Eton College’s entry stood out, said the Personnel Today judges, particularly because of the careful consultative approach to making changes in the school’s housing staff during Covid. One judge said that ‘Within this type of organisation, this was a big, big change and very difficult to bring about.’ We look more closely at the winning entry and outline other excellent programmes among the runners-up.
One area of this 600-year-old school that has changed little over the years was the design of its boarding house staffing structures, which developed organically and had seen relatively limited change over the last 100 years. The houses are run by two live-in members of staff – one academic and one pastoral. Supporting these individuals, reporting to the pastoral lead, was a house team of around 10 people comprised of housekeeping, catering and maintenance roles.
In recent times this structure posed several challenges. For example, the time spent managing a team of house staff reduced the time available for the pastoral head to support of pupils, and with 25 different managers there was an inevitable lack of consistency regarding staff performance across houses. This created an inconsistent experience for pupils. It also created a high volume of employee relations issues, where staff members felt they were being treated unfairly compared with other houses.
The HR team decided to take a consultative approach with the 50 house leads, with the aim of co-creating a new organisational structure. The results have seen the school establish centralised reporting lines and increased staff flexibility, allowing it to effectively deploy staff across the school and to keep its boarding houses open and functioning during the Covid pandemic.
The house leads are now able to focus their full attention on the wellbeing of pupils. It has also made the job of the house leads more enjoyable and has helped them to achieve a better work-life balance.
Career paths now are more reflective of a large hotel, enabling the school to attract candidates in a way it has been unable to in the past. It has also seen a reduction in staff turnover.
Insurance company Aviva partnered with The TCM Group on a culture change programme that has helped the business revolutionise the way it resolves conflict.
Data from employee engagement surveys suggested the way Aviva was dealing with workplace conflict was at odds with the people-centred, values-driven culture it wanted to achieve. Formal, lengthy litigation processes were having a negative impact on employee wellbeing and engagement, diverting people from the high standard of customer service the business prides itself on.
Together, they developed a Resolution Framework centred around informal, dialogue-driven options for resolving disputes at work. This approach has become fully embedded into Aviva’s culture, securing a significant fall in the number of formal grievances, and more compassionate and effective management of workplace relationships.
Feedback from employee engagement surveys suggested that issues were rumbling under the surface, until they reached the point where the only solution was to invoke a formal grievance procedure.
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The business needed to find a different way of dealing with conflicts, complaints and concerns which would complement its ethos and business strategy, and reflect the new corporate values (Care, Commitment, Community, Confidence. Actions included development of an in-house mediation programme, with a cadre of trained internal mediators, two three-day routes to resolution training courses, designed to equip stakeholders with an understanding of each resolution approach, a one-day managing conflict masterclass for the senior management team and the development of a case management system.
The new approach to resolution has become fully embedded in the culture of Aviva, to the point where the word ‘grievance’ is no longer part of the corporate lexicon. Having a simplified resolution process has shifted emphasis towards personal empowerment and autonomy, with people taking personal responsibility for finding ways to resolve disagreements quickly and effectively.
BT found that its sales organisation SME operating model was outdated, expensive to run, and created sub-standard colleague and customer experiences. Radical transformation was needed. But deploying change in sales is challenging – any distraction from delivering ambitious sales targets poses commercial risk to achieving business goals and revenue growth.
In response, a new programme team – including a dedicated HR Business Partner and OD Consultant – were recruited to pioneer a new sales channel operating model: re-thinking processes, sales tools and systems.
“SalesLab” – the programme and internal brand was born – and the colleague transformation began, with five focus areas: OD, Reward, Recruitment, Employee Relations and Colleague Engagement.
To start addressing our challenges, it built an incubator – a small, live sales environment, to test new ideas and learn what works well, before scaling and deploying change to all sales channels. Partnering with L&D colleagues, a new onboarding journey for SalesLab was delivered. Work was carried out with the sales management team to identify sales behaviour that drove brilliant performance.
Within four months, the organisation successfully designed and delivered the launch of a live incubator sales team and seen key sales behaviours have significantly improved. Industry insight suggests time to competence in sales roles is three months. It has had early successes, suggesting its onboarding journey can support people learn and deliver in half the time. For example, one new hire with no telecommunications experience made his first sale within 10 days and closed his first five figure deal within 30 days.
Edge Hill University
During the summer of 2020 the university restructured its HR function and radically redesigned each role within the team to centre the human experience. Using a new collaborative approach, our objective was to draw OD, EDI, wellbeing, technical, data and partnering expertise from across the team to flexibly manage change and complex case work with a project mindset. It needed a project to test out its new vision and change management model.
In September 2021 the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) approached HR with a request for it to support the internationalisation of the campus and provided the perfect opportunity. The purpose of the international office was to create opportunities to enhance the university’s reputation in the global market by increasing partnerships with universities across the globe and continually improve its international student profile.
The HR project group brought together the expertise of partners, advisers and data analysts. Thinking about how change affects those going through it, they created a model for the restructure which included: deep data dives to ensure decisions where evidenced based; structure analysis and a RACSI exercise to ensure transparency around distribution of responsibility/accountability across the new teams; and a communication plan to provide updates and feedback loops throughout the consultation.
Since implementation, the number of applications from international students continues to increase across the board; in September 2021 Edge Hill received 659 undergraduate and postgraduate applications, compared with 512 in 2020.
Edge Hill has vastly improved the geographical reach of its partnerships, now with new partnerships in places as diverse as India, Germany, Vietnam and Mexico. This year the institution was placed in the top 1000 Universities in the world by Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022 for its outstanding performance across teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.
Northumberland County Council
The council worked with the local NHS Trust, Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHCT) to deliver integrated health and social care in Northumberland. In March 2021 it was announced that the formal partnership agreement would end on 30 September 2021. The 650 adult social care employees would TUPE transfer to the council, increasing overall headcount by 15%.
A new relationship would need to emerge to ensure the best quality, seamless patient care. HR needed to prepare the workforce to be able to flex and adapt to the challenges that were ahead. The HR team formulated a series of comprehensive safe day one plans ensuring operational continuity and support to staff in the lead up to and realisation of the transfer. Its priority was continuing to meet the care needs of the community but in an entirely new and innovative way.
The scale of the change made the transferring staff feel vulnerable, as they were moving to a relatively unknown entity in the council. One of the biggest concerns was the perception that NHS terms were more favourable. To show this was untrue, an exercise to compare T&Cs was undertaken and a published commitment made that no employee would be at detriment because of the transfer.
The council engaged at an early stage with unions. An HR representative attended NHCT organised TU partnership meetings to address queries, concerns and provide reassurance. NCC made clear the intention to engage with recognised TUs in a meaningful and constructive way, and quickly established positive relationships with the TU reps of the transferring staff.
Feedback from transferring staff has been positive and gratitude has been expressed to all support services but particularly HR for the huge effort that went into supporting them to ‘land safely’. A third of those that transferred have adopted the council’s terms and conditions. Staff have embraced council values, begun to integrate, and have availed themselves of benefits and employee-focused initiatives. The workforce remains motivated despite the major change that they have experienced, and patient care is demonstrably at the heart of everything that they do.
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