Personnel Today Awards 2014 winners: Hastings Direct makes the biggest HR Impact

Hastings Direct are presented the 2014 HR Impact award
Hastings Direct are presented the 2014 HR Impact award

Hastings Direct triumphed at last week’s 2014 Personnel Today Awards, winning the HR Impact category for its work overhauling its recruitment function. We take a look at the winning entry and those of the runners-up.

HR impact award – the judges

Martin Tiplady, HR consultant, Chameleon

Prof Neil Anderson, professor of human resource management, Brunel University London

WINNER: Hastings Direct

About the organisation
Hastings Direct, a division of Hastings Insurance Services Limited, is a UK company providing insurance policies and related products over the phone and on the internet.

The challenge
In 2012, the company set an ambitious objective to insure one in 10 of the population by 2020. This meant growing the customer base by 20% year on year. This would require not only delivering a sector-leading customer experience, but also greatly increasing capacity. This was difficult because Hastings Direct is based in Bexhill-on-Sea, which made recruitment a major problem. The challenge was therefore to simultaneously grow the workforce and customer base by attracting and nurturing talent and delivering an exceptional customer experience.

What the organisation did

  • Overhauled recruitment – HR team took the bold move of bringing the entire recruitment function in-house. This meant building the entire function from scratch including a new team, assessment centre and recruitment channels.
  • Introduced a new graduate scheme to help fill key positions.
  • Conducted end-to-end talent review across the whole business, assessing more than 1,400 staff members. Then created succession charts by area and level (highlighting critical roles with no internal successor) and matched company needs to individual strengths/aspirations, creating profiles of top/reserve talent.
  • Developed an innovative internal programme (the “Hastings Way Forward”) designed to nurture leaders of the future and increase the skills of current managers.
  • Embedded a customer-focused culture – developed a company-wide training programme designed to change people’s behaviours and adopt more customer-centric ways of working.
  • Engaged staff – consulted with staff focus groups and colleague communication forum to shape the strategy, developed a range of communications channels including large townhall meetings, team cascades and workshops.

Benefits and achievements

  • Attracting talent – the company is now receiving record numbers of applications and 90% of roles are now recruited direct – 80% of these are the “right quality” of candidate.
  • Successfully recruited 450 new roles in 2013, of these 12 of which were graduates filling junior management/professional level positions including commercial/IT/underwriting. Scheme boasts a 90% retention rate.
  • Retaining talent – attrition reduced from 33% in (2010) to 24% (2014). Leavers within 12 months reduced from 64% to 48% in 2014.
  • Better succession planning and talent mapping has led to improved promotions from within (for first line management roles) from 10% in 2010 to 90% in 2013.
  • Increased engagement – overall colleague engagement scores from 683 (2011) to 733 in 2013.
  • Cost effectiveness – initiatives have led to significant cost savings, which continue to rise, eg 50% reduction in cost per hire from £2740 in March 2013 to £1704 in January 2014.
  • All participants felt that the “Hastings way Forward scheme helped them develop skills they can use in and out of the workplace, 88% said it made them feel more empowered and 100% would recommend it.

Judges’ comments
“Sharp and crisp outcome-based solution. Good customer engagement.”



About the organisation
BBGR is one of the leading European manufacturers of optical lenses. Since 2001, the company has rapidly expanded via external growth and a network of exclusive distributors. BBGR always pursues the same goal: to improve quality and professionalism while delivering greater customer satisfaction.

The challenge
After winning a new contract in 2011, BBGR needed to deliver a world-class HR service through a very small, and relatively new, HR team. After a period of reactive HR and little investment in its people, the company needed to move to a more proactive and commercial way of working, and re-engage its employees with the process of developing its supply chain to being a “world-class service”.

