Personnel Today Awards 2015 winners: Great Western Railway win HR Impact Award

HR impact winner
Great Western Railway were judged top of the HR Impact category in 2015.

NGA Human Resources

Great Western Railway outshone its competitors in the category for HR Impact, sponsored by NGA Human Resources. Here we take a look at their winning entry and the runners-up. 


Great Western Railway

About the organisation
Train operator Great Western Railway (GWR) employs more than 5,000 people across its network, its trains call at 276 stations across the south of England and it carries 97 million passengers a year.

The challenge
In 2013, in the middle of unprecedented investments to its services, GWR’s recruitment was at an all-time high, yet there was an uncoordinated, inefficient seven-day induction programme that was failing its new colleagues. The programme had an overloaded training schedule, which many colleagues avoided, despite attendance being mandatory.

What the organisation did

  • Reviewed the design and delivery of induction, focused on the duration, content and relevance of each module, using data from a variety of resources.
  • Designed a new induction programme that would enable colleagues to “hit the ground running”. Its strategy was to build relevant knowledge and set the tone of the GWR culture.
  • New approach is core programme of 2.5 days, which is mandatory for all new colleagues, followed by a supplementary suite of courses targeted towards the requirements of specific roles, eg safety-critical, customer-facing or location-specific.
  • Required all new managers to complete an online individual needs analysis to determine whether or not attendance on its new Manager Development Programme is necessary.
  • Included essential fire and safety awareness topics, so that the programme meets compliance and lessens risk to the workforce.
  • Engaged new colleagues in GWR culture by including a ‘Corporate Welcome’, providing the context and feel of GWR and “Putting Customers First”, which provides an innovative, fresh look at customer priorities using highly challenging role-play led by actors.
  • Ensured that the programme is robustly evaluated. New colleagues and their line managers are surveyed afterwards, with further measurements scheduled for three and six months post-attendance.

Benefits and achievements

  • To date, 280 new colleagues have completed the programme.
  • Majority (86.6%) of line managers agreed that the information provided during role-specific induction to their new colleagues is both useful and relevant.
  • Induction programme sets the tone of the GWR culture: over 94% of new colleagues surveyed after the programme said that it reflected their expectations of GWR as an employer.
  • Exceptionally high engagement from new colleagues: almost half have expressed an interest in progressing further within GWR and employee scores relating to L&D improved four points since the programme was implemented – nine points above the national norm.
  • When surveyed, 90% of line managers identified that their new colleague’s performance met or exceeded their expectation, and 81% of new colleagues felt that the Induction Programme had helped them to do this.
  • Focused training has resulted in time savings of between 0.5 to four days per new colleague, depending on role type and individual needs.
  • New colleagues are speedier in adding value to the business, freeing up trainers to allocate time saved to focus on delivering further objectives for the business.
  • In its first three months, the programme saved £78,375. By the end of March 2015, savings reached around £150k.

Judge’s comment
“Well thought through and well executed. HR at its finest in an industry not always known for its classy HR. GWR is learning quickly.”


ATS Euromaster

HR Impact – the judge

Martin Tiplady, managing director Chameleon People Solutions Ltd

About the organisation
ATS Euromaster is a nationwide tyre company with 340 centres across the UK.

The challenge
Six years ago, the company was charged with reversing a long period of financial instability – at its lowest point, the business recorded a loss of £27 million. In order to achieve long-term sustainable profitability, it needed to invest in its people and focus on customer service.

