Name: Jon Dawson
Position: Director of Human Resources
Organisation: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London & One Hyde Park Residences
Time in post: 2 years and 7 months
Number of employees in organisation: 750 ( For both the Hotel & Residences )
Number of people in HR department: 11
Latest financial figures/business performance indicators:
£80+ million per year revenue. With the hotel completing in April 2019 an extensive £100 million investment of the renovation of the property.
A vast amount of change has occurred since Jon assumed the role at Mandarin Oriental in 2016. For 115 years, the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London has represented the pinnacle of luxury in Knightsbridge. Beautiful and stylish, the hotel has been a go-to destination for those seeking the best service and accommodation London has to offer. In 2016, the hotel embarked upon its biggest renovation ever, investing £100 million to maintain its reputation as the most desirable hotel in the capital.
Just weeks before its lauded reopening on the 6th of June 2018, a fire closed the hotel; putting 600 jobs at risk and providing the hotel with its greatest HR challenge to date.
Using the company’s Guiding Principles (Core Values) of “Delighting Our Colleagues” and “Acting with Responsibility”, the hotel and company stood by its colleagues during this extremely challenging period in the hotel’s history, choosing to retain all colleagues during the hotels closure. The team had to react quickly to the situation and developed a HR strategy with the sole goal of retaining all colleagues and keeping them fully engaged, it was also agreed following a solid HR business case proposal that colleagues would be remunerated in full for the duration of the closure; estimated to be six – eight months.
During the closure Jon and the HR team identifying areas where colleagues could undertake ‘MiniMOve’ cross-training within other Mandarin Oriental hotels around the world. 77 colleagues opted for the opportunity to travel overseas and experience working in another country with the hotel covering their wages and the HR team providing and organising transport, visa requirements and accommodation during their time away to enable the colleagues to enhance their skills. This approach also supported the company’s commitment to grow, develop and retain their people across the group’s worldwide hotels.
For those who needed to or preferred to remain in London, the hotel wanted to do something different to give back to those less fortunate. This strategy would not only keep the colleagues engaged but would also positively impacted the local community and help raise the profile of the hotel, and hospitality industry within the UK. The hotel therefore set (and achieved) an ambitious goal of donating 40,000 hours back to the local community during the period the hotel was closed as this equated to approximately 100 hours per person for those remaining at the hotel in London.
The aim of the initiative was to show the hotels appreciation for all the kindness that so many people showed the hotel at the time of the fire and following the incident. At the same time, the hotel successfully boosted colleague morale and ensured they were still fully engaged when the hotel reopened its doors to the guests.
Adopting this HR approach has significantly benefitted the business greatly with the hotel seeing a significant year-on-year reduction in labour turnover and sickness absence rates. To date, the labour turnover has reduced by 12% and sickness absence by 21% which is a saving of over £141,000. There has also been a year on year 11 point increase of colleague engagement as measured by the best places to work in hospitality survey.
Many charities benefitted from the FANtastic London campaign, with colleagues from Mandarin Oriental achieving the goal of donating over 40,000 hours of community work by early December 2018. With the hotel fully reopening in April 2019, a total of 44,000 employee hours will have been donated to the local community.
All charities supported were chosen by the colleagues from a range of industries and areas in London. Examples included the Spa team supporting Age Concern with mindful awareness sessions; hotel colleagues assisting the Evelina Children’s Hospital in collecting £13,000 in one weekend for the charity and directly raising £5000 for another charity, Hospitality Action, by hosting an event at the hotel. For Oxfam, the hotels sales team volunteered in their shops resulting in “a significant increase in sales due to the outstanding techniques the hotel employees used with customer to help drive revenue”. Many of the hotel’s chefs supported the Felix Project, helping transport surplus food to vulnerable people across London. Concierge and Front Office teams put their skills to use at The Passage, welcoming and accommodating the homeless which was so successful that this was featured on the BBC news.
The opportunity to give back to the community during the closure has offered the hotels colleagues an incredible volunteering experience, many of whom wouldn’t have had the time or connections to do something like this in their day-to-day. They have been able to see and take part in things, and work for causes which they were truly passionate about.
