HR Director of the Year 2016: Sharon Bridgland-Gough, Cardtronics

TotaljobsSharon Bridgland-Gough of Cardtronics has received the coveted HR Director of the Year for 2016 at the Personnel Today Awards. We look at all the heads of HR to have made the shortlist, beginning with our winner. 


Sharon Bridgland-Gough, Cardtronics UK

About the organisation
Cardtronics provides convenient access to cash, when and where consumers need it. Cardtronics operates more than 17,000 ATMs across the UK, Ireland, Germany and Poland. The business includes driving footfall for retailers, enhancing ATM brand presence for card issuers and expanding cardholders’ cash access on the local, national or international scene.

HR Director of the Year – the judge

Anita Walton-Tilly, 2015 HR Director winner

The challenge
Sharon joined Cardtronics in April 2014 at a time when the business was just settling down after a merger. Prior to her arrival, HR was seen as a transactional function with little strategic input, so there needed to be a change in mindset where HR was seen as credible and adding value. Sharon needed to establish herself as a credible leader in the boardroom, building a HR team able to take on the challenge of huge transformational change.

What Sharon did

  • Worked tirelessly throughout 2015 to establish and promote “One” set of core values globally.
  • Implemented an intelligent and thought-out strategy to align values and culture.
  • Aligned the “One” global approach to talent management and communications.
  • Seen as a true thought leader on a global scale, trusted by the business and valued for her wealth of experience and practical knowledge around important topics.
  • Did not compromise on quality, and was a hard task master, but understood people, and their personal and professional needs.
  • Was instrumental in getting credibility for what HR do across the whole organisation, involving pushing and stretching her team out of their comfort zones to achieve their full potential and deliver HR excellence.
  • Took time and care to mentor and coach her team, showing real strength through difficult times.

Benefits and achievements

  • Sharon helped the company to hit and beat its key targets in Europe and the UK – quite an achievement given 2015 was a year of major transformation.
  • In addition to leading the HR team on a range of transformational change programmes, Sharon has been actively helping grow Cardtronics’ European regions in Germany, Spain and Poland.
  • The team have learned so much from Sharon in a short space of time; they have greater exposure to the business at all levels from the executive team to the operational frontline, and credibility and sense of achievement for what they do.
  • Sharon’s talents led to a number of promotions within the team and the creation of the HR senior leadership team.
  • Sharon has opened up many opportunities for her team to really put their HR expertise to the test.
Sharon Bridgland-Gough receives the HRD of the Year trophy from Ian Burke, sales director at Totaljobs

Sharon Bridgland-Gough receives the HRD of the Year trophy from Ian Burke, sales director at Totaljobs


Leatham Green, East Sussex & Surrey county councils – Orbis

About the organisation
East Sussex and Surrey county councils launched Orbis in 2014, a unique partnership between business service functions. It covers approximately 1,400 people providing HR, finance, property, ICT, procurement and business operations for both organisations and many public- and third-sector customers.

The challenge
The relentless drive to improve public-sector efficiency was intense. Support functions have to be innovative, delivering efficient, high-quality services to maximise resources allocated to frontline services. This challenge is familiar to East Sussex County Council, which has generated £80 million savings over the past five years through clearly identified business priorities and an innovative HR strategy. The challenge presented to Leatham was clear: “Implement a HR strategy to support the Council to deliver £80 million savings – and improve performance to create an enviable business with a world-class reputation.”

What Leatham did

  • Implemented a four-year HR strategy with full political and managerial support to transform the council and deliver key service objectives, with clear financial efficiencies.
  • Created and implemented the change and transition strategy, target operating model and culture for the biggest public-sector shared service partnership between East Sussex and Surrey County Councils.
  • Tackled absenteeism to minimise costs on sick pay, agency cover, and maximise attendance levels.
  • Brought focus to the importance of health and wellbeing strategies, introducing free physiotherapy, smoking cessation clinics, discounted gym membership, walking groups, running groups, yoga and pilates; head and back massage, reflexology, health checks, and access to health insurance.
  • Improved procurement for agency staff and advertising costs; supported development of the first academies and federations in schools; enhanced organisational capacity using creative interventions to recruit to undersubscribed professions, such as recruiting social workers from Canada.
  • Established a graduate teacher recruitment programme and partnered with Sussex University to provide social worker training.
  • Revised organisation policies, practices and procedures so managing people starts from a position of trust – creating an “EPIC” place to work (expertise – passion – innovation – customer-centred).
  • Streamlined service delivery adding value in areas important to customers, creating a culture where excellent customer service is at the heart of its delivery
  • Introduced the first HR Public Sector Academy, facilitated by Roffey Park Institute.
  • Exploited technology through introducing: a customer relationship management system to enhance customer service; automated absence management reporting; an e-recruitment system; and a learning management system.
  • Generated team pride and participation by adopting a charity, Canine Partners, and arranging fund raising events throughout the year (raised more than £10,000 for the charity).