What the organisation did

  • Assessed current practices and reviewed how each team interacted with internal and external customers. Uncovered some examples of poor customer care (customers left waiting for up to ten minutes, or employees who failed to make eye contact or address customers by their name).
  • Developed “SMILE – Putting the customer first”. It means S – state (of mind and environment); M – meet and greet; I – in the customer’s shoes; L – live the company values; and E – engage (with each customer until the end of the transaction).
  • Designed Haynes manual-style cards explaining ATS Euromaster’s recovery journey to date.
  • Launched SMILE at an event for the top 60 people in the business. Using an oversized “speedometer”, each group was asked what level of service they thought the company provided. After viewing mystery shopper video clips, the majority of teams’ speedometer scores dropped dramatically.
  • Focused on what needed to be done to ensure everyone fully understood and backed the plan.
  • Presented departmental plans to the leadership team in a Dragon’s Den-style forum.
  • Rolled out the initiative at fish and chip suppers and head office teams attended sessions at an in-house training centre.
  • Encouraged employees to put forward suggestions to keep SMILE alive, while senior managers have signed up to the SMILE Charter and SMILE has become part of staff objectives.

Benefits and achievements

  • SMILE is now being rolled-out across other countries in the Euromaster Group.
  • By creating a consistent approach to deal with internal and external customers, SMILE has united staff members working in operations, sales and head office.
  • Understanding of customer care has increased: 2015 employee survey found that 70% of people strongly agree customer feedback is used to improve processes, a 13 percentage point improvement on last year and 18 percentage points above the UK norm.
  • Recent mystery shop exercise reported that there had been a 37 percentage point improvement with regard to the way ATS Euromaster’s employees interact with customers.
  • Net promoter score increased by over 27 percentage points to 80%.
  • Company has gained more business from existing customers and a reputation for excellence is helping to attract new business.

Judge’s comment
“A good organisational and cultural solution.”

BMI Healthcare

About the organisation
BMI Healthcare is an independent provider of private healthcare, offering treatment to private, medically insured and NHS patients.

The challenge
BMI Healthcare’s HR team was seriously challenged by the geographical spread of the national business, conflicting priorities and the absence of an appropriate system to underpin activity. The HR model did little to enhance line manager performance, create an engaged workforce or provide useful management information to facilitate decision making. Inconsistency of approach was frequent, due to varied levels of experience within the team.

What the organisation did

  • Focused on the need to improve line manager behaviour and capability, BMI teamed up with AdviserPlus to develop an innovative model, BMiManage.
  • Implemented a fully hosted employee relations service through a clearly navigable intranet with a bespoke case viewer, enabling managers to securely access cases and have comprehensive details of actions required.
  • Identified national, regional and local themes and trends, which contributed to regular action planning and reviews of training and development.
  • Gave BMiManage two core elements: advice and guidance on employee relations issues direct to line managers; and user-friendly technology that adds value through the provision of proactive case management and comprehensive management information.
  • Created a comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan targeted at senior leaders. Key influencers became fierce advocates of the approach and supportive of the change.
  • Engaged with 160 managers before go-live date, and created a solid foundation for group-wide adoption and acceptance. Within 14 days of launch, all of the service’s users (almost 700) had personal contact with BMiManage team and completed a one-to-one introduction to the service.

Benefits and achievements

  • Line managers responded well to the significant improvement in accessibility levels and risen to the challenge of issue management.
  • Quality and quantity of advice generated confidence to handle cases locally, where abdication of responsibility to regional HR was once the default position.
  • Faster resolution of employee relation cases as managers have the confidence to be fully supported every step of the way.
  • Documentation and written follow-up held in the secure case viewer tool and issue resolution now brought to conclusion in an appropriate timescale. This is escalated if advisers do not receive a response from the line manager handling an issue within five working days.
  • Overall HR expenditure decreased. By making line managers responsible and accountable for people management, BMiManage has created a framework, provided clear expectations and coached managers so that there are now up-skilled line managers, with improved capability, confidence and effectiveness.
  • More effective absence management; over half of all absence queries have been brought to conclusion and the employee successfully returned to work.
  • Managers receive monthly site breakdowns of cases by category and number of cases closed. Early identification of trends has enabled BMI to tailor training to meet the needs of managers and the business.

Judge’s comment
“High impact and some well thought out solutions and a tailor-made system for BMI. Very good.”


About the organisation
CBRE is one of the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firms, in terms of 2014 revenue. It provides clients with insightful, market-leading advice to maximise the value of their real estate.