Many of comments from colleagues include the words “life-changing” and “once in a lifetime experience”. They have also learnt many new skills, developed lifelong relationships and have become true ambassadors for the hotel and the hospitality industry. The reopening of the hotel won’t be the end of FANtastic London. As in 2019 to continue their charity work and build on these efforts; one of the hotels 2019 business goals is to donate a minimum of 10,000 hours back to the community.
In 2018 the hotel and HR team were widely recognised within the hospitality industry for their people approach and were awarded the 2018 Hotel Cateys Extra Mile Award as well as the HR Team of the Year at both the HR in Hospitality Awards and Caterer.com People Awards.
In 2019 Jon and his team are in the final stages of the 3-year HR plan that is geared to firmly establish Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London as one of the finest hotels in the world following the completion of the multi million renovation. During this period Jon has steered the team through a host of changes in addition to the incident on the 6th of June 2018. Jon has been accountable for the design and implementation a robust HR plan that has revolutionised the HR function while delivering the new hotel strategy of creating a more relevant luxury service culture within the hotel to help increase the hotels average rate and financial performance.
During this period the HR operations at the hotel have been reorganised to create a modern HR function including the implementation in 2017 of a new payroll / HR and L&D system as well as a new talent acquisition system. All of this has occurred while effectively overseeing the reduction and closure of various areas of the business while also creating the new talent strategy in preparation for the reopening of new areas of the business in line with the renovation project timelines.
Name: Fiona Deal
Position: Executive Director of People and Culture
Organisation: Network Homes
Time in post: 3.5 years
Number of employees in organisation: 540
Number of people in HR department: 15
Latest financial figures/business performance indicators:
Revenue - £157.6 million
Operating expenditure – £118 million
Surplus from property sales - £51.8 million
Net surplus - £65.3 million
Customer satisfaction – 89% (increase of 15%)
Sickness absence – 5.1 average days lost (reduced from 11 days)
Staff turnover – 13.5% (reduced from 24.8%)
Supporting statement – Helen Evans, Chief Executive:
Since 2015 Fiona has led the cultural transformation of Network Homes and developed HR from a necessary but unloved function into a major positive influence on the way the organisation works, to the extent it was named ‘team of the year’ in our most recent staff awards. We’ve engaged the HARTs and Minds of our people (part of our cultural programme) and have the whole organisation attuned to and behind our brand strapline ‘Because good homes make everything possible’, working to deliver the best possible service to our customers.
When Fiona arrived, we had just emerged from unsuccessful merger negotiations and were in the midst of fundamental and difficult changes to our organisational structure, with the aim of collapsing a complex federal group of companies into a single operating organisation. This was inevitably a tough and painful process for staff to go through. Motivation and morale needed considerable improvement and our operational performance was average. We were clear about the changes we needed to make and a crucial part was to get all of our staff inspired and on board with the agenda, working towards our common objectives.
As we amalgamated the structure in 2016 to become a single entity – Network Homes – Fiona was the ideal person to lead the radical but necessary shift in our culture. She came with an impressive track record and was passionate, committed and determined from the beginning - living and breathing the change we wanted to see. She created a transformational People and Culture Agenda with 3 key aims:
-Inspiring Leadership – moving from command and control to empowering managers, engaging HARTs and minds through positive modelling of our HART (Hungry, Accountable, Respectful, Together) behaviours, values and performance
-Strong Cultural Engagement – exciting our people about the art of the possible, equipping them with skills and confidence to be successful and embed a positive, CAN-DO culture to underpin great performance
- Excellent Employer Brand – to build a reputation as a great place to work with ‘all employees as our advocates’
Among the many changes Fiona proposed and led have been our innovative ROCKSTAR management and leadership training and HARTbeat talent management programmes; monthly behavioural, values and practical one team ACE sessions; organisation-wide customer service mind-set and language training and our Giving Something Back CSR initiative – many of which have been shortlisted in the various HR Excellence categories, which is testament to her vision.