Benefits and achievements

  • Becky Shaw, chief executive, said: “Leatham is an exceptional leader and an outstanding HR professional who has made a significant difference to our Council over many years. He can be challenging and controversial, however he is always respected and his drive, innovation and inspirational leadership has delivered a world-class HR team that we are proud of.”
  • Supported delivery of £80 million in savings in four years and targeting a further £30 million over the coming three years.
  • Reduced the operating cost of HR/OD by 54% and simultaneously increased customer satisfaction.
  • E-recruitment achieved 97% online applications in year one, reduced advertising costs by £600,000 pa, and personnel administration by £100,000 pa.
  • Saw a 47% reduction in formal grievances through the introduction of the council’s internal mediation service, achieving £300,000+ pa productivity savings.
  • Reduced absence levels by 16%, generating £250,000 pa in savings with £1.7 million cumulative savings.
  • Enhanced reputation within minority groups, achieving 7th place in the Stonewall Index in 2012 (highest placed local authority).
  • Supported 77 people with mental health disability into work through its “Return to Work” programme over four years.
  • Placed 70 teachers and 50 social workers from the development programme and inducted 20 social workers from Canada.
  • HR costs reduced by 54%, yielding £1.66 million per year efficiencies from 2010 to 2015.
  • HR service rated excellent or good by 89% of customers in 2015 – up from 27% in 2006; 50% reduction in customer complaints; 77% reduction in avoidable errors; compliments exceed complaints by 30:1.

Dan Creed, Executive Serviced Apartments Ltd

About the organisation
Executive Serviced Apartments (esa) has been providing high-quality serviced apartments for the corporate market since 2004, delivering value, comfort and convenience for its guests. Founded in Newbury, esa now offers a full range of tailored accommodation solutions for major blue-chip companies and multinational businesses, and an extensive network of corporate housing and relocation solutions in prime business locations throughout the UK.

The challenge
Esa has been through a tremendous amount of change in a highly competitive marketplace, with a 58% shift in 12 months. The company had very little presence from a HR function previously and with the headcount doubling, it required a strategic and transformational HR person to set the benchmark and deliver on some exceptional people initiatives. Upon starting the role in February 2015, Dan came into a business where there was 45% staff turnover, engagement struggled at 50% and there was an unproductive and demotivated business that was reluctant to change its ways of working.

What Dan did

  • Implemented a direct sourcing strategy through the in-house recruitment team. Also, suggested changes to the types of people needed to enable the business to proceed for competitive advantage, reducing cost/time to hire and retention.
  • Embedded a talent programme that spanned graduates, interns, apprentices and placements. The business can now attract and retain the best in the market and offer a career plan than enables skills for the business as it expands.
  • Implemented and led a series of roadshows to engage each team in understanding the business and its strategy for growth.
  • Developed a Change Champions Committee and Remunerations Committee, which helped to drive behaviours around total performance management.
  • Implemented a full self-service HR, payroll, recruitment and performance management system through the Salesforce platform to enable connectivity for all employees 24/7 and anywhere in the world.
  • Established and led the HR Strategic Committee for the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers and chaired the group, which represents 174 members of the sector.
  • Led the strategy encouraging the sector to harness emerging talent by working with universities, paving the way for the international growth of serviced apartments and leadership requirements into the next decade.
  • Engaged culture change through a series of initiatives: esa company profit share scheme; big thank you colleague recognition programme; treat me colleague reward scheme; bonus and commissions for key colleagues that deliver greater performance; and implementing the living wage across the housekeeping teams.

