St. Modwen on HR outsourcing: why we outsourced our HR function

St. Modwen on HR outsourcing: why we outsourced our HR function

To achieve the best outcomes from human resources requires a two-step approach. Firstly, a strategic, high level plan on how HR processes will help achieve a business’ wider objectives is needed. Secondly, it requires an on-the-ground transactional team who are the faces of the department, who oversee the day-to-day operations and ensure employees receive a white glove service. However, if there’s any clink in the chain of this set up, or if an issue suddenly becomes complex, both teams often become entrenched together meaning the HR function is put on pause.

As we face a post-pandemic war on attracting and retaining talent, increases in salaries across all sectors, the prospect of a five-generational workforce by the end of the decade and a very sudden shift to hybrid working, the chance of this happening is becoming more likely. And this is all happening as teams continue trying to balance keeping people safe, enabling their working preferences and retaining the cultures they’ve worked hard to develop over the course of years.

HR professionals get into the industry because they’re interested in how people interact with one another; they thrive on the emotional connection between people working in teams and at different levels in an organisation. So, when things do get tough, it can be difficult to remove emotion from challenging decisions. To overcome this, more and more businesses are investing into outsourced HR functions to enable all people working within a business to focus on its progression and achieving its strategic objectives.  

Taking the HRO route

Such was the case with expert property developer, St. Modwen. Having already reached out to Morson to discuss outsourcing its recruitment, the vast learnings following the UK lockdown and enforced working from home led the company’s HR team to explore the option of outsourcing some of its function.

Becky Cund, head of HR operations & sustainable people projects at St. Modwen, said:

“Our business is always growing; we’re progressive, fast-paced and as well as regularly hiring new employees, we promote internally a lot, too. This puts a lot of reliance on the HR team to support our line managers with people management and we had continuity challenges if any of our small HR team were ill or on holiday.

“I’ve got experience of poorly managed outsourced HR, so I was tentative; I’ve seen it become very impersonal, and seen providers never establish connections with internal teams. However, peers have seen it work very well – it was all about finding the right partner.

“We looked into the several different options on the market, but there was always some fall down. Companies might offer employer relations support but wouldn’t do typical HR administration tasks like payroll and holiday requests. Or they could do those operational tasks but wouldn’t help manage our L&D plans or liaise with our third parties such as our legal team or fleet providers.

“We’d already been speaking to Morson about outsourcing our recruitment, so we just put the question to the team. And while it wasn’t an existing part of the business model, we were told the skills were available in-house to do it. We were open to hearing the pitch and what we received was head and shoulders above anything else we’d seen or heard. There was some serendipity around it all; if we hadn’t been discussing recruitment resourcing, the conversation might never have happened.”

HRO in practice

Katie Winstanley, group head of HR at Morson, said:

“It was clear from our first interaction that the values and intrinsic beliefs of our HR experts and the internal team at St. Modwen were very aligned. There’s always differences between every organisation, but our priority was ensuring that the employees within the business would feel no disruption in delivery; we needed to be fully embedded with a consistent presence and a persona that matched St. Modwen’s brand.”

Morson was appointed to oversee the employee life cycle, from beginning to end – from onboarding after recruitment, organising company cars and booking people onto the induction programme, to managing holiday requests, administering payroll and overseeing relationships with outside suppliers, including St. Modwen’s legal support and fleet operators. Morson has built a core St. Modwen team, which is permanently focused on St. Modwen for 80 per cent of the time. Team members work on site and if remote, communicate from a St. Modwen email address. They attend weekly catch-up meetings and are involved in the planning and development of operational improvements, as well as feeding into quarterly reviews for a truly seamless delivery.

Becky said:

“All of these activities have SLAs assigned, but when Morson applied for the work the KPIs weren’t included in the contract. It was suggested we agree SLAs in partnership over a period of time, which dispelled a lot of myths for me; I wasn’t tied down to a supplier’s idea of what good looks like, we did it together.”

“You can’t work any other way – our approach was sculpted around St. Modwen’s challenges and the solution is fit for purpose rather than off the shelf. Having a core team means we are always ‘on’, while they benefit from the beauty of outsourcing during peaks and troughs because we can apply additional resource whenever it’s needed. We’re truly unified, to the extent that some employees don’t even realise the team isn’t an in-house entity.”

Achieving more together

Melissa Hewitt, senior group HR advisor at Morson – who acts as the leading HR interface for St. Modwen – said:

“So much has been achieved in such a short space of time. Primarily, the implementation plan was an example of true collaboration; this wasn’t something St. Modwen had considered for long, and not something we had a team already dedicated to. But we worked together to agree on what was needed and everything went smoothly.

