Winners 2017

Winners 2017

Scroll through to see the winners from 2017

Most effective use of internal communications

Winner: Superdrug


Linking professional people in an informal way, Superdrug’s Hub has created a learning and social aspect amongst the employees. For those travelling to a training course at the other end of the country, The Hub can connect staff with each other prior to meeting; some even travel together. There have even been instances of employees from all over the country meeting up to celebrate birthdays.

But the Hub is more than just an app to connect employees. Although it is fun, it has a serious side: an online learning system, which offers a wide range of personal and professional training programmes and modules.

The judges were impressed with the innovative approach, praising the ambitious use of technology and the clear vision of the project. They have high hopes for the project and wish Superdrug and The Hub every success for the future.

Best HR Team

Winner: Zoological Society of London (ZSL)


Anyone paying a visit to the Zoological Society of London’s HR department back in 2014 might well have thought they were at the Natural History Museum, rather than at the very-much alive collections of London and Whipsnade zoos. Today, things couldn't be more different. A new team of 14 look after everything a modern HR department needs, from international support to reward, HR systems to OD. The new-look HR function is highly valued by ZSL’s director general, council of trustees, mangers and staff. Our judges were blown away by ZSL’s entry. They praised how clearly the narrative showed the culture of the organisation, and the journey the HR team had been on. They loved the authenticity of ZSL’s story, and the clear alignment to the business. One judge said: “I would like to work there.” Surely there’s no higher praise than that.

Best HR strategy overseas

Winner: DenizBank


Getting ready for Gen Z is a challenge many in HR will be turning their attention to. But the imperative to do this is particularly urgent in Turkey, which has the youngest average population age, at 31, in Europe. Turkish private bank Denizbank has made impressive steps to get ahead of the curve, with digitalisation of its employment offering at the heart of this. To meet the expectations of the younger generation, the bank has created an innovative digital employment journey, including application through social media, video interviews, online testing and online onboarding. The judges were blown away by the volume and calibre of digital activity at Denizbank, commenting that many aspects were ahead of anything you might find in the UK. “Innovative, impressive, well executed,” was one comment from our judges, perfectly summing up this outstanding application of technology to engage with the workforce of the future.

Outstanding employee engagement strategy

Winner: HomeServe


To say that insurance and repairs company HomeServe has been on a journey over the last few years would be something of an understatement. In 2011 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) stopped HomeServe’s UK business from selling any more products. In 2014 it was fined £34 million by the FCA for mis-selling. But cut to 2017 and things are very different indeed. Key to turning round the business has been ambitious activity around employee engagement- activity so impressive and wide-ranging that one of our judges commented they “felt quite jealous” to read about it. Improved team interaction and communication, recognition activity, development, wellbeing and senior buy-in including from last year’s Most-people focused CEO Martin Bennett, have all been key. Indeed it was this broad approach and HomeServe’s wealth of engagement initiatives, which really made this entry stand out. This is quite simply, in the words of one judge, a “fantastic improvement in employee engagement.”

Highly commended:
Wales & West Utilities

Health and wellbeing award

Winner: Edge Hill University


At Edge Hill University the organisation’s ‘Whole Person’ wellbeing strategy is completely shaped by staff. Employees were consulted on where improvements to wellbeing could be made and the result was five ‘pillars’ that consider the ‘whole person’, both in and outside the workplace. These pillars are family, health, finance, work, and social. With this smorgasbord of areas to cater for you’d expect the cost to be astronomical. Not so; all this is achieved for £25,000 a year. The results are just as impressive: 91% of staff feel proud to work for the university, 93% think it’s a great place to work, and 86% feel valued. Our judges praised this comprehensive entry for being thorough, rounded and collaborative.

Highly commended:
BNP Paribas
East Sussex County Council

Best youth employment strategy

Winner: Anchor Trust


Anchor Trust are England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for the over 55’s, with 9,500 colleagues supporting 40,000 older people to live ‘happy lives for the years ahead’. The Anchor Apprenticeship Academy (AAA) was launched in June 2015, investing £1m over 2 years. When Anchor Trust meets someone who has the caring spirit they are looking for, the candidate is invited to an open day, ensuring their confidence is built up through regular email and phone contact prior to the event. The open days feature time in a home with colleagues, residents and managers, helping to teach prospective candidates about what they can expect from a career. Since Anchor Trust’s target audience are not always experienced in interviews, their assessment involves them speaking and interacting with customers, as well as getting involved in activities.

The judges were pleased to see Anchor Trust working hard to attract people who might not have other easy routes into work, and understand the challenges faced by those in this industry when it comes to talent and recruitment.

Most innovative deployment of HR technology

Winner: DenizBank


It’s a common theme that emerging markets are beginning to leapfrog more established economies in their use of technology in the workplace. That’s certainly true of Turkish bank DenizBank, which has developed a digital strategy and platforms our judges described as “innovative” and “a millennial’s dream”. A suite of digital applications, of which the Denizde (‘At sea’) app particularly stood out for our judges. Employees create personal profiles, are able to access up-to-date company information, win prizes and access training and special offers. The HR team can push out ‘pulse’ surveys, send recognition messages on key events like birthdays and anniversaries and also uses WhatsApp to provide information to employees. All of this innovation is having some impressive results. DenizBank’s employee engagement is 20% above the Turkish banking industry average. DenizBank proudly calls itself ‘the world’s most innovative bank’ and we’re inclined to agree.

Most innovative deployment of HR technology

Winner: Rentokil Initial


It’s not often learning systems implementations have a truly transformative effect on both the learning function and the wider business. But this is exactly what Rentokil has achieved, with its innovative U+ platform. The intention was to move away from classroom training to a new era of blended learning, allowing employees to develop at their own pace using digital resources. Crucially, these resources would need to cater to colleagues in 64 countries, speaking more than 31 different languages, 34% without an email address or personal technology, in a highly decentralised organisation. A tall order by all accounts. But since U+ was launched in 2014, more than two million learning interventions have been delivered, and the new system is used more in a day than the old one was in a month. Our judges praised how Rentokil’s U+ solution was developed to fit with the business need. They were impressed by the ROI the tool has delivered and the change management process.

Best talent management strategy

Winner: Version1


Marginal gains might not sound the sexiest or most headline grabbing phrase. But in business, and when it comes to a comprehensive, overarching talent management strategy that stands the test of time and delivers solid competitive edge year on year, the concept is worth its weight in gold. It was this focus on solid incremental improvement at IT services company Version 1, which really turned our judges heads. At its core, the company’s talent management strategy is simple: find and hire the best people, develop them so that they advance and then keep them for as long as possible. But, as a business that sells services not products and so heavily relies on high performing people, the marginal gains focus is what differentiates Version 1 from their competition. Our judges saw straight to the value of this understated but nonetheless truly excellent strategy, complimenting the team’s conviction in not jumping to “the next new thing” and praising this as an approach many in HR could learn from.

Most effective benefits strategy

Winner: Randstad


Back in 2015 when Randstad realised its newly harmonised, pick and mix benefits portal hadn’t quite met with the level of success hoped, it realised it needed to make the process of selecting benefits an easier, smoother and more enjoyable process, offer a wider range of benefits to satisfy a more diverse workforce, and make it easier for employees to ask questions. So the brand set about another revamp. But not without consulting once again with key stakeholders. The result, the decision to bring benefits in-house, was a move which our judges described as “brave and bold.” They particularly praised the impressive cost saving achieved. The HR team has saved the business a staggering £40k in year one (2016) and is on track to save £50k in 2017. Engagement levels and positivity around whether Randstad offers a competitive salary and benefits package have also surged- as have redemption figures around take-up of offers and discounts.

Highly commended:
BNP Paribas

Diversity and inclusion award

Winner: PageGroup


Diversity and inclusion is an extremely wide umbrella term, so most companies tend to focus on one area at a time. But for PageGroup it was all or nothing. It has done the near-impossible and instigated (or is about to launch) a D&I programme for every segment of society. The journey started in 2012 when CEO Steve Ingham launched ‘Women@Page – where women succeed at work’, to demonstrate the business’ commitment to gender equality and increase the number of female senior leaders. Since then it has introduced initiatives tackling issues of maternity, parenting, LGBTQ, disability (including mental health) and agile working. PageGroup is looking to begin programmes addressing age and multiculturalism this year. Judges praised PageGroup for having a clear strategy, strong senior ownership, and investing in good practice. It’s clear that diversity really starts from page one at PageGroup.

Leading transformation award

Winner: Odeon Cinemas Group


People have been at the heart of Odeon’s blockbusting transformation strategy since it was launched in 2014. With 9,500 colleagues across seven territories, the strategy needed to reach and resonate with a wide range of locations and languages. This was not a one-off engagement project, but an insight-driven employer brand to help future-proof the organisation and attract and retain the best people. The results were show stopping. One in seven of Odeon’s people have been promoted, absence rates have fallen by 50%, and 45,000 hours have been devoted to learning and development.

The judges applauded how clearly the employees were engaged by the cinema group’s journey, and how the project focused on the whole employee journey. They especially liked the advent calendar, run in February 2016 which contained 28 exciting activities, facts or business problems to solve, which all linked to the business strategy.

Best CSR strategy

Winner: RAPt


It costs around £40,000 per year to keep someone in prison. More come out of the system addicted to drugs and alcohol than go in. So RAPt has committed to trying to break this cycle, with apprenticeships. This demonstrates the organisational commitment to the charity’s cause (rehabilitating addicted prisoners). Of the 37 people so far who have finished the apprenticeship, 30 have gained permanent employment. Twenty-four now work at RAPt, and can use the counselling skills learned and their personal experiences to help RAPt’s other service users. Former apprentice Antonia, who now works for RAPt, says the apprenticeship gave her “routine, respect for myself and financial security”, which enables her to give her daughter a better life. Ronald, also a RAPt apprentice-turned-employee, explains that “the ability to embody the values of my recovery through my work gives me the sense of wholeness I’ve yearned for my whole life”.

Highly commended:
London Midland

Most effective recruitment strategy

Winner: Thermo Fisher Scientific


An overreliance on recruitment agencies was just one issue Thermo Fisher Scientific faced two years ago. Others included: 18 divisions and 600-plus disparate entities being involved, some with internal recruiters; seven different applicant-tracking systems; and vastly dissimilar interview procedures. So the company established a new internal Talent Acquisition (TA) team, revamping its employer branding, recruitment channel and careers websites among other moves. A quarter of vacancies are now filled internally, and time-to-hire is down from 77 to 44 days, smashing Thermo Fisher’s 55-day target. Anecdotally the team also has received great feedback from managers on the quality of candidates. But most impressive perhaps, has been the substantial cost savings achieved. Cost per hire is down 65% from $1,175 to $417, and efficiency savings of $16.5m were achieved in 2016, against an objective of $10m.

Best learning and development strategy

Winner: Transport for London


Transport for London (TfL) understands learning and development should be central to its strategy. The Fit for the Customer Services Transformation programme was designed to deliver the biggest transformational change to London Underground (LU) in a generation. With restructured teams came the introduction of new roles in stations, creating learning requirements for 5000 employees including 1,000 employees moving into management roles. A large scale and effective learning programme was vital to ensure all employees were change-ready. TfL has seen some excellent benefits already. Their customer satisfaction survey shows that the ability of staff to assist customers at ticket machines has improved by a third (from 36% to 65%), a huge increase that recognises the success of this highly-effective learning programme. The judges praised the remarkable scale of the operation, and the sheer ambition involved in bringing this to success.

Highly commended:
Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

HR future leader of the year

Winner: Steve Othen, REC


Under 32-year old Steve Othen’s management, the REC has completely redesigned its recruitment, induction and on- boarding process. He has played an integral role in enhancing the external brand of the organisation and the industry, leading on the Good Recruitment Campaign, in which he has developed a free network for GR directors, heads of resourcing and directors of Talent to discuss and share good recruitment practice. His confidentiality is second to none, and his staff trust him. He deals with this responsibility with ease. The judges highlighted Othen’s interest in self-development, attending evening classes in his own time and self-funding his studies to continue improving his skills. They were impressed by his ability to change perspectives towards people issues, not just within his department but across the whole organisation. These skills set him apart as a leader of the future, and we expect to see him go far.

Most people-focused CEO

Winner: Craig Donaldson, Metro Bank


The Metro Bank story, like many others, starts in a pub. Craig Donaldson, CEO, and his colleagues sat around a table and discussed the values they wanted their bank to have, writing ideas on the backs of beer mats. From the very first moments, company culture was of paramount importance to the firm. This meeting resulted in the bank’s AMAZE values, and these continue to play a central role to the organisation today. To Donaldson, leadership is about empowering people to be the best they can be. He wants people to be happy, to bring all of themselves to work, and to reach their full potential and be proud of what they achieve. Our judges praised how Donaldson clearly is not just talk – he walks the walk too. The importance of culture shines through in Donaldson’s own behaviour and leadership. He is the human face of banking to his colleagues and to his customers, and is a real role-model to the whole Metro Bank team.

HR director of the year

Winner: Fiona Evans, Zoological Society of London (ZSL)


Transforming a HR department in just two years is no mean feat by anyone’s standards. Overhauling the HR function of an organisation whose history spans right back to 1826, is an even more incredible achievement. But this is exactly what Evans has done. The volume and detail of appreciative comments coming from ZSL employees voting for Evans to win this award was inspiring. “She was like a breath of fresh air for the society,” says one. “Fiona has completely turned around the HR department from one that was unhelpful and distant to an engaged, empathetic and competent team,” reports another. Similar admiration comes from the senior team at ZSL, including zoological director David Field who comments simply but powerfully that: “From the personal to the professional - Fiona provides the answers and support.” And Evans -who has previously held roles at Asthma UK, Adepta and City & Islington College- is also highly thought of far beyond her organisation. Always a telling sign.

HR Excellence gold award

Winner: Zoological Society of London (ZSL)


Back in 2014 the Zoological Society of London’s HR department certainly didn’t reflect its important, prestigious conservation mission. Fast forward to today and the transformation that’s taken place has been as wide-ranging and varied as the creatures found at the organisation’s two zoos. Which is certainly reflected in those other HR Excellence Awards won this year by the organisation: Best HR team and HR Director of the Year, in addition to a highly commended in the ‘Best Learning and Development Strategy’. This second accolade of course reflects the integral role HRD Fiona Evans has played in transforming the function since arriving. Her first action was to survey the organisation’s 1,000 staff and 400 volunteers. Following this have been a whole raft of initiatives including doubling ZSL’s training budget, more streamlined and effective recruitment and onboarding and a shift to becoming more family friendly. “Fiona has modernised ZSL with incredible speed since her appointment and brought the organisation up to date on so many facets of HR,” said one ZSL employee. Which says it all.