Benefits and achievements

  • Saved more than £130,000 (since October 2015) for the business through the direct sourcing strategy against forecasted agency spend, reduced time to hire from 12 weeks to 28 days and labour turnover from 45% to 19% for the rolling 12 months.
  • Reduced the cost per hire from £2079 in 2014 to £372 in the year to date.
  • Achieved sector recognition from universities and delivered a programme that rivals any corporate business of much greater size.
  • Reduced absence from 5% to 0.8% over the course of 12 months.
  • Increased employee engagement from 50% to 68% with further improvements expected.
  • Implemented a clear and simple strategy, helping to align employee performance to business goals.

Jo Mansell, Geoban UK

About the organisation
Geoban is the backbone of Santander UK’s operations, providing critical support to retail banking, corporate banking, payments, business banking, cards, collections and customer contact. Geoban UK employs more than 3,500 people across 11 onshore and two offshore sites to provide operational services to more than 17 million Santander UK customers; 600,000 business and corporate customers and 950 Santander UK branches.

The challenge
As a separate entity to Santander UK, employees were unhappy about transferring, seeing Geoban as the poor relation, causing low morale. In 2010 it grew from 600 to 4,000 FTE in a very short period of time with little infrastructure to support its people, four different sets of terms and conditions, three very different union relationships and no real brand or identity. As a whole, the business was not achieving its performance objectives, had poor controls with four failed audits, and with high levels of customer complaints, Santander was rated the worst bank for customers.

What Jo did

  • Established a clear, purposeful people strategy, designed to evolve a high-performing organisation – one with clear values and behaviours at its core, an environment of trust, belief and respect all driven by strong leadership.
  • Ensured the basics were in place with clear HR practices, and brought the right skills and capabilities into the team aligning resources with the business to provide true business partnering.
  • Developed a strong leadership culture, an optimised organisational structure and clear communication framework.
  • Introduced bespoke people policies, reward and recognition framework and people strategy, none of which previously existed.
  • Pushed the people agenda to the top of the priority list, where quality and service can only be achieved through the effective deployment of our most important asset.
  • Created the environment for her team to be brave, challenging and achieve by setting stretching goals, being there to support and creating belief.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee engagement increased by 12% over 2014 to 2015 and scores on every single question in the employee opinion survey have gone up in that period.
  • The HR team’s engagement score is 81% based on a 100% response rate – and a score of 97% for the question “I have trust and confidence in my immediate manager”.
  • Significant improvement in efficiency: £20 million cost saving; cost to income ratio <50%.
  • All audits are now rated B or above; customer satisfaction in top 3; and there has been a 30% reduction year on year in complaints
  • UK organisational and cultural model recognised as the global “leader” with a project underway to align all other Geoban countries with the way it does things.
  • After 2015 and 2016 events, 99% of attendees responded that they felt engaged or very engaged and 98% responded that they were proud or very proud to work for Geoban.
  • Lowest absence levels (<4%) in Geoban’s history; and training recognised as “Outstanding” by Ofsted.

Caroline Nugent, oneSource

About the organisation
OneSource is the shared back office support service for Havering, Newham and Bexley Councils, providing a shared service solution covering a range of transactional, operational and strategic services. Since its inception, oneSource has made and continues to make significant savings and improvements to service delivery by: reducing duplication; making efficiency gains by reengineering processes; and using the best skills and resources from all partner councils.

The challenge
In April 2016, Bexley Council’s financial services joined the two founding councils. The three councils are predicted to drive approximately £40 million in savings by 2018/19, and more than £100 million by 2020. The boroughs have differing political leadership, and none of the councils adjoin geographically, presenting difficulties with creating a common culture across oneSource. The vision for oneSource was taken from inception to implementation in only nine months and brought together 22 services and 1,350 staff.

