Winner: HR Team of the Year 2017

International telecoms company O2’s HR team took the 2017 Relocate award for HR Team of the Year. The judges commended their proactive approach to developing talent through diversity initiatives.

Relocate Global Awards 2017 10th Anniversary HR Team of the Year O2 winner
Relocate Global Awards 2017 10th Anniversary sponsor santa fe
International telecommunications company O2 won the HR Team of the Year award for its commitment to increasing and championing workplace diversity.Recognising that it must mirror the societies in which it operates if it is to serve its close to 25 million customers most effectively, O2 has adopted, and continually adds to, a framework of initiatives that embed diversity and inclusion (D&I) awareness and practice throughout the business.Almost half of O2’s UK board members are women. This is replicated across the company, including in its innovation-led functions, in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector.O2, said the Relocate Awards judging panel, had demonstrated a very proactive approach to developing talent through diversity initiatives. Going beyond diversity targets, it had shown a true commitment to culture change in widening its talent pool through diversity and inclusion interventions.The judges added, "O2 is to be commended in particular for the launch of – and its support for – networks for minority groups. Networks have been found to be particularly beneficial in assisting minorities to gain a greater share of senior roles within organisations, as well as enabling such groups to access and be supported within international assignments.”Ann Pickering, O2’s HR director, comments, “My team and I are thrilled to accept Relocate Global’s HR Team of the Year 2017 award. At O2, we share Relocate’s commitment to fostering diversity within the workplace, and to supporting talent into work.”

Talent development initiatives

Supported by its values of ‘discover, disrupt and deliver’, O2 adapts to employees’ needs when setting up approaches to support its diversity and inclusion focus. Its women returners’ network, for example, enhances the skills of female staff moving back into the workforce after a career break, provides encouragement, and strives to create pathways to senior leadership roles.O2 is one of 11 champions in the Social Mobility Compact, a UK government-backed initiative to improve social mobility. As part of its involvement, the company commits to widening geographically the opportunities it offers, providing structured non-graduate career paths, considering educational achievements in context, and publishing and monitoring the socio-economic background of its recruits.Thanks to this commitment, applicants to O2’s apprenticeship scheme do not need qualifications. The success of this approach is shown by the fact that, in 2016, over half of the company’s past apprentices assumed management roles.Its championing of the Social Mobility Compact also means that O2 does not target Russell Group universities for its graduate intake or consider graduates’ GCSE or A Level results or the subjects they have studied. It does, however, require undergraduate applicants to be on track for at least a 2:1 degree.Last year, almost 70 per cent of O2’s graduate roles were filled by non-Russell Group graduates.

Role of HR in delivering change

O2’s D&I focus also includes highly visible support of Mental Health Awareness Week and an LGBT network, which provides a further compelling example of HR working with the wider business to influence the agenda.“HR lies at the very heart of this,” Ann Pickering explains. “After all, HR teams are responsible for ensuring D&I features at the top of board-level agendas, but also that it is hardwired into the way their organisation does business and what it offers its employees.“As the agenda continues to evolve, it is crucial that businesses showcase their commitment to the core principles of D&I at the highest level. Having a board-level sponsor, for example, can play an invaluable role in enabling culture change from the top down, helping demonstrate to employees and customers alike the importance D&I holds for the business.”Affirming their support for the view that, as Ann Pickering puts it, “talent is blind to gender, ethnicity, sexuality and social background”, members of O2’s senior leadership team have undertaken training to identify any unconscious bias they may have and minimise its impact on decision-making.

Social and global mobility

From a global mobility perspective, opportunities to work overseas can be critical to career progression to senior levels, and can build skills and networks throughout the business. Women, in particular, remain under-represented in mobile populations, exacerbating the mid-career squeeze in female talent pipelines and therefore representation at leadership and board levels.Building a broad-based and representative talent pool from the start of people’s careers, and supporting it with targeted initiatives throughout the business, O2 is ensuring that opportunities for international assignments remain open to all, in line with the business’s objectives, its talent development programme, and employees’ aspirations.O2 prepares its assignees for international moves and supports them while they are on assignment, so they can achieve their professional and personal goals. This is done both through specialised online courses and through parent company Telefónica’s corporate university in Barcelona, which provides leadership training, including global management and women in leadership programmes, and offers valuable advice on career planning, personal brand, and finding mentors.All the courses and training offered encourage employees to take risks and push their potential to its limits.“As the emphasis on global expansion continues to accelerate, there will be a strong business case to support wider involvement of minorities within international mobility,” said the Relocate Awards judges. “It is excellent HR practice to see O2 nurturing diverse talent – a great example for others to follow to increase business success.”“We live in an increasingly diverse society,” concludes Ann Pickering. “It’s never been more important for our workforces to reflect this, both to echo our businesses’ vibrant and diverse customer bases and to ensure happier and more productive teams.“That’s why I hope that our work – and that of the many brilliant HR teams that exist throughout the UK – will inspire others to build the right culture, support networks, and recruitment practices to support the fantastic talent we have here in the UK.”

Following this year's innovation-themed gala dinner, the Relocate team is already hard at work to ensure we build on the success of the Relocate Awards 2017 and make next year’s even bigger and better.

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© 2017. This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Relocate magazine, published by Profile Locations, Spray Hill, Hastings Road, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JB. All rights reserved. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Profile Locations. Profile Locations accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein.

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