Fiona has encouraged us to have difficult and courageous conversations and pushed us out of our comfort zones, reinforcing higher performance at all levels of the organisation. I’ve personally held a tarantula spider, dressed up at Christmas, taken on volunteering challenges and worked to be more visible and available - all in the name of role modelling our culture and leading from the front. For those who don’t know me, I’m not a natural extrovert! But we have understood how ‘leadership creates culture’ and the transforming power of a united senior team and voice.
Half way through our transformation plan we faced one of our biggest challenges ever – responding to the lessons of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire. As a housing association with tower blocks clad in the same flammable material as Grenfell we rightly went into crisis management – developing the best health and safety solutions and maintaining the trust of our residents became paramount. In the face of adversity, you learn whether your culture is real or just superficial. Our people pulled together brilliantly and proved we were absolutely ‘one team’, able to manage the most complex of challenges in a decisive, effective, united way. This would have been so much more difficult to manage two years previously.
But the centrality of responding to Grenfell slowed our progress in other areas for many months. It became vital as we moved through 2018 to reinvigorate our whole business and get back to the impressive dynamism, energy, excitement and progress achieved in the 18 months before the tragedy.
Fiona has played a key role in making sure that happened. She now leads our wide ranging programme to modernise Network Homes – iWoW (Innovative Ways of Working) – building on the huge structural changes we have made. In her new, expanded role as Executive Director of People and Technology she is using major technological and systems change to underpin an enhanced service offer and give our people more flexibility to deliver a great job for our customers, as we work to make Network, in Fiona’s phrasing, Smarter – Better – Faster – Stronger.
Fiona and I are ‘chalk and cheese’ but I’ve personally valued her determination, her passion and her constructive challenge. Network Homes would not have achieved such a successful transformation without her abundant skills and drive, and I’m very grateful for everything she’s achieved to make us a great organisation.
Name: Alistair Gill
Position: People Partner
Time in post: 4.5 years
Number of employees in organisation: 250 people
Number of people in HR department: 1 (me) plus support from o2's HR shared service for traditional HR
Latest financial figures/business performance indicators: Company Net Promotor Score 69, Revenue 407 million, Double digit YOY growth.
giffgaff is a movement for a better way of doing things and at the heart of this movement are people. I believe if you don't understand people you don't understand business; especially in todays' social economy; the economy based on trust and mutuality. In fact, giffgaff is a ye olde Scottish for mutual giving. And that pretty much sums us up really. It’s how we do business. Better business calls for a better HR, one focussed more on the human and less on resource. And that's what I've tried to be and help shape at giffgaff.
Prevention not cure. Inspiring not controlling. Focusing on what is right with people and creating a place where they can do their best work. That’s mutual, right?
At giffgaff we seek better way to do HR non-transactional HR and best support our people; luckily we have great parents (o2) who are always on call for the formal stuff, policies and systems. Often in a world of trust and most traditional HR can often be avoided but it’s there as a safety net.
Building a great culture doesn’t need a huge HR team to police it, HR just needs to be inspiring and set the tone and influence leaders to think people 1st. In the same way finance keeps the eye on the numbers we keep an eye of the culture.
My role is to shape, influence and set the tone for great purposeful work. It’s a balancing act. How? Simple ask your people what they need, what’s stopping them from getting great work done. Then solve it swiftly. Some big things I’ve shaped and create so far:
The giffgaff way - our behaviours for success that lay down how we expect people to behave.
Universigaff - our internal development programme where we bring in great speakers to share their experiences on everything from nutrition to how pirates are good role models.
Diversigaff - our internally led programme to find the solution to what inclusion really means at giffgaff so we know what we need to do to create a sense of belonging for all.
Mindfulness - our recently launched programme to help people disconnect and pause.
Ministries- our ministries create a place for people to meet and share common hobbies, be that running, gaming, charity work or book club.
Name: Kim Healey
Name: Valerie Hughes D’Aeth
Position: Chief HR Officer
Time in post: 5 years
Number of employees in organisation: 21,583 (BBC Group total)
Number of people in HR and associated departments: C.400
The BBC has been through a period of significant reform over the past few years. Against a backdrop of financial challenges due to the licence fee having been frozen for a decade, and growing competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon whose budgets dwarf the licence fee income, Valerie and the HR team has been central to ensuring the BBC is fit for purpose for a modern, 24-7 broadcaster.
