Personnel Today Awards 2019: Fresh Direct delivers Talent Management Award

The Fresh Direct team pick up their award for talent management at the 2019 Personnel Today Awards

Fresh Direct Group turned around its business with an innovative people strategy, leading it to win the Talent Management Award at the Personnel Today Awards 2019.  


Fresh Direct Group (a Sysco company)

Faced with a business that was badly underperforming, group HR director Margaret Gooch brought together a team of specialists to change the business’ mindset across the key strategic strands. Under her leadership and with a specially chosen HR team in place, the existing template was ripped up and new processes and procedures introduced from recruitment to performance reviews, bringing the entire Fresh Direct Group together to achieve a brighter future.

The strategy was built around the need to stop looking at tasks and start looking at people. A people strategy to influence the company’s performance was a step-change for the business. The team created a strategy focused around culture and communication and rewarding colleagues fairly and consistently and in line with the market.

This entailed: encouraging colleague involvement and enabling them to contribute their ideas and expertise; investing in front-line operational colleagues’ remuneration packages; implementing a grading structure for management levels with additional benefits attached; and providing a business-appropriate, cost-effective, consistent reward package ensuring recruitment, retention, motivation and engagement.

There were many adjustments made in processes across the whole business as a result of in-depth evaluation but overall, the team achieved their success against a backdrop of broader business modernisation, simplifying the network to deliver more effective customer service.

Among the more concrete successes of the new approach about 150 people attended the leadership and training conferences, 70 colleagues attended ACAS-approved ECF training courses and internal promotions are now at 55%, a significant improvement, echoed in rising figures for employee retention and engagement.


Allied Universal (Europe)

The global security and facility services company knew that its staff possessed an abundance of talent, but needed a way of harnessing it. The firm had also become aware that people achieving promotion were not necessarily receiving the correct or any training for their role and had in some cases been left to their own devices.

Allied Universal’s solution was to create a one-year leadership and three-month leadership “lite” programme. These have succeeded in identifying staff’s skills and positive behaviours. Both schemes involve high-quality tutoring and mentoring. Participants will also be rewarded by gaining a diploma or certificate from an external awarding body.

To be successful in succession planning, key employees are identified, trained and developed. This benefits the organisation, as the team want to stay and grow with the company and develop into the promotion framework for management positions. Exciting and dynamic training delivery, peer-related forums, ongoing mentoring and a sympathetic platform has been created for our very best junior managers and supervisors to exhibit all management skills, including knowledge, communication and problem-solving.

AUS is sensitive to the personal needs of staff so ensures the key employees choose to be part of the leadership programme, and not pressed to join. To further develop and manage the talent, classroom work, workplace assignments and mentoring are utilised. This is choreographed so there is linking from the classroom to workplace and back to the classroom. After each of the first three learning programme days, the group are asked to complete relevant, appropriate and thought-provoking home study.

The two programmes, the lite and the full programme will run side by side ensuring succession planning, attracting and retaining the best employees and ultimately benefit the company.

CBRE Global Workplace Solutions

Despite a 30% increase in headcount following acquisitions and organic growth, CBRE GWS experienced a shortage of ready-now and ready-next technical experts to perform as first and mid-level managers.

This led it to partner with PeopleWise to create and deliver a leadership development programme to enable technical experts to learn the skills and mindset required to become leaders. The strategic goal was to create a pipeline of emerging leaders ready to support business growth under one unified enterprise and culture.

The programme includes Institute of Leadership Management level 3 qualification. Existing programme content was analysed to find out where failings were occurring and Stratified Systems Theory was utilised to design new processes.

An objective and transparent “learner readiness assessment” was used to ensure those selected were prepared and suitable for the LDP, and had potential for future stretch roles. This included an emotional agility profiler (EAP) psychometric to benchmark capability to understand and manage own and others’ emotions in the workplace and a facilitated webinar group discussion to assess readiness to engage in collaboration, introspection, thought leadership and critical thinking.

Evaluation to date has demonstrated meaningful improvement in workplace performance, along with ILM qualification rates increasing by 90% over 12 months. As a result, the programme has doubled in size and is delivered across multiple countries in EMEA. To date, over 400 learners have undergone “learner readiness assessment” and 150 aspiring leaders in three countries in Europe have successfully graduated and obtained their ILM 3 certification.

Civil Service Leadership Academy, Cabinet Office

To strengthen its capability at organisational and personal leadership levels for taking complex decisions in ambiguous situations, Civil Service leaders need to learn from real-life scenarios and hear the lived experience and reflections from those who have led during challenging and complex situations. Under the sponsorship of Clare Moriarty, permanent secretary at DExEU, the Leadership Academy created an initial series of experiential learning events to satisfy this requirement and create something impactful and contextualised for Civil Service leaders.

These one-day intensive events anchor leadership learning in recent, relevant, real life Civil Service case studies to develop their understanding of what it feels like to lead in the Civil Service during challenging circumstances.

