When Nigel Sullivan became TalkTalk’s group HR director in 2010, he joined a team in turmoil. The telecommunications giant had just bought out rival internet provider Tiscali, inheriting customer service problems that culminated in Ofcom issuing a £3 million fine to TalkTalk for incorrect billing of thousands of customers. Simultaneously, TalkTalk demerged from parent company Carphone Warehouse, becoming a plc in its own right.
Over the past six years, Sullivan has led a harmonisation programme to “create one TalkTalk”, simplifying 21 different employment contracts into three and implementing an HR data system that keeps employee information updated and accessible. He has made the organisation leaner and fitter, reducing employee numbers by half, while seeing the company’s value triple from £1 billion to £3 billion.
Innovating in talent retention has been key. Statistics showed that only 30% of promotions were made internally, so Sullivan asked TalkTalk’s recruitment process outsourcing provider to incentivise internal promotion and external hires equally – an unusual move “that has had a real impact”.
The net result of Sullivan’s hard work? A 20% growth in internal promotions, an 11% decrease in voluntary turnover, an engagement score that has improved by a third in three years, and a culture he describes as “good, but not great yet”.