When Valerie joined the BBC in 2014, there were many outdated policies and unnecessary complexities within the organisation. The HR led review of employee Terms and Conditions has been the biggest reform of the BBC for a generation. Working jointly with the unions for the first time, the BBC developed proposals to make the organisation simpler, fairer and most consistent. These included introducing a new pay and grading framework, updating policies on paternity leave, shared parental leave and sick pay, raising the minimum wage to support those lowest paid and changing the way we manage working patterns for those who work shifts, weekends and nights. The proposals were accepted in union ballets last summer, and many of the reforms have since been introduced. Underpinning this work has been the introduction of the Career Path Framework with transparent pay ranges. This has seen the BBC reduce the number of job titles from around 5,000 to 600 and provide clarity to staff on how they can progress their career within the organisation.
Alongside this, HR introduced changes as a result of the BBC’s Simplification strategy to make the organisation simpler, leaner and more efficient. Divisions merged to make the BBC more streamlined, management roles were reduced as well and layers of seniority stripped out to have fewer levels between the top and bottom of the BBC, and around 1,000 roles were cut. Valerie oversaw this transformation whilst at the same time re-organising her own division. This included creating a HR Service Centre to bring in-house services that had been previously outsourced, moving the department from London to Birmingham, significantly reducing roles within the team and creating recurring annual HR savings of £10m. In addition, at the heart of the BBC’s organisational reforms has been the creation of BBC Studios which HR has played a central role in – turning the BBC’s public service production teams into a commercial subsidiary and merging it with the BBC’s international distribution and sales. This will help boost the BBC’s income by exploiting IP, ultimately re-investing that money back into productions to continue delivering quality, world class content.
Following the first publication of the list of those earning over £150,000 from licence fee money as required by the Charter, the Corporation has been at the centre of a wider debate on gender pay. The BBC’s Director-General, Tony Hall, committed to closing the gender pay gap by 2020 and Valerie and the HR team have undertaken a huge amount of work to set the BBC on the way to achieving this. The BBC’s gender pay gap has already been reduced by nearly a fifth, from 9.3% to 7.6%. An Equal Pay Audit has been published, as well as a review of pay for On Air Talent, and a fair pay check of each individual at the BBC. As has been well-reported, the BBC has been dealing with a number of pay queries raised by staff – many following the introduction of the new pay framework. Resolving these, alongside the work to close the gender pay gap, has been a priority for HR.
Since Valerie joined the organisation, a strong focus has also been placed on the culture of the BBC. An overhaul of bullying and harassment and child protection policies has taken place to ensure they’re at best industry standard, the introduction of a code of conduct and a whistleblowing campaign to encourage staff to come forward with any allegations of wrong-doing.
During this time, the BBC has also increased its commitment to boosting diversity and inclusion both on and off air. This responsibility also sits with HR. A new diversity strategy was launched in 2016 with a stretching range of targets. Good progress has been made, with some targets having already been exceeded. Last year, one of the biggest ever staff consultations took place looking at what can be done to improve the culture and career progression for women, disabled or LGBTQ staff and those from a BAME or lower socio-economic background. It resulted in many recommendations which we’re now implementing, including more options for flexible working, ensuring all applicants for jobs can be sure our recruitment processes are free from bias and the biggest investment in leadership development for a decade.
Prior to joining the BBC, Valerie was Group HR Director for Amey and before that Steria
Name: Simon Linares
Position: HR Director
Organisation: Direct Line Group
Time in post: 4 years 8 months
Number of employees in organisation: 11,000
Number of people in HR department: 270
Latest financial figures/business performance indicators: https://www.directlinegroup.co.uk/en/investors/annual-report-2018.html
At Direct Line Group we understand that to remain successful we must reflect the customers we serve on a daily basis. We are proud of our diversity and actively encourage our people to bring all of themselves to work and to celebrate their unique skills and personalities. We believe this is central to our values, identity and success.
