“We’re building something bigger than the sum of its parts”

Overall winner of CIPD People Management Awards 2014 – Pentland Brands

Pentland Brands can’t claim to occupy a prime slab of real estate: its global headquarters lies on a backstreet in a quiet north London suburb clogged with school-run traffic. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t touched by glamour. The 13 brands it owns and operates are instantly recognisable, from fashion labels such as Kangol and Red or Dead to sporting icons including Speedo and Canterbury.

And now there’s another prestigious name to add to its roster. Pentland is the overall winner of the 2014 CIPD People Management Awards, though HR director Tim Pointer is adamant all 2,000 employees worldwide deserve a share of the glory. “This isn’t a win for HR on its own,” he says. “It’s a win for a team which works with – and learns from – its colleagues.”

Pointer praises the “wonderful, positive energy” and “natural passion” of the HR professionals he leads. But the prize also recognises the way they helped influence the business. With too many silos and not enough understanding of the Pentland brand, an HR-led programme was rolled out to explain a new, coherent strategy in face-to-face workshops driven by senior leaders and backed by a new ‘SMART’ way of working.

A sculpture in reception at head office demonstrates just how committed employees now are to the bigger picture: it’s constructed from hundreds of Lego bricks, on each of which a staff member has written a personal pledge. The latest staff survey found that 98 per cent understand the company’s vision.

It’s all been possible because Pointer and his team utilised the marketing skills already inherent in the business, crunching data to understand what staff really wanted in the same way Pentland’s marketers get to grips with customers’ needs. But it’s also about being close to the business, he says: “We challenge ourselves about talent and capability in my team just as much as in the rest of the company. If we don’t have a real understanding of our [internal] customers and our brands, we’re not fit for purpose.

“We have a real sense of everyone coming together to build something that’s bigger than the sum of the individual parts. But that doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s about creating an incredible sense of momentum across the business.”