HR Excellence Awards 2009: Most Successful Change Management Project - Bupa International

Four years ago Bupa International was a relatively small branch of the health insurance business, based in Brighton and home to 350 employees.

But the organisation virtually tripled overnight when it acquired two rivals, in Copenhagen and Miami, expanding its workforce to 1,200 people in 13 locations. In 2006 the company appointed its first HR director, and the journey to align business and people began.

Called 'our journey of self discovery', the vision was to create an autonomous leadership community comprising independent thinkers. Bupa International wanted to build an HR function that would drive long-term business change and help to overcome significant organisational challenges, particularly as the leadership team had little experience of learning and change initiatives.

A leadership forum was created, ensuring accountability, clarity of business direction and mature behaviour. Individual and team coaching, events and modular programmes were introduced to help leaders learn new skills.

The result is that the business is losing some of its inherent conservatism and tackling issues in new ways. Last year, when the whole Bupa group was restructured, this flexible approach to problem-solving enabled Bupa International to realign itself smoothly.

Customer care, career development and financial performance have all improved. Bupa says: "Our business is a bit like a teenager; it is deciding what it wants to be as it grows up."

Judges' comments

Judges loved Bupa International's recognition of life as a journey. As well as the way Bupa dealt with challenges, and the strong supporting evidence, they were particularly impressed with its behavioural change - "something in short supply at the moment," said one.


Back in 2004 Safestore acquired larger company Mentmore Spaces to create the biggest self-storage company in the UK. This year its ambitious five year vision was delivered, including increasing the average rate growth of Mentmore stores by 25%, winning the hearts and minds of Mentmore staff and creating one, unified team and culture. Judges were impressed with the clear targets and data proving they had been met. "There is a sense of realness with this, it is driven by HR and people. When you take on a larger organisation it is easy to become the biggest but not to become the best," they said.


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