Key to our approach is our ‘Dialogue’ engagement survey and ‘IdeaLab’ innovation processes, which through the year enables thousands of our colleagues to share what is great, and not so great, about the company, and work together to develop approaches that will make us an even better company for our customers and each other. This year we significantly improved our ‘fully engaged’ scores from 78% in 2017 to 81% - which is 36 percentage points higher than when we first ran with this approach in 2014. We also received positive scores when it came to the percentage of employees who are proud to work for the Group (up from 91% in 2017 to 92% in 2018) while 87% of people tell others that the Group is a great place to work (up from 85% in 2016).
Having open and honest conversations between management and teams is very important and we encourage this at all levels. This culture is underpinned by the Employee Representative Body (ERB) which is made up of colleagues, elected by their peers to represent their views across the company. Through feedback from the ERB, we recently launched a new set of policies, designed to be flexible and to help our people focus on what matters to them most. Whether they be mothers, fathers, grandparents, carers or those looking to pursue a dream or a new challenge, they can be assured they have the flexibility and support at work to do the things that matter to them outside of work.
To help support diversity within the business, we have developed a series of group and individual development approaches, and changed our talent and selection processes to ensure that in what is a traditionally male orientated sector, we can enable all our talented colleagues to succeed. This is equally important in our financial services divisions as it is in our car repair sites. Last year we launched ‘Thrive’ which has been developed and led by females from the organisation and where they can share experiences and challenges with colleagues from around the group. Although there is still much more to do, our median gender pay gap at 15.4% compares to an average of 22% across the financial services industry.
In addition to this, in April 2018 the Group reviewed its pay structure and introduced a new company wide minimum base salary of £18,000 for full-time colleagues on 37.5hr contracts. These were increased again in 2019 to £19,000 which is 19% above the Government's National Living Wage for those over 25, and 8% above the National Real Living Wage (as set by the Living Wage Foundation). Through this and previous initiatives our lowest paid employees have had an increase of c.25% over the last 5 years, which is more than twice the company average.
Wellbeing, and in particular mental health is another area that has been at the forefront of our people strategy for some time. Last year all managers undertook mental health awareness training, and we trained over 130 mental health first aiders to ensure we had at least one mental health first aider on every floor of every building. Our approach is that, enabling open conversations about our mental health is not only addressing a major personal and social problem, but is also a catalyst for enabling us to have a more inclusive and open culture throughout the company, regardless of what your personal needs are.
The team are also incredibly proud to have been listed in the Sunday Times top three Best Companies to Work for and listed 35 in Glassdoor’s Top 50 Best Places to work in the UK. This is testament to our engaged, motivated and talented work force who make Direct Line Group a great place to work which is reflected on the great service received by our customers.
Name: Pam Parkes
Position: Director Organisational Development & People
Organisation: Essex County Council
Time in post: 5 January 2016 – to date
Number of employees in organisation: 6700
Number of people in HR department: 140 (including Payroll & Occupational Health)
Latest financial figures/business performance indicators:
Total Council Payroll approx.: 230 million
HR & OD budget 6.5 million
Sickness absence: 3.5 days average
Gender Pay Gap: 8.1 median
HR&OD Efficiency savings 14 million 2017/18 - 2018/19
I am very humbled and honoured to be nominated and shortlisted for this award, it came completely out of the blue.
Once I overcame the initial surprise – it made me reflect on my career thus far – what a roller-coaster of a journey it has been but definitely a privilege to get to do the job you love for a living every day and to work within a sector you have the utmost respect for.
It is not a cliché – it is absolutely true that you are only as good as the people you work with – so team is important to me – nurturing and maximising the potential of individuals and teams is what inspires me to do my best. I have had the benefit of the wisdom and experience of some of the most fantastic leaders and professionals in our sector, I am continually learning. I see it as a duty to do the same with the teams I have had the privilege to lead and hopefully leave people feeling that they can and want to give their best. Whilst being a leader is a privilege, it can be a lonely role and comes with great responsibility, so I think you can’t go far wrong with being firm, fair and always kind.
