Talking Talent crowned Consultancy of the Year 2016

The Consultancy of the Year award celebrates the important contribution made by external experts to the success of HR in organisations. We take a look at the 2016 winner, Talking Talent, and the runners-up in this hotly contested Personnel Today Award.


Talking Talent

About the organisation
Talking Talent is a coaching consultancy at the forefront of developing and maximising the female talent pipeline. It creates business environments and cultures around the world where diversity and inclusion is valued and both women and men are able to thrive.

Why it stands out
Talking Talent delivers programmes that ignite company-wide behavioural shifts. Organisations choose to partner with the consultancy because it’s a collaborative experience. It seeks to understand the full organisational picture, address the key areas and provide ongoing support that ensures the programmes have the fullest impact.

Consultancy of the Year – the judges

Saima Poorghobad, commercial product manager, XpertHR
Perry Timms, founder and chief energy officer, People and Transformational HR
Miranda Pickford, commercial product manager, XpertHR

Key projects

  • Co-created the “Women in Leadership” coaching programme at Lloyds Banking Group in order to increase the representation of women at senior levels.
  • Launched a bespoke version of Talking Talent’s working parents’ portal (“MAPS” – Maternity and Paternity Support) tailored to the exact needs of Unilever, to meet their aim of retaining talented women and increasing rates of progression. The portal offers support to working parents and managers before, during and after parental leave.
  • Worked in partnership with Barclays to develop a global programme of pre- and post-parental transition coaching. The partnership began in 2010 and Talking Talent has been coaching Barclays’ working parents ever since.

Benefits and achievements

  • Lloyds Banking Group’s Women in Leadership coaching programme has seen 80% of the 2015 cohort moving roles and/or taking on increased responsibility. The bank has seen representation of women at senior levels rise and is on track to reach its target of 40% women in senior roles by 2020.
  • Rolled out the MAPS portal at Unilever to over 90 countries within 18 months. There are 2,700 active users.
  • In 2012, 81% of women who returned from maternity leave at Barclays were still with the business 12 months later. In 2015, this figure was 96%. This 15% increase in retention has saved the bank an estimated £24.2 million in attrition costs in 2015.

Judges’ comments
“Clear demonstration of value added to clients in all case studies. A very strong entry.”

Talking Talent receive their Consultancy of the Year trophy from Rob Moss


HR Advise Me

About the organisation
HR Advise Me provides practical HR solutions, support and guidance for organisations that either do not have an internal HR department or require expertise and skills for specific HR projects. It works with a wide range of commercial organisations across the UK, as well as a variety of sectors including professional services, hospitality, education and not-for-profit.

Why it stands out
The business has grown organically alongside sister company Loch Employment Law, a specialist employment law firm. It is committed to providing affordable and scalable HR support.

Key projects

  • Developed a new service, “Proactive Absence Management”, which includes the innovative role of medical specialists who work alongside the HR consultants to provide a complete HR solution.
  • Under a retainer arrangement, HR Advise Me conducts regular reviews of its clients’ anticipated usage, so that support can be scaled up or down to meet changing requirements.
  • Provided a project support role to The South of England Agricultural Society when it underwent a restructure and recruited a new CEO for the first time in more than 20 years. Advised a robust selection process to ensure the newly appointed CEO would have the necessary skills to take the society forward.
  • In 2016, J Clubb – a quarrying and building materials supplier in the south east – used HR Advise Me’s Proactive Absence Management system to effectively manage sickness absence.
  • Introduced BreatheHR, a cloud-based HR support tool, in 2014 to answer clients’ need for an efficient employee administration system.

Benefits and achievements

  • “When we realised we needed support regarding absenteeism issues, HR Advise Me specialists were able to deliver from both an HR and medical perspective, something a traditional HR consultancy would not have been able to do…The team have undoubtedly saved us time and money, but more importantly, have helped us all reach an amicable outcome” – Simon Clubb, MD, J Clubb.
  • “We have worked with the HR Advise Me team for several years and continue to get excellent advice and support as our team grows, hence our decision to sign up to a retainer. The introduction of the online HR software as an additional service has revolutionised our HR admin – thank you for this, it has saved us so much time and effort” – Matt Wilkey, Owner, ID&C Group.

Judges’ comments
“Everyday HR problems with practical solutions.”

Paydata Ltd

About the organisation
As a reward management consultancy, Paydata helps employers manage their pay and reward practices. Its customers represent everything from FTSE 100 multinationals through to small charities, which means finding solutions that meet each organisation’s unique needs.