“We’ve developed dashboards which not only provide rich data to St. Modwen on the things the transactions their employees are completing with our team, but also demonstrates the difference in the number of transactions being completed right now compared to before our solution was in place. What it’s revealing is that these transactions did previously exist and were important, but they are now more efficiently managed. We’re also using a ticketing system to demonstrate that our SLAs are being met; so far, we’re achieving them 98 per cent; five months in, that’s an amazing place to be.

“Once we have a year of our own data under our belt, we’ll be able to spot trends, too. For example, we’ll be able to say, ‘you had a spike of enquiries about annual leave in January, so let’s allocate some resources there to create tutorials on how to book leave through the system quickly and easily’. It’s about pre-empting, being smarter while developing a personal relationship with St. Modwen’s employees just as if we were an in-house function. We want them to feel our team prioritises them, and when people are picking up the phone to me rather than their line manager for things like payroll requests, that shows it’s working as it should.”

A more valuable future

Which companies benefit most from outsourcing HR? There are a few key criteria.

Katie said:

“Outsourcing your HR is particularly effective if a company feels their in-house solution could achieve more. If employees could use their time more effectively, if senior leaders are focusing more on tactical operations than on strategic delivery and if SLAs aren’t being met, these are all indicators that something must change.

“We understand companies have reservations about outsourcing, but we would never take on something if we thought there was a chance we could fail. The HR service is often the beating heart of an organisation, and we want to get that right. In the case of St. Modwen, we enforced a three-month trial period of our HR solution ahead of instigating an end-to-end recruitment programme; we wanted to prove ourselves and that move is paying off for us and for them.”

Becky added:

“This is our foundation year; we’re getting everything in place to ensure the service works for our people. We’re seeing positive outcomes already which is way ahead of where we thought we would be. In three years’ time, we want the HR service from Morson to be entirely self-sufficient – for them to be so ingrained in our business that we’re constantly finding added value, using their knowledge and insight to improve our business.

“We have an ambitious people strategy, but outsourcing is helping us to achieve the trajectory we need to grow exponentially. Any company on a similar path should consider it. If you’re looking into it, go with the company that proves it’s done its research into your business, and be clear on what you want to achieve from the partnership from the outset.

“Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of the relationship. Morson is an extension of our team, and it’s felt like that since the very first interaction.”

If you would like to find out more about outsourced HR and explore how outsourcing your HR function can transform your organisation, get in touch with Morson Group Head of HR, Katie Winstanley, katie.winstanley@morson.com

SIA figures highlight Morson as the UK’s leader in engineering recruitment

SIA figures highlight Morson as the UK’s leader in engineering recruitment

​Morson Group has been named the largest and number one engineering recruitment firm in the UK in recently released figures. Morson also retained its position as the 7th largest staffing firm overall, with SIA valuing the UK staffing market at £30.9billion in 2020.

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) has shared its latest Largest Engineering Staffing Firms in the UK report, based on staffing revenue generated by the 12 largest engineering recruiters in the country, with Morson Group topping the table.

It defines ‘staffing revenue’ as revenue generated from the provision of temporary workers to business clients, as well as direct hires, permanent placements and from ‘temp to hire’.

As well as being a leader in engineering recruitment, Morson Group also retained its position as the 7th largest staffing firm overall, with SIA valuing the UK staffing market at £30.9billion in 2020.

According to the data, engineering staffing accounts for 24% of the total UK professional staffing market, with the segment only behind IT in terms of market size.

Revenue in the engineering segment of the UK staffing market decreased by 24% in the 12 months analysed [2020] to a value of £3.9billion, but despite this, Morson Group’s market share increased to 19%, from 16% in the 12 months prior, demonstrating its dominance in the sector, with its next nearest competitor accounting for 8% market share.


Ged Mason, CEO of Morson Group, said:

Though this has been a particularly difficult trading period for many, the Government giving important or critical engineering and construction sectors the green light to continue through the lockdowns enabled us to capitalise on what quickly became a candidate-driven market.

“Clients required niche and volume talent to deliver some of the largest infrastructure projects in the country, and we were able to source it using our extensive networks and our collection of innovative products and services, which have demonstrated to customers that we’re on the pulse of specialist industries such as nuclear, aviation and rail.

“The publishing of these figures from the SIA further strengthens our position as the leading talent solutions specialist in engineering, with our market share more than double our nearest counterpart. And as we look ahead to the next 12 months, we’ll remain a constant source of support and consultancy for clients seeking to add the very best skillsets to their teams.”


