PT Awards profile: Direct Line leads in technology and branding

The Direct Line team collect their first award of the night
The Direct Line team collects the Employer Branding award in 2013.

There was no room for “scope creep” when Direct Line Group began its move to become an independent group of companies. It needed to establish operational independence from its former parent RBS by June 2012, with a view to floating the new business on the London Stock Exchange later that year.

As part of that move, it needed to refresh both its consumer and employer branding, and build a standalone HR infrastructure in time for its first independent payroll run. This was no small feat – it sourced, implemented and integrated new systems for human capital management, payroll, benefits, resourcing, HR case management, knowledge management and learning in a matter of months.

In recognition of what it achieved, Direct Line Group won two Personnel Today awards at last year’s ceremony, for Excellence in HR through Technology, and Employer Branding.

Sara Gomez, HR director, believes her team’s success came through the value they added to the business: “In some ways, the timeframe gave us the opportunity to make sure that we were tight on scope. The separation date could not be moved.” This meant that the transformation was carried out in stages: introducing the new systems and settling them in, extending functionality out to managers, and only then contemplating how to get the broader benefits out of the system.

Gomez continues: “This summer we will bring in the talent module so we can get better visibility of employee mobility and find people with the right skills. This didn’t need to be up and running for the separation, but we can unlock its benefits now.”

One of the big changes was moving to a software as a service (SAAS) system, which would be hosted and maintained externally. The whole project was managed by a dedicated team, which was tasked with designing processes and systems appropriate for the new operating model.

So far, there has been a reduction in call volume to Direct Line Group’s HR helpdesk of 35%, and a 28% decrease in case load. Gomez would like to get to the point where managers or HR systems handle 80% of queries or transactions. The key HR system, Workday, provides self-service access to everything from changing bank account details to changing hierarchical reporting lines.

This has freed up HR to focus on more strategic issues, but this in itself presents challenges, according to Gomez: “Giving managers data and information about their people is key to our principle of enabling managers to manage and we recognise that for some people this is a mindset shift which will take time to embed.”

On the branding side, recognition of the Direct Line Group insurance brands among external candidates is far higher than before the separation, and direct recruitment (not from agencies) sits at 85%.

But Gomez and her team refuse to rest on their laurels, she adds: “There’s still a lot to do in Direct Line Group. For HR that means ensuring the business has the people that are able and willing to deliver the business strategy; we will only be part of these value add discussions if  the transactional HR piece is running efficiently.”

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