Looking back at your time with the company so far, what are you most proud of?
Stonegate was formed in 2010 and I joined in January 2012. Over the last eight years I feel we’ve made significant progress across our people agenda in a range of areas. But if I had to pick one, I would say it is our internal progression programme. Ultimately, we want to dispel the notion that people work in pubs as a stopgap while they decide what they want to do with their careers and lives. A career in pub management is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, and with the right training and support it can lead to a range of senior management positions.
Stonegate’s strategic approach is to grow talent from within, enabling employees to be the best they can be through our award-winning, forward-looking ‘Bar to Boardroom’ career development programme: Albert’s Theory of Progression (ATOP). This offers a complete career pathway to take team members to area manager, into operations or head office roles, and ultimately to the Boardroom, should they have the desire, drive and capability.
Over the past two years, over 4,000 of our employees have been engaged with the programme and we have developed over 300 deputy managers to general manager, enabling them to take on high turnover businesses, managing teams of 20-30 people, often from a young age. There are other associated benefits with having so many people enrolled on formal learning. We have fantastic employee satisfaction scores and have seen stability improve and team turnover reduce.
This engagement inevitably leads to better customer service and, ultimately, improved sales and profit. We have led our sector in terms of performance over the last four years, and I firmly believe that our career pathway is a fundamental enabler of that success.
What is the most exciting project that you’re working on over the next 12 months?
There is really only one contender. With the acquisition of Ei Group, Stonegate is on the verge of becoming the biggest and best pub company in UK. That is incredibly exciting, but it doesn’t come without its challenges.
The focus for myself and my team over the coming months is to successfully integrate the two businesses; it’s not about Stonegate taking over EIG, it’s about taking the best from both organisations and creating something new and really special.
What do you hope to achieve at Stonegate Pubs in the future?
As we bring the two businesses together, a key focus will be to continue with our philosophy of offering fantastic career opportunities and retaining great talent, something that is talked about a lot in HR. We operate in a sector that is not known for colleague retention, but our work to create visible career paths has definitely led to improved retention. It’s a virtuous circle. Look after your employees and they will look after your customers and ultimately your business.
What is your guiding philosophy for HR?
Fundamentally, HR has to be seen as a strategic partner within the business, not a department that sits on the side to do recruitment, training and payroll. We need to be positioned at the heart of business and we need to be commercially minded.
Secondly, on a related point, we need to demonstrate the tangible value that we add. It may not always be possible to assign HR activities directly to the bottom line, but we must and should try. This could be the value of productivity improvements driven by increased engagement or the avoided recruitment costs of improved retention.