Personnel Today Awards 2015 winners: Anita Walton-Tilly is HR Director of the Year

HR Director of the Year Anita Walton-Tilly collects her trophy from Monster's Andy Sumner
HR Director of the Year Anita Walton-Tilly collects her trophy from Monster's Andy Sumner in 2015

Anita Walton-Tilly received the much-coveted HR Director of the Year prize, sponsored by Monster, at the 2015 Personnel Today Awards ceremony on Monday night. Here we profile her winning entry, and those of the runners-up.


WINNER

Anita Walton-Tilly, Vaultex

About the organisation

Vaultex is the UK’s leading cash processing company. It processes approximately 40% of the UK’s cash requirement. Vaultex employs 2,000+ people across multiple sites in the UK‎.

The challenge

Vaultex operates in a highly regulated, competitive global market. Due to the risk-averse nature of the business and the industry, the company had no external presence and an outdated business model. It needed a public image that attracted and engaged a multi-skilled modern workforce whilst balancing the risk appetite of our shareholders. Furthermore, in 2011, only 56% of people felt engaged, so a shift in perception was needed.

What Anita did

  • Persuaded stakeholders that all directors needed to share accountability, ensuring equal emphasis on engagement and profitability.
  • Held strategy workshops and executive development and coaching programmes.
  • Developed more of an external brand presence.
  • Held director roadshows where executive committee visit every site and speak to employees; also HR roadshows to discuss salaries and benefits.
  • Held focus groups to gain 180-degree feedback: comments are openly published, along with answers and deliverables.
  • Introduced employee opinion survey across whole organisation.
  • Developed a new HR structure with true HR business partners who proactively design and implement positive change.
  • Brought in an in-house recruitment team, which has reduced time to hire and attracted higher quality candidates
  • Harnessed technology: developed a multi-media onboarding portal, online benefits portal, a rewards gateway and a new HR system that can be accessed anywhere.
  • Introduced VOLT, a flexible online training system that suits different shift patterns and supports personal development and progression.

Benefits and achievements

  • Engagement increased year on year from 56% in 2011 to 71% in 2014; absence down from 15% in 2007 to 3.28% in 2015.
  • In-house recruitment team has saved £300,000 since June 2014 through reduced vetting times.
  • Staff turnover had reduced from 30% in 2007 to 7.51% / 3.18% (non-regretted).
  • Employee opinion survey has led to a number of changes, including a £9 million investment in revamping sites and changes to rewards/benefits.
  • The new rewards gateway provides bespoke offers to employees, saving them approximately £100,000 per annum.
  • New L&D approach has reduced costs by 30% and saved 10,000 operational hours.
  • CSR initiatives meant Vaultex supported 55 charities last year, and it has sponsored local youth teams and schools.
  • 2013/14 saw an above market salary increase of 3%, supported in part through HR cost savings.

Judges’ comments

“A demonstrable shift in performance was shown, using good metrics and an understanding of not just what Anita did but why and how she did it. There is a clear linkage to the business strategy and to the needs of all stakeholders.”


RUNNERS-UP

Helen Archibald, Dundee & Angus College

About the organisation
Dundee & Angus College is a further education and higher education college in Dundee, Scotland. It has two main campus sites in Dundee, one in Arbroath and learning centres across the Angus region.

The challenge

HR Director of the Year – the judges

Susannah Clements, Ithaca Partnership

Fiona Roberts, Volkswagen Group

Helen oversaw a major organisational change after Angus and Dundee Colleges merged to become a “super-college” in 2013. The two colleges had very different backgrounds and approaches, and the merger took place against a backdrop of significant funding cuts.