What the organisation did

  • Improved employee engagement through monthly wellbeing awareness events, eg free fruit for employees, and a charity event raising awareness of looking after yourself.
  • Improved employee opinion survey completion rates – the first survey in April 2013 was 59%, but in June 2014, the completion rate was 89%.
  • Developed management training and coaching, eg courses on absence management, effective investigation training and diversity.
  • Arranged soft skills and IT training, eg excel, presentation skills and managing difficult conversations.
  • Set up teambuilding sessions, with a focus around individual behaviours and team profiles. This has helped managers to understand more about themselves and their colleagues, and how they can work better together to be a successful team.
  • Worked on communication, including the creation of a forum group that arrange events such as charity fund raisers and the Christmas party.
  • Developed DYKHR (Do you know HR) – a one-page monthly employment law briefing for all people managers, planned to align with employment law changes. Relevant HR policy training was also carried out in the same month.
  • Created an intranet page – all HR documents are on a brand new page accessible for all employees.

Benefits and achievements

  • New induction and probation period management processes rolled out to employees and managers to improve overall experience; this includes a HR induction and employee feedback.
  • Onboarding process is under constant review and BBGR is further improving the joining process for new employees by updating the pre-joining literature.
  • Exit interviews now carried out with all employees who resign. These are reviewed quarterly for trends and key feedback is given to managers.

Judges’ comments
“Very good solution. A front runner.”

Bentley Motors

About the organisation
Bentley Motors is a luxury British car maker. It designs, engineers, manufactures and distributes powerful, handcrafted automobiles sold under the Bentley name. Delivering more cars than ever before, 2013 was a record year for the company.

The challenge
Bentley is in a period of significant growth and has ambitious plans to grow further. It is looking to increase its sales by 30% by 2018. With this in mind, the Bentley Motors business model is becoming more complex and therefore efficient use of resource is critical.

What the organisation did

  • Created a dedicated HR team (two full-time colleagues) in August 2013, using bespoke tools and a continuous improvement strategy to support the whole business.
  • Implemented “Grow without Growing” (GWG). Worked with business leaders to forecast the growth impact across the business, and a 15% efficiency challenge was set. Core focus of GWG is to identify waste in the business and remove it. This additional capacity is then redeployed onto value added activities (new models, new engines, increased volume). Its vision is “to engage all colleagues in a data-driven approach to increase capacity.”
  • Launched bespoke improvement tools across the business, and half-day team improvement events were facilitated to identify waste and drive efficiencies.
  • GWG generated an environment for change by actively encouraging colleagues to challenge current ways of working. Colleagues are guided by inspirational leadership to take personal responsibility for developing innovative solutions and implementing them.
  • Linked new ideas to the reward and recognition strategy and colleagues receive awards to recognise their efforts in improving Bentley Motors’ efficiency.

Benefits and achievements

  • Hours of waste removed from the business (3,700 weekly hours or 100 full-time equivalents).
  • Cost avoidance of £7.2 million (planned vacancies cancelled).
  • One thousand colleagues participated in GWG.
  • Seventy-two cross-functional champions trained and coached in improvement skills.
  • Ten percent increase in two employee satisfaction areas.
  • Programme over-achieved on 2014 targets (set by the Bentley board) seven months ahead of schedule; an incredible achievement for a team of two individuals.

Judges’ comments
“Good exercise, well-briefed and clear on deliverables.”


About the organisation
A restructure in 2012 brought together two major business areas and nine other brands to create Celesio UK.

The challenge
The new Celesio needed to work more collaboratively. Different cultures and ways of working were evident in all aspects of people processes and there were several ways of managing performance. Appraisals were problematic. They were time-consuming and complex, which was particularly bad for core roles (eg pharmacists) who cannot spend much time off the shop floor. They were also administrative, not an engaging or enjoyable process and often not completed or delayed.

What the organisation did

  • UK Country Board identified performance management as one of the top three business priorities for 2013/14.
  • Worked with colleagues in focus groups to understand the problems and develop a performance-related tool that would work across the group.
  • Internally developed a system called My PaD (my performance and development). Launched in September 2013.
  • Introduced one simple, quick and easy form, which replaced annual appraisals with regular conversations.
  • Allowed pharmacists and other staff to manage performance without taking too much time off the shop floor.
  • Simplified objectives to “why, how, what”. Managers now focus on recognising achievements and developing capability.
  • Developed “in the moment” feedback mechanism to allow colleagues to collate and use feedback (from manager, customers or colleagues) to enable them to achieve their goals.