Why it stands out
Sets out to make people’s lives better at work by providing the expertise and resources required by employers and creating sructure and fairness within reward for employees. Almost all of its work comes from referrals or repeat business.

Key projects

  • Worked with Cross Keys Homes, a local social enterprise managing in excess of 10,500 homes in the Greater Peterborough region. Its reward frameworks were no longer meeting business needs and had not been reviewed for over 10 years.
    • Developed a function-based job family structure using Paydata’s PAYgrade job evaluation scheme.
    • Introduced a pay ladder of fixed pay points, hanging the job family levels off the ladder.
    • Adopted a skills-based pay system with progression linked to skills development.
    • Reviewed the bonus structure and benefits.
    • Redesigned the performance management process and improved communication of the employee value proposition.
  • The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) had two main issues with their reward arrangements. Firstly, the pay and grading structures were outdated and needed reviewing and secondly, the link between performance and pay was not working as intended. The PAYgrade job evalution system was introduced to underpin the grading structure, alongside a whole organisation bonus scheme based on business level achievement of strategic goals.
  • Alliance Healthcare approached Paydata looking for a more efficient and effective approach to managing their annual pay review, which had become a hugely time-consuming task. PAYreview offered a secure online solution tailored to their needs.

Benefits and achievements

  • Evaluated 120 roles at Cross Key Homes, covering the whole organisation. Project resulted in all employees accepting the changes to their terms and conditions. The approach was acknowledged as being fair and fit for purpose, including by two recognised trade unions negotiating on behalf of the employees.
  • “The project we have worked on with Paydata … has resulted in AAT having a credible job evaluation system, as well as a financially sustainable pay framework, which we hope will engage our employees to deliver our business plan targets” – Olivia Hill, ATT’s Chief HR Officer.
  • For Alliance Healthcare, PAYreview has dramatically reduced the time spent administering the annual pay review by as much as 50%. Managers can focus on the quality of the review decisions rather than administering a process.

Judges’ comments
“Paydata demonstrates a thorough and professional approach to its customer projects.”

Purple HR

About the organisation
Purple HR offers a range of HR services for small- to medium-sized companies, from a fully managed outsourced HR department to an advice line providing essential backup support whenever it is needed. It has a small but dedicated team of eight people.

Why it stands out
Purple HR is committed to supporting the local community. Director Mandy Fitzmaurice is a governor at Heatherlands Primary School and also a non-executive director of Pavilion Dance South West, the National Dance Development Organisation for the South West of England. Meanwhile, director Leanne Pick is a trustee of the British Stammering Association.

Key projects

  • Mandy has been a guest speaker three times for Bond Williams HR Forum at AFC Bournemouth.
  • Over the past 18 months, Purple HR have been working closely with Rebbeck Brothers, a firm of chartered surveyors. The company had been concerned about major underperformance and suspected workplace bullying.
    • Undertook a staff survey to understand how people felt about the business and establish the underlying relationship issues that seemed to be causing unease.
    • Arranged a 360-feedback exercise, which provided insight into the company’s working practices and management style. Purple HR discovered tensions between a senior manager and staff.
    • Revisted and redefined job roles and commission structures so that there was a better correlation between performance and reward.
    • Introduced a bespoke three-step appraisal system.
  • Acted as HR consultants to a group of GP practices in Kilburn, North London, who were embarking upon a pilot project to offer an improved range of patient services. Purple HR were asked to guide the Partnership Management Board and staff through a challenging transition process (TUPE) from NHS to a private-sector business and to put in place a framework that would enable them to make the transition needed.

Benefits and achievements

  • In the last 18 months, Purple HR has held 18 half-day workshops for 12 people at a time on topics including: equality and diversity; performance management; TUPE; the Bradford Factor; managing discipline and grievances; and absence.
  • At Rebbeck Brothers, there is a greater awareness throughout the company of how individual behaviour – negative and positive – can affect the whole team and impact on profit and performance.
  • Developed the GP’s HR governance framework, drafted in contracts of employment and produced an employee handbook to support staff in their new environment. Staffing levels have increased by 50% and other GP practices are now looking to adopt a similar model in line with NHS England strategy.
  • “Purple HR provided invaluable guidance and practical help to staff members at all levels. They were professional but sensitive to individuals’ situations ensuring that everyone, from consultants to administrators, understood the process and the implications for them personally. They really gave us confidence to get though what could otherwise have been a difficult time” – manager, Kilburn Partnership.

