2019 Lycetts Team Champion Awards

Lycetts Team Champion Award setting the standard   It may only be in its second year, but the concept of Team Champion was never going to be just another annual awards bash. The award itself rewards the completion of a pathway to better business practice and is by no means simply the finishing line. Now it’s time to ask if the high-reaching objectives have been met by Team Champion and, if so, is it time to take the concept beyond the UK?  At the start of 2017, Chief Executive Rupert Arnold proposed the initiative of a Team Champion Award to the National Trainers Federation (NTF), and it wasn’t long before The Racing Foundation and sponsors Lycetts Insurance Brokers came on board. Like all good ideas, the concept was simple, the objectives being to deliver praise and a sense of achievement for the training yards with the highest standards of employee management, to showcase the positive results of developing a team that works well together, to raise awareness about safe working practices and to improve recruitment and retention rates by promoting the most successful management practices and encouraging their wider adoption among racehorse trainers.  Feedback from all those who entered in the first two years, whether or not finalists, has been hugely positive and Rupert Arnold reports, “I am delighted at how enthusiastically trainers and their staff have responded to this new award. By participating, they have opened their businesses to scrutiny by knowledgeable professionals and demonstrated that British racehorse trainers offer great places to work. We have established a strong base from which to build the award for the future. I know other trainers are already keen to follow their colleagues’ example next year, and we have acquired a bundle of knowledge and lessons to share with them”.  The Team Champion concept is underpinned by an industry standard established by the NTF, called The Winning Approach, from which it borrows its assessment criteria. One of the key challenges facing all trainers is the attraction and retention of skilled riders and grooms. Trainers are competing with many other industries for an increasingly demanding workforce, with fewer people favouring the type of work offered in a racing yard. The Winning Approach has been designed to assist trainers in managing their staff in a way that attracts and retains them, to help them engage and motivate their staff and create a better working environment.  The Team Champion categories are not only objectives in winning an award, but can also be adopted as positive steps in building a better business practise; and that is the biggest message coming back from those trainers who have so far taken part. Stars are awarded to the teams who:  Use effective recruitment and induction systems  Ensure a safe environment  Create a positive working environment  Provide development and training  Reward and recognise the workforce  All yards that receive star recognition gain the right to use the unique award logo to promote their business.  The nomination form contains a series of questions prompting teams to describe the action they have taken to achieve those listed outcomes, and trainers have found that to be an invaluable way of assessing their own workplace and building strategic plans for the future, neither an area historically of concern to the horseman. Trainers have become businessmen through necessity, and Team Champion has undoubtedly helped many in that uncomfortable transformation.  Nick Alexander and his staff were the inaugural winning team for yards with fewer than 40 horses and he tells us, “I was keen to enter as I believe it is an initiative that trainers should support. I feel it’s very important that we change the historic way stable staff are regarded, and we need to get that perception out into the wider world.  “My assistant, Catch Bissett, did the majority of the work for the submission and everyone was fully supportive. We didn’t exactly set goals, but it made us focus a lot more on how we run the team and how we develop individuals. It has definitely had a good effect and following on, I’d like to keep moving forward in that regard.  “We do take a modern approach to how we manage staff, but I was delighted we made it to the finals and surprised to win. I can think of nothing negative about the initiative and it’s all positive. It has generated good PR, and at the moment I don’t have a problem recruiting. The only slight thing is that there is quite a lot of work involved in the submission, but that’s a positive as it makes you look hard at how you manage your business.  “We threw a good party for our core team of 14 full-time staff and with the prize money bought some smart kit for them to wear riding out and at the races, and they were all really pleased to be recognised as part of a winning team.  “Going forward, I’d like to think those behind the Award are looking at the way it’s going to be run and there really should be a higher percentage of trainers entering it; trainers should commit to how they look at their business. I realise the entry process can be daunting; I’m lucky to have an assistant who filled in the forms, so whether there could be an easier way to enter, that might help.  “I’d like to see a time when all trainers enter and if you haven’t got a basic one star you should be asking why haven’t you”?  Jennie Sherrard, racing secretary with 2019 winner Tom Dascombe, has really seen the benefits of an enthusiastic team ethic and the Manor House team have been finalists for a second year in the 40 or more horse category. “It is a really good experience—very positive and it was easy to apply,” she explains. “All of the team got really involved with it all and everyone was happy to give their feedback; and it’s thrilling to be shortlisted again, for the second time in the two years!  “I think it highlighted what you could improve upon, and if we win, we plan to improve the staff room into a nice comfortable homely area where all the team can sit and relax and watch the racing, particularly for those who live a little too far away to go home during the day.  “It was a good opportunity to have an informal discussion with all team members and it’s nice for the team to know they work for a recognised employer who does the most he can for them all. It’s excellent for recruitment and staff retention, to be recognised as a positive place to come and work. Overall it is great to have the NTF put in place a fantastic award scheme that provides an industry-recognised benchmark, so that yards across the country can put in place the mechanism to provide continuous improvement for their team”.  Daniel and Claire Kübler, under 40 horses finalists, are in full agreement and Daniel Kübler says, “I started out working in a yard as a groom and rider before going to university and studying business management, and Claire grew up on a stud farm and graduated from Cambridge before qualifying as an accountant at PriceWaterhouse Coopers, where the development of people is second to none. Since we started training, we’ve both been very conscious of how we develop our people. We believe that if you have a happy bunch of people, you have a happy bunch of horses.  “We think the whole process of choosing to go through the questionnaire and look at what you’re doing in a structured manner is of real benefit. We worked together as a team to come up with things and identify areas we could do more to improve. It helped us to develop a better human resources process as a result. It makes you look at what you are already doing right but can do better.  “It prompted us into doing more regular formal appraisals and following up on that and implementing things within the yard to benefit the whole team. The first time we entered we were very conscious to involve the whole team, and they very much put the whole application together. It was important that it was a staff-led process”.  Kübler adds, “When racing looks at the staffing shortages, there’s no point in blaming other people; as an industry we need to step up. We like to think Kübler Racing is ahead of the curve compared to other workplaces, and this will help us stay there. The Team Champion Award gives us an opportunity to showcase that ourselves, and lots of other trainers are very good employers; and it’s a good industry to work in.  “The organisers are still feeling their way how to run the Lycetts Team Champion Award, and it could do with becoming a bit more user-friendly with perhaps a look at the questions being asked, as they receive more feedback. We’ve not recruited for a while, but it is something you can put into the advert and if it all starts to link in and makes everyone up their game, it has to be good for the industry”.     This is a view reflected by Michael Grassick of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA), who says of the initiative, “It sounds like a very good idea and one that I feel Irish trainers would be happy to support. Anything that recognises the role of staff has to be positive”. To see the Team Champion Award concept set up in other racing countries is something many foreign trainers would certainly encourage.  As Richard Phillips points out, “One of the most interesting things I found was taking ideas from other stables and looking at different things we could perhaps try, and that sharing of ideas is a positive thing to come out of it. Even our owners got involved as well and it really brought everyone together. We’re in the final four this year, and the staff enjoy doing all the work involved in entering and do all the filming and come up with the ideas, so I think it’s a very good thing and is something all businesses should be doing”.  From the business perspective, that’s something Richard Hughes very much takes on board. “My secretary Rose Osborn received all the details for the Lycetts Team Award and attended a meeting on staff management practices hosted by the NTF”, Hughes explains. “She discussed the process with me and after talking it through with my senior staff, we all decided it would be a good idea to enter our team. It has been a great experience and pretty straightforward. We already had certain things in place such as appraisals and staff barbeques, but it has meant we have added some new practices such as more regular meetings with staff, and three people now have a certificate in safeguarding.  “All the team have enjoyed making videos of their experiences here, and they even enjoyed our judges’ day! It has been great to see everyone pull together and get excited about the prospect of winning and being proud to be part of the team. The biggest benefit is that it helps to bring everyone together and create a happy team of people who enjoy working here and produce excellent results. In turn I hope it keeps our staff retention high and also encourages new members of staff.  “It is great that there is a star system rating yards, and hopefully this becomes more and more recognised by people looking for jobs. Hopefully the Lycetts Team Award can get more publicity and recognition. It can only benefit the yards involved, and I would recommend that everyone enters each year”.  Anna Lisa Balding at Kingsclere Racing reflects, “We were honoured to have reached the Lycetts Team Champion finals and very grateful to Tessa Hetherington for filling out the forms; and it’s something we have set out to achieve this year. We don’t want to come third, we want to win! That goes for the entire team—everyone wants to win.  “We haven’t seen any benefits from being placed, but the evaluation was very interesting and the positive feedback we received was very inspiring and has made us determined to keep up the work we’re doing, such as extra-curriculum activities. We do annual appraisals already, but the Team Champion Award provided a good opportunity to talk once again with a few of the staff on a one-to-one basis.”  There may be only two winning teams, but there are no losers in this award and the take-home message is clearly the opportunity it presents to focus on staff management. A win-win all round.