Benefits and achievements

  • Certified as a Top Employer for 2014.
  • Majority (85%) of colleagues have goals agreed with their line manager (increased from approximately 10%).
  • More than eight in ten (82%) managers felt confident to develop their team and set goals.
  • Celesio branches in other countries have taken an interest in adopting my PaD.
  • Marketing teams are using the “why, how and what” in campaigns and communications.
  • Survey to colleagues after the launch of my PaD revealed: almost 100% of colleagues believed in the organisation’s goals and objectives, an improvement from 70%; and 80% were in full agreement to the organisation’s goals, an improvement from 20%.

Judges’ comments
“Excellent. Original and well-articulated.”

DHL Supply Chain

About the organisation
DHL Supply Chain is one of the world’s largest contract logistics specialists, operating in more than 200 countries and employing more than 40,000 employees across the UK and Ireland. DHL’s HR team provides an HR service to these employees, consisting of people services (PS, DHL’s HR Shared Services), HR business partners and centres of expertise.

The challenge
Large organisations increasingly need to adapt to changing circumstances, constantly evaluating whether or not the HR model is fit for purpose. DHL is no exception, with 40,000 employees in the UK and Ireland, spanning 750 terms and conditions across multiple customers. The company realised that 75% of HR activity was delivered locally, with the remaining 25% managed by a central administration team. This approach created inefficiencies including: workload duplication; inconsistent processes; data issues; no standardised, or value-adding reporting; limited visibility of trends; limited knowledge sharing and no customer service measurement.

What the organisation did

  • Implemented a comprehensive HR Transformation Programme (HRT) across its supply chain division, with an investment of €6.2 million over three years, delivering savings of €1.6 million annually.
  • Created a variety of shared services, including: service performance and development; people performance management team and training solutions.
  • Formed business engagement group to scope and define the service requirement and provide the HR team with a deeper understanding of the business drivers.
  • Implemented Oracle RightNow Technology. DHL is one of the first in the logistics industry and the HR profession to fully utilise the “Oracle RightNow” system as a HR workflow management tool, incorporating a knowledge base, customer satisfaction methodology and an HR intranet portal.
  • Proactively measured continuous improvement, reviewing and implementing feedback.
  • Provided dedicated resource to run leadership training for managers at the Swindon branch, ensuring the management teams were effective from the start.

Benefits and achievements

  • Created an industry-leading HR operational model.
  • Simplified processes and HR systems.
  • Greater integrity and protection of people data.
  • Formed a modern customer experience interface tool.
  • Retrained business partners and experts.
  • Provided improved service to internal stakeholders.
  • High customer satisfaction, demonstrated by the Net Promoter Score.

Judges’ comments
“Impactful and carefully conducted HR intervention.”

First Great Western

About the organisation
First Great Western is a is a British train operating company owned by FirstGroup. It has one of the largest and most complex rail networks in the UK, carrying 1.5 million passengers every week on 9,000 services, calling at 276 stations.

The challenge
A new HR team was created in 2011 to better develop the potential of all employees. The initial focus of the team was to conduct a root-and-branch review of people-related processes and policies. Their analysis revealed a worrying rise in bullying, harassment and discrimination cases across the organisation, which was adversely impacting attendance in some locations. Tackling this problem was immediately identified as a priority for action by the leadership team.

What the organisation did

  • Created a respect and dignity at work policy that would underpin all other people policies and guide the requisite behavioural change.
  • Raised awareness among managers of the impact of bullying and harassment in the workplace and the effect on employees.
  • Created a dedicated workshop for all 800 managers to prepare them to support the implementation of the new policy and help them deal with any issues in their teams.
  • Facilitated sessions for all other employees to discuss how the new policy could help them create a better working environment.
  • Set a precedent for how instances of bullying and harassment in the workplace should be dealt with.
  • Produced a hard-hitting DVD to illustrate the sorts of bullying and harassment behaviours that are unacceptable in the workplace.
  • Improved employee attendance levels in areas where negative working conditions had previously been prevalent.

