Personnel Today Awards 2008: HR Through Technology Award

The award

This award recognises the effective use of technology by HR teams to bring about business benefits. Entries outlined what changes were implemented, why they were necessary, and how technology facilitated this. Evidence of the impact technology had in helping to achieve strategic objectives was provided. The judge was not looking for the latest software installation, but how HR has taken advantage of the opportunities IT brings.

The sponsor

HR Space is the exciting new online community for HR professionals. Powered by, it is designed to allow you to share information, ask questions and gauge the opinion of people who know the most about HR – other HR people.

Awards judge

Allan Boroughs is founding partner of Orion Partners. He has a proven record in HR technology delivery. He specialises in the planning, development and implementation of technology solutions in global blue-chip organisations and has extensive knowledge of the strategic planning and delivery of business applications for HR, e-HR, workflow and enterprise resource planning. Boroughs leads Orion Partners’ HR transformation technology practice.

The shortlist


The team: People and policy team

Number in team: 14 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 111,000

About the organisation

BT provides communications solutions and services and operates in 170 countries. Activities include networked IT services, local, national and international telecoms services, and higher-value broadband and internet products and services. It comprises four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.

The challenge

To enable single parents, older people, people with disabilities and people on incapacity benefit – who may all be unable to work regular hours – to enter the labour market. To look for employment models that make work more accessible for people in these communities.

What the organisation did

  • Used technology to facilitate the remote location of employees, who would have been previously based in call centres or offices. BT Homeshoring provided the tools necessary for them to perform ‘screen-based roles’ in their own homes

  • Created a community-based project in an area of economic deprivation, where residents have been trained to provide services to their employer at a homeshoring centre on their estate

  • Enabled many people with caring responsibilities to re-enter the workplace.

Benefits and achievements

  • Many homeshored employees who work for BT conferencing are also carers for a relative at home

  • Many employees work in half-hour slots to correspond to predictable short-term demand

  • Community homeshoring has provided IT facilities, infrastructure and training to communities previously excluded from the digital age.

The judge says:

“BT has made use of remote working technologies to facilitate homeshoring or home-based working for call centre staff. This has allowed BT to address diversity issues while tackling real business problems around provision of call centre cover during peak and difficult periods.”

Domino’s pizza

The team: HR department

Number in team: 6 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 400

About the organisation

Domino’s Pizza is a pizza delivery company with more than 500 outlets across the UK and Ireland and about 12,000 staff working under its brand name.

The challenge

Domino’s Pizza relies on franchisees to manage, train and regulate its diverse workforce. In 2007, media reports highlighted Domino’s inconsistent HR practices, which made HR and health and safety at the company a high priority. The organisation had to deliver a consistent approach to people management, which ensured all franchisees were compliant.

What the organisation did

  • Concluded that HR was not resourced to the level of support required and considered potential partners, selecting MJL Group

  • Developed an HR system with bespoke functions accessible in real time to all management and employees in the Domino’s Pizza group

  • Provided franchisees with a 24-hour advice line to ensure franchisees are compliant with the law and to provide team members with access to contracts, policies and an introduction to food safety, and health and safety procedures.

Benefits and achievements

  • Within 24 hours of launching the MJL service, 300 of the 500 stores had signed up

  • Team members can ensure they are being treated in line with the group’s policies

  • Enabled Domino’s to identify trends and gaps in its people management

  • Provided an online reference for staff to refer back to.

The judge says:

“Domino’s Pizza has made effective use of technology to provide a consistent HR service, with limited HR resources, to a network of franchisees. The online HR advice service has had high levels of take-up by franchisees and delivers significant benefits for all staff. The system provides an innovative solution that shows good commercial judgement when making investment in technology.”

McDonald’s Restaurants

The team: Reputation team

Number in team: 10 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 67,000

About the organisation

There are more than 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the UK, attracting more than 2.5 million customers every day.

The challenge

McDonald’s needed a centralised, cost-effective system that provided a regular flow of applicants and would save talented people’s details for later use, and would provide everyone with an informative introduction to the restaurant group. It also wanted to give employees better access to their shift schedules, freeing managers to concentrate on other priorities.