As the leader in engineering recruitment Morson exists to solve challenges. Each of our service lines has been purposefully developed in response to our client’s needs.

Visit our RPO and MSP pages to find out more about our recruitment offer, or, hear it from our customers…

About the SIA

SIA is the Global Advisor on Staffing and Workforce Solutions
Founded in 1989, Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) is the global advisor on staffing and workforce solutions. Our proprietary research covers all categories of employed and non-employed work including temporary staffing, independent contracting and other types of contingent labour. SIA’s independent and objective analysis provides insights into the services and suppliers operating in the workforce solutions ecosystem, including staffing firms, managed service providers, recruitment process outsourcers,
payrolling/compliance firms and talent acquisition technology specialists such as vendor management systems, online staffing platforms, crowdsourcing and online work services. We also provide training and accreditation with our unique Certified Contingent Workforce Professional (CCWP) program.


Known for our award-winning content, data, support tools, publications, executive conferences and events, we help both suppliers and buyers of workforce solutions make better-informed decisions that improve business results and minimize risk. As a division of the international business media company, Crain Communications Inc., SIA is headquartered in Mountain View, California, with offices in London, England.

Reactive recruitment won’t cut it in 2022 – you need a talent strategy

Reactive recruitment won’t cut it in 2022 – you need a talent strategy

The pandemic created a tidal wave of recruitment challenges that many had never prepared for before.

In many sectors, recruitment froze entirely because life was placed on pause. As a result, talent teams were furloughed or made redundant, while the teams left behind were handling rapid legislation changes. As they’ve scaled back up, it’s been a challenge to find suitable skillsets to fill the backlog of roles that have become re-available in other parts of the business.

While many industries experienced a downturn because of the lockdowns, in contrast, others – such as the e-commerce and digital sectors – were tremendously successful and capitalised on an influx of talent to their teams. However, recruiters who had previously been able to forecast spikes in hiring were suddenly faced with an overwhelming task to hire quickly enough to meet demand.

As we continue to feel the tidal wave of industry disruption caused by the pandemic, companies must become proactive with their hiring. Here are the signals you might see from your hiring team which suggest they need the support of a talent strategy and/or third-party specialist in 2022.

The need to recruit vs. lack of resource to recruit

The first thing to look for is a very obvious need to recruit, but a lack of ability to prioritise it; in short, your team is currently too overwhelmed to dedicate the time and resources required to fill your vacancies. Alternatively, candidates may be committing to a role with your company before suddenly taking a vacancy with a different employer; this tends to indicate the candidate is leveraging your business to create counter offers and suggests your recruitment process isn’t tightly controlled. Perhaps the candidate’s ambitions haven’t been understood, or they’re not being properly engaged with throughout the hiring journey.

You might already use recruitment agencies and notice your spending is through the roof, but you can’t quantify performance or results. Perhaps you’re inundated with CVs for a role, but none quite fit the bill; if this is the case, the agency isn’t working closely enough with your organisation to find the right skillsets and values to meet your culture and technical requirements. This might mean your projects become delayed, causing internal objectives and targets to be missed.

Where are the candidates?!

Since the pandemic – but also pre-Covid, from businesses, looking to source niche talent – our RPO team has been recognised for our ability to provide businesses with the insights and data required to source the most suitable candidates for a role, as well as our ability to embed within a business culture and employer brand proposition. Our services have been utilised to create a real point of difference in the hiring landscape and with great effect.

For example, as talent teams have fluctuated in capacity, we’ve worked on a project basis to supplement available resources. More companies have used our Digital Studio to enhance visibility in crowded, candidate-led markets. We’re being appointed to support workforce planning, ensuring teams are better prepared for spikes in demand so they can talent pool in advance, rather than in reaction to a surge. We’re overhauling onboarding journeys to create positive, personal experiences that are more reflective of the brands we represent.

With such a candidate-led market on our hands, we anticipate that in the coming months we’ll witness the highest ever level of resignations; it’s the first time in a long time the country has felt quietly confident enough to move jobs. This, along with the demand for flexible working, the move out of the furlough scheme and people using up masses of saved up holidays will put a huge strain on talent teams once again. If they reach burnout, a domino effect will be created whereby operating teams may be left completely under-resourced for months on end.

Is an RPO the solution?

Internal recruiters are the gateway to any business, in the privileged position of bringing people into a company that will lead to its future success. But if you envisage this type of tipping point taking place within your business, act now and begin to take steps to rectify the issue before it manifests and takes hold. Such a conversation can be challenging to have but it’s for the good of your business. Allow an outsourced provider to manage the more complex, talent strategy challenges, while your internal team might be allocated to high volume roles that they have vast experience in filling. An RPO can help you fill a set of specialist vacancies that might not yet be associated with your business, help your brand stand out in a noisy market, or leverage a bespoke platform to source from a wider talent pool than is available to your in-house recruiters.

Much better than that, they’ll get to know your business inside and out, developing an understanding and awareness of your culture, vision and objectives to the extent they’ll perform just like an internal team member, but with certain advantages over your competition. In time, they’ll become indispensable and a crucial part in delivering an effective talent strategy.

With 50 years’ experience helping clients with operations around the world to navigate their recruitment challenges and refine their talent strategy, in 2021 we launched RPOne to the market.

It’s a transformation of the traditional RPO model, offering a more agile, custom-fit solution to organisations of all sizes that wish to make their talent ambitions a reality and gain a competitive edge within their industry.

To find out more about our specialist RPO offer, click here.

Over 55s – the great debate on this untapped talent pool

Over 55s – the great debate on this untapped talent pool

While businesses have spent years trying to perfect their ED&I strategy to bring people of all genders, ethnicities and abilities into the workforce, new research demonstrates one major demographic may have been absent from the conversation.

APSCo OutSource Strategic Partner, 55/Redefined, has issued a new report to market which reveals there are hordes of people over the age of 55 exiting the workforce earlier than they feel ready to because they don’t feel there are enough opportunities available to them.

The figures show that the number of people aged 65 and over will increase by more than 40 per cent in the next 20 years but that by 2050, the working-age population will have actually shrunk by between 21-28 per cent, creating a shortfall of more than 50 million workers. That’s despite people aged between 55 and 75 saying that, on average, they feel between 18 and 20 years younger than their age, and 45 per cent of people aged 55 and over saying they don’t believe they can afford to retire at 65.

The longer this disconnect continues to manifest, the more likely we are to see ageism become a major downfall in ED&I strategies currently in place in businesses around the world, and – worse still – the skills shortage emerging in young people will be mirrored at the top of the age scale.

Our role as outsourced recruiters is to educate the market on the ways in which over 55s talent provide enormous value to businesses looking to fill vacancies, and advise on the strategies they can implement to ensure they’re not missing out on a wealth of eager, relevant talent.

Shut out

The data from 55/Redefined shows:

  • 56 per cent of employees want to continue to work beyond the age of 65, but 65 per cent of employers encourage retirement at the legal retirement age or before
  • 65 per cent of people think no point applying for jobs after 55, assuming the jobs market is closed off to them
  • Employers said health and illness (37 per cent) and lack of energy (21 per cent), would put them off hiring over 55s talent…
  • …despite over 55s proving to be 200 per cent less likely to take a day off sick

Legislation brought in several years ago to anonymise dates of birth on CVs and job applications makes it harder to specifically target an older demographic and turn these stats on their head. As a result, great talent is being missed when companies are hiring en masse.

Instead, we should start to look at behavioural based criteria and psychometrics to remove the bias around qualifications and tenure, to better facilitate people to switch between industries, and enable people without a career at all – such as mums who gave up their careers to raise children – to get a job in a field they’re passionate about.

Bringing in older workers also presents an opportunity to inspire a less experienced workforce and identify future leadership potential. People who’ve spent many years in business know what makes a loyal, reliable employee and they’ll be able to spot it quickly if given the chance to mentor younger people.

Forced out

Figures also reveal:

  • A quarter of people in employment fear they will be forced to retire before they want to
  • This figure increases to 35 per cent when looking at over 55s talent who are currently unemployed
  • Three in four people will run out of money in retirement
  • Over 55s have overtaken every age group in terms of spending online
  • 89 per cent of over 55s talent would take a pay drop in salary to retrain in a new role or industry
  • 42 per cent of retirees think roles need to be more appealing and suitable to their changed needs after retirement
  • Only a quarter of HR leaders aged 25-30 said they would be willing to retrain or reskill 55–75-year-olds, compared to 44 per cent of HR leaders aged 46-50

In short, this means not enabling older workers to continue working – and many told 55/Redefined they want to continue working until they’re 80 years old – will be hugely damaging to the future economy. If they’re not employed and therefore can’t afford to spend, several industries will collapse.

As such, employers need to be encouraged to open conversations with their older workers and grant them the choice to continue working into their later years. There’s no legal age a person can retire, and taking the statutory route isn’t always what’s most effective for a person’s wellbeing.

Then, we must find more creative ways of marketing jobs to a demographic that – even though still keen to work – don’t necessarily have to. With retirement pots and pension funds, working in older years becomes a choice, not a necessity, so job adverts must make the prospect appealing enough for people over 55 to join a company and help it thrive.