What Caroline did

  • Worked with trade unions in each council to ensure savings and the approach to delivering these are transparent.
  • Established joint trade union meetings, with representatives from each council.
  • Took an honest approach to work through the challenges; and to find solutions that worked for all staff.
  • Developed joint protocols, requiring each council to “give” on their current policies in order to have workable solutions and “level the playing field” for all staff.
  • Held “‘voice of the customer” sessions with key stakeholders.
  • Delivered a shared HR service delivering financial savings and transforming the service into a strategically-focused, responsive and affordable service able to respond to differing needs and requirements.
  • Implemented critical success areas, including: a review of T&Cs; a more commercial approach; a fit-for-purpose staffing establishment; reasonable spans of control; no duplication of functions; and a staff engagement plan.
  • Considered the skills the council will need to have embedded by 2020, reviewed training strategy to reduce dependency on external recruitment and redundancy and looked into the development of entrepreneurial talent.
  • Implemented a strategy to challenge the way things have always been done, being less risk adverse.

Benefits and achievements

  • Mediation diverted 18 formal grievances/complaints – projected savings were £330,000 in 6 months.
  • Enhanced apprentice programme saved £13,000 per post (cost of hiring apprentice v agency).
  • 90% of apprentices gained permanent positions.
  • Gained the support of the political leadership and their aim to reduce youth unemployment, extending this to 19+ years.
  • Apprentices/interns work across both councils to see the different cultures and practices of councils. No other scheme will have this opportunity.
  • Sickness absence figures saw a 5% reduction in the first year of operation.
  • Social worker agency review saved £250,000 pa in one council.
  • Staff survey – higher levels of staff satisfaction across the council in all areas even though significant cuts.
  • HR came top of the organisation’s staff satisfaction survey in 2015 and 2016.

Chris Thexton, Vauxhall Motors

About the organisation
Vauxhall Motors is a British automotive manufacturing and distribution company headquartered in Luton and an affiliated company of the German Adam Opel AG, both being wholly owned subsidiaries of General Motors (GM) in the United States. The company sells passenger cars and light commercial vehicles under the Vauxhall marque; in the past it has also sold buses and trucks under the Bedford brand. Vauxhall has been the second-largest-selling car brand in the UK for more than two decades.

The challenge
When Chris joined the UK HR team in March 2015 as HR director, his predecessor had been in the role for six years, overseeing an evolving and challenging environment. He faced a challenge to initiate and embed positive change in a company with a history of more than 100 years.

What Chris did

  • Started building successful and lasting relationships with the HR team, trade union colleagues and leadership.
  • Renegotiated the car plan to reduce payments for all employees, across all UK locations.
  • Reviewed the existing talent development programmes and created a project group to review how it attracts, develops and retains apprentices, undergraduate and graduate talent.
  • Drove the insourcing of recruitment services and talent acquisition function, to ensure a higher quality of candidate identification and on boarding experience.
  • Championed for the introduction of the “My Services” portal encouraging employees to move from a traditional to an innovative online platform.
  • Introduced a more data-driven decision making approach to demonstrate return on investment.
  • Partnered with marketing and communications functions to develop the Vauxhall brand presence, particularly how it connects with customers and potential employees.
  • Led the HR transformation across all sites and proactively challenged all team members to design and implement positive change.
  • Interrogated the current compensation strategy to drive a better performance culture.
  • Championed diversity in manufacturing by encouraging more women to work in automotive and engineering disciplines and acting as primary sponsor for the newly created Vauxhall women’s council.

Benefits and achievements

  • £5 million cost saving to the organisation by redesigning a more efficient and cost effective process for payroll handling.
  • £360,000 cost saving by migrating agency workers onto permanent contracts.
  • £8,000 cost reduction on introducing a new platform for recruitment psychometric testing.
  • 74% employee engagement score for HR Department, achieving “Best Employer” status as determined by AON Hewitt.
  • Being part of the chairman’s leadership group which moved Vauxhall to number one in the market for retail sales in March 2016.
  • “Since I joined the organisation in January I have felt inspired by Chris to become a better HR practitioner. He visualises the bigger picture, focuses on our people, our progress and our achievements. Beyond all of this though he is a great guy and I couldn’t have a better boss.” Cathie Chapman, HR business partner IT & OnStar.
  • “Since joining the HR department as part of my apprentice rotation scheme, I have really enjoyed working for Chris. He is trusted by his team and people work hard for him because they respect him. One thing I have learnt from him is that it is OK to ask questions and innovate for the better of the organisation.” Catherine Barrett, HR assistant – business & administration apprentice.
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