Steve Daniels, Ulster Bank

Shortlisted for HR Manager of the Year: Personnel Today Awards 2000

Until Steve Daniels was appointed head of group personnel at Ulster Bank in 1996, the company’s personnel function had been purely operational, with no involvement in company strategy. Daniels set about changing this. He spoke to senior managers across the company about their vision for the year 2000. When they talked of profits, culture, new brands and IT, he pointed out that none of this would be possible unless staff and customers were involved. His arguments were so persuasive that he was given a seat on the chief executive’s committee.

Daniels then introduced a number of new ideas, including workshops looking at the company’s values in business terms. He believed that linking the goals and values of the organisation would increase performance and job satisfaction. To this end, the HR team worked with 300 focus groups, advised by external management consultancy Blessing/White.

These groups came up with seven core values which formed the basis of the Putting Values into Action (PVIA) scheme. Between 1998 and the end of 1999 all staff were put through two-day PVIA workshops. Seventy-nine per cent said they have a better understanding of the bank’s business values, and 82 per cent said they take pride in the company.

Daniels has also improved the operational side of HR, reducing the organisation from 11 separate payroll systems to two. This will be reduced to a single system by the end of the year.

Further proof of success has come from external awards – Ulster Bank was a finalist in the 1999 HR Excellence Awards and has achieved IIP status, Excellence Through People status (Republic of Ireland equivalent) and won the 1999 Opportunity Now (Northern Ireland) award for Dignity at Work.


Company fact file

HR manager Steve Daniels

Team Ulster Bank Group

Number in HR team 84

Number of employees responsible for 4,700

Main achievements The HR team now has a central role in company strategy, contributing to high morale and increased profits. Eighty-two per cent of staff are proud to work for Ulster Bank and 1999 saw record profits. During an uncertain period at the end of 1999, following takeover bids made by Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland, the HR team also launched a “crisis management” communication plan, including hotlines

Priorities for next 12 months Daniels is planning a further reorganisation of the HR department to integrate it even future into the rest of the business. On the operational side, payroll will finally come under a single system

Judge’s Comment “I was impressed by the way the business had set out its vision and values from which the HR strategy naturally flowed, and the fact they have achieved tremendous results. Steve Daniels’ success can be measured in achievements such as the fact that 85 per cent of staff at Ulster Bank now say they have pride in the company, and that the firm has achieved IIP status”

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