This year, a special ACI EUROPE HR Excellence Award was created to recognise individuals who have demonstrated excellent leadership and human resources management. The recipient was Paula Stannett, Chief People Officer/HR Director, Heathrow Airport. She spoke to Marta Dimitrova.
Paula Stannett describes her 18-year career at Heathrow Airport as “diverse, challenging and fun”. She has progressed through the organisation, in both operationally-focused and Human Resources roles, helping develop the airport’s philosophy that staff engagement leads to increased levels of service, which in turn delivers business benefits.
Indeed, this was recognised at the ACI EUROPE Best Airport Awards in June, where Stannett won this year’s special ACI EUROPE HR Excellence Award for her demonstrated excellence in human resources and her leadership acumen. She was also honoured for investing heavily in increasing staff engagement to positively transform the workplace culture.
“This award is very important personally and to the business, as it is a recognition of the work we have been doing to make Heathrow a great place to work,” says Stannett. “This sense of community at ‘Team Heathrow’ has been with me during this time. I have also learnt that Heathrow is a people business, and where you have happy engaged colleagues you have better served passengers.”
The awards judges emphasised the focus of Heathrow’s ‘MOJO’ initiative on catering to employees’ needs and helping them fulfil their potential, while inspiring their peers to champion change and efficient service delivery.
“MOJO is our people priority, and our ambition is for Heathrow to be a great place to work,” Stannett explains. “We build our plan around a number of engagement factors, one of them being personal growth which is very important as we know that our people want careers rather than jobs. For example, we have not recruited externally for any Security Manager roles in the last four years, developing our own colleagues through transitional programmes to be ready to take on more senior positions.”
Heathrow focuses significantly on leadership and stimulates its managers to be true leaders through a number of signature programmes. These include authentic leadership, known as ‘purpose and values’; developing coaching capability through the ‘coaching to lead’ programme; and ‘leading for sustainable growth’, which supports delivery of the new sustainability strategy, ‘Heathrow 2.0’.
‘Continuous improvement methodology’
‘Making every journey better’ is the central Heathrow vision. “We teach all of our colleagues to plan and review, so that we are all focused on improving things for our customers and making every journey better,” Stannett comments. “We also have a front line ‘making every day better’ team, which uses continuous improvement methodology to solve every day operational problems.”
As part of its improvement strategy, the company is currently looking at how it can make Heathrow a more inclusive place to work. Stannett emphasises the importance of understanding the barriers that its employees experience in reaching their full potential. This is achieved by setting up networks in gender, ethnicity and cultures, age, disability and LGBT, as well as training managers to be inclusive leaders, as part of the ‘Leading for Sustainable Growth’ programme.
Looking ahead, Heathrow is striving to continue building the momentum of initiatives such as MOJO. “I am particularly excited about our plans for a more inclusive Heathrow, and implementing agile and flexible working and a digital workplace. It is important that we keep listening to our colleagues and ensuring that we are focusing on what is most needed to drive MOJO and engagement levels at Heathrow – making it a great place to work,” Stannett concludes.