Rewarding Futures

HR Grapevine Live 2017: What did we learn?

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Image: Vana Resourcing Directors Jo White (l) and Debbie Flowers (r) at the event venue 

Today, Vana Resourcing joined hundreds of industry colleagues at HR Grapevine Live in London. Here are our key takeaways from the event.

1. The key themes…

  • Change & Transformation
  • Performance & Productivity
  • Belief & Inspiration 

2. We were particularly taken by…

Kathryn Pritchard, Group Chief People Officer at Odeon. Kathryn was brought in as part of a turnaround team two years ago, and the team used every lever to prepare the business for sale. It was sold last year at a good price to the best buyer on the back of 80% EBITDAR growth, showing an increase of 20% retail spend per head, with market share growth in every country and the #1 spot secured in the UK market for five years. According to McKinsey’s organisational wellbeing business measure, it was the biggest increase McKinsey had seen in history. Kathryn called out their success in creating what they termed as an ‘atmosphere’ that drove this achievement. Whilst she admitted her project ‘recipe’ pillars were nothing new, the difference came down to ‘how they lived it’. This involved creating a sense of belonging, having a very clear and transparent colleague journey, developing 100 new products and touchpoints to engage employees. They don’t do HR speak. Instead they ask employees ‘how they are’, call their exit interviews ‘fond farewells’ and highlight their high potential people as ‘brand heroes’. They also focus on the value of ‘fun’. They build on appreciative feedback, celebrate why they’re brilliant and multiply/ magnify it, with Odeon’s internal YouTube channel now taking on a life of its own thanks to colleagues uploading material. A month is also given over each year to celebrate their values through colleagues. When asked by an audience member how she would define engagement Kathryn said, “we don’t use that word – we talk about making working life better, we talk about motivation and fun. We involve colleagues – ask them what they want – flexibility, fun, and growth. We’ve developed a learning philosophy in 7 clear steps – it’s about growing as an individual but also growing and nurturing your peers and colleagues to release one another’s potential.” HR partnering of course has its place, but Kathryn was really passionate about brilliant HR expertise ‘leading’ an organisation - not always ‘partnering’ when sometimes their expertise can be watered down. By putting HR people at the centre of thought leadership, an organisation is consciously moving HR to a leadership position overall.

