Personnel Today Awards 2014 winners: Carphone warehouse scoop top employer branding prize

Carphone warehouse receive Personnel Today Employer Branding Award 2014.
Carphone Warehouse receiving the Personnel Today Employer Branding Award in 2014.

The first recipients of the new Personnel Today Employer Branding Award went to deserving winners Carphone Warehouse. We highlight their key efforts, along with the achievements of the other employers in the shortlist.

Employer branding award – the judges

Mervyn Dinnen, content marketing and social engagement strategist

Marcus Body, consultant, brand and insight team, ThirtyThree

WINNER: Carphone Warehouse

About the organisation
Carphone Warehouse is one of the most familiar mobile phone retailer brands on the UK high street.

The challenge
The company was briefed to bring the Carphone Warehouse’s working experience to life in a way that would channel rather than constrict natural creativity.

What the organisation did

  • Interviewed leadership team in depth.
  • Ran focus groups with existing employees and prospective joiners.
  • Developed online survey and discussion boards for those inside and outside the business. Consulted with staff at all levels.
  • Explored motivations and strategies of competitors; put consultants, managers, employees and technical staff from John Lewis, Apple, Orange and O2 in the spotlight.
  • Built 360-degree picture that would truly reflect the brand and tone of voice that the company wanted to use.
  • Created new induction portal and employee handbook.
  • Implemented new on-boarding process.

Benefits and achievements

  • Four brand ambassador workshops conducted, resulting in creation of 80 HR brand ambassadors in the business.
  • All senior business leaders are employer brand ambassadors (40 in total).
  • All brand ambassadors, marketing and senior executives have received the “Brand Book”.
  • Employer brand launched at the managers’ conference to more than 1,000 managers and business leaders.

Judges’ comments
“Impressive results and commitment to reflecting brand and talent attraction in a way that reflects the company’s core business.”



About the organisation
A restructure in 2012 brought together two major businesses  – Lloydspharmacy and AAH distribution  – with nine other subsidiary brands and created a new companty, Celesio UK.

The challenge
The newly created Celesio needed to work more collaboratively. Different cultures and ways of working were evident in all aspects of the people and communication processes and there were several different approaches to colleague communications across the business. There was no single communication method or channel in place that could reach all colleagues and existing channels, including the intranet, were unsupported and insufficient. There was no shared vision, mission or values.

What the organisation did

  • Formed colleague communications and engagement team in January 2013 to focus on driving sustainable engagement.
  • Developed new Celesio vision, mission and values.
  • Created new “OneCelesio UK” including the “Five Pillars” – outlining a clear strategy to help colleagues relate what they do every day to the success of the overall business.
  • Conducted first Celesio UK-wide colleague engagement survey, “The Big Question”.
  • Formulated first Celesio UK-wide colleague forum, “The Big Conversation”.
  • Created OneCelesio UK battle cry: “We believe”.
  • Teams have fixed and built communication channels wherever possible and experimented with new ideas.
  • Set up tools, including: “we believe” website; Believe (colleague magazine); and “we believe in you” thank you cards.

Benefits and achievements

  • Celesio UK certified as one of Britain’s Top Employers in March 2014.
  • Company backed the international Dementia Friends project, in line with new company vision, mission and values.
  • Twenty-five live streams are now broadcast across the Celesio UK network and attendance at the support centre in 2013 increased to around 700.

Judges’ comments
“The link to organisational strategy is really strong, but the “believe” platform adds an emotional and personal level to this.”

Village Urban Resorts & De Vere Hotels

About the organisation
Village Urban Resorts & De Vere Hotels has 33 locations, including 25 Village Urban Resorts and eight De Vere Hotels. The group has an annual turnover of £220 million converting to £60 million profit. It employs around 5,000 people.

The challenge
The business had followed a cost-reduction strategy that had gone too far. As a consequence, people engagement was low at 71% and service standards had been affected. In 2012, with a business objective of growing the business and boosting financial revenue through customer intimacy, a new approach was needed.

What the organisation did

  • New management team joined in 2012, tasked with improving business performance and crystallising an enhanced sale value for shareholders.
  • Began the “V Happy People” initiative. Expanded this into a simple philosophy: “V Happy People = V Happy Customers”.
  • Five high-performance behaviours were introduced: V inspirational; V resilient; V driven; V commercial; V detailed. These became the core measures used within a new online performance review system.
  • Created greater brand awareness by redesigning the landing/log in page of the online system and to turn it into an employee engagement/employer branding tool.
  • Talented staff now undergo a comprehensive mentoring and development programme.

