Purple Cubed first to win HR Supplier Partnership award

Continuing our series on last year’s Personnel Today Awards winners, we look at the winner of the HR Supplier Partnership Award, a category introduced in 2014 to showcase the work of HR suppliers in transforming businesses.


When talking to its customers about why HR and engagement consultancy Purple Cubed is so deserving of the inaugural Personnel Today Supplier Partnership award, the same descriptions keep cropping up: trust, partnership, knowledge of the business.

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CEO Jane Sunley believes this mutual openness with clients is what gives the company its competitive edge. “Every company is different, we get to know and understand each client really well and we don’t standardise anything – we either bespoke something we’ve done before or completely redesign it to suit that business.”

One of the company’s biggest success stories, and the one that caught the eye of the judges at last year’s awards, was a major turnaround in engagement at hotel group Village Urban Resorts and De Vere Hotels.

Two headline figures stood out in this project: an increase in employee engagement of 15% to 86%, and an added £3 million on the chain’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), which could be directly linked to HR initiatives.

Purple Cubed came up with a new employer brand for the hotel chain, known as V Happy People, which was part of a wider strategic plan to raise engagement and therefore improve performance.

Together, De Vere and Purple Cubed introduced new communications mechanisms and performance measures, and provided managers with a “talent toolbox” to support them in processes such as induction, appraisals, exit surveys and employee opinion gathering.

Major savings

Developing the new brand led to a 16% increase in quality applications to the company, and recruitment spend decreased by 80%, saving the company £400,000 per year.

It also helped to retain top talent by identifying those who were at risk of leaving; turnover went down from 57% to 24%.

To complement this, De Vere now has a robust talent pipeline in place, and has promoted eight of its “rising stars” to manager level as a result.

There have been similar successes elsewhere, too. Purple Cubed created an online talent system for another hotel chain, the Dorchester Collection, supporting the company’s award-winning engagement strategy. This helped it to save a considerable sum in attrition costs, and an impressive increase in employee engagement.

Labour turnover at the Dorchester Collection has decreased from 29% to 17%, and there has been an increase in engagement from 85% to 90%.

Other happy customers include Goldman Sachs, where Purple Cubed drove an engagement initiative with front of house staff, and restaurant chain Tragus Group, where it helped to save £100,000 in recruitment fees through early identification of talent.

Growth through recommendation

Word of mouth recommendations have helped to grow Purple Cubed’s business, says Sunley. “People talk to each other in the HR community, HR directors move on and want to bring us into their business.”

“Too often, HR is viewed as a cost centre. We want clients to be able to show the value we can offer,” she adds.

Mike Williams, who was HR director at De Vere when Purple Cubed were nominated for the award and is now people director for restaurant brand Byron, believes the most important trait in an HR supplier is flexibility.

He says: “Things change, especially in a fast growing business, and therefore strategies, technologies and approaches need to be adapted to suit. A true partnership allows for adaptation without charging the client every time things are altered.

“Trust is also vital. Not only from a communication perspective, but pricing. We want to trust that the supplier will offer a fair price for their work, rather than charge as much as they can get away with.”

Sara Edwards, global HR director at retail chain Crabtree & Evelyn, likes the fact that Purple Cubed does not apply a “one-size-fits-all” approach to every customer.

She says: “Reliability and trust that the programme will be delivered on time and on budget are crucial elements [of a good supplier partnership]. You also need to like the people you are doing business with.

“They work alongside you as partners to help deliver the internal brief and make helpful and creative suggestions to enhance the end user experience.”

For those HR suppliers hoping for a nomination or even a win in this year’s award, Sunley has some advice: “I’d be looking for lots of metrics… The rise in engagement from 15% to 86% at De Vere – you can’t really argue with that.”

It is impressive turnarounds such as this one that make Sunley the proudest. She concludes: “We start small with many clients and build from there, but it’s the ones where we’ve made a massive difference I’m most proud of.”

This year’s Personnel Today Awards will take place on 30 November 2015 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Enter this year’s awards here

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