I can’t think of a year when the work has not been challenging and unfortunately the last five years in the sector has been the most challenging in the current political, economic and social climate – but as my current boss states “change is unstoppable and so are we!” Our ability to adapt and our resilience are being continuously tested – as leaders in these times we can’t forget the importance playing to everyone’s strengths, drawing on the collective to get everyone through the “tough bits” and not leaving the most vulnerable damaged by the process.
Nevertheless, these challenges always present opportunities; changing population demographics, skills shortages, technology advances, uncertain political climate and increase in citizen expectations, should get every HR&OD professional’s “juices” going. My work at Essex over the last 3 years has led to detailed work with senior colleagues on re-defining our “common purpose”, a re-focus of our organisational design and structure and trying to encourage a learning culture. We are investing in a people strategy that prioritises what we really need from our people – commitment, engaged and well developed, who given the right environment and leadership will deliver their best.
In this last year – our focus has been about adaptive and systemic leadership where trust and collaboration can thrive in order to deliver the best for the citizens who either rely on our services or who rightfully should expect the best places to live and work.
Still work in progress but it’s all about the people for me and always will be.
Name: Jane Storm
Position: Chief People Officer
Organisation: Connect Group Plc
Time in post: 2 Years
Number of employees in organisation: 6,000
Number of people in HR department: 50
Latest financial figures/business performance indicators: Turnover £1.5m, Profit Before Tax £28m.
Jane joined Connect Group Plc, a specialist supply chain and distribution business, over two years ago. As Chief People Officer, she is responsible for the leadership of Connect’s People, Communication and Transformation strategy and is a key member of the Group Executive Leadership Team. Since joining Connect she has revolutionised the People agenda across the group ; enabling change, transforming the culture and building capability, whilst taking colleagues and leaders with her on the journey of transformation.
Jane’s arrival at Connect group two years ago coincided with a new business strategy - reflecting changes in the sector - which led to numerous divestments and closures. For the first time in Connect Group’s history, these significant changes created a challenging environment for colleagues, customers and shareholders, requiring major restructuring which in turn led to a period of instability and even profit warnings. This resulted in changes at senior management and board level, and further strategic realignment to redefine the business for the future. Jane’s brief was to future-proof the organisation and create a servant leadership mindset, changing the management culture to be always in service of colleagues and customers.
With the strong engagement of managers, the people team embarked on a programme to enable this vision and transform the culture, re-engage colleagues and invest in capability – delivering all of this alongside a drive to standardise and simplify processes and implement new IT systems for people, payroll and resourcing. A new in-house recruitment team was established to transform attraction and retention, with significant progress achieved in addressing driver vacancies and halving retention, despite a national shortage of drivers. A national campaign to help the homeless through the pass it on’ campaign has continued to bring colleagues and customers together to help the local communities in which we serve. The pace of change has been relentless and frantic, transforming an organisation through investing and re-focusing it’s efforts into colleagues and enabling them to deliver a fundamentally better service for our customers. Typically for organisations in challenging times, budgets were restricted, so Jane delivered effectively by keeping things simple, business-focused and using internal expertise to make things happen quickly, while at the same time enabling leading-edge solutions.
“Jane has taken the people agenda to a different level in her time with us, through building a strong team and by their delivery of a challenging agenda, at a pace and quality which undoubtedly has created a sustainable step-change in the organisation. As a Board we now have a depth of quality thinking for our people strategy and deliverables that are unsurpassed. In particular, we can see real changes in colleague engagement and the culture”, says Chairman Gary Kennedy. Jane has also onboarded a new CEO and CFO, and in partnership are seeing green shoots of a challenging turnaround. “Jane has demonstrated relentless energy in enabling change in the organisation. Alongside this, she is respected for launching and role-modelling our new values of quick and creative, open and trusted, friendly and fair. Together, we are also making huge progress in our shared passion for talent management, colleague development and our new strategy of ‘Everyone In’, which is enabling a more inclusive culture”, says Jos Opdeweegh, Connect Group’s new Group CEO.