3. Trends consistent with those Vana are seeing in the industry…

  • Digital transformation. Lars Hygnell talked about his leadership role in Electrolux’s digital transformation journey which touched 60,000 full-time employees globally. Their biggest challenge was shifting mindset – something they achieved through forming a ‘tribe’ mentality to build momentum for change. Lars talked about their combination of summits in-house with online learning and a digital transformation team that continually looked outside for inspiration – using digital collaboration opportunities and gamification throughout their change journey. 30,000 comments were duly received from colleagues engaging via social media platforms. Lars also talked about robotics/tech partners who were already colleagues in blue collar environments - this will be a new introduction for the white collar population as we move into the future. Lars and Chan Suh from Prophet talked about the ‘10x’ – a principle commonly used by tech companies in Silicon Valley including Google; ‘Thinking 10x bigger; aspire, dare more, try it’. Google are also infamously encouraging people to 'step big - learn - and fail well.’ 
  • ‘Creating a marketing mindset to attract talent’ – the subject of a particularly enjoyable talk from Nimai Swaroop, Global Talent Engagement & Resourcing Director at Diageo. His key points were;
    • the three pillars; Power of insights (build excitement), Raise Awareness (transmit who you are, not just what you do), Create Demand – awareness of our increasing ‘gig economy’ and the emergence of self-brand (‘what’s in it for me’),
    • the growth of social conscience – prospective talent will validate an organisation’s commitment to this before they choose them as an employer,
    • think about your employer brand, how you position it, have a deep understanding of talent you are looking to target and how perception aligns with the reality. It could be that who you might think is the best talent might actually not be best for you, and how reality looks inside the organisation compared to perception, those moments of truth - it’s the little things that make a difference, 
    • consider habitual profiling of talent – who they are, what energises them,
    • develop and tell your ‘story’ to bring your organisation alive – it’s an emotionally led process. 
  • How HR can future-proof the business for all generations and future talent – a talk presented by Jim Richardson, Director of Talent Learning & Resourcing at Santander. With a significant millennial workforce (52% at Santander currently), and a recognition that people will be living longer (the government encouraging over 50s back into the workplace), it’s critical for organisations to invest in their OD function and specialist capability. Jim also talked about;
    • reviewing resourcing and assessment processes – making these more mobile-enabled, quick, and responsive, e.g. EY topically announced gamification as part of their graduate assessment process recently. Video interviewing will also become more commonplace, 
    • performance management is now seen as out of date with a move to a digital app based on ‘in the moment’ conversations, 
    • respond to a demand for more variable pay and choice of benefits, offer sabbaticals and time to invest in charitable projects,
    • people change jobs more frequently so more thought should be given on how to ‘off-board’ in the right way and awareness of brand impact (considering social media connectivity),
    • environment is important – most common feedback in fin-tech sector is for break-outs to mix with other colleagues across functions - over a ‘quality coffee’ offering! 
  • Diversity – (something covered in Vana’s first blog of 2017). Deborah Yates, Senior VP of HR at Reckitt Benckiser, looked at developing leaders who can adapt to change. RB ‘don’t talk about change’ – instead RB talk about ‘leaning-in’ to ‘create a movement’ across their 47,000-strong global workforce. 70% of their consumers are women, but the general management team constitutes less than 2% women. RB have launched Project DARE which aims to develop, attract, retain and engage talented women. Initiatives include more options for flexible working and a global maternity policy which sets a minimum standard and places RB among the minority of employers with such a policy. Deborah also spoke about making the ‘why’ personal and sharing it, having a clear ‘what’ message so that the ‘how’ will come, and giving ‘space’ to colleagues to achieve the ‘how’, treating them as adults.
  • Colleague experience – something also picked up by Jim from Santander. The vision is that traditional offices will go with people working more flexibly from anywhere. Organisations will create ‘gathering centres’ and encourage co-collaborative environments to break down silos. Wellbeing is also a key trend (and something we’ll be reporting on next week). One of the day’s most memorable quotes came from a presentation by Lifeworks – “don’t just catch them when they fall – engage and support physical, emotional and mental wellbeing every day”. Lifework’s app, for example, enables quick positive feedback - particularly prevalent for millennials. James Mitchell, Senior Director of Global Talent & Development at Rackspace, talked about a DNA of fanatical performance - ‘rackers’ being part of the family, induction as ‘welcome home’, free breakfast, and giving employees 100 hours of volunteering time which saw an uplift of 50% engagement for participants.

4. And finally - we were quite surprised by…

…Julia Ingell’s comment – “It’s not a failure to revert to analogue”. She reminded us of the definition of a conversation at a time when the digital world has stopped us talking, and advised how to embed the art of conversation again.

I’ve worked with the team at Vana on many occasions over the years, engaging them to hire senior talent in a number of businesses. Both Debbie and Jo offer great insight and expertise, but above all they deliver results. I would happily recommend their services.

Scott Fishburn, HR Director, DFS

“Debbie and Jo are high-integrity recruiters who take time to understand organisational needs; commercial and cultural. VANA have worked in partnership with us a number of times, enabling us to secure some excellent senior HR hires.”

John Burgess, Head of Talent & Leadership Development, AXA Group

“I have worked with Debbie both as a candidate having introduced me to ING Direct and Invensys, and as a client supporting me with key hires in both organisations and more recently at DAS.  Both Debbie and Jo are exceptionally well networked, I trust their judgement completely and would highly recommend Vana.”

Kate Banks, ‎Group Director of HR & Legal Services at DAS UK Group

'Debbie and Jo are first class headhunters of HR talent. They take the time to fully understand the brief and culture of the organisation before suggesting any candidates for opportunities. Thank you Vana for sourcing quality hires for my team.'

Helen Norris, Head of HR - Nationwide Building Society

I have worked with Debbie both in the search for talent and also as a candidate, in both situations Debbie has been faultlessly professional. Debbie builds strong relationships exploring briefs to ensure she has a deep understanding of what the business and candidate need, allowing her to deliver a real match.

Ian Marchant, Retail HRD, Greene King plc

Candidate experience is really important to me in recruitment, because that is someone's first experience of an organisation - your organisation. As I see it, the recruiter is part of YOUR brand and their actions impact on YOUR reputation when they act for you. The candidate remembers the experience of applying for a job and not always the recruiter involved.

My experience as a candidate of Jo's was exceptional. Jo kept me informed at every stage, questions were anticipated and I always knew where the process was. Also, Jo was present as a person and not as a remote handler. This shows me that any candidate that Jo places would be treated in exactly the way I'd want them to be. I recommend her without hesitation.

Geraldine Buckland, Director of People, Bristol Water

Debbie and Jo are great recruiters of HR talent; they have successfully worked on a number of key senior hires for us both in the UK and internationally.