What the organisation did

  • Created a dedicated careers website, accessible from the main McDonald’s site, where all restaurants’ vacancies are stored in a searchable database

  • Provided explanations of job roles, FAQs, profiles of employees and an online application facility

  • Produced an animated film to create a consistent company orientation process, including online health and safety training via McDonald’s employee website

  • Implemented the McTime system, where team members can view schedules without contacting the restaurant. It includes a forum for staff to talk to management and each other.

Benefits and achievements

  • Recruitment is no longer a branch-level burden

  • Company orientation is more dynamic and fun, giving new employees the same high-quality information

  • McTime has promoted closer working relationships between staff and enabled managers to spend less time on staff admin.

The judge says:

“McDonald’s web-based solution targets the recruitment and on-boarding of staff in a complex and highly distributed network of restaurants. This solution is highly focused in its identification of a business-critical issue and innovative in its use of bespoke web-based tools to drive business benefits.”

NHS Employers

The team: NHS Jobs

Number in team: 7

Number of staff team is responsible for: All new NHS recruits

About the organisation

NHS Jobs is the online electronic recruitment service for NHS organisations in England and Wales, provided by NHS employers.

The challenge

The NHS comprises more than 500 employing organisations. In 2003, each used their own recruitment process and procedures. Employers were spending heavily on recruitment advertising in newspapers and journals to attract staff – put at between £300,000 and £500,000 each year – and often recruiting staff from neighbouring employers.

What the organisation did

  • Launched NHS Jobs in 2003 with all employers in the NHS adopting the electronic recruitment service by the end of 2006

  • Enabled NHS organisations to advertise up to 150,000 vacancies online and receive and manage applications online

  • Allowed NHS trusts to record all recruitment data from a single source

  • Implemented an ongoing improvement programme.

Benefits and achievements

  • Saved the NHS in excess of £40m a year. For example, Ashford & St Peters Hospital NHS Trust cut its annual advertising spend from £600,000 to £35,000

  • Vacancies can now be advertised immediately for applicants to apply online at any time

  • NHS Jobs links to the NHS HR management system to maintain control and enable easy data transfer

  • More than 5,000 trained NHS staff use NHS jobs to manage three million applicants. The website receives 28 million visits a year.

The judge says:

“NHS Jobs recruitment solution is based on a clear understanding of the needs of the business and the impact that technology could make. Although the solution is based on standard recruitment technologies, the sheer scale of the benefits realised indicates the strong commercial focus of this project.”

Norwich Union

The team: HR Advice Services/Ask HR

Number in team: 62

Number of staff the team is responsible for: 30,600

About the organisation

Part of Aviva, the world’s fifth largest insurance group, Norwich Union comprises Norwich Union Insurance (NUI), Norwich Union Life (NUL) and the RAC.

The challenge

To create competitive advantage through its employees and improve the service for their queries, which were increasing in demand and complexity to provide such support to match the 24/7 operating environment of the business and to adopt a technological solution that addressed challenges with the telephone-based service.

What the organisation did

  • Developed an ‘Ask Jeeves’-style online knowledge database of 750 generic HR questions and answers, in partnership with Transversal

  • Launched successful pilot, which was later launched to NUI and NUL in June 2007 and to the RAC in December 2007

  • Provided an e-mail response service for questions not covered in the database. The database of questions rose to 1,300 in six months.

Benefits and achievements

  • Each month about 6,500 employees use the Ask HR service (21% of Norwich Union workforce)

  • 15% reduction in call volumes to employee services department, freeing up four full-time HR staff to be reassigned

  • 98% of individuals find the answer to their question immediately.

The judge says:

“Norwich Union has developed a knowledge management solution to improve the service it offers employees and managers from its HR shared services function. The solution provides an expanding database of FAQs for staff that has made a significant and demonstrable improvement in customer service. This is a good example of how ongoing investment in technology can support the continuous improvement process.”

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