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The people and development team at CH&Co is responsible for human resources, payroll, learning and development, and business administration for around 6,500 employees across the company.
In recent years the team has successfully brought together 5,000 employees from four separate businesses via two mergers to form one of the UK’s largest contract catering companies. The latest mergers – with Harbour & Jones in June 2017, and with Concerto in December 2017 – added another 1,500 staff.
The people and development team has taken a structured approach to the growing task, which means that each geographical region of the CH&Co business has its own HR leader. Known internally as HR business partners, the HR leaders drive real business change across the group and support the regional managing directors.
HR, along with all the company’s other functions, is an integral part of the business. It takes charge of initiatives such as ‘the Perfect Star’ – a streamlined induction process that includes online preboarding and an interactive onboarding session. Managers and senior chefs spend their first two weeks of CH&Co employment in a centre of excellence so they can get to know the business and engage with it before starting their new role.
The people and development team has also deployed a brand new HR system (replacing four systems with one). The single system has nearly completely removed paper from the recruitment process and throughout the employee lifecycle – everything is now automated or electronic. Thanks to this modern HR system, the board knows that staff turnover, even during a period of change, has fallen by four percentage points to 20%, which is three percentage points below the industry average.
‘The Talent Bank’ is a new e-recruitment platform that has been rolled out across the business, enabling applicants to be transferred between sites, sectors and managers, while ‘coffee and chat’ sessions have replaced the annual appraisal. An employee assistance programme provides specialist, independent and confidential advice, and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Leading the people and development team is Alison Gilbert, who sits on the CH&Co’s finance and HR committee as non-executive director, and is also on the main joint board of hospitality charity Springboard. She has recently been appointed by the government as the apprenticeship route panel chair for hospitality and catering at the Institute of Apprenticeships, where she will guide and advise on all new apprenticeship qualifications.
What the judges said
“The continuing journey of CH&Co in terms of growth and evolution is really impressive.”
Alison Gray, HR director, Delaware North Companies
“Great entry, and delighted to learn that the HR function is an integrated part of the business now. Really good initiatives such as futureproofing talent within the Chef Academy. It’s a huge and good culture really being driven by HR.”
Julia Sibley, chief executive, Savoy Educational Trust
“Successfully meeting the challenge of multiple acquisitions and the merging of distinctive entrepreneur-led cultures.”
Jane Sunley, founder, Purple Cubed
People and development team CH&Co
People, talent and resourcing team BaxterStorey
2017 Charlotte Hutchings, Gather & Gather
2016 Gary Acheson and the HR team, Rapport
2015 Emma Langford, Lexington Catering
2014 Alison Gray, Delaware North
2013 Alison Gilbert, CH&Co