Alongside the Executive, Senior Management and the People Team, Jane continues to drive change with relentless effort. Innovative and inclusive colleague forums across Connect Group’s 80 depots and office locations, have resulted in a new and different conversation between colleagues and depot managers, divisional CEOs and the Board. Everyone has understood the value of listening to colleagues, welcoming their ideas and maintaining trust and openness as the organisation continues to embark on rapid change that is crucial in sustaining the turnaround strategy.
Name: Sue Shutter
Position: Pro Vice-Chancellor and HR Director
Organisation: Regent’s University London
Time in post: 10 years (since September 2008)
Number of employees in organisation: c.500
Number of people in HR department: 12
Latest financial figures/business performance indicators: Year ending July 2018: Total income £45.87m, total assets £21.54m
From a personal perspective, Sue’s excellence as an HR Director is anchored by her interpersonal skills, with openness, inclusivity and approachability central to her work ethic. She has created a strong, close-knit HR team which supports and develops the workforce, and which is aligned with modern-day practices and centred around the needs of the business. If modernising the HR processes proved to be a significant challenge, Sue and her team responded to the institution’s needs by successfully introducing a business partnering model and developing a strong and trusted employee relations service that puts communicating with staff at its heart.
Sue’s support for her colleagues impacts far beyond her own team. Her holistic approach to staff welfare is epitomised by her role as Chair for the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Committee, which under her steer has overseen recent achievements relating to both the work environment (Green Apple Bronze award) and staff wellbeing (achievement of the London Healthy Workplace Charter). Sue’s openness has also led to the promotion of a consultative and responsive culture. In addition to ensuring staff are actively involved in key decisions (through working groups, advisory groups and open-to-all meetings), recent all-staff surveys have resulted in meaningful changes to the pay structure, staff benefits, reward for high performers, management practices and development.
Sue’s open-door policy is widely exploited at Regent’s, with everyone from Trustees to academics relying upon it. Sue never says ‘no’ – she finds time to help even those only tangentially related to the institution, often outside of standard working hours, and with her near-legendary listening and empathetic skills resistant to headaches, hard days and heavy workloads. Indeed, it could be said that many of Sue’s key achievements at Regent’s stem from these confidential conversations… but I’m afraid you’ll need to take this on trust!
From an institutional perspective, since her arrival in 2008 Sue has made a substantial contribution towards the creation of a shared identity for Regent’s and its staff. When you note that prior to 2006 the institution now known as Regent’s was a number of separate organisations with distinct working practices and cultures the enormity of both the task faced and the achievements made becomes apparent. Never resting on her laurels, Sue recently instigated a full review of the organisational culture, which through staff involvement will ensure that the institution’s strategic aims and priorities are met while ensuring (in line with her open approach) that two-way communication is optimised from top to bottom.
Sue has also made a significant contribution to the institution through her approach to developing staff leadership skills. In addition to ensuring the ongoing development of all senior managers (via a 360 programme and mentoring), line managers across the institution are invited to enrol on a Leadership programme. This has ultimately led to the creation and development of a culture within which colleagues actively support each other, with an existing staff mentoring scheme soon to be augmented by an in-house qualification in coaching and mentoring.
A key element of Sue’s own leadership style is her willingness to instigate positive changes by recognising, encouraging and supporting good ideas from colleagues. These have ranged from initiatives to promote equality, diversity and inclusion (launching Equality Champions and LGBTQ Allies schemes), highlighting issues existing within the wider sector (bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace), and implementing innovative ways to enhance staff benefits (including the recent launch of Regent’s Rewards and a daily staff food allowance).
During her time in post Regent’s has expanded, diversified and thrived. It is now the UK’s leading private sector, not-for-profit education institution, and this is due in no small part to Sue’s supportive nature and professional excellence within her dual role (since 2014) as Pro Vice-Chancellor and HR Director.
