Great results follow clear direction: Securing a Group Reward Director for Compass

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By Rachelle Peard. Published on 8 December 2016


Compass Group plc is a £19.9 billion turnover, global organisation and the world’s leading provider of food and support services. With operations across seven key business areas (Foodservice; Support Services; Business & Industry; Healthcare & Seniors; Education; Sports & Leisure; Defence, Offshore & Remote), Compass serves customers in offices and factories; schools and universities; hospitals and senior living communities; major sports and cultural venues; and remote mining camps and offshore platforms.

In 2016 Compass Group grew revenue by 5% (organic growth), with operating profit increasing 5.6% to £1.45 billion. The business is geographically split into three areas: North America (£11.2 billion revenue, £908 million profit); Europe (£5.45 billion revenue, £394m profit); Rest of the World (£3.12 billion revenue, £218m profit).


Search assignment: Group Reward Director

Client: Robin Mills, Group HR Director, Compass Group

Successful candidate: Lorna Benton

Eton Bridge Partners Project Team: Toby Burton, Partner & Charlotte Payne, Researcher


Compass review

By Robin Mills, HR Director, Compass Group

What was the situation?

RM: I was relatively new into the role of Group HR Director, and with my Group Reward Director moving on to pastures new, this was the first key senior hire for my team. Compass is a business of significant scale and complexity and culture fit is critical, especially when considering the breadth of executive interaction the Group Reward Director is involved with.

How did you select your Search Partner?

RM: I’ve used a wide variety of search firms over the years, but this was the first time I had personally needed to go to market to hire a Group Reward Director. I sought advice from my network, as well as the current incumbent and decided to consider three firms. These were a combination of more traditional, global firms and more specialist providers.

I decided to use Eton Bridge for several reasons; firstly they came recommended which is always a good starting point. It’s clear that Toby has a passion for Reward, especially as he chooses this as his sole specialism. I felt comfortable with both the quality of the relevant network they clearly possessed, and the level of enthusiasm and focus I was likely to receive. I was looking for a firm I knew would give me a transparent, hi-touch service and, bluntly, there is a lot of negativity about the quality of candidate experience generally in the market. Wanting to make sure Compass was well represented, I felt that Toby and Charlotte would be strong ambassadors for our brand.

The Search itself

RM: The process went well and from an early stage I was very comfortable with the regularity of contact. I had complete line of sight of all the management information and both Toby and Charlotte were on hand if I needed to catch up at short notice. There was a sense of openness, and that’s important to me.

The shortlisted candidates were clearly well briefed on the company, the role and agenda at hand. We had some really interesting options, a good range of candidates, both in terms of their quality and motivations to move. The main challenge was narrowing down a final candidate from what was a very strong shortlist.

Eton Bridge kept the process on track and added value through their personal insight and sense of the wider market. It’s not always easy getting the intuitive side of a search right and they showed the maturity required to evolve the search sensitively and efficiently.

The on-boarding process has been smooth and importantly neither side has had any surprises along the way!

Overall experience

RM: Ultimately, we managed to secure a great candidate in Lorna Benton. She is an individual with huge potential, terrific technical capability and is a first class cultural fit for the business. I was delighted with the hire, as was the senior leadership team.

“Going to a niche search player in the Reward market has added significant value, Toby knows his vertical inside out, and in Charlotte you have research capability that really delivers quality.

I’ve enjoyed working with the Eton Bridge team and I look forward to working with them again.”
Robin Mills, Group HR Director, Compass Group


Appointed Candidate Review

By Lorna Benton, now Group Reward Director, Compass Group

How would describe the initial experience and briefing at interview with Eton Bridge?

LB: Eton Bridge from the off was professional but in an immediately warm and approachable manner. Both Charlotte and Toby spent time both understanding me as well as ensuring I had a good appreciation of Compass Group and of the role. The brief was clear, the documentation provided professional and they clearly had a good understanding of reward and its various components.

Quality and level of communication from Eton Bridge

LB: Eton Bridge provides an extremely positive candidate experience and much better than my experience of many of their competitors. Eton Bridge contact you when they say they will, even if that is to explain that they do not have a full update. Every communication is professional and timely. They are high touch, personal, respectful and keep the process transparent. I felt that Toby represented me and as much as their client and so their ability to balance the needs and support of both parties is very well managed.

How did Eton Bridge manage expectations in terms or process and likely steps?

LB: Eton Bridge ensured that at every stage I understood the process and knew what to expect next. Prior to each stage, Toby contacted me to ensure I was fully briefed and followed up promptly after each meeting to exchange updates.

It was important for me to ensure that I made an informed decision and the right fit as well as the right role was key. I built up a high degree of trust with Eton Bridge and two months in I would say that that they were able to help me gain a true representation of Compass.

Your sense of Eton Bridge’s values and professionalism

LB: Eton Bridge has an approach which leads to a relationship of trust. I would expect professionalism, and they have a deep understanding of the brief, but they combine this with an honesty and friendliness which makes it a pleasure to deal with them.

How was your overall candidate experience?

“Eton Bridge have an expertise and specialist knowledge of the world of reward. They combine this with a strong corporate knowledge of their clients to ensure that as a candidate you have no surprises. When this is combined with respect, professionalism and honesty it ensures an overall great client experience.

I would have no hesitation in recommending them or in using their services with recruitments of my own in future.”
Lorna Benton, Group Reward Director