Personnel Today Awards 2017: HR Consultancy of the Year

Talking Talent receive their Consultancy of the Year 2016 trophy from Rob Moss
Talking Talent receive their Consultancy of the Year 2016 trophy from Rob Moss

The Consultancy of the Year award celebrates the critical contributions made by external experts to the success of HR in organisations. Here we take a look at the leading contenders this year, each of which has demonstrated an ability to help transform the culture, employee engagement and efficiency of its clients

Chinara Enterprises

In 2016 Chinara was awarded a contract by the Local Government Association to develop and manage a national programme for people wanting to return to social work.

HR Consultancy of the Year: Judges

Saima Poorghobad commercial product manager, XpertHR

Perry Timms founder and chief energy officer, People and Transformational HR

Miranda Pickford commercial product manager, XpertHR

The Come Back to Social Work scheme was designed to encourage people to return to the profession, develop high quality training and development plans that could be used by employers as a framework to support recruitment into critical roles, and reduce expenditure on agency social workers. Chinara worked in partnership with King’s College, London, and associates from the Reflective Practice network to deliver the programme.

It consisted of taught sessions from King’s College, action learning sets, and coaching and group supervision from experienced social workers and coaches. The proposal was chosen because it went beyond the requirements for re-registration (as a social worker), and used an innovative blended learning approach.

The programme was developed to meet the requirements of the Health and Care Professional Council. It received positive feedback from chief social workers and participants helped make a video about the scheme. Local authorities across the UK now wish to participate in an extended version of the scheme.

Collingwood Consultancy

Delivering complex organisational change and the most suitable strategic leadership is the focus for Collingwood Consultancy. At Lloyds Banking Group, the consultancy, following a restructure at Lloyds, had to meet a requirement to develop strategic leadership across the executive team to accelerate organisational performance.

The company used Hogan’s assessment leadership diagnostics to establish the executive team’s leadership preferences, both individually and as a team. This was followed up with 1-1 feedback coaching sessions and a facilitated team programme. The process focused on how individual personalities and preferences played out within a team and organisational setting. Lloyds found that Collingwood’s approach gave it a new level of focus and provided sharp, specific development goals.

The consultancy also worked with railway giant Alstom UK, which employs 31,000 people across 60-plus countries, to transform and realign its structures and strategy. An integrated and holistic plan was developed that resulted in a sharp rise in the executive team’s effectiveness, a new organisational structure and new strategic vision. It has also worked with Peel Ports Group on leadership, teamworking and communication, and more efficient resource utilisation.

Cubiks

In 2016, high street pharmacy chain Boots began working with Cubiks to alter its assessment processes for beauty adviser roles. It needed a more personalised approach that assessed the unique behaviour and personality attributes of a “legendary” beauty adviser, attracted the best candidates possible at interview, and provided a seamless and engaging candidate journey from attraction to offer that was different to that of its competitors.

Cubiks engaged with Boots to understand the difference between store colleague and beauty adviser roles and worked closely with recruitment advertising partner Pink Squid to bring the vision of the assessment to life. Candidates have been glowing about the process with 91% saying they’d recommend it to a friend or colleague and 84% describing it as great or excellent.

Cubiks has also worked with the Civil Service on its Fast Stream talent management programme, looking to develop a more inclusive way of identifying talent. A full redesign of the Fast Stream selection process was conducted, focusing on lower socio-economic engagement. This new process included a new bespoke e-tray exercise, behavioural questionnaire and situational judgement questionnaire.

One major improvement was that this was all built on a bespoke assessment platform accessible to all applicants. Another major change to enhance socio-economic inclusion was the removal of ability tests from the front end of the process. These tests now only appear for very few streams, and at the final stage.

Paydata

Paydata specialises in reward management, helping businesses offer suitable salary and benefits packages through benchmarking against the wider market. It also defines roles and levels within companies, providing pay systems that support career progression, bridge the gender pay gap and, crucially, support the business strategy.

Paydata’s recent work with The Orders of St John Care Trust, which had expanded into four counties, bears this out. The Trust wanted to develop a “one trust” approach, so the consultancy helped create a new HR framework and provided training to ensure the new grading structure could be adopted by the Trust’s 69 care homes and nine care housing schemes within three months. The plan set out to increase employee engagement by defining job responsibility and progression paths, reduce staff turnover by offering meaningful reward, and streamline HR processes to reduce the burden and financial burden on care home providers.

