National sushi chain scoops top prize at CIPD People Management Awards

27 Sep 2017 By Robert Jeffery

Judges hail itsu’s work turning fish cutters into ‘pros’; SuperGroup, Ministry of Justice and Skanska among other winners

The heroic efforts of an HR team that turned fish cutting into a highly professional role – saving hundreds of thousands in recruitment costs – were recognised with the top prize at the CIPD People Management Awards last night.

Sushi and health food chain itsu, which operates more than 70 stores across the country, was named overall winner at the awards (as well as best HR/L&D team of the year), beating a range of competitors from the private, public and third sectors.

Itsu’s fish cutters work through 3,000 pieces of fish a day – a highly specialised role where accuracy is hugely important. But the annual turnover of the role was more than 100 per cent, which was costing the business dearly in recruitment costs and causing operational difficulties.

The HR team rebranded the cutters as ‘fish pros’, investing in accredited learning opportunities, altering the reward structure and creating a skills-based competition to raise morale and elevate the role.

The result was a £600,000 decrease in labour costs, as well as £850,000 less wasted food in the first year, enough to impress judges, who said: “This was a rare example of an HR-led initiative that connected perfectly with business objectives while also showcasing the full range of HR and L&D skills.”

Other winners unveiled at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, at a ceremony overseen by comedian and TV presenter Rory Bremner, included fashion brand SuperGroup (best L&D initiative – private sector) – which rolled out hugely effective gamified learning to its young and digital-savvy workforce – as well as the Ministry of Justice’s Civil Service HR Casework team (best coaching and mentoring initiative), Skanska (best diversity and inclusion initiative) and AstraZeneca (best international HR initiative).

Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive, said: “Last night’s awards enabled us to celebrate the fantastic work of the very best of the HR and L&D profession. Those who won demonstrated people management and development initiatives that were not only original and creative, but also made a real difference to people at work and very importantly to positive business outcomes.

“As the overall winner, itsu’s campaign was innovative but sustainable, recognising and celebrating the talents of the entire workforce and showing a commitment to them as valued employees. Through this initiative, itsu has shown other organisations in the food and drink industry the remarkable impact that valuing employees can have on engagement, retention and even customers.”

A full list of the winners appears below. Details of highly commended entrants and other shortlisted organisations can be found on the CIPD People Management Awards website, which also includes the stories behind the winning entries.

Best change management initiative – Christchurch and East Dorset Councils

Best diversity and inclusion initiative – Skanska UK

Best employee engagement initiative – Northern Ireland Electricity Networks

Best international HR initiative – AstraZeneca

Best health and well-being initiative – Cornwall Council

Best L&D initiative, private sector – SuperGroup

Best L&D initiative, public/third sector – Police Now

Best recruitment and talent management initiative – Royal Mencap Society

Best reward initiative – Midland Heart

Best SME people management initiative – Ammeon

Best coaching and mentoring initiative – Ministry of Justice Civil Service HR Casework

Best digital initiative in HR/L&D – Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust

Best employer-supported volunteering programme – Wythenshawe Community Housing Group

Best apprenticeship scheme – BT Fleet

Michael Kelly outstanding student award, intermediate and foundation level – Melissa Venner, Liquid Personnel

Michael Kelly outstanding student award, advanced level – Jodie Gilbert, Flowcrete Group

Best HR/L&D supplier – MTD Training

Best HR/L&D consultancy – Cirrus

Best HR/L&D team of the year – Itsu

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