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HR Excellence Awards 2010: Most Innovative Use of Technology - Winner: British Gas

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It is an initiative that could change the way people view British Gas. This is how the judges summed up this entry. "It is innovative, engaging, it meets its goals and has good links back to the business," they added.

The initiative in question was the British Gas Journey onboarding site. Its immediate aim was to engage new staff, make sure they understood their role and the benefits available to them and help them feel positive about working for the company. The longer-term goals included: retaining staff for longer; reducing training time and retraining costs; reduced attrition; and lower levels of absence.

The microsite features a virtual village that can be explored with a personalised avatar. When a new employee is informed they will be joining the company, they are sent access to the site before their start date. When they log on they are given a personalised welcome message. Next they are invited to customise their avatar which guides them through the site to explore various buildings. Each building has a different function that explains the company's values, their new role, what to expect on day one, salary and benefits, training and opportunities, employee benefits and discounts

The site was developed as part of a recruitment strategy that included the launch of the British Gas Jobs website in 2008.

The microsite was used in its first significant recruitment drive at the start of this year.

Feedback from managers and employees has been very positive. Individuals are logging on to the site about 13 times a month. The energy sales consultants team have experienced major benefits. Before the site started in September 2009, training absences averaged 17%, at a cost of £1,400 each. After implementation attendance rose to 100%, remaining consistent over a 10-week period.

The microsite started as a trial in Cardiff but was quickly adopted by other parts of the business and could now be extended across the Centrica Group. Its potential for worldwide application was another aspect that made it a winner in the judges' eyes.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: IBM

When IBM relaunched IBM Rewards, its staff discount shopping facility in 2009, the goal was to increase employee engagement. In addition to new products, the new website had a more employee-focused interface. Another innovation was the IBM Rewards Twitter Group - where daily tweets publicise new or changed benefits. The judges were impressed by the results. In January 2009, 56% of staff used IBM Rewards; by the end of December it was 78%. In a survey of users in December, 86% rated the scheme good, very good or excellent; and 75% felt 'more positive' about IBM as an employer.

FINALIST

Microsoft

Royal Free NHS Trust

Sainsbury's