What Helen did

  • Brought together HR and OD staff from the two former colleges to form a single cohesive and effective team.
  • Set up new employee relations forum, covering three recognised trade unions; created a Joint Consultation Forum during merger which was so successful the unions asked for it to remain.
  • Established new terms and conditions within weeks of the merger, as well as revising policies and procedures.
  • Led the voluntary severance programme when major staff cuts occurred due to funding cuts.
  • Created change and transition plan that covered all key actions required for the merger, such as due diligence and TUPE.
  • Established leadership support for HR’s actions, and provided support and guidance to leaders on how best to bring staff together.
  • Developed a communications strategy, creating a joint merger portal where staff could see minutes from meetings and other documentation.

Benefits and achievements

  • Established learning academy for staff.
  • Achieved low turnover rates thanks to highly engaged, motivated and innovative staff.
  • Sickness absence levels were well below national and sector average, despite the change involved in the merger.
  • Harmonisation of terms and conditions for more than 1,000 staff was successful.
  • Helen has become involved in a number of national and sector-specific HR groups such as Colleges Scotland Employment Relations Group.

Judges’ comments

“[Helen] handled a very difficult situation with dignity and grace and led by example.”


Andy Dodman, University of Sheffield

About the organisation

The University of Sheffield is a world top-100 university renowned for its excellence, impact and distinctiveness in research-led learning and teaching. It employs around 7,200 staff.

The challenge

The university needs to stand out in a global, highly competitive environment that is experiencing rapid change, funding challenges and calls for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Andy needed to introduce a culture where staff are empowered to deliver excellence and impact across the employment agenda.

What Andy did

  • Shifted university from more collegial system to one where academics are recognised among the leadership and management infrastructure; Andy is also key member of the University Executive Board.
  • Developed Talent First, the University’s People Strategy 2013 to 2015, with the vision of “creating a remarkable place to work”.
  • Encouraged collaboration across key HR projects such as the graduate intern scheme.
  • Encouraged team to consider alternative approaches, for example in developing the University’s health and wellbeing programme (Juice).
  • Shared experiences with Russell Group universities and presented at the Universities HR Directors Forum, among others.
  • Established private limited company, Everyday Juice Limited, which will enter the corporate market for wellbeing services.
  • Established Sheffield Leader, a leadership development offering that equips staff with the behaviours and knowledge required to deal with internal and future challenges.
  • Developed new employer brand reflecting the University’s ambition, confidence, and culture of discovery and collaboration.
  • Comprehensive review of reward and recognition, aligning the new structure to the University’s corporate aims and values. Launched “The Deal” in March 2015, bringing all elements of reward together in one portal.

Benefits and achievements

  • Juice has had a positive impact: 65% of staff feel valued by the university (compared with 55% in 2012) and 82% feel it is interested in their health and wellbeing.
  • Faculty sickness absence has decreased (from 4.4% to 4% in faculty of medicine, dentistry and health, for example).
  • Sheffield leader has been emulated by Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
  • New employer brand has improved recruitment and attraction: 74% of appointees said it had improved their perception of the university.
  • In engineering, 100% of roles were filled in recent campaigns, versus a previous rate of 70%.
  • Diversity work has led to the university being highly ranked for its sector in the Stonewall Equality Index.
  • HR department has won a number of awards for its initiatives, and Andy is the current chair of the Russell Group HR Directors Forum.
  • Engagement is the highest in the higher education sector: 94% of staff are proud to work for the university.

Judges’ comments

Excellent delivery of the basics and lots of evidence of innovation and true business partnership.


Sharon Johnston, First Great Western

About the organisation

First Great Western’s (FGW) services cover one of the largest and most complex rail networks in the UK, carrying 1.5 million passengers every week on 9,000 services, and calling at 276 stations. It is part of First Group, which during the last year served 2.4 billion passengers.

The challenge

When Sharon became HR Director at FGW in 2011 she found an HR team of five struggling to support more than 4,000 colleagues following cost cutting in 2008. The team only reported on operational KPIs and had no capacity to act on business imperatives or demonstrate their value. She needed to assert the importance of effective HR alongside operational business needs.