Judges’ comments
“Purple HR appear to take a boutique approach to small and medium enterprises with tailored solutions.”

Real People HR

About the organisation
Real People HR is an HR social enterprise consultancy providing management training, advice and support. Its clients are UK-wide charitable/social businesses, funding bodies and membership organisations.

Why it stands out
Supports the development of the charitable and social businesses’ frontline services, improving standards in the support provided to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Key projects

  • Chosen for four consecutive years by Locality and Emmaus to support their members. Through Emmaus, Real People HR support 30 not-for-profit organisations and through Locality, it reaches up to 400 charities.
  • Partnered with St Mungo’s. St Mungo’s Broadway was formed in 2014 by the merger of two, well-established, homeless charities, St Mungo’s and Broadway. The newly merged organisation was aiming to develop a high-performing, creative, client-centred culture that would seek to unify the two organisations. There was, however, cultural fragmentation and a highly disengaged workforce which resulted in high-profile industrial action.
  • At the time of the merger, a people management audit identified an overall inconsistency of approach between St Mungo’s and Broadway managers. There was a lack of manager confidence in applying policies leading to issues symptomatic of a negative culture (lateness, bullying and discrimination, frequent grievances and high sickness absence rates).
  • There was an urgent need to bring together the positive employee experiences from both former organisations and to manage change in a way that would create a new way of working and a culture of excellence.
  • Supported and collaborated with St Mungo’s line managers to empower them to nurture the desired culture in their teams.
  • Worked with the leadership team to identify gaps between the existing and desired cultures and developed a tailored Leadership and Management Programme, which has been accredited by the Institute of Leadership & Management.

Benefits and achievements

  • Trained all 300 line managers in the established performance management framework.
  • In 2015/16, 79 courses were delivered in London and Bristol equating to 575 training days.
  • Reduced time lost to sickness and other absence by 1%, representing a saving of over £450,000 per year.
  • Results from the 2015 staff survey showed improved scores since 2013. Line management received a 79% satisfaction rating; performance management received a 73% satisfaction rating; and there was a 29% decrease in the number of staff experiencing bullying or harassment at work.
  • Awarded silver by the Investors in People assessment in 2015 due to the increased level of consistency in management effectiveness.

Judges’ comments
“An effective programme, well administered, delivered and received.”

West Midland Employers

About the organisation
West Midlands Employers is a specialist, not-for-profit consultancy owned by the 32 local authorities in the West Midlands region. It offers a range of support services that span the entire employee lifecycle, from candidate attraction to exit plans.

Why it stands out
West Midlands Employers is unique as it is a not-for-profit organisation that works with public-sector bodies to help create and support a strong public-sector workforce. It offers a shareholder reward model that pays back a percentage of any financial surplus to the organisations that are its members.

Key projects

  • WMJobs is a specialist e-recruitment and talent management service for the public sector. The WMJobs website carries thousands of vacancies in hundreds of career areas directly from the public sector.
  • The WMJobs team offer an executive recruitment search and selection service and a full e-recruitment system that manages applications submitted on behalf of subscribing councils. The recruitment package includes online Disclosure and Barring Service checks.
  • Directly supported the chief executive of Lichfield District Council on an organisation-wide restructure and redesign through to implementation.
  • Provided substantial advice and support to Stratford-on-Avon District Council in the implementation of senior management restructuring.
  • Supported Herefordshire Council and Worcester City Council on options for reviewing their approach to pay and grading.
  • Delivered a benchmarking review of senior management salaries for Sandwell MBC, including options and recommendations.
  • Led a national online pay benchmarking service for all councils in the country.
  • Worked as the delivery partner for Staffordshire County Council and South Staffordshire District Council to deliver high-quality training and development, delivering more than 20 bespoke in-house events.

Benefits and achievements

  • Generates year-on-year efficiency savings for councils. Delivered savings in excess of £2 million for local councils in 2015/16.
  • In 2015/16, the e-recruitment service, WMJobs saved £2.15 million for councils across the West Midlands and forecast savings of £6.3 million over the next three years. There were 4.8 million visits to the WMJobs site with 16,623 jobs advertised from 200 public-sector organisations.
  • WMJobs offers a significant reduction compared to other agencies and saved £124,687 for councils last year.
  • Delivered 850 consultancy days across 32 organisations and 633 hours of coaching and mentoring to senior managers in 20 councils.
  • Provided 800 hours of free HR support.

Judges’ comments
“West Midlands Employers demonstrate huge savings and a clear return on investment for their clients which is remarkable given they are a not-for-profit organisation.”

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