The challenge
CBRE is a business that grows around 20% year on year. This presents possibility and challenges in obtaining top talent to fill new opportunities. CBRE’s challenge was to improve the brand in the marketplace, improve the candidate experience, reduce time to hire and gain a better balance between agency and direct recruitment.

What the organisation did

  • Increase talent resourcing team to six talent resourcing managers.
  • Selected and implemented new tracking system to improve the candidate experience and prevent the individual being represented by multiple agencies or talent resourcing managers.
  • Recalibrated the way psychometrics were carried out to reduce the duration of assessment centres from a whole day to half a day, making it easier for candidates to attend.
  • Created an introduction for the assessment centres, which enhanced the candidate experience by giving them a brief overview of the company, its mission, culture and values.
  • Devised upskilling materials for managers to ensure that the assessment centres and the team were being utilised as intended and ensure that all candidates received quality and timely feedback.
  • Set up a LinkedIn page to increase brand awareness in the recruitment market.
  • Encouraged talent resourcing managers to attend trade fairs and recruitment events and raise profile.
  • Trained team in psychometrics so that it could increase the frequency of the assessment centres.
  • Re-launched a combined Employee Talent Referral Scheme to increase referrals from within the organisation.
  • Measured and demonstrated return on investment showing cost to recruit, time to hire, source of hire (ie direct, agency, internal referral) and under a year’s attrition.

Benefits and achievements

  • Gained 12,000 followers on LinkedIn.
  • Achieved a greater balance of direct recruitment versus agency usage.
  • By recruiting more candidates directly, there has been a cost saving to the business of £599,335, while also improving the quality of candidates and the candidate experience.
  • Since fully resourcing the team and implementing the system in October 2014, there has been a marked improvement from 30% of managers recruited directly in 2013; to 60% of managers directly in 2014 and 80% of managers directly in Q1 2015.
  • From October 2014, frequency of assessment centres has increased by two per month, with a wider geographical spread of centres.
  • Pass rate at assessment centres has also improved from 60% (Q1-3 2014) to 66% (Q4 2014-Q1 2015) for operational management roles and from 25% (Q1-3 2014) to 50% (Q4 2014-Q1 2015) for projects roles. This has been a direct result of improved screening.

Judge’s comment
“Well articulated and strong focus on solution. Could have done with a little more originality.”

Civil Service Employee Policy

About the organisation
Civil Service Employee Policy provides expert HR support to the civil service in the form of model policies, guidance and consultancy services. Around 90 departments, agencies and Crown Non-Departmental Public Bodies use its services. Between them, they employ over 400,000 people.

The challenge
The Civil Service aspired to be an exemplar in its parental leave offering, in light of the new right to shared parental leave. It wanted to send a clear signal about its cultural ambition for working parents in the Civil Service, making childcare a parental issue rather than just one for women. The challenge was how it could build on the overall employment offer, within the constraints of the public spending efficiency agenda, to encourage parents to use shared parental leave.

What the organisation did

  • Undertook a major engagement programme in advance of the legislation to ensure that all departments were ready to promote and implement new arrangements.
  • Provided high-level messaging, papers and meeting updates for senior managers and human resources directors to alert them to the implications.
  • Ran practical workshops and seminars for HR professionals and managers covering the technical aspects of the application process and the proposed pay approach to ensure that implementation ran smoothly.
  • Worked closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Government Legal Department and Acas to ensure proposals aligned with legislation and best practice.
  • Developed a convincing business case for an enhanced pay approach to match its maternity and adoption pay.
  • Engaged with Civil Service diversity network groups and the National Trade Union Committee to pre-empt any issues.
  • Carried out extensive consultation with departments, while developing model policy and guidance for employees and managers on how to make and respond to leave requests.
  • Developed a number of innovative practical supporting tools to meet the needs of customer departments. These included: a card game to illustrate how the different pay scenarios work in practice in a variety of situations to help HR professionals understand the technical aspects; a simple and clear guide to get prospective parents thinking early on about how they plan to share the care of their child; and a ready reckoner to help eligible employees to calculate an indicative entitlement to shared parental leave and pay.
  • Gave a presentation at the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance annual conference to raise awareness of shared parental leave and its availability to same-sex parents.