What Sharon did

  • Created an HR service delivery plan, aligned to the FGW business plan. This had three key people focuses: improving engagement, increasing attendance and applying innovation.
  • Appointed employee engagement and reward manager to develop an engagement strategy and provide better support to managers.
  • Led campaign to eradicate worrying levels of bullying and harassment: “Together we can stamp it out”. Also launched a Respect and Dignity at Work Policy and provided a one-day workshop for managers.
  • Appointed health and wellbeing manager and introduced more strategic approach, including an advice booklet and wellbeing roadshows.
  • Empowered managers through training in absence management, tribunals, and employment law.
  • Brought L&D back into the HR department and appointed new head of L&D. New programmes included a more streamlined induction programme which could be adapted to add on modules depending on role.
  • Facilitated teamwork in geographically dispersed team through regular conference calls, scheduled face-to-face catch-ups and six-monthly team days.
  • Conducted SWOT analysis and came up with priorities including: Investors In People, European Foundation for Quality Management, Business in the Community and an annual colleague feedback survey.

Benefits and achievements

  • HR team is now in the top three directorates in terms of engagement across FGW, scoring 94% in 2014 (company average is 77%).
  • Overall company engagement scores have increased from 63% to 77%.
  • Sharon has been cited by more managers than anyone else as a role-model leader for the organisation, in structured interview feedback.
  • Moved more delivery of HR activities in-house, saving money.
  • Reduced sickness absence from 5.09% (2008/09) to 3.79% (2013/14).
  • Absence related to bullying and harassment down, resulting in annual attendance improvements from 93% in 2011/12 to 96% in 2013/14.
  • Significant reduction in number of employment tribunals, from 35 in 2012 to 13 in 2014. No case has been lost since training has been delivered.
  • This year, FGW received the IIP Gold Award.
  • Mark Hopwood, MD for First Great Western: “Sharon has transformed the HR service we are able to offer to our managers and colleagues, and continues to rebuild the team from strength to strength.”

Judges’ comments

“I was really impressed with her business contribution and drive to meet the long term goals of the business through a sustainable people agenda.”


Eugenio Pirri, Dorchester Collection

About the organisation

Dorchester Collection is a hotel management company with a passion for excellence, honouring the individuality and heritage of its portfolio of 10 iconic hotels. Its mission is to deliver the ultimate guest experience through a highly talented team of 4,000 employees.

The challenge

Prior to Eugenio’s arrival, each hotel had individual HR functions which independently focused on their own business priorities. While engagement was relatively high, it was inconsistent and measured in an arbitrary way. In 2011, Eugenio was appointed VP of People and Organisation Development, where he was tasked with the significant change of centralising HR with just 1.9% of turnover budget.

What Eugenio did

  • Built a centralised POD function to advise on key people initiatives that would directly impact the bottom line and drive all non-financial targets within the hotel portfolio.
  • Streamlined policies so there are just seven key POD policies: managers have more freedom to interpret them according to their own hotel’s styles.
  • Introduced “We Care” – set of five values: Passion, Personality, Respect, Working Together and Innovation.
  • Reinvigorated employer brand through social media, partnerships with educational institutes and an online performance tool.
  • Implemented new talent management strategy, based on Talent + formula, using the group’s values to match individuals to the right role.
  • Simplified employee opinion survey, narrowing it to 16 drivers that correlate with the group’s engagement scores.
  • Developed in-house academy to support employees throughout their entire career journey.
  • Brought CSR under the POD’s remit, and streamlined the model and how CSR impacts are measured.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee engagement increased to 92%.
  • Saved £1.7 million in attrition costs – labour turnover stabilised at 20% year-on-year.
  • Fifteen per cent increase in people promoted or transferred internally.
  • Eighteen per cent increase in people applying to work for Dorchester Collection in 2014 versus 2013.
  • Guest engagement increased 10% leading to a £9.8 million increase in revenue. Actively disengaged guests decreased by 9%, saving £11.3 million.
  • All employees (100%) completed online performance review, resulting in robust succession planning and reporting.
  • Engagement in CSR activities increased to more than 90%, reduced energy usage and waste across DC by 10% and increased community efforts across the globe two-fold.