It may only be in its second year, but the concept of Team Champion was never going to be just another annual awards bash. The award itself rewards the completion of a pathway to better business practice and is by no means simply the finishing line. Now it’s time to ask if the high-reaching objectives have been met by Team Champion and, if so, is it time to take the concept beyond the UK?

At the start of 2017, Chief Executive Rupert Arnold proposed the initiative of a Team Champion Award to the National Trainers Federation (NTF), and it wasn’t long before The Racing Foundation and sponsors Lycetts Insurance Brokers came on board. Like all good ideas, the concept was simple, the objectives being to deliver praise and a sense of achievement for the training yards with the highest standards of employee management, to showcase the positive results of developing a team that works well together, to raise awareness about safe working practices and to improve recruitment and retention rates by promoting the most successful management practices and encouraging their wider adoption among racehorse trainers.

Feedback from all those who entered in the first two years, whether or not finalists, has been hugely positive and Rupert Arnold reports, “I am delighted at how enthusiastically trainers and their staff have responded to this new award. By participating, they have opened their businesses to scrutiny by knowledgeable professionals and demonstrated that British racehorse trainers offer great places to work. We have established a strong base from which to build the award for the future. I know other trainers are already keen to follow their colleagues’ example next year, and we have acquired a bundle of knowledge and lessons to share with them”.

Henry Owen (left), Jennie Sherrard and Josh Bennett (right).

Henry Owen (left), Jennie Sherrard and Josh Bennett (right).

The Team Champion concept is underpinned by an industry standard established by the NTF, called The Winning Approach, from which it borrows its assessment criteria. One of the key challenges facing all trainers is the attraction and retention of skilled riders and grooms. Trainers are competing with many other industries for an increasingly demanding workforce, with fewer people favouring the type of work offered in a racing yard. The Winning Approach has been designed to assist trainers in managing their staff in a way that attracts and retains them, to help them engage and motivate their staff and create a better working environment.

The Team Champion categories are not only objectives in winning an award, but can also be adopted as positive steps in building a better business practise; and that is the biggest message coming back from those trainers who have so far taken part. Stars are awarded to the teams who:

  • Use effective recruitment and induction systems

  • Ensure a safe environment

  • Create a positive working environment

  • Provide development and training

  • Reward and recognise the workforce

All yards that receive star recognition gain the right to use the unique award logo to promote their business.

The nomination form contains a series of questions prompting teams to describe the action they have taken to achieve those listed outcomes, and trainers have found that to be an invaluable way of assessing their own workplace and building strategic plans for the future, neither an area historically of concern to the horseman. Trainers have become businessmen through necessity, and Team Champion has undoubtedly helped many in that uncomfortable transformation.

NICK ALEXANDER.jpg

Nick Alexander and his staff were the inaugural winning team for yards with fewer than 40 horses and he tells us, “I was keen to enter as I believe it is an initiative that trainers should support. I feel it’s very important that we change the historic way stable staff are regarded, and we need to get that perception out into the wider world.

“My assistant, Catch Bissett, did the majority of the work for the submission and everyone was fully supportive. We didn’t exactly set goals, but it made us focus a lot more on how we run the team and how we develop individuals. It has definitely had a good effect and following on, I’d like to keep moving forward in that regard.

“We do take a modern approach to how we manage staff, but I was delighted we made it to the finals and surprised to win. I can think of nothing negative about the initiative and it’s all positive. It has generated good PR, and at the moment I don’t have a problem recruiting. The only slight thing is that there is quite a lot of work involved in the submission, but that’s a positive as it makes you look hard at how you manage your business.

“We threw a good party for our core team of 14 full-time staff and with the prize money bought some smart kit for them to wear riding out and at the races, and they were all really pleased to be recognised as part of a winning team.

“Going forward, I’d like to think those behind the Award are looking at the way it’s going to be run and there really should be a higher percentage of trainers entering it; trainers should commit to how they look at their business. I realise the entry process can be daunting; I’m lucky to have an assistant who filled in the forms, so whether there could be an easier way to enter, that might help.

“I’d like to see a time when all trainers enter and if you haven’t got a basic one star you should be asking why haven’t you”?

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