Internal customers at work

Parkdean Holidays has grown from one park in 1999 to owning and operating 20 across the UK, with a workforce at the height of the season of around 2,400 people.

Parkdean Holidays has grown from one park in 1999 to owning and operating 20 across the UK, with a workforce at the height of the season of around 2,400 people.

In our regular focus on the winners of the North-East Business Awards 2006 James Barton looks at the thriving North-East Business Award 2006 Learning, Training and Skills winner.

Parkdean Holidays is a business that has learned to cope with huge seasonal fluctuations in its workforce without compromising on the quality of the training of its staff.

The Newcastle-based park operator has a season that starts in March and reaches a peak of 2,400 staff over the summer months, which then return to a base of 456 full-time workers over the Christmas period.

Phil Richardson, human resources manager for Parkdean, says: "It is not as dramatic as it sounds, we are well aware that numbers must increase over the summer and decrease again out of season. We are able to plan recruitment drives well in advance."

But Parkdean is very keen to maintain the highest employment standards.

"We do have a commitment to training within this organisation based around three key areas," she says.

"Firstly, we concentrate a lot of training and development within the contact centre in Gosforth that employs 71 staff."

The contact centre not only deals with those looking to book holidays, but also gets involved with caravan sales for those looking to have a permanent presence on one of the parks.

Parkdean now owns 11 parks in the South-West of England, six in Scotland, two in South Wales and one in Norfolk.

Richardson says: "As a second measure we have a great deal of supervisor and management development programmes tailored specifically for Parkdean, like the Institute of Leadership and Management [ILM] programmes."

This is an intensive programme of study run for different levels of supervisors and managers over two years with up to 12 modules.

Richardson says: "We have external trainers from the ILM and it is run for large numbers of our staff right across the business.

"As a third measure we have devised an induction programme which we launched before the start of the season in February where we produce a pack and introduce people to the business in a highly structured way. The benefits of this shows in its delivery," she explains. Despite the temporary nature of the roles Parkdean is meticulous about its staff understanding what is expected of them.

"It is really fundamental to the business that people who are in a management position understand that they are responsible for the development of the people who report to them," she says.

"It isn't a chosen few that these systems are in place for, everyone benefits, with us constantly analysing training needs and assessing where we can develop and improve."

Parkdean provides all the information that a new employee might need. Organisational structures are provided for the park they will work at, which can be hugely diverse, with parks like Warmwell in Devon having ski slopes and the largest operation, Trecco Bay in South Wales, employing as many as 190 staff.

Richardson says: "Delivering to the customer is also critical and we rely on a combination of exercises and coaching sessions to instill how our employees deliver customer service.

"But we take it further than this and consider people that work for us as internal customers so that employees dealing with our corporate functions, such as finance, marketing and human resources, [all based in Gosforth] are treated in exactly the same way a customer staying at one of our parks would be."

Health and safety is another issue taken seriously by Parkdean.

"We operate a large number of swimming pools in our parks and obviously we have lifeguards for whom health and safety is a major issue.

"However a thorough health and safety training session is required to be undertaken by all our employees."

The same applies for food hygiene, most parks in the Parkdean portfolio have a catering facility.

"Everyone in the business undertakes a food hygiene course so they appreciate what staff at the sharp end of this service have to work with."

The company is also very proud of its record on upward mobility, with John Waterworth, the chief executive, leading by example. After starting work at one of the company's parks, Tummel Valley in Scotland, he chose a career in the leisure industry and eventually rose to his current elevated rank.

Richardson says: "If people are motivated and also prepared to move around, then they can become successful managers with us. We are a young business and are always looking to grow."

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The North-East Business Awards 2006

All our winners

Company of the Year - sponsored by One NorthEast
Winner: Wellstream International, Newcastle
Runner-up: Brulines, Stockton
Runner-up: Frank Haslam Milan, Sunderland

Small Business - sponsored by Business Link North-East
Winner: Raytec, Ashington, Northumberland
Runner-up: RS Industrial Services, Billingham
Runner-up: Induction Pipe Bending, Sunderland

Innovation - sponsored by HSBC
Winner: Citrox, Middlesbrough
Runner-up: Jade Care International, Blaydon, Gateshead
Runner-up: MJS Claims, Stabley, County Durham

Technology - sponsored GFI Consulting International
Winner: i4u, Newcastle
Runner-up: Sayu, Stokesley
Runner-up: Bede X-ray Metrology, Durham

Internet & ICT - sponsored by Durham Net
Winner: SDLT.co.uk
Runner-up: Cooks and Kitchen Kitchenware, Darlington
Runner-up: CASK Media, Sunderland

Manufacturing - sponsored by EEF
Winner: Responsive Engineering Group, Gateshead
Runner-up: E&F Composites, Hartlepool
Runner-up: Induction Pipe Bending, Sunderland

Environment - sponsored by Northumbrian Water
Winner: 3M UK, County Durham
Runner-up: Aesica Pharmaceuticals, Cramlington, Northumberland
Runner-up: Premier Waste Management, Aykley Heads, Durham

Corporate Social Responsibility - sponsored by Northern Rock
Winner: Akzo Nobel, Felling, Gateshead
Runner-up: Huntsman Polyurethanes, Redcar, Cleveland
Runner-up: Frank Haslam Milan, Sunderland

Learning, Training & Skills - sponsored by Train to Gain
Winner: Parkdean Holidays, Newcastle
Runner-up: AMEC Group, Darlington, County Durham
Runner-up: Esh Group, Bowburn, Durham

Export - sponsored by UK Trade & Investment
Winner: Gate 7, Gateshead
Runner-up: Cleveland Cascades, Thornaby, Stockton on Tees
Runner-up: Stephenson Gobin, Bishop Auckland, County Durham

Services - sponsored by Sunderland City Council
Winner RS Industrial Services, Billingham
Runner-up: Croft Technology, Newcastle
Runner-up: MJS Claims, Stabley, County Durham

Cultural & Creative Business - sponsored by Arts Council
Winner: TH_NK, Newcastle
Runner-up: Dinamic Ceramics Northumbria, Ashington, Northumberland
Runner-up: The bgroup, Newcastle

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer