Winners 2018


Winner: University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield understand that diversity in all its forms not only delivers greater impact in their research and teaching, but enhances the experience off all staff and students. In was in this spirit, that the university launched their LGBT+ allies programme in 2016. Sheffield launched a three-phased internal communications approach, with their mission statement Creating an LGBT+ inclusive university is everybody’s responsibility. The visual vibrancy and choice of striking marketing platforms captured the attention of key audiences, inspiring a wider engagement with staff, students and external stakeholders, which created a genuine buzz and talking point both on campus and social media. The results have been astonishing. Ally numbers increased from 80 at the launch to 1,300 by December 2017. The judges were blown away by Sheffield’s disruptive imaginative use of internal communications, and recognised that the university are doing something completely new for a cause that should be at the top of every organisation’s agenda.


Winner: Pegasus Airlines

Turkish low-cost airline Pegasus Airlines was founded as a joint venture company back in 1990 and started life with just two aircrafts. Cut to 2018 and the airline has now expanded to boast a fleet of 76 aircrafts flying to 36 domestic and 72 international destinations in 40 countries. Such rapid growth presents challenges, however, with the firm outgrowing Pegasus’ support structures. So the organisation embarked on a large-scale change project, involving the five areas of: organisational change, career architecture and job evaluation, talent management and succession planning, training and development, and cultural shift. Activity has included job architecture evaluation, a market research pay practices and policies, a new strategy for talent management and succession planning, and an Employee Effectiveness Survey and workshops. “They really nailed it on a whole range of initiatives,” one of our judges commented. Another: “These were all things that needed to be done and they delivered on all of them.”


Winner: Kerry Foods

Three years back, employees had lost engagement with Kerry Foods. And so the Trailblazers initiative was launched, challenging employees to define the future of food and be part of creating new snacks, drinks and foods. In total, 860 ideas were put forward, accounting for around one in every six employees; testament to a workforce engaged with the initiative. Ideas were shortlisted and after numerous stages including a four-week bootcamp, pitch videos, and on-site support to develop their ideas, this culminated in a Dragon’s Den style event broadcast to the rest of the business. It was an engagement strategy that touched everyone. While Kerry Foods came away from the initiative with two new products to take to market, more importantly, it came out with a reengaged workforce. The judges praised the idea of engagement as a means of bringing innovation out of the workforce, with one judge simply adding “This is how you do engagement”. A worthy winner indeed.


Winner: Arconic Manufacturing

Arconic recognised the serious risk shift working poses to both physical and mental health. In 2016 HR worked together with health and safety and the wellness team to identify the health and wellbeing status of the workforce and put together a strategy for the next two years. Employees were screened for 15 different health markers using the most up-to-date techniques. The data from the health check roadshow demonstrated that Arconic needed to focus its attention particularly on body fact percentage, hydration and cholesterol. Since the strategy was set out employees have collectively lost 138kg, 30% of people identified with ‘critical hypertension stage two’ blood pressure have been reduced to a less critical rating, sickness absence has dropped to the lowest levels since 2014, and employee engagement is up 5%. The judges thought this was a well-targeted, strategic and comprehensive strategy and particularly impressive considering the context the business operates in.


Winner: Kier

Working Roots is a unique full-time one-year youth training programme that targets 16- to 18-year-old NEETs (not in employment, education or training) in North Tyneside who are at risk of social exclusion. It’s run by a public, private and third sector partnership between Kier, North Tyneside Council and Justice Prince CIC. The young people chosen for the scheme have a diverse range of physical, mental, emotional and educational needs. Trainees are paid a weekly bursary of £50, a lunch bursary, and transport to and from work. This is all covered by Kier North Tyneside. It’s estimated the scheme generates approximately £500,000 in social value through reducing unemployment and crime, and improving the community. As such Kier is looking to roll it out nationally. Our judges praised the scheme’s results, describing it as a holistic cross-sector effort to reach a difficult target group. They said it had a clear social impact and are excited to see it scaled up.

Highly commended:
Mitchells & Butlers


Winner: Mitchells & Butlers

It takes a brave organisation to hold its hands up when things go wrong and turn the most tragic of circumstances into an opportunity for change. But that’s exactly what Mitchells and Butlers have done. After a fatal food poisoning incident in one of its restaurants, Rather than waiting for the negative press to simply passthe organisation made a commitment to improve the quality of learning and development, ensure training was consistent across sites and delivered correctly. This involved the development of an innovative digital learning platform called MABLE. With MABLE, senior leaders can monitor progress and identify skills gaps among employees, learning is ‘bite-sized’, and gamification has been aligned to learning principles. Engaging employees to use the technology has been paramount to its success, and so Mable was given a persona as a ‘sassy, older personal trainer’ which speaks to employees. The most important issue - of customer safety - has improved, with allergen-related incidents down 12% on trend predictions. It’s a turnaround story the judges were greatly impressed with.


Winner: My Home Move

The number of conveyancers in the UK remains relatively small. So My Home Move’s ambitious growth plans called for a widening of the talent pool from which it recruited. The solution arrived at was for My Home Move to ‘grow its own’ talent. The strategy the HR team set out on 18 months ago covered three broad areas: recruitment, L&D and ‘B My Home Move’ - a collection of rewards, recognition and benefits designed to better retain employees. On the trainee recruitment side, My Home Move now works in partnership with universities to recruit law graduates into a six-week trainee programme, provided through its in-house Learning and Development Academy. The business also needed to widen the talent pool of experienced conveyancers it could recruit; so it created the NNC programme, offering home-based working to experienced conveyancers across the UK. My Home Move has grown its conveyancing teams by 23% in the last two years, and has increased its direct recruitment of conveyancing talent by 205%. Our judges Others were impressed with this as an initiative that identified a “clear business need” and met it with great success.


Winner: LinkedIn

Rather than assuming to know what every employee needs and wants, as can sometimes be the case with benefits strategies, LinkedIn set out to empower its employees to choose perks that fit in with the different stages of their individual lives. Perk Up is an annual perks allowance that each employee can spend on goods or services that matter personally to them, covering categories of wellness, child and elder care, pet care, house cleaning, and financial planning. Our judges were blown away by this multi-generational approach, especially noting that it’s rare for packages to offer elder or pet care. This can actually “make a difference to people’s lives”, they said. The take-up of the scheme speaks volumes for its success, with a staggering 98% of LinkedIn’s UK employees using Perk Up. And as you’d expect, this is also translating into solid employee engagement scores. With a mission to empower the world’s professionals, LinkedIn is leading by example, proving that empowerment first begins at home.


Winner: Surrey Police

BME under-representation in policing is an historic issue. Surrey Police was no exception; the situation reflected the national picture, with BME representation of approximately 4% among police officers. The solution at Surrey has been a raft of activity, led by Surrey Police’s BME staff association, SPACE (Surrey Police Association for Culture and Ethnicity), to target the entire employee life-cycle. SPACE attended approximately 50 targeted community events including schools, colleges and universities and faith festivals; conducted a recruitment process review to highlight barriers including unconscious bias; implemented a BME mentoring scheme for potential new recruits; held a conference for 100-plus BME officers and staff; and reviewed all BME leavers and exit interviews to identify trends. The results speak for themselves. From January 2017-Dec 2017 Surrey Police saw an average 8.4% BME application rate, compared to zero applicants between April and December 2015. In total 23 BME officers have joined Surrey Police via the SPACE Mentoring scheme in 2017.

Highly commended:
Costain Group


Winner: Nomad Foods Europe

Bringing two companies together is never easy. But with a highly centralised model in the legacy Iglo Group business, and totally decentralised one in Findus, the challenge was particularly great at Nomad Foods. The aim was to create one company with one shared vision. This wouldn’t be easy, given the scale of 3,800 Nomad Foods employees working in 13 countries, 15 offices and nine factory locations. Key activity included widespread restructuring and reorganising, monthly newsletters and quarterly CEO webcasts, a culture survey, the launch of a new appraisal process, a new talent management framework, and the launch of the Nomad Foods People Awards. The return on investment on the transformation programme has been beyond doubt for the business. Our judges praised the sheer extent of the activity going on, commenting that it’s no mean feat to achieve such impressive change over different countries and with such breadth.


Winner: Microgaming

At Microgaming, the CSR strategy keeps things close to home. PlayItForward serves as an outlet for social good on the Isle of Man and beyond, touching areas including health, charity, education and sport. One notable part of the strategy is the Microgaming Ambassadors Programme, which provides financial support to individuals of outstanding ability, knowledge or repute. Another is the Microgaming Education Bursary which helps local students whose financial circumstances might otherwise prevent them from attending or continuing at university. But perhaps one of the most commendable aspects of PlayItForward is that, in building a strategy that does good in the local community, it has engaged all employees and involved them in something where they can see the results first-hand. So, while the HR team has been busy championing members of the local community, it’s now their turn to be championed by the HR community.


Winner: MTR Crossrail

When MTR won the bid for the new Elizabeth line, there was a need to create a brand new business from scratch to run the service. For HR of the new MTR Crossrail, this meant it had just nine months to recruit an entirely new workforce to get the railway up and running on time – no easy task. But the task’s urgency didn’t deter from the opportunity to recruit a diverse workforce and move away from the traditional talent pool associated with the industry. There’s been a drive to attract more female train drivers. A commitment to reach more young people in school or unemployed. Further, there’s been commitments to improve BAME recruitment and retention, recruit refugees into sustainable employment, support homeless people into roles, and recruit ex-offenders. Our judges were impressed with their decision “not to fill the seats with the traditional bums”. Something they agreed other companies will and should be inspired to follow in the footsteps of.


Winner: Manning Gottlieb OMD

In 2007, Manning Gottlieb OMD had just nine departments, with just 20% of its people working in its online department. Fast forward to the present and the agency now has 26 departments and a huge proportion of its 360-person strong team work in digital or data. Meanwhile L&D had lost its ‘mojo’. So 2017 saw the launch of The Gym and Spa. There are four core parts to The Gym: bootcamps involve intensive training in specific areas; core strengthening is training in the fundamentals; circuit training aims to encourage everybody to experience different departments; and personal training is about meeting individual learning needs. Meanwhile The Spa has kept wellbeing front of mind. Our judges were blown away by this programme as one that “cracks something HR as a whole is struggling with: how do you do wellbeing so it’s not just a bit of a bolt-on?” One judge commented: “A lot have struggled with health and wellbeing and making it meaningful - I loved how they’d integrated it with L&D.”

Highly commended:
West Dunbartonshire Council


Winner: Lucy Woodward, United Learning

Every successful organisation has at least one person in its central team whose enthusiasm and commitment makes a real, significant difference.  For United Learning, that’s Lucy Woodward. Woodward joined United Learning in July 2010 as HR administrator at Salford Academy. Her aptitude and drive prompted a promotion to a HR Officer role within two years.  The wellbeing programme, improved rewards and benefits, and a clear recruitment strategy have supported a reduction in turnover rates and improved absence levels, producing a more consistent and high-quality workforce to educate pupils. There is no doubt that Lucy makes a huge difference in the lives of the thousands of pupils in our schools. For both the schools and out judges, Woodward strategic thinking, and ability to be “an absolute all rounder” make her a clear rising star in the world of HR. We can’t wait to see what her career will bring next.


Winner: Torus

Torus is a housing and regeneration group based in the North West of England, owning and managing 22,000 homes and housing 45,000 customers, and is one of the largest developers of social housing in the region. While an ambitious and innovative OD had been established ahead of Torus being formed, threats facing the business meant that the team had to rebalance the group’s financial position, as well as protecting the business, customers, and staff. It was Torus’s astounding 16 strong OD team who pioneered the change process. Fast-forward to the present, where the OD team have overseen a restructure and change programme affecting 850 staff, contributed to an overall cost reduction £17 million over 4 years, fostered a Unique “we are one” culture, and achieved IIP Gold Recognition. It may have been tough, but Torus undoubtedly turned the dial on the organisation and by turn, showed us exactly what an exemplary HR team looks like.


Winner: Roy Williams, The Sovini Group

From day one, Roy Williams set out that an organisation can only be as good as the people it employs. Implementing people management policies and practices have been Williams’ focus from the outset and continues to be a key focus as The Sovini Group grows. The Sovini Group’s journey began in 2006, following the stock transfer from Sefton Council.  One Vision Housing (OVH) the founding member of The Sovini Group- led by CEO Roy Williams, were committed to be the best at everything they undertook from the start. Since becoming the first company to achieve first place in The Sunday Times List of Top 100 Companies for two consecutive years in 2013 and 2014, the organisation has consistently ranked among the top organisations to work for. Led by Williams, The Sovini Group continues to go from strength to strength. As he regularly tells staff, none of these achievements would have been possible without the people behind it.


Winner: Emma Rose, Kerry Foods

A lot has changed in the two years since Rose took the helm of HR at Kerry Foods. But as with all transformation success stories, it hasn’t been plain sailing. Far from it – with some tough decisions needing to be made. An example of one of these is Kerry’s new business ways of working, which Rose has played a key leadership role in. Other activity has included bringing recruitment in-house, launching a new employer brand, a Trailblazer engagement initiative, and a new ‘Talent Deal,’ with wellbeing and flexible working next on the agenda. Rose has also, reports Everett, been instrumental in the development of the leadership team, challenging and “encouraging us all to be courageous and creative in our thinking.” Which was strongly evidenced in the number of senior leaders at Kerry Foods voting for Rose to win HRD of the Year, and by their highly complimentary comments.


Winner: Kerry Foods

Anyone visiting Kerry Foods three years ago would have been forgiven for thinking it a little lackluster. This was an organisation that prided itself on its agility, open-mindedness and entrepreneurial spirit but more recently had lost its bite. Fast forward to today and things couldn’t be more different. The organisation’s overall employee experience index has reached 77%, 10% above the UK country norm and it has a new purpose, vision and values that capture its ‘pioneering spirit’. One step to achieving this has been an employee engagement initiative, which gave the entire workforce the opportunity to take part in the creation of new snacks. Another has been the pivotal role HRD Emma Rose has had in spearheading change, including bringing recruitment in-house and launching a new employer brand. It then seems only fitting that Kerry Foods not only be honoured with the Outstanding employee engagement strategy and HR director of the year awards, but also receive the prestigious Gold award.