Benefits and achievements

  • Almost all (98%) employees received a performance review since launching the V Happy People project.
  • Employee engagement levels increased by 15% (to 86%) across the business.
  • More than nine in 10 (94%) teams are proud to work for De Vere and 88% would recommend the company as a great place to work.
  • Almost nine in 10 (89%) top performers have been retained through early identification of “risk of leaving”.
  • Twenty-four rising stars have been identified in past year: eight are now general managers; three deputy general managers; and one sales manager.
  • Recruitment spend has decreased by 80%, saving £400,000 and providing a £340k return on investment.
  • Labour turnover decreased to 24%; very low compared with competitors.
  • Increased quality unsolicited job applications by 16%.
  • Increased customer expenditure, because of increased teams’ motivated to upsell and enhanced service quality.

Judges’ comments
“An employer branding strategy heavily linked to the business bottom line, with clear and tangible results. Impressive transparency afforded to potential candidates and customers.”

The Original Bowling Co

About the organisation
The Original Bowling Company (TOBC) has more than 40 bowling centres across the UK, under the banners of Hollywood Bowl and AMF Bowling.

The challenge
Since being founded in 2010, TOBC did not have a clear employer identity while it operated under two different brands. There was a need to unify everyone working for the TOBC company, while enabling them to still feel part of the two different customer brands.

What the organisation did

  • Toured centres, held focus groups and interviews with employees at all levels to discover why they work for TOBC and what makes it unique.
  • Created content from the employees themselves, on videos and on the online site.
  • The career site was built mobile- and video-first (and in the style of a social site with stories and biographies from the employees, not the company); important as over 60% of all TOBC’s target job candidates are 16-25 years old.
  • Made Facebook and Twitter an integral part of the site.
  • Career site directs to the social channels – including a poaching card, which takes candidates to a personal video from one of the regional directors telling them one-to-one why they should apply.
  • Offered a social space for engagement and questions, plus a 100% mobile application experience – targeted audience in a way that “answered” their needs and enhanced perceptions of TOBC.
  • Started to develop the #Place2B employer brand, particularly into training and development materials such as #Place2Learn.

Benefits and achievements

  • Centre management feeding back that candidates are a better culture fit than before employer brand, and show more of the behaviours they are looking for.
  • Team engagement has improved as the teams create stories for the channels, which gives them a real sense of involvement and pride.
  • The career site is attracting 8,500 hits per month, converting to 2,500 applications (a 30% conversion rate).
  • Fifty-seven per cent of traffic is now from mobile sources.
  • TOBC has the lowest number of management vacancies in its history and had reduced cost per hire from £5,000 to approximately £450 per person.
  • Substantially reduced job board and agency fees.

Judges’ comments
“Fun and alluring, clearly talking to their target market while reflecting the work environment.”

Virgin Money

About the organisation
Founded by Sir Richard Branson in March 1995, Virgin Money is a UK-based bank and financial services company. At the beginning of 2012, it acquired Northern Rock in a deal worth up to £1 billion. This led to the firm being rebranded under the slogan “everyone better off” (EBO).

The challenge
The work environment was challenging for Virgin Money after the Northern Rock acquisition, as a small company had absorbed a large bank and the two brands had to immediately integrate. The company then had to prepare a newly combined business for growth, with a workforce which increased from around 400 people to 2,500 overnight.

What the organisation did

  • Prepared for growth in 2012 by re-branding, changing its legal name and fully integrating all systems.
  • All “branches” re-branded as “stores”, reflecting a shift in philosophy and approach. First flagship store opened in Guildford and third “lounge” in Manchester.
  • Built a customer base with around 1.2million new accounts. Northern Rock acquisition fundamentally enabled breakthrough by bringing Virgin Money brand to the high street.
  • Some 2,400 colleagues attended “Your New Virgin Money” workshops to enable understanding of the bank’s brand, culture and values. Almost all (94%) said that the workshops equipped them with the cultural tools needed to help build a better kind of bank.
  • New colleagues treated as if they are going on a journey, culminating in a two-day event where they are steeped in the history of Virgin and brought up to date with life at Virgin Money, so they leave the experience a true brand ambassador.
  • New recruitment website does not just look on-brand, it also focuses on the bank’s ambition, philosophy and culture.
  • Launched EBO awards – a company-wide recognition scheme that celebrates colleagues who have made stand-out contributions.

Benefits and achievements

  • Staff turnover rate decreased to 6.2%, down from 11% pre-acquisition.
  • Employees are committed and motivated, with engagement at 85%, compared with 56% for Northern Rock in 2011.
  • Absence decreased from 3.73% at the beginning of 2012 to 2.61% at the end of 2013.
  • At the end of 2011, only 48% of Northern Rock colleagues recommended it as a place to work. This increased to 73% in 2012 and 81% in 2013.
  • Virgin Money customer advocacy (Net Promoter Score) has increased.
  • More than 800,000 new products chosen by customers in 2013.

Judges’ comments
“Really good solution in a challenging post-acquisition environment. Clear messaging, and some strong event content for new starters.”

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