Interview: Stuart Nolan, global head of reward, Eurasian Natural Resources

Stuart Nolan, global head of reward at Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, is getting to grips with motivating an international workforce in a difficult economic climate.

CURRICULUM VITAE

  • May 2012-present global head of reward, Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC)
  • 2007-2012 group reward director, Dixons (now part of Currys)
  • 2003-2007 head of reward, Experian
  • 1999-2003 global reward manager, Serono (now Merck Serono)
  • 1993-1999 reward manager, NatWest (now part of Royal Bank of Scotland)

How would you describe yourself?
I have a real passion for reward. There are few roles [in which employees] get really close to the nuts and bolts of the business and what motivates people. I think I am very results-driven, and I absolutely love the international and global aspect of my role.

What is your favourite benefit?
Share awards, because I think they are the thing that retains employees and sort of shows how the business is progressing. These are an external barometer of how a business is performing and how the economy is affecting that.

What are your hobbies?
Football dominates my family. I am secretary to my son’s football club, Berkhamsted Raiders. I also play football once a week, but I am as far away from [Real Madrid player Cristiano] Ronaldo as you can get.”

 

Stuart Nolan, global head of reward at Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), is in the process of devising a reward strategy for the organisation’s most senior employees.

His objective is to create one strategy for all 150 senior staff spanning the natural resources business’s sites in the UK, Kazakhstan, Africa, Switzerland and Brazil, and to control this centrally from the UK.

Nolan explains: “It is completely new. At the moment, every region does its own thing and it is not that consistent and lacks alignment with the business.”

This is just one of many challenges Nolan faces at ENRC. He is also tasked with motivating the organisation’s 70,000-strong workforce to grow the business in the current economic climate.

“We have got the tailwinds of the economic uncertainty of international markets, and a lot of years of flat growth ahead,” he says. “How do you motivate people to achieve [in this environment]?”

Nolan acknowledges the difficulty of keeping appropriate reward structures in place in the current difficult economic climate, but believes that the level of reward an employer offers must always be proportionate to business growth.

But there are exceptions. While working as group reward director at Dixons, now part of DSG Retail’s Currys chain, Nolan convinced the oard to approve a reward strategy that would award staff bonuses regardless of whether the business made a profit.

Improve customer satisfaction

Nolan says: “A key driver was to improve customer satisfaction, so people would recommend us to their friends. The simple thing was to link bonus plans to customer satisfaction. But it was quite a big issue. The concern for finance was that bonuses would go up and not be aligned to profit, but I couldn’t sit there in the [remuneration committee] meeting and quantify the impact on profitability. It was a challenge to communicate.”

Nevertheless, his mission worked and Dixons saw a 50% improvement in customer satisfaction levels in just a year.

But Nolan, who first stumbled into reward at NatWest bank, now part of Royal Bank of Scotland, does not always get it right. He recalls a mishap with balance scorecards as a basis for awarding bonuses early in his career.

He explains: “There were lots of measures and we decided to focus on some of them. We bonused the main ones and fed the others into employees’ objectives. [But] the personal objectives were so personal that they didn’t connect to the business.

“The next year we lurched to the other extreme and ended up awarding bonuses for everything. It was a key lesson on bonuses.”

Nolan now plans to put this lesson, along with all those he has learned during a 20-year reward career, to good use at ENRC as he strives to transform the global mining business’s reward strategy.

Sign up to our newsletters

Receive news and guidance on a range of HR issues direct to your inbox

OptOut
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

He insists there are core learnings that all savvy reward professionals should acquire, whatever their market sector. “They should know and understand their business strategy inside out, and if they don’t, they should go and find it out,” he says.

“One of the worst conversations [a reward professional] can have is ‘I want to change the reward programme’ without understanding what they are trying to reward and why.”