Transformation at TalkTalk how has innovation sparked growth?

Written by
Changeboard Team

05 Dec 2014

05 Dec 2014 • by Changeboard Team

How can HR drive meaningful change?

When it comes to transforming HR, creating a grand vision isn’t enough. HR leaders must find out what services their businesses need and decide how those services should be delivered – and then put them into action. That’s how HR can drive meaningful improvement and change. 

At our recent boardroom event, delegates were invited to participate in a strategic debate with Jason Boyle, HR director for TalkTalk Technology. Jason offered insights into how TalkTalk has driven a complex HR transformation programme by redefining the organisational design structure and working towards a much improved HR service delivery model that really will make significant changes to the whole landscape of Talk Talk HR in the next 5 years.

Delegates were able to share innovative approaches to HR and network with their peers whilst taking a very active part in our debate.

Jason Boyle, HR director, TalkTalk Technology

Jason is an experienced international HR director with a passion for delivering commercially effective benefits to the organisations he has worked for.

His passion for HR is obvious, and he's a creative thinker who's able to develop and implement strategies that has helped transform businesses while ensuring that changes are communicated and implemented effectively, smoothly and efficiently with unique, and as we were to find out, some unusual employee engagement initiatives.

Six years ago (2006) TalkTalk was a brand new company with no customers – they have subsequently seen significant growth mainly through acquisitions and currently have over 4.2 million customers and growing. They operate not only in the competitive consumer broadband and fixed line communications market but have a sizeable B2B business. Already they are a FTSE 150 business with their eyes firmly set on becoming a FTSE 100 company.

Jason compares TalkTalk to a big start up company; one with unique challenges and opportunities, which became evident throughout the debate. TalkTalk is all about giving customers consistently the best value for money experience in the market and over the past five years, through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions, they have built one of the UK’s largest broadband and voice customer bases.

Making transformation happen

Jason explained that when the transformation journey began in 2010, the starting point was to identify what the positive and negative aspects of the HR service that would then form part of the overall strategic improvement initiative using a series of metrics. TalkTalk were aware that they wanted to ‘disrupt’ the market, gain a competitive edge yet still maintain their entrepreneurial spirit (the firm grew out demerger from Carphone Warehouse). As a newish plc, they wanted to be agile and nimble in a very competitive, growing telecoms market. 

The transformation started with a complex intertwined structure with many strategic partners across the world all with varied ways of working. The challenge of streamlining and simplifying differing operating models began. This was addressed by implementing 'Project Crystal' – a group-wide implementation plan that offered all employees clear accountability and provided end-to-end responsibilities. This focused on shaping the structure and organisation, rolling out an original strategy, building change capability, cultural changes, systems and process interventions and installing a structured people agenda.

Jason highlighted how crucial it is to set out your priorities at the beginning of a group-wide plan. Once the senior leadership teams were bought in to this new strategy, employees started to align themselves to the set of priorities and TalkTalk started to make great progress.

Keeping communication consistent

TalkTalk's current strategy revolves around five key principles: 

  1. Integration of customers gained through acquisition 
  2. Improving operating efficiency, effectiveness and simplicity 
  3. Delivering value for money quad play services 
  4. Growing the range of services and products for businesses 
  5. Offering fibre access 

Delegates asked if TalkTalk had used a priority mechanism for this project. 'No' was the straight answer – the telecoms market is evolving so quickly they have just got on with it but with a key set of enablers in place, they're making great advancements as a business. Nigel Sullivan, the new group HRD has been in place since 2010. They have since adopted a purist Ulrich model which has created some challenges, yet line managers are stepping up to the mark. Jason stressed it's vital to constantly keep in communication with employees, pushing out messages and engaging key people leaders and employees in newly created people forums, for example. 

Creative employee engagement

The delegates were most amused with TalkTalk’s Star Wars themed employee engagement initiative, used to roll out the firm's priorities and plans (can you visualise c4000 employees waving lightsabres about?) Jason explained that this initiative has created an amazing amount of goodwill within the business and has made a real difference to engaging people. Food for thought for us all.

As costs cut hard into most sectors, questions were then asked about funding such initiatives and all agreed that that firms do need to take more of a risk with investment into employee engagement strategies in order to get a return but this can easily be adapted to suit all budgets. Everyone agreed it's the ideas you need, not necessarily the money.

Seeing the business benefits

Questions on this project were then asked around potential salary conflicts that could arise, leadership and management up-skilling queries, what compromises had to be made  (e.g. hiring or meeting targets), engaging employees and cultural change issues, satisfaction surveys results, implications of harmonising terms, defining the right customer experience and what the learning points had been for Jason implementing this strategy.

Jason explained that the strategy seems to be working; the business is starting to see real intelligence feeding through from customer evaluations and surveys/feedback and TalkTalk is seeing the results and benefits of their structured operating model. The strategy is enabling them to drive further revenue and profit growth and goes hand-in-hand with transforming the way they work, expanding the coverage of their network, and developing exciting new products and services for their customers. They are taking a leap forward as a business, yet Jason recognises they still have a way to go and it’s a constant journey. The firm’s inroads in to TV media (e.g. sponsoring X Factor) is providing another outlet and as their website mentions, TalkTalk ‘are strongly positioned as the value for money broadband and voice provider’ in the UK. 

When asked about the most significant change piece, Jason said it was the engagement element of the strategy. This has helped develop strong positive attitudes among TalkTalk employees towards their work and their organisation, and this will play a major role in ensuring that they give their best. Jason confirmed that they had sights on the next 5 year HR strategy. We're sure all delegates will be keen to track TalkTalk’s progress going forward in what looks like an exciting and innovative time for the firm.