Benefits and achievements

  • As of June 2014, 650 managers and 2,500 colleagues have attended Respect and Dignity workshops and the programme is on target to complete roll-out by December 2014.
  • 2013 Annual Employee Engagement Survey included a new statement to reflect the importance of respect and dignity in the organisation: “The company believes that it is important that employees are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their position or background.” Almost three-quarters (72%) of employees responded positively.
  • Number of reported minor allegations has increased, reflecting employees’ improved confidence to raise their issues with managers, however serious grievances have fallen by 66%.
  • Significant reduction in the number of employee tribunals, from 35 in 2012 to 13 in 2014.
  • Employee absence relating to bullying and harassment incidents has decreased, resulting in annual improvements in attendance from 93% in 2011/12, to 96% in 2013/14.

Judges’ comments
“A very good scheme. Good planning and ideas.”

Lloyds Banking Group

About the organisation
Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) is a major British financial institution employing around 97,000 people across multiple sites, ranging from large contact centres and corporate offices to a branch network spread across the length and breadth of the UK.

The challenge
The challenge was to change the culture in LBG to one which is conciliatory rather than adversarial and ensure that colleagues could choose to resolve issues locally and be confident that their issue would be taken seriously and addressed appropriately.

What the organisation did

  • Used the intelligence and expertise from its experience of dealing with harassment complaints and from operating mediation scheme to identify how to encourage and support early intervention.
  • Centered all projects around a holistic approach to issue resolution, which encompasses informal options of local resolution and mediation, together with the formal option of an investigation with the desire to improve the colleague experience when they face an issue in the workplace.
  • Provided call triage service – establishing issue resolution specialists and early intervention available to both colleagues and managers.
  • Established dedicated issue resolution site to help support the triage activity so colleagues and managers had a reference point to reflect and consider options, together with some guidance notes to support them with conversations. Site launched 2 June 2014.
  • Developed a half-day workshop available for delivery by issue resolution specialists to line managers where it is identified this would be beneficial.

Benefits and achievements

  • As a result of triage service, 68% of calls have progressed to informal resolution and there has been a reduction of more than 50% in cases progressing to formal resolution since the introduction of this service.
  • Aside from improved staff experience, with a conservative estimate of cost of harassment investigations at £10,000 and cost of mediation at £1500, triage has also delivered an estimated cost saving over initial 10-week period of around £450,000.
  • Stakeholder feedback was very positive prior to issue resolution site launch. Feedback from the issue resolution specialists has also been particularly strong.
  • Achieved a successful outcome in the one team issue resolution referral to date, with a further one underway.

Judges’ comments
“Very good ideas. I like this.”

Rhead Group

About the organisation
Rhead Group is an international professional services consultancy providing a range of solutions for the lifecycle of infrastructure, construction and asset management programmes.

The challenge
Rhead Group has been working with National Grid on their Emissions Reduction Programme. Land and Marine Project Engineering was appointed by National Grid to carry out the work at three sites under one contract. In May 2013, however, it suddenly went into administration, putting the £200 million programme at risk and bringing it to an immediate halt. The administrators terminated all 140 staff contracts.

What the organisation did

  • Mobilised within three working days to conduct face-to-face consultation process with redundant members of staff from across the UK.
  • Implemented processes to be able to cope with the influx of HR-related administration.
  • Developed and delivered a full communication plan to integrate and engage with disrupted employees.
  • Implemented a new programme, Organogram, and appointed a programme executive team to provide leadership across all four sites ensuring people management and programme delivery continued without disruption, meeting the needs of the individuals and the client.
  • Employed all 140 redundant staff on Rhead Group contracts.

Benefits and achievements

  • Programme now operates as one team, with full integration of all 140 staff.
  • Since taking over the programmes, all commissioning has been successfully undertaken, without safety or environmental incident.
  • Programme has exceeded 250,000 staff hours while working to Rhead Group’s implemented policies and procedures.
  • Quality of programme delivery was maintained as there was consistency and continuity in the people managing and delivering the programme of works.
  • HR team was able to directly contribute to Rhead Group’s growth strategy by increasing headcount, while leveraging its position and capability in core market sectors, ensuring that it was continuously improving the offering to clients; capitalising on the skills and experience in the business and retaining that to secure its expansion into different industries.

Judges’ comments
“Really impressed with this. High operational impact too.”

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