This might mean creating job shares, offering healthcare benefits or providing a training programme to help them reskill. It might also mean providing an education to the candidate themselves on how to develop a CV – given it’ll be years since they last applied for a job – and helping them understand the fast pace of recruitment, and why they shouldn’t go for the very first job that becomes available.

None of this will be an overnight solution to the problem facing over 55s talent set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, or for the people already out of employment who want to re-enter. It will take time to overcome the deep-rooted issues associated with older workers and transform how they’re perceived by a jobs market that inherently champions the young.

Our priority as outsourced recruiters is ensuring that every single candidate – regardless of their individual make up – is given a fair opportunity to access work, should they want to. In the meantime, employers can also do their bit to make older workers feel valued should they apply for jobs – doing so might see them fill some of the vast numbers of vacancies currently available across in-demand sectors, that could just learn a thing or two from an experienced pair of hands.

We’ve helped our clients navigate the challenges of talent acquisition for over 50 years. Our door is always open, get in touch at hello@morson.com or find out more about how we can support your ambitions with our EDI consultancy service.

Morson named as a finalist in the British Ex-Forces in Business Awards

Morson named as a finalist in the British Ex-Forces in Business Awards

​Morson Forces, our dedicated ex-forces recruitment division, has been recognised twice in the British Ex-Forces in Business Awards!

The British Ex-Forces in Business Awards are the world’s largest celebration of military veterans in second careers. The prestigious annual programme event uncovers the achievements of ex-military personnel, presenting them as important role models for current and future service leaders.

The awards highlight the military-gained skills and values that have helped enable their second career success and recognise the organisations that have supported them. Over 600 nominations were received in 2021, a record number.

Morson is shortlisted in the categories of Military Values in Business and Ex-Forces Initiative of the Year.

Pat McMullan: British Ex-Forces in Business Awards, Military Values in Business

The Military Values in Business Award recognises a former serviceman or woman, or a military partner, who has created successful business results and advanced their career by exhibiting and applying military virtues and values to their role and activities. 

Judges look for specific examples of how military values and ethos, honed during the applicant’s time in the armed forces or as a military partner, were deployed in business scenarios to strong effect, generating results that were tangible for the organisation or praised and recognised by others for the positive effect they had.

Pat McMullan joined the RAF in 1978 in a personnel/HR role, overseeing a variety of services including junior administration across a range of airbases including RAF Marham and RAF High Wycombe, and spent 11 years working in Germany. 

Since 2013, Pat McMullan has been the driving force behind Morson’s ability to channel ex-military personnel into new roles that benefit from the attributes and values they learned during their time in service. His role in this has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of retired service people, start a new chapter of their lives.

Furthermore, Pat has been influential in developing Morson’s reputation as the key recruitment group able to support ex-military personnel in this way. He’s achieved this through his ongoing commitment to developing partnerships with military organisations that share his passion for ensuring the key skills ex-armed forces people possess continue to be honed and developed once they have left their post.

Pat’s own military background feeds directly into our Group-wide purpose to support ex-military personnel into roles within the sectors we specialise. Many of our clients work in the aerospace, marine and nuclear industries, others are in manufacturing, engineering and construction; all require specialist and niche skillsets that come naturally to many ex-armed forces individuals, which any recruiter should be able to identify. However, they also require a certain set of values that a civilian recruiter with no military experience would find harder to spot. It’s here where Pat excels; able to perfectly understand the intricate challenges of a client working in the aerospace or marine sectors, Pat is able to identify fit-for-purpose candidates that can seamlessly slot into a business needing to scale up at pace, with the relevant experience.  

Pat has forged a series of strategic relationships on Morson’s behalf to ensure we‘re positioned as the leading recruiter of ex-military personnel, including with the Careers Transition Partnership (CTP).

Formerly contracted with the armed forces to transition ex-military individuals back into employment, we now work closely with the CTP, supporting their recruitment events to encourage people to consider alternative roles after they have left post. Through his development and nurturing of the partnership, Pat has been integral to us being awarded Official Employer Status with the CTP, meaning we now career manage ex-forces individuals into employment for our various clients.

In 2017, Morson was also among the winners of the Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold Award, the Ministry of Defence’s highest badge of honour for organisations that have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and demonstrated outstanding support for those who serve and have served.

It would be impossible to ignore the contribution Pat has made to our business in his role. Consistently exhibiting and applying military virtues and values to his role and activities, he is an example to other ex-service personnel of how with dedication for working life and with a passion to help others, a military career can lead to great things away from the forces.  

Find out more about Morson Forces here