PT Awards 2013 winners: Thales awarded for Excellence in Employee Relations

Thales collect their 2013 award from Lord Sawyer

The Employee Relations Institute

Thales walked away with the 2013 Personnel Today Award for Excellence in Employee Relations, sponsored by The Employee Relations Institute, on Monday at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. 

Here we profile our winner and the runners-up in this category.


Thales

About the organisation

Judges
Andy Cook
, founder and chief executive, Marshall James
Prof Stephen Wood, University of Leicester
Andrew Wareing, chief operating officer, Acas

Thales is a French multinational group of companies that manufactures systems and delivers services to the aerospace, space, transportation, security and defence markets. It employs 65,000 employees across 56 countries and its products include remote weapon systems, radar and radios.

The challenge

Thales UK has a complex legacy structure because of a number of historical acquisitions. More than 7,700 staff were employed across 20 legal entities, with more than 400 permutations of contractual terms. The company wanted to develop a harmonised set of terms and conditions, increase efficiency internally and create a more engaged workforce.

What the organisation did

  • Developed an initiative called Project Alignment, designed to harmonise terms of employment across the business.
  • Looked at pay, contracts, custom and practice allowances, collective agreements, handbooks, pensions and benefits.
  • Spent a year planning, analysing and data modeling how the new set of terms and conditions would look.
  • Followed a five-stage process to propose terms to staff, consult with affected employees, communicate the changes, issue new contracts and implement the new terms.
  • Streamlined the consulting process through its CRM technology and shared services centre.
  • Recruited a core project team with two full-time roles dedicated to managing the process – there was also a project board and steering committee.
  • Benchmarked terms and conditions against other relevant organisations.

Benefits and achievements

  • Single contract means Thales can now provide clear, fair and competitive employment terms.
  • Increased employee engagement, which is now more in line with the goal of a “One Thales” culture.
  • Thales has been able to introduce a flexible benefits scheme and new time and attendance system to aid restructuring.
  • Increased efficiency and reduced administration costs – over the three-year period, total savings are around £20 million.
  • Estimated annual savings of £1 million in resourcing, £200,000 in commission, £1.1 million in tax and more than £1 million in IT and software.

Judge’s comments

“Massive task with great approach and outcome.” – Andy Cook


Broadway Homelessness and Support

About the organisation

Broadway is a homelessness charity that supports people across London. It contracts with local authorities to provide a range of services. The organisation employs 250 staff and 100 volunteers.

The challenge

Over the past few years, Broadway has faced several employee relations challenges, including changing staffing models, reducing salaries and altering terms and conditions. Staff are also involved in frequent TUPE transfers and there are high levels of grievances in the social housing sector. Most importantly, Broadway wanted to raise engagement.

What the organisation did

  • Developed leadership programmes to give managers more confidence to get the best from staff and intervene in issues early.
  • Reviewed HR policies to ensure they were clear and relevant.
  • Offered regular HR surgeries to line managers.
  • Introduced SMTea, an afternoon tea session held by senior management with one-twelfth of the staff, where achievements are shared and problems discussed.
  • On specific issues, staff were asked to join multi-level task groups.
  • Established joint working with recognised trade unions.
  • Devised checklists for TUPE and redundancy situations.
  • Devised a “conflict index” as a new HR measure, to measure performance over time in this area – it measures the proportion of workforce in grievance/disciplinary/capability proceedings at any given time.

Benefits and achievements

  • Eighty-three per cent of staff now agree that their line manager does a good job and 93% agree that their manager listens to their ideas.
  • Conflict index is 2.6%, compared with industry average of 5%.
  • Sickness absence rate is 4.5 days per person, half the industry average.
  • Employee engagement index is now at 79%.
  • All employees voluntarily signed up to reductions to pay and terms, with no industrial action.
  • Despite unpopular changes, Broadway retained its place in Sunday Times Top 100 Employers list.
  • Business and turnover has increased by 40% in past three years.

Judge’s comments

“Great solution and outcomes. Innovative submission.” – Andy Cook


Hertfordshire County Council

About the organisation

Hertfordshire County Council is the county’s largest employer, delivering a range of local services to more than one million people.

The challenge

As part of its business transformation programme “Council for the Future”, which aimed to reduce the council’s budget by £200 million over four years, Hertfordshire needed to review staff terms and conditions while sustaining staff engagement and communication.

What the organisation did

  • Chief executive and service directors led more than 50 face-to-face roadshows so staff could ask questions.
  • Produced regular newsletters and set up a dedicated phone line and email for employees with concerns.
  • Conducted initial survey about changes to its employment package and received more than 1,400 responses.
  • Set up an employee representatives group with 30 self-nominated employees, who attended focus groups and worked with the transformation team.
  • Implemented changes from 2011 by individual rather than collective agreement after failing to reach agreement with unions; negotiations later resumed and consultation reached agreement in principle on new package.
  • Senior managers were the first to adopt changes to illustrate that it was not “one rule for some and one for others”.
  • Reviewed voluntary benefits package and put in place an employee wellbeing programme.