Benefits and achievements

  • As part of the Civil Service reform agenda, a new Talent Action Plan outlines proposals to ensure that the civil service remains one of the best and most progressive UK employers. It was able to make a commitment in this plan that the Civil Service would be an exemplar of the new entitlement to shared parental leave.
  • Named an SPL Pioneer by Working Families, a leading work-life organisation.
  • Evidence of significant early implementation of shared parental leave products, with 43 departments, representing 74% of the civil service, using them so far.
  • User-friendly products have benefited customers by allowing them to smoothly implement a complex new entitlement.
  • Approach has saved money by avoiding the needs for departments to seek their own legal and technical advice and develop bespoke products.
  • Team has demonstrated that the civil service is championing the introduction of the new leave entitlement, levelling the playing field in its approach to pay and giving parents a real choice about shared childcare.

Judge’s comment
“Fascinating submission on a very specific new HR initiative. The style and extent of this programme convinces on the sincerity of the initiative.”

Home Retail Group

About the organisation
Home Retail Group is one of the UK’s leading home and general merchandise retailers. It is the parent company of Argos, Homebase and Habitat. Its successful internet and mobile channels make it a market leader in multi-channel retailing, supported by a national network of more than 1,000 stores.

The challenge
The organisation’s different operations had produced areas of innovation, resulting in each business area having independent learning systems, making it impossible to provide group-wide reporting or to exchange data. It needed to find an HR solution that delivered high-quality, coordinated training and development, transforming the ways that its colleagues learn.

What the organisation did

  • Created the OPENdoor digital strategy, allowing colleagues to develop their personal capability.
  • Supported career development, succession planning, facilitating movement between brands and functions.
  • Launched OPENdoor at Habitat in 2013, testing: colleagues’ acceptance of accessing learning from work and home; access through mobile and tablet devices; willingness of colleagues to accept ownership for their own development; and a movement away from a trained to a self-service learner culture.
  • Delivered an effective training design service providing: functional training for colleagues;
    and advice and guidance on the most effective ways of delivering training, ensuring learner understanding and retention.
  • Produced business cases for each part of the organisation, starting with the on-boarding of temporary colleagues for Argos Retail. As a result, 11,000 new starters were given the opportunity to complete their compulsory training on the new system, reducing training time and producing comprehensive reporting.

Benefits and achievements

  • Since the Habitat launch, the organisation has got buy-in from all areas of the business and provided access to over 42,000 colleagues, giving them the training and development system ahead of schedule in a robust and cost-effective way.
  • Courses have been created that are legally compliant, engaging, informative, stimulating, attractive, interactive, humorous and memorable.
  • Provision of implementation plans, set up of new processes, delivered reporting requirements and new communication strategies.
  • Colleagues have been given the opportunity to complete their compulsory training, and use a huge range of online resources to structure their own development and fulfil goals.
  • Reduction of training costs per colleague from £5.75 to £4.05, based on 23,000 learners.

Judge’s comment
“Very innovative and well drilled to have impact.”

IGATE Computer Systems UK

About the organisation
IGATE is an IT services company, headquartered in New Jersey, US. The firm operates in North America, Asia, Europe, Japan and Australia, providing technology consultancy and services.

The challenge
In 2012, IGATE acquired Patni, a global IT organisation based in India that was double its size in terms of people (16,000 employees) and knowledge. Both organisations were yearning for growth, and so the major challenge was to complete a swift transfer of employees and, at the same time, take business to the next level by gaining bigger and more strategic projects.