Co-written by her HR colleagues
Name: Kerry Smith
Position: Director of People & Organisational Development
Organisation: British Heart Foundation
Time in post: 5.5 years
Number of employees in organisation: 4,500 (and 20,000 volunteers)
Number of people in HR Department: 100 (including H&S, Volunteering, Facilities)
The BHF’s turnover is approximately £315m. This puts it in the top 5 of UK charities. Over the last five years income has grown and the BHF funds over £100m research each year, more than half the independent reserch into heart and circulatory diseases at UK universities (by way of comparison, the UK Government funds about 35%). The BHF is a complex organisation with people with a vast range of skills and experience, ranging from world-renowned researchers and clinicians to young volunteers completing Duke of Edinburgh awards, spread across activities ranging from global research projects to staff and volunteers in over 700 retail shops and stores
Kerry joined the BHF 5 years ago and immediately set about putting the BHF staff and volunteers at the centre of all that we do. She saw the importance of BHF’s HR team leading by example in a values-driven, transformational programme, and set about raising the level of expertise and focused on team performance. Key to her approach was hearing the voices and opinions of our staff and volunteers and creating an open, transparent environment and inclusive culture that has supported the growth and success of the BHF. The BHF’s progress from a relatively low baseline in staff and employee engagement is demonstrated by the award of ‘Top Rated Workplace’, Not for Profit by Indeed.
Heart and circulatory diseases such as stroke and vascular dementia affect 7 million people in the UK - each year they account for 1 in every 4 deaths. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is a leading UK charity with an ambition to beat heartbreak forever and a mission to raise money to fund cutting-edge medical research and transformational innovation in health and care.
The examples of Kerry’s achievements given below are just that, examples of a comprehensive set of achievements that have had a clear, distinct, positive transformational impact on the BHF and its life-saving work.
Kerry has embraced the BHF’s ambition, developing a bold set of values and behaviours that everyone can relate to called ‘Live it.Beat it’ and embedding these in every employee touch point, from Glassdoor, through to performance reviews. Translating these for our leaders through the highly successful ‘Leading with Heart’ programme has resulted in a strong and highly engaged group of senior leaders who are now adept at stepping ‘outside the box’ and sharing their more authentic self.
In 2015, armed with insight through our staff engagement survey, it became clear that we were failing in our duty to support our people to lead healthy lives both in and outside of work; completely unacceptable when you consider our status as a leading health charity. Kerry created and led a very active health and wellbeing group called ‘Live Well, Work Well’ involving champions from across the BHF who have raised awareness and engagement levels. This has resulted in a sector leading programme which is now being showcased through the CIPD and enhanced our own BHF Health at Work scheme which offers support to over other 10,000 organisations.
If that wasn’t enough Kerry had a vision to change the perception of the charity world when evidence suggested young people were not choosing the charity sector as a first choice career. In a bid to encourage cross-charity collaboration, and in the face of criticism of the use of charity resources, she combined forces with Macmillan Cancer Support to create a brand new programme called Gradunique. Now in its 4th year, and with over 1,000 applications for just 4 places, the value of this initiative is demonstrated by the exceptional contributions of the scheme participants to the work of the charity, and it is generating a pipeline of high calibre charity leaders for the future.
Faced with the challenge of increasing occupancy of expensive London premises, last year Kerry led a major project for the transformation of our office spaces and a move to smarter working, involving myself (and the Executive Group) vacating my office and working in dynamic new collaboration spaces. Putting people at the heart of our office design, the shift in behaviours in a short space of time is evident. Results show not only exceptional cost savings (25% reduction in cost per person) and higher levels of engagement but a modern and high energy office where people want to perform at their best.
Our BHF digital first change programme took a new turn when Kerry persuaded us all to support the integration of Workday for our people, in itself a major cultural change particularly for our shops and stores which for the first time now have reliable access to data and better systems have resulted in more time back on the shop floor as well as opportunity to connect and collaborate across a workforce dispersed over hundreds of sites. Digitising the previously paper based HR systems is transforming our people services function; where once there was a wall of HR cabinets, there is a BHF research story reminding us all why we do what we do!
Personally, I value enormously Kerry’s energy, creativity and insight. Her leadership of a vast range of high impact change programmes has transformed the way that staff and volunteers interact with the BHF, driving up engagement, commitment and organisational performance. She has championed the charity sector as a great place to work and make a positive difference to society. She is a superb ambassador for the BHF and a committed advocate of its work, a brilliant and supportive colleague, and an empathetic leader whose achievements stand out for all to see. I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of this award.