Judges’ comments

“This submission demonstrated strong business outcomes driven by the leadership of Eugenio and he has obviously got the support and admiration of many people in his business.”


Tom Nicholls, L&Q Housing

About the organisation

L&Q is one of the UK’s leading housing associations and one of London’s largest residential developers. It owns or manages more than 70,000 homes in London and the South-East. It also provides other services for residents, such as managing their homes and investing in local communities.

The challenge

L&Q must constantly adapt to keep up with the external challenges from budget cuts to changes to government funding. During the last few years, L&Q has undergone change and restructuring. This included a review of its customer facing operation, and improvements in customer service, as well as a trial to move away from using external contractors to provide maintenance directly.

What Tom did

  • Took part in “back to the floor” days to increase visibility of HR director and chances for departments to discuss concerns.
  • Launched a new business partner structure to support different areas of the business: dedicated team of business partners dealing with each directorate.
  • Pioneered staff social events, away days and team building events so the work environment is fun and pleasant.
  • Championed diversity through working groups, including programmes for residents to gain work experience with L&Q.

Benefits and achievements

  • Low staff turnover of 11% against a target of 14%.
  • Low sickness absence at 2.6% against target of 2.8%.
  • Ranked in Great Places to Work for past 11 years, included in Stonewall Top 100 Employers, received IIP Gold Award.
  • L&Q has also been ranked in top 30 Great Places to Work and Britain’s Top 100 Employers.

Judges’ comments

“I was impressed by Tom’s ability to continue to bring new ideas and approaches to his business after 15 years.”


Fiona Ryland, Compass Group UK & Ireland

About the organisation

Compass Group is a market-leading provider of catering and facilities management services. It operates across a variety of sectors, offering a range of services from cleaning to security to serving meals. It has around 60,000 employees.

The challenge

When Fiona took over as UK & Ireland HR director in 2013, she needed to refocus the function on supporting the business, rather than “telling or doing to” the business. She designed a people strategy to meet these needs based on: making sure the company is never short of good people; developing leaders people want to work with; building effective people structures; rewarding outstanding performance and making it easy to do the people stuff.

What Fiona did

  • Launched the company’s first formal UK HR strategy in over five years, reorganising the operational HR structure so each MD and division is supported by a dedicated HR team.
  • Reviewed and restructured L&D.
  • Launched a leadership development programme to facilitate and develop a high performance coaching culture.
  • Introduced new talent and performance management processes.
  • Launched Compass DNA, a new set of behavioural standards, adopted across the business globally.
  • Launched an HR portal covering all people processes, such as vacancy approval.
  • Conducted employer branding exercise, including the development of a new careers site.

Benefits and achievements

  • Reduction in recruitment costs: 20% increase in hires; decrease in time to hire from 55 days to just 40. Vacancy approval down from 1.5 weeks to 2.5 hours.
  • Delivered 2,000 apprenticeship programmes and achieved a grade 2 Ofsted for their performance.
  • HR business partner development programme has/will help members of her team to progress into a number of key HR positions.
  • Fiona represents Compass on range of organisations such as Business in the Community (she is part of its talent and skills leadership team) and People 1st, the hospitality sector skills council.
  • New graduate scheme has resulted in 90% retention rate of graduates into permanent roles.
  • “In the eighteen months that I have worked with Fiona I have seen a significant amount of change which has included the implementation of cutting edge technologies, rationalisation and development of functions and a growing focus on the effective engagement of our employees.” – Dennis Hogan, Managing Director, Compass Group UK & Ireland

Judges’ comments

“Fiona has implemented a series of initiatives to align HR with the business and to transform the HR department. She has had an impact of bottom line results and sorted out the issues facing Compass HR.”

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