Sustaining the right culture

William Hill, and the wider gambling sector, is experiencing a period of unprecedented change as our landscape is redefined by regulatory developments, consumer trends such as the adoption of mobile gambling and evolving societal expectations of gambling companies.

As we build William Hill into a digitally led, internationally diverse business, the Board and the Executive team aim to sustain the right culture to deliver our purpose. This is underpinned by the values we set in 2017 and the leadership ‘vitals’ that outline the behaviours we expect of our leaders through this period of change.

The values are now well established and embedded across the Group. In our latest colleague survey, our KPIs of engagement, enablement and empowerment all improved between 3 and 5 percentage points, and we saw improvements or the same score across 31 of the 36 areas we consistently track. Scores for all five questions that relate to drivers of engagement also improved. We are also encouraged to see a second substantial year-on-year increase in the number of colleagues who believe we are a responsible company. We include a sustainability and compliance measure into all of our leader’s bonus plans to reinforce our commitment to sustaining the right culture of responsibility.

Our culture

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Managing change

2019 was a year of transition, as we reshaped and integrated different parts of the business.

Remodelling Retail

The Retail team were faced with remodelling the business in response to the new £2 stake limit and managing the closure of nearly a third of our betting shops. This complex and far-reaching change demanded effective engagement with a range of stakeholders, particularly colleagues. Our decision to close all 713 affected shops in one go was driven by the desire to give colleagues much needed clarity and certainty as soon as possible. We ensured the overall process was transparent and effective through a meaningful consultation process, at all levels, which included constructive representation from the Retail Colleague Forum, and dedicated communications channels, which attracted high levels of engagement.

Of our c12,000 Retail colleagues, c4,500 were put at risk of redundancy. A fair and transparent selection process, in addition to management of our vacancies, enabled us to redeploy c60% of impacted colleagues elsewhere in Retail.

Creating Online International

Strategically, we are now more focused on developing our digital international markets, which offer faster growth opportunities. To support this, we restructured our existing Online business, splitting it into Online UK in Gibraltar and Online International in Malta, integrating and building out from the Malta hub acquired with Mr Green. We have successfully integrated Mr Green’s processes and systems with William Hill’s, and transitioned Online’s existing International business to Malta. In November, we introduced William Hill’s values and vitals to the Malta and Stockholm teams, which have been well received.

Building the US business

In the US, the state-by-state expansion presents huge opportunities for growth but are also demanding unprecedented change within our business. The team has had to move swiftly to scale up and enhance our capabilities in order to take wagers in nine states, to build a new bespoke technology platform and launch a competitive mobile offering. A key part of this has been the creation of a digital office in New Jersey, while simultaneously growing our presence in Las Vegas. The leadership team have focused on engaging and sustaining the talented people we attract and establishing a consistent culture from the outset.

Encouraging well-being

Health and well-being is a strong focus across the Group. We held Mental Well-being Month in May, opening conversations about mental health with colleagues. We are working with the Alzheimer’s Society to become the leading Dementia Friendly business in our industry, helping those with dementia to sustain their normal activities for as long as possible, such as visiting their local betting shop, while minimising at-risk behaviours.

New apps, Unmind and Nudge, help colleagues to think about their own mental health and financial well-being, and a dedicated hub on our colleague website provides a wealth of other resources. We are encouraging a more supportive work environment through improvements to our policies on maternity and paternity leave and flexible working.

Increasing diversity

We are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, believing this makes us a stronger business and a more attractive employer. We have improved across all our diversity KPIs during the year and are on target for our 2020 goals.

We set the tone from the top by fostering diversity in our Board and leadership teams. Women made up 30% of the Executive Committee and 37.5% of Board Directors at the year-end.

Furthermore, having joined the 30% Club in 2017, we hit our target for women within our wider leadership population (below Executive Committee). Not only that, and as shown on page 44 which summarises our gender pay progress, women now also represent 29% of our senior management population as at the mandatory gender pay reporting date of 5 April 2019 (up from 22% in 2018). Women represented 52% of all colleagues as at the same date.

Our Executive team all have specific goals to drive improvements within their functions. We introduced a new mandatory training programme for people managers in 2019 on how to avoid unconscious bias in hiring. We continue to run our Women in Leadership, Women of William Hill and Women in Tech initiatives to support women who want to progress within our business, and 34 colleagues are participating in the 30% Club’s cross-company mentoring programme.

The recent appointments of Jane Hanson, Lynne Weedall and Gordon Wilson have also broadened and deepened the experience around the Board table, bringing additional insight into technology, reputation management and stakeholder engagement, regulated industries, the US market, transformation and change management, and M&A.

Developing our people

Developing talent internally is key to our sustainability, particularly as external negativity around gambling can make recruitment a challenge. Our talent strategy, launched in April 2018, is outlined on our corporate website.

In 2019, we added a new dimension: lived experience of problem gambling. We believe it is important that our leadership experiences for themselves how problem gambling affects people to attune them to being part of the solution. Our ‘Rising Stars’, 24 colleagues from the UK and European operations, took part in a new nine-month programme. This included a project partnering with four of the UK’s leading problem gambling support charities to identify solutions to strategic issues they were facing. Our ‘Legacy’ programme paired eight senior leaders with people living with the effects of problem gambling in 1 to 1 coaching and personal development sessions.

We have also partnered with social enterprise organisations and charities to develop new training for front line colleagues that draws on lived experience, to help them feel confident about how to engage with customers we are concerned about.