Jonathan Wright, Group HRD, Murphy Group

Debbie has recently supported me in securing my first HRD role. Her observations and feedback were very insightful and assisted me greatly in navigating the recruitment process and learning about the company and environment I'll be stepping into. Totally dependable, unbiased and a good judge of character, I would highly recommend her to act on your behalf with prospective employers. I haven't worked with Debbie yet as the employer but wouldn't hesitate to do this if the need arises.

Anita Calverley, HR Director, Yeo Valley Farms

The thing about Vana Resourcing is that Debbie and Jo actually care – about you as a person, your career and your business. Yes they deliver great candidates and opportunities but they make sure that the fit / opportunity is right, challenging both sides in a positive way when needed. They’ve supported my career for the last 10 years, including introducing me to my current HRD role, and I have no hesitation that they will be my first point of call for future candidates and opportunities.

Suzie Noble, Chief People Officer, Brightside

“I have worked with Debbie and Jo several times, they stand out from the crowd as a sourcer of talent and when managing you as a candidate, I simply haven't worked with anyone better. Commercial, thorough, expert and with a sense of integrity that means you are only ever recommended to organisations that suit you - and as a hirer you only get talent that works for your organisation. As a hiring organisation, working with a partner like Vana is simply irreplaceable.”

Head of OD, Vodafone

Debbie brings accurate and current insight on HR Talent. Her ability to recognise top people in their field and actively nurture relationships over a long period of time sets her apart from her peers. Debbie is refreshingly honest , she keeps confidences and is not afraid to challenge both candidates and hiring Executives to ensure the right outcome for all parties. I would have no hesitation in recommending Debbie or Vana Resourcing for a critical HR hire.

Barbara Duffy, International HR Director leading on Talent, L&D, Resourcing,OD

“Debbie introduced me to OVO Energy, and she not only found me the right role, but an organisation whose ethos matched my values.  I have since worked with Vana to recruit almost my entire senior HR team! From HRBP's to a Reward Lead and most recently a HR Director. Vana really understand the importance of culture fit."

Kim Atherton, Chief People Officer, OVO Energy

I have worked with Vana Resourcing for a number of years representing me in my own search and as a client. Debbie and Jo are professional and efficient but unusually for this sector, genuinely caring about both client and candidate experience in equal measure.

Jonathan Edge, HR Director UK & Ireland at Ideal Standard International BVBA

“Jo is highly professional, knowledgeable and proactive. It’s not often that a recruitment consultant really interviews you in the same way a prospective employer would.”

Simon Amesbury, SuperGroup plc

What a refreshing delight to work with a commercial partner who understood my business, had national and regional awareness, a handle on the market, an effortless connection with candidates and could tolerate my Everest-like expectations.

I will continue to work with Debbie and Jo again on my incessant drive to solve the talent conundrum of the coming years.

Keep up the great work, you are a credit to the industry.


Stephen Robson, HR Director, Global O&Supply Chain at Kingfisher plc

"The team and I have worked with Jo now on a number of occasions for various recruitment assignments. I have always found Jo to be consultative and considered in her approach but above all honest and straight forward! She has a great understanding of her market place and is always at the end of the line to offer insight and market knowledge. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vana and look forward to our continued relationship."

Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society, Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society

I've known Jo for a number of years and worked with her as a client and candidate. What's great about working with Jo is that you're guaranteed an honest perspective and terrific insight to the market. She nurtures her relationships in a natural and engaging way: put simply - she knows her stuff!

Marie Aitken, Chief People Officer

I initially engaged Debbie to undertake a search for a Head of OD. She is consultative in style, and took time to gain a comprehensive insight into our organisational culture and HR journey, delivering an excellent shortlist of candidates and a super hire. The feedback from our candidates on their engagement with VANA has been equally positive. Jo and Debbie has since supported me with several other senior hires within the People organisation at RLG, and we enjoy an effective working partnership.

People & Corporate Affairs Director, Royal London Group

“I have worked with Debbie as both candidate and client. In both contexts I have found her to be super-efficient, thorough and a pleasure to do business with. She listens really well, responds quickly and is flexible to evolving demands. Debbie is up there in my top 3 recruiters.”

Sue Round, Head of Talent and Organisational Effectiveness, BP

I have worked with Debbie and Jo for many years as a candidate looking for opportunities and a manager looking for talent.  I have always been impressed by how Vana strive to ensure that there is the best fit in terms of candidate values and company culture.

Sarah King, Head of HR, Triodos Bank