Benefits and achievements

  • The changes to terms will save the council £5.5 million per year, plus £3.9 million per year across the county’s schools.
  • Achieved a 31.8% reduction in sickness absence costs.
  • Saw a 50.8% reduction in management above overtime costs.
  • There is now more transparency and consistency across the workforce.
  • The council has been able to move to a performance-based culture, with performance-related pay increments.
  • Employee engagement increased from 49% in 2011 to 60% in 2012.

Judge’s comments

“Evidence on benefits shows that at least some, if not all, of the targeted savings were achieved.” – Andrew Wareing


The Landmark Hotel

About the organisation

The Landmark’s vision is to deliver memorable moments to guests and to each other as a team. It ranks among one of London’s leading luxury hotels, and employs 366 permanent staff and 298 casual workers.

The challenge

The Landmark believes that its employees are the key to making it competitive, and having achieved Investors in People Bronze status three years ago it wanted to achieve Gold, and ultimately Investors in People Champion status.

What the organisation did

  • New starters attend learning and development courses as part of their probationary period, with regular reviews with managers on performance, strengths and development.
  • After staff have passed probation, they receive a learning log and set up their personal development plan (PDP).
  • Departmental coaches were placed in each department, in addition to full-time training managers in key divisions.
  • Learning and development audit figures were presented at a monthly management meeting.
  • Introduced a new quarterly performance-management process.
  • Management hosts “back to the floor” training sessions in various departments.
  • Set up task forces to give employees a voice, including Green Team, Pride through our People and Landmark Spirit ambassadors.

Benefits and achievements

  • Target of 85% in Leading Quality Assurance measurement will be achieved – in May this year, the hotel rated 86.7% compared with 75.5% in July 2012.
  • Publicised positive examples of development to staff, such as a graduate who has been promoted to guest relations manager.
  • Staff feel more involved through events such as a Halloween party, an Olympic party and themed national lunches.

Judge’s comments

“The evidence shows a wide range of initiatives and measures have been introduced and demonstrates an impressive engagement between staff, managers and senior leaders across the entire business.” – Andrew Wareing


YHA England and Wales

About the organisation

YHA (Youth Hostel Association) is one of the best known charities in the UK. It operates without Government funding, generating its own surpluses to reinvest in the organisation. It provides accommodation across 150 locations throughout England and Wales. YHA has a membership of 193,000.

The challenge

Many of the YHA’s conditions of employment were outdated, with archaic contracts and working hours. Prior to 2010, there had been no measurement of HR metrics such as sickness, turnover, training or appraisals, and culturally, it felt like there were 150 separate business units.

What the organisation did

  • Arrival of new HR director in January 2010 saw a company-wide restructure, with the introduction of shared services and HR business partners.
  • Refocused its HR team, with a departmental plan to add value to the business.
  • Opened discussions with unions on alternative ways of rewarding staff – there had been no salary increases, and the recession meant any increases would not be forthcoming for another two years.
  • Applied for Investors in People and Times Top 100 Small Companies as way of independently measuring engagement.
  • Thorough review of all working practices and staff rewards, such as free accommodation.

Benefits and achievements

  • Total savings in staff costs are around £800,000, without losing any staff.
  • Staff feel the new benefits package makes up for lack of salary increases.
  • The number of job titles was reduced from 123 to 12 and locations were restructured according to size.
  • Time in lieu allowances cut by half, to 2,500 hours.
  • Achieved Investors in People Gold in 2012.
  • Increased use of volunteer hours means around £90,000 in savings.

Judge’s comments

“The data on benefits is very comprehensive and convincing, indicative of a high-impact programme of change.” – Andrew Wareing


Volkswagen Group UK Ltd

About the organisation

Volkswagen UK, part of the Volkswagen Group, is one of the country’s largest importers of vehicles, employing nearly 600 people nationwide. The Volkswagen brand employs 180 staff in Milton Keynes alone.

The challenge

In December 2012, the managing director of Volkswagen UK announced a series of organisational changes, including changes to headcount. The business needed to focus resource into business-critical areas and improve its cost model.

What the organisation did

  • Set up 19 different work streams led by directors and heads of business to design new organisation structures.
  • Transferred people from external suppliers onto headcount from 15 different suppliers under TUPE.
  • Reduced overall headcount by 100 (FTE), but created more than 100 new jobs.
  • Implemented a new flexible benefits package.
  • Assessed 250 field force managers and implemented a new structure in their team.
  • Trained 55 senior managers to be able to lead change in their business areas.
  • Consulted with head of Works Council in Germany, in a process taking six months; as well as working with its own employee consultation forum to discuss the process of change.

Benefits and achievements

  • Achieved target of 845 FTE employees, with additional service provision through third party operators.
  • Transferred 297 employees to Volkswagen UK by June 2013.
  • Created single employment model for all employees, under which all staff share same rewards and benefits structure.
  • Employee feedback suggests change and communication was managed well.
  • New business structure means uniform and consistent structure across different brands.
  • HR is seen as a fully effective business partner that has enabled the business to achieve its ambitions.

Judge’s comments

“Good approaches to consultation and involvement.” – Andy Cook

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