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The world of bookmaking is changing and becoming more hi-tech and modern. In doing so it is attracting a different type of customer and employee. “It’s becoming more accessible to people, more part of the leisure industry and experience and more of a younger person’s experience,” says Marcella Meechan, Group Head of HR at William Hill. ”They can bet on their ipads or on apps on their mobiles. It’s become more of a service-driven industry. It’s all about the customer experience.”
And if the customers are changing the employees need to reflect that, says Marcella. “We want a balanced workforce and to attract the best people.”
William Hill has recently won the FTSE 250 award in the inaugural Financial Mail on Sunday’s Breaking the Mould awards, held in association with the 30% Club – a group committed to getting more women into boardrooms. The awards were set up to celebrate those companies doing the most to create a pipeline of female leaders of the future. Marcella, herself a mother of three, says that William Hill recognises that it makes business sense to encourage women’s career development.
The company has two programmes aimed at career progression – one is the Springboard development course for junior female managers which provides positive role models for women and aims to inspire them to rise up the career laddder. The other is Different Perspectives which allows women and men to share their experiences and aims to inspire women to develop their career.
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“Sharing experiences can help motivate people to do something about it,” she says. “It’s not exclusive or about positive discrimination and there is a lot women can learn from how men behave in the workplace,” she says. That includes an awareness of a person’s impact when they walk into a room and how they make their voice heard. “The focus is on what makes us different as well as what makes us the same in the workplace. We want to be inclusive and give people aspiration. It’s about personal development. Sometimes all that is needed is a push.”
The CEO and group HR director , both men, have taken part and Marcella says it is “very important” that there is senior leadership support for such initiatives. “Our CEO is particularly encouraging,” she says.
William Hill plc has 32 senior women executives, many of whom act as mentors, and two female non executive directors on its board which Marcella says is “quite unique” in the industry. “We wanted to have as many different kinds of voices reflected,” she says.
Half of the company’s workforce are women. Half of these work part time, most in William Hill’s 2,300 shops which are open late and accommodate flexible shifts. The part-time workers include managers. One, who was named Racing Post shop manager of the year, does a job share. Part-timers get the same access as full timers to training.
Marcella says the company tries to recognise that people may have different stages in their careers and may have times when their focus is more on their families.
In addition to the 12,000 UK shop staff, many employees work in offices around the world on IT, marketing and trading. There are two main offices in the UK – in London and Leeds – and outlets around the world, from the US to Tel Aviv. An office is just about to open in Australia.
“The ethos is the same wherever we are. We treat people as adults and we recognise that they have a life outside work,” says Marcella. “We know that if we do that we will be repaid ten-fold by our staff.”
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