clients – homeless people – it has created a culture of high performance and respect for the role and purpose of the organisation. In doing so, it has become an aspirational benchmark for the sector.”

Ladbrokes Betting and Gaming
The team: HR
Number in department: 9
Number of people in organisation: 14,000

About the organisation

Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming is the world’s largest fixed-odds betting company. It has more than 2,600 owned and operated betting shops. Approximately 120,000 people use its telephone betting service and 500,000 customers bet with Ladbrokes online.

The challenge The business lacked a high-performance culture. Following an extensive employee consultation and a survey into the business requirements and training needs, the HR team identified gaps in knowledge of performance management processes, line management and coaching skills, and attitudes.

What the organisation did



    • Defined a performance model and set out key performance indicators by job level and linked to strategy, including leadership competencies and bonuses


    • Designed performance development training materials, measurement and reward links and assessment processes and technology


    • Set up launch events and published post-training and staff magazines


    • Obtained buy-in with a £2.5m bonus pool linked to strategy, behaviour, competencies and performance


  • Implemented face-to-face sessions covering senior teams to shop-floor staff to ensure knowledge and skills transfer.


Benefits and achievements



    • 97% of shop staff agreed that briefings and training were effective


    • Mystery shopping scores improved from 68.8% to 76.4%


    • An 11% year-on-year rise in income (minus customer winnings) for the four months to 30 April


    • Reduced sickness absence, saving £30,000 a month


  • Highly informed succession planning, detailed monitoring of new processes and continuous evaluation to feed into 2009 plans.


The judge says: “Faced with increasing online competition and a difficult economy, Ladbrokes took action to refocus its workforce using performance management tools and approaches to ensure business results were at the forefront of everything it did. Its success has come from the way it achieved this.”

Harrod UK
The team: HR
Number in department: 3 Number of people in organisation: 120

About the organisation

Harrod is a family-run business that manufactures sports posts and netting and horticultural equipment.

The challenge

During the late 1980s, the company started to struggle to achieve netting sales because of overseas competition. The challenge was to redeploy staff while enabling them to remain challenged, motivated and supported to drive through improvements.

What the organisation did

It decided on a bottom-up approach to business planning through shop-floor sessions. The idea to explore the need for netting in the horticultural market was born. This was backed by a joined-up approach to staff policies, procedures and practices underpinned by the company vision, values and beliefs and a detailed strategic annual business plan. Allowing staff to use their skills and personal strengths to achieve individual and team objectives contributed to the success of the firm. Tactics included:



    • Shop-floor cross functional business planning and brainstorming sessions


    • Revision of the company handbook


    • Development of company-wide and individual departmental training strategies


  • Overhaul of all appraisal systems.


Benefits and achievements



    • Turnover rose from £6m in 2003 to more than £10m in 2007


    • Multi-skilled employees


    • Positive feedback on appraisals through staff surveys and cultural audits


    • A rise of more than £400 per full-time equivalent employee in annual performance-related pay in 2007


    • Continued successful assessments for ISO9001:2000 and Investors in People


  • Awarded Business Excellence 3 stars in 2007 and successful funding applications for training.


The judge says: “In a demanding business environment where closure was a possibility, the company encouraged the workforce to take part in re-energizing the business. Its efforts have been rewarded with increased engagement, new product lines and an expanding healthy business. By positively engaging and giving responsibility to its employees, Harrod has rebuilt its business and secured its workforce’s future.”

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