From the UK’s response to Ebola to rebuilding rail franchising after a commercial failure, participants hear honest reflections and sense-making from the actual leaders who lived through the particular leadership challenge and were responsible for the outcomes. By using video, briefings and real life meetings, participants are encouraged to engage and act within pressured scenarios and “do actual leadership” live in the room.

By supporting leaders to think about the reflexive impact they have, through a series of experiential and reflective activities, these events help leaders to develop a greater sense of understanding and interplay of their own and other’s needs and responses under pressure.

As the sessions are delivered as part of leadership development cohorts they have the added outcome of strengthening relationships and networks of leaders across the Civil Service. Over 120 senior leaders have attended at least one immersive learning event since 2017 with a feedback rating of 8.9/10.

Comments have included: “I thought it was the best High Potential Development Scheme event I’ve been to. A lot of the course had to do with the topic which was used as an example and the excellent presenters but the contributions made by my colleagues helped shape the discussion and made the event.”


Against a backdrop of new regulations, technological advances, an ageing workforce, changing customer profiles and geographic isolation it was evident for business development company PeopleWise that its client – a large UK utilities company – needed to better attract, develop and retain talent.

PeopleWise was selected to design and deliver best-practice processes for defining and identifying high potential talent at all levels of the organisation, as part of a wider transformation. A review led to the recommendation that a vertical developmental approach should be taken to create dynamic leaders with the personal skills to adapt to rapidly changing environments.

Stratified Systems Theory (SST) was selected as the underpinning framework to understand future stretch potential across levels of the hierarchy. The behavioural assessment criteria at each level of the organisation was built through interviews and workshops with the executive team and extensive job analysis at each level of leadership to benchmark ‘what great looks like’ at different levels of the organisation. The final iteration was formed of a series of behavioural indicators at each level of the organisation mapped to the Potential Matrix, formed of five critical psychological capabilities of potential – mental agility, emotional agility, confidence, resilience and drive, and six bespoke behavioural capabilities critical for performance within the organisation.

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with participants reporting that the assessment process was “challenging and well organised”, with 85% reporting an excellent overall experience and 100% reporting that the feedback would assist their development. As a result of the new assessment processes, combined with business calibration, there is now clearer differentiation between performance and potential, with greater movement of talent vertically and laterally across the business.

Pret A Manger

The Pret Academy was created to structure learning pathways that have included 50 learning events, running over 600 courses, delivered to over 2,500 delegates in London. It was identified more could be achieved with a crucial employee group who are the key link between the shops and HQ – operations managers. An employee survey showed 42% of ops managers were unsure or disagreed there were career opportunities for them at Pret and 21% said they didn’t receive the training and development required to do or progress their role.

This group needed greater transparency and impartiality about their strengths and development opportunities, something the company deemed vital to build a talent pipeline and succession plan. This entailed creating a challenging and engaging leadership development programme that excited 45 ops managers while providing a clear path for their future with Pret.

Pret partnered with Lee Hecht Harrison Penna to deliver an assessment and development approach that was individually-led, stretching, two-way, engaging and sustainable.The programme focused on objective and independently benchmarked assessment with exercises being measured by independent assessors and benchmarked against similar organisations and leaders. These exercises stretched people’s skills into areas outside of their routine remit and were individually tailored, focusing on positive psychology and learning points.

Since starting this programme, Pret has seen 27 ops managers go through the development programme and feel far more engaged and invested in their career. Using the competency benchmark and Pret’s grading system, they are now much better able to drive their development and be better leaders. Pret continues investing and encouraging development through bookings with Oxford Summer School, London Business Forums, Multi-Site Management Workshops and launching a suite of bitesize e-learning solutions – delivering 800 courses to 9,000 delegates.

The Berkeley Partnership

A management consultancy of 20 partners and 60 consultants, the Berkeley Partnership works for global organisations on high-value projects. To hire the best possible talent, it recruits almost exclusively from the ‘Big Four’ competitors. Counter to industry norms, Berkeley does not offer consultants bonuses, a promotion structure, sector or service specialisms, or sales targets. This model was designed to offer an alternative approach to systemic industry practices and to provide consultants with unparalleled career development opportunities.

The Partnership’s founders all came from Big Four firms and felt that the traditional model can impede rather than support professional development, notably the expectation that consultants increasingly specialise in a sector/service as they progress. It argues that some recruits from other firms lack critical thinking due to repetitive work and being employed as part of a large team.

Berkeley’s consultants work on their own or in very small teams and so it is vital they understand that they should ask for help, and initiatives have been launched including assigning each consultant with a “listening partner” and a “personal development partner” to review career progression. A framework has been developed with eight key dimensions to help structure discussions about how an individual is performing, their future goals and development objectives. Clients are also asked for feedback on individuals.

In 2015, Berkeley’s partners made a commitment to each become a qualified coach. Each now undertakes a two-year coaching accreditation and 60% of the firm have had or are currently having internal coaching. People are rewarded for individual performance, not measured against others or given bonuses for selling more work.

The success of the initiatives is reflected in the fact that 83% of Berkeley’s people feel positive/strongly positive about their personal growth; while 93% were positive/strongly positive about the firm’s leadership.


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