Five companies that understand their people

Real Business works together with the CBI to host the annual Human Capital Awards, a celebration of "high-performance people and organisations". This year, we’ve discovered five remarkable growing businesses that show that fantastic HR and people management are not just for big corporates. Smaller businesses can be people-smart, too. Enjoy…. For more about the Human Capital Awards, click here.

Any Junk? Any Junk? is an on-demand junk clearance and rubbish recycling service for homes and businesses. It provides "friendly, uniformed teams in shiny, smart trucks" who clear, load and dispose of all types of junk – "and sweep up before they go". The business, founded by managing director Jason Mohr, identified customer referrals as a primary KPI and started sending out personalised emails after every job to all customers (except regulars). Using the response to these emails, the £2m-turnover business has developed its Net Positive Ranking (NPR), which is calculated weekly and put on a prominent whiteboard for all staff to see. Alongside this, Any Junk? updated its bonus policy to incorporate employee enthusiasm and communication with customers. Over the past three months, NPR is up to 76 per cent (from 56 per cent) and revenue from customer referrals has increased by 32 per cent from April to June 2008.

Fosters Bakery. Fosters, like others in the bakery sector, has had a tough time recently – suffering from increased raw material prices and pressures on customer demand. It needed to become "lean to survive". Fosters also determined that future growth and innovation would come through creating a "knowledge-based industry." This has been achieved through participation (through Sheffield Hallam University) in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme (KTP), which aims to help businesses improve their competitiveness through better use of technology and skills. The KTP has seen an associate from Sheffield Hallam working under operations director Michael Taylor to develop HR policy and practice. As a result of the scheme, an "academic structure" has been introduced that boosts training and qualifications; waste costs have been dramatically reduced; staff turnover is down; and retention rates are up.

Naylor Industries. Back in 1993, Barnsley-based clay pipe manufacturer Naylor Industries seemed a terminally ill business. Family disagreements, the death of the then managing director, commercial inertia, it was an inauspicious environment for the 30-year-old accountant Edward Naylor who took over the business. Over the past 15 years he has undertaken a root and branch modernisation programme, removing every kiln and replacing them with robotics; overhauling office procedures; and investing in IT. Having stabilised the business, venture capitalists took a minority stake in 2000, invested £18m in capital equipment and moved the business into new materials. Alongside all this, a company-wide appraisal scheme has been introduced; IiP accreditation achieved; headcount reduced; and the company`s crippling pension deficit addressed. This wholesale corporate turnaround has yielded a £37m turnover (growing at 25 per cent p.a); £2.5m operating profits; and Naylor employees are four times more productive. "However, the statistic of which we`re most proud is that 68 per cent of last year`s sales came from products that we didn`t make five years ago. In a traditional business in a conservative industry, that`s no mean feat."

Parker Green International. When the leading Northern Ireland property development business opened its Central European base in Slovakia in 2006, it faced cultural and translation issues. It urgently needed to train Slovakian locals to communicate with its own Ireland-based in-house team, while also diversifying its workforce. Led by Parker Green managing director Dr WG O`Hare and n collaboration with professors of the built environment at the University of Ulster, the company has designed the Parker Green Post Graduate Programme, the first in the UK to focus solely on property development and investment. The first group of students have graduated, returned to Bratislava and are now full-time Parker Green employees seeking business development opportunities in central and eastern Europe. As the company says, "we understand that we can no longer work in a mono-cultural fashion; we are part of a worldwide economy… Through this training programme we have become more creative and open to change and have that competitive edge over other UK/Irish property companies."

RS Clare & Co. RS Clare, the oldest manufacturing business on Merseyside, produces specialist lubricants and anti-skid materials. It was the first western company to penetrate the Japanese shipbuilding industry with its specialist products. However, back in 2004, the culture was described as "apathetic"; employees were not engaged with the business`s aspirations. Following research among employees, the company established a culture improvement strategy in three phases: excite, involve, achieve. Neuro-linguistic test led to NVQ training and an organisational change programme with local academic and business partners. Today, RS Clare is significantly along its Route to Excellence: with a £9.8m turnover and £820,000 profits, it is a strongly performing company. Employee attitudes to work are also greatly improved.

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