Best international HR initiative

Odeon Cinemas Group


Good, old-fashioned hospitality probably evokes a hot dinner and crackling fire rather than a cinema conglomerate with more than 360 sites across 15 countries. But putting people at the heart of operations has been Odeon Cinemas Group’s secret to global success. And amid vast change, its HR team’s loyalty to a core ideal ensured Odeon not only survived but thrived.  

Looking after employees, the business realised, was the only way to look after guests. But when, in 2016, the group was sold to AMC Theatres, a huge US cinema chain, HR was faced with a seemingly impossible task: ensure the smooth integration of siloed European companies into a thriving, global whole. To further complicate matters, the integration of two groups became three when AMC bought the Nordic Cinema Group a year later. A lot was at stake.

HR had to refresh the structure from the bottom up without compromising years of progress made at the group’s various, disparate strands. Luckily, before it even knew the group would change so dramatically, the pan-European HR team had already begun laying the groundwork for success.

In the two years before AMC was on the scene, the team had already begun reimagining its strategy. HR made huge strides in aligning practices, policies and approach across four territories. It developed a group-wide communications process which included an EVP based on a shared set of data and feedback and united the HR front through a number of shared engagement initiatives.

Strengthening internal communications and relations prepared Odeon to welcome seven more countries, 11,500 new colleagues from the Nordic Cinema Group and three new brands into the HR framework.

The team’s integration initiative, “Better Together,” was crucial. Ten workstreams with 447 milestones covered every aspect of operations and support functions and the programme put communications, engagement and an ‘ask, listen, plan, act’ cycle at the heart of bringing the three businesses together.

Odeon worked to understand the new territories’ different labour markets, brands, legislation and cultural expectations in an effort to reach consistency of employee experience. An Occupational Health Index survey (OHI) in old and new territories told HR how the business could improve to the benefit of all. The results led to change at both cinema and territory level. Meanwhile, #Sharetember saw three weeks of bottom-up innovation and knowledge sharing. Only five months after integration, #TheBigValuesVote led to a new set of shared values, chosen from a collective list of 21, after 70 per cent of employees voted.

The results have been striking. In Europe, Odeon Cinemas Group now welcomes more than 115 million guests each year in more than 360 cinemas and 2,900 screens. In 2017, parent company AMC reported annual records across all revenue categories. Together, it seems, really has been better for the new and improved business.

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