Paydata has also worked on the reward framework of another care provider, Cross Keys Homes, which manages 10,500 homes. The consultancy led interviews, questionnaires and workshops across the business and involved two trade unions to capture a full cross-section of views about what truly motivates staff. The result was a new job family framework that clarified roles and responsibilities but meant changes to staff terms and conditions. It has been accepted by all employees.

Paydata introduced a new process, PAYreview, which has led to the time being spent on the annual pay review being reduced by 50% for head office staff. Such savings can have a real effect on profitability as well as improved employee satisfaction; a customer’s increase in return on payroll spending of 1% can equate to a huge increase in their profitability and see an annual return on investment of up to 500%.

Peninsula

This consultancy specialises in employment law and health and safety and has 30,000 members.

One of its recent projects involved FISH, a provider of specialist independent living insurance for people who employ personal assistants in their own homes. The employer (a Peninsula member) is a service user who sometimes experiences mental/physical disabilities. Peninsula’s task was to improve the employer’s confidence in relation to his responsibilities. Bespoke guidance notes were created to suit the employer; specialist training given in emotional resilience; and FISH was encouraged to take part in Peninsula’s educational webinars aimed at increasing policyholders’ skills in applying employment law advice. The results have been excellent with much greater use of guidance and e-learning in particular.

With the organisation TSA, Peninsula was asked to assist with improving management structure, ensuring staff and managers had the same goals, and reduce the amount of employee grievances because of poor management and policies. Peninsula’s response, in collaboration with TSA senior staff, included implementing contractual procedures in relation to staff grievances with mediation, advising on sharing visions and goals throughout the whole organisation, creating a full suite of HR documents with best practice and legal advice, and establishing a structured route towards management changes.

The majority of TSA’s issues have been resolved through these initiatives and the organisation has gone from an annual deficit of £275,000 to making a surplus within two years, through Peninsula’s support.

Strategi Solutions Group

Strategi Solutions Group’s original objective was to help businesses develop through delivering culture change and increasing employee engagement. However, the company has enjoyed rapid growth as a result of identifying further opportunities to support businesses. It also now offers a one-stop shop for HR, culture change, learning and development, coaching and mentoring, recruitment, marketing and design.

Its culture change programmes have been delivered to companies with  between 80 and 3,000 staff and are based on the concept that organisations have to be driven from the bottom up. Employees are involved in redefining new corporate values, intended to provide a clear roadmap for the business and inform every decision the business makes. They are then encouraged to embrace these values and demonstrate them day by day.

With distribution specialist Palletforce the Group worked to alter a traditional operational-based work culture to a more informal one with increased levels of employee engagement. A training academy was created; a recognition scheme put into action; proper pay and grading structures put in place; succession planning introduced; and a big effort to create a more informal work atmosphere including an end to the need to wear staff uniforms. Last year Palletforce outsourced all of its HR to Strategi, and since then it has registered a bespoke training programme for its leaders with the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Strategi’s work with food and drink logistics firm NFT has seen a culture change initiative implemented for NFT’s 3,000 staff. Employee champions have been appointed to help embed and communicate the programme and the group is providing mentoring and coaching support for NFT’s senior HR team.

Think People Consulting

A Northern Ireland-based consultancy, Think People operates across the UK and Ireland with clients of all sizes and in all sectors. In 2016, Belfast developer ICONI Software approached Think People to support the organisation following a review of its 18-month business strategy.

It had identified the need for key business, cultural and process objectives to be delivered to secure continued growth. Objectives included the need to increase customer focus and retention, increase staff engagement and satisfaction, reduce the number of employee relations issues dealt with formally, and increase productivity with evidence of individuals taking ownership within 12 months.

A highly structured approach was taken to meet these objectives throughout 2016 involving workshops, surveys, evaluation of results from programmes and senior management meetings. To ensure staff involvement planning was essential to allow the business to properly support customers during project implementation. The workshops were carefully designed to manage employee expectations and ensure they didn’t turn into “talking shops”. Follow-up workshops were delivered to address issues arising from staff behaviour.

The results of this body of work include: turnover from new business increased by 17% in 12 months; customer focus increased over six months with number of customer 1-1 meetings rising 20%; increase in take-up of learning opportunities within the organisation; and no formal grievances raised by staff over 12 months.

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