Michelin Stars, Man United and HR strategy at the heart of sport…

Published: 7 March 2014

Fabulous food, a great venue coupled with an interesting guest speaker – last night, Wednesday 5th March – Berwick Partners, Odgers Berndtson and PwC jointly hosted the great and the good of the North West business community. We enjoyed a delightful five course tasting menu created by the Michelin starred chef Simon Rogan who is now responsible for an inspiring menu at the Midland Hotel in Manchester.

Our guest speaker was David Gill, who until mid-2013 had been the Chief Executive of Manchester United Football Club. He started his presentation with a three minute video showing the successes of the last 15 seasons, his time with the club.

Gill is a finance man by profession and a qualified chartered accountant. I expected him to talk about the financials, the commercials and the growth that this great (and yes I am a red!) Manchester club has enjoyed during his tenure; but interestingly he started with the people agenda. Employee welfare, staff turnover, training and development, vision and values, culture, reward and recognition, the global market for talent and implementing performance plans - even for players - were all in there.

What struck me most is that whilst the attraction of good staff did not create sleepless nights for this CEO – although retaining good players with their current results could become a challenge – this is, just like any other business with 800 employees and more than £400million turnover, an organisation that absolutely does understand the explicit connection, between an engaged employee workforce, exceptional ‘customer service’ and strong financial performance.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting for one minute that the success of Manchester United is down to their well thought out and commercial HR strategy – but I can’t help but think that it has had an impact on the ethos of this globally respected brand.

Debbie Sutton is a Partner, Head of the HR Practice at Berwick Partners and a lifelong Manchester United fan!

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