UKTV Masterclass

UKTV is the first TV broadcaster to achieve a Best Companies One Star for staff engagement, so it’s no surprise that the company’s Masterclass had a strong focus on people.

Even if you aren’t familiar with UKTV, you will be aware of the television company’s brands. A joint venture between BBC Worldwide and Scripps Networks Interactive Inc., UKTV’s channels include Dave, Gold, Drama and Really – all familiar to satellite, cable and Freeview viewers.

The company has a reputation both for the acquisition and rebroadcasting of well-loved programmes, as well as innovative commissioning. Earlier this year, UKTV hosted a Breakthrough Masterclass, with a special focus on recruiting, retaining, developing and, above all, motivating staff in a company with strong corporate values.

Breakthrough Masterclasses provide an opportunity for ambitious SMEs to learn from businesses that have established themselves as leaders in their field. Some Masterclasses – such as those hosted by Google and McClaren – give advice and insights into operational matters. Others focus on just one major topic, such as Intellectual Property.

UKTV’s focus on people and values reflected the company’s belief in the importance of engaging the workforce. “We had a tremendous year last year when we were the fastest growing commercial TV network in the UK,” says UKTV HR Business Partner Della Hirons (pictured below). “But you are only as good as the people you have got working for you, and we feel that by engaging creatively with our staff, we are encouraging them to give that little bit extra.”

The structure of the day

The Masterclass began with a presentation by CEO Darren Childs, who provided an overview of the business, an outline of his approach to building the audience and insights into the importance of values and culture in an organisation. Della then spoke at length on people development and staff engagement. Next was Senior Commissioning Editor Richard Watsham, who spoke about UKTV’s approach to commissioning programmes from third-party producers. Chief Financial Officer Jan Gooze-Zijl concluded with a talk on UKTV’s financial success and its new approach to recruitment, which was inspired by his experience at a previous Masterclass.

UKTV’s decision to devote much of the day to people was deliberate. Having spent the past two years making engagement its priority, the company is proud to be the only TV broadcaster recognised with a One Star from employee engagement consultancy Best Companies. “We did our first Best Companies survey in summer 2011,” says Della. “It’s a survey which measures eight key factors for staff engagement.” These factors are:

•    Management
•    Leadership
•    Engagement with the company and its values
•    Personal growth, i.e. learning and development opportunities
•    Team dynamics
•    CSR policies
•    Pay and reward
•    Commitment of the organisation to wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance.

UKTV used the structure of the Best Companies survey to focus its efforts on improving its policies and practices in all these areas. It’s an initiative that has helped make the company a great place to work.

The commitment to engagement is even reflected in the physical shape of UKTV’s office, with all 200 staff working in an open-plan space that encourages teamwork and interaction. Company values and culture are underlined by posters and notices. “We make sure that the values are very visible,” says Della.
UKTV's company values

But there is a lot going on under the hood. In many workplaces, a first promotion would be to that of line manager, a step up that can come with little training or preparation for what can a challenging role. But this isn’t the case at UKTV. “Our Management Academy is aimed at newly appointed line managers,” says Della. “Ten of them take part in a 12-month training programme that follows them through the annual business cycle. For instance, we’ll give them training on appraisals ahead of that point in the cycle, so they feel fully equipped to undertake these effectively.”

Networking is encouraged, too, both within the context of the working day and via extra-curricular activities including sport and a company choir. Staff are also encouraged to take part in CSR projects. Reward and recognition is another important part of the mix, with UKTV finding innovative ways to publicly recognise those people who’ve gone the extra mile.

The delegates' view

The company’s approach to its people was of huge interest to those attending the Masterclass. Simon Chapman, founder of engineering services company, Mace Midlands, says UKTV’s approach to HR was directly relevant to his own company. “I’m always interested to visit other companies and see how they operate, and in the case of UKTV it was really interesting to hear about how they recruit the right people, how they create a culture of trust and honesty, and how they set about ensuring that they communicate and implement their values consistently.”

Chris Day (pictured above), Director of mobile website and app design agency, Daymedia, was equally impressed. “The CEO talked a lot about the culture of the business and explained it really well,” he says. “In particular, he stressed the importance of putting the right culture in place right from the beginning, and his presentation also underlined the importance of making sure the people working for you are happy.”

Chris says this last point is particularly relevant to companies such as his own that are seeking to retain talented staff in a competitive jobs market. “If you get the culture right, people are less likely to move on,” he adds.

For his part, Simon left the event feeling that he could adapt some of UKTV’s approach to people management and development to his own business, a company that employs multi-skilled engineers on jobs ranging from air conditioning systems to security solutions and renewable energy installations. “I came away feeling it was important to convey to my team exactly what our culture is, while also remembering the importance of maintaining a great working environment, and treating our staff as we treat our customers – which is excellently,” he says. 


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