What the organisation did

  • Reviewed the organisation structure to understand existing hierarchies.
  • Studied the policies and processes for all regions, identifying the terms and conditions of any previous transferring employees that had not been harmonised.
  • Created employee profiles on the IGATE HR systems so that all employees could access the intranet and feel part of the organisation.
  • Reviewed global generic policies and processes such as global and domestic travel policy, reward and recognition programs, performance management policy, employee referral policy, disciplinary and grievance policy, variable pay policy and bonus structures.
  • Introduced training programs for employees at each level, for example leader-to-leader training and fast-track programmes.
  • Reviewed benefits in each region and enhanced them to accommodate the individual and regional requirements (so pensions were introduced in some countries, medical insurance plan enhanced and extended to employees and immediate family members).
  • Launched employee engagement plans, eg TGIM (Thank God it’s Monday), a live performance every Monday, and an annual family fun day in all regions for employees to come together with their families.
  • Planned campaigns to communicate effectively, including various town halls, emails, while group and individual meetings were planned to ensure that all employees understood the change.
  • Held managers’ workshops for them to understand the changes in the policies so that they were empowered to approve employee’s holidays, expenses and travel.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee satisfaction survey showed 71% employees felt that they were adequately informed about the company’s development and 68% of employees said that there is transparency in the organisation.
  • IGATE awarded India’s Best IT Employer by Data Quest in 2012 and given the “fun at work” award in 2014 because of its global employee engagement and corporate social responsibility activities such as an annual family fun day and Project Akshara supporting orphan children.
  • IGATE has won its biggest deal in its corporate history with a global banking client worth $180 million.
  • IGATE won one of the the biggest new deals in the telecom sector, worth $80 million, along with a deal with one of the biggest insurance clients in the Nordic region for $35 million over three years.

Judge’s comment
“Very high profile and at a stage when so many mergers fail. Very impressed – well put together.”

Southampton Football Club

About the organisation
Southampton Football Club is a Premier League football club, which was founded in 1885. The Club has a renowned Academy which has developed some of the most talented and sought-after footballers in the world.

The challenge
In early 2014, there was a change in leadership within the club when a chairman who led by command and fear left and a new chairman started who had a much more democratic leadership style. Fear of change set in among staff and fans, and the club had to establish a culture that would focus on the company’s long-term sustainability.

What the organisation did

  • Arranged a staff meeting for all staff, with the intention of giving them a voice. It wanted every single member of staff to stand up and speak at some point during the meeting.
  • Designed five key questions that focused on what was important to the club: What makes us unique? What do you want fans to think of us? What does it mean to be part of a winning team? What can we do for you to keep you focused on the task at hand? How can we breed success through innovation?
  • Created a project group that would put all the answers together and build a culture called “The Southampton Way”. The aim of the project was to create a set of values that were unique to the club, but that were created by its staff.
  • Based new values and culture around what it already did well; develop potential athletes into excellent footballers with the aim of replicating this for its staff; developing “Potential into Excellence”.
  • Pinpointed five key values: accountability, aspiration, creativity, respect and unity.
  • Presented The Southampton Way video to the board of directors who were ecstatic with what had been produced and wanted to arrange an event to showcase to the rest of staff.
  • Arranged for all staff to watch the video and then gathered on the pitch for a team photo displaying cards with The Southampton Way on. Later, desk cards were given to each staff member with new values displayed on them.
  • Arranged for all staff to attend a one-day workshop called “Inside The Southampton Way”.
  • Designed a competency framework based around the behaviours that the club expected to see, built a Staff Handbook that represented its new culture, a PDR process and a new company induction that incorporated “Inside The Southampton Way”.

Benefits and achievements

  • A fully engaged and motivated workforce – recent staff engagement survey “Our Score” showed that 92% of staff are engaged.
  • The 2014/2015 transfer window was a worrying time for fans, due to some of the Club’s star players leaving, but by introducing The Southampton Way and having an engaged workforce, the Club ensured it was a record-breaking season.
  • Club has created a culture whereby it believes in the development of not only its footballers but also its staff, which has been shown through a unique PDR process.
  • Manifesto for fans has increased fan engagement.

Judge’s comment
“Very good, with high profile locally as well.”

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