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Manchester United FC

By TLF Research

Anthony is Head of Human Resources at Manchester United. He has worked there for 11 years, experiencing the company as a PLC and now back in private ownership. He is responsible for HR across MUFC's commercial functions, corporate services, venue operations and MUTV as well as the football club. When not on a busman's holiday watching the Reds, Anthony is partial to a bit of golf.

Being successful off the pitch as well as on it requires Manchester United to have employees who are as committed to the success of the company as the players are to winning the Premier League or a major Trophy. To generate this level of motivation, the business has to make sure that employees feel valued. They need to know that their efforts to deliver results for the company will be reciprocated in the company’s efforts to deliver results to them. The starting point is the company’s willingness to listen to employees, to take their views seriously and to take action, where necessary to improve employee satisfaction.

Listening to employees

Manchester United is currently organising its fourth employee satisfaction survey. Conducted by specialists in satisfaction measurement, The Leadership Factor, the survey is based on employees’ 24 most important requirements. These include soft factors such as ‘friendly working environment’, ‘approachability of my manager’ and ‘being proud of my job’ as well as more obvious employee requirements such as ‘pay’, ‘pension scheme’ and ‘Job security’. After each survey The Leadership Factor has made clear recommendations for improving employee satisfaction and because it has acted on these, Manchester United has improved its employee satisfaction index each year and is well up in the top quartile of UK organisations on employee satisfaction. To see how this has been achieved, let’s look at things through the eyes of a new employee.


Like most organisations, starting work at Manchester United begins with an induction to make new recruits feel part of the family and to make sure they understand a few key things:

  • How employees behave, based on the ‘UNITED’ values
  • How they are rewarded; pay and benefits
  • How they are judged and how they can increase their performance.

Just to make sure they haven’t forgotten that they’re actually working at Manchester United, the newcomers are now taken on a tour of the stadium to admire the museum and trophy room, inspect the changing rooms and sit in the dugout to experience Sir Alex’s view of the pitch. Coming gently back down to earth, the induction now continues at departmental level. Here they meet their line manager and are introduced to their colleagues, have an explanation of how the department works and taken to lunch in the staff restaurant.

How employees behave

A past employee satisfaction survey asked employees for feedback on the Vision and Values. Two thirds of the permanent staff stated that the Vision and Values do help them to understand the company’s goals and priorities.

[visions and values]

How employees are rewarded: pay

This is a key part of our new employees’ induction and has been one of the main areas addressed by Manchester United as a result of the employee satisfaction survey, which demonstrated that many staff didn’t understand how their annual salary review was determined. As well as detailed explanations of the reward system in the RedLines employee newsletter, two new elements were added to the pay review process. In addition to the basic pay review (all employees receiving the same percentage increase to base salary) and the profit share bonus (2.5% of all operating profit above budget EBITDA is distributed to all eligible permanent employees as a percentage of salary), employees can now earn additional increases to basic pay for outstanding performance or extra responsibility. Awarded at their manager’s discretion, extra responsibility includes changes in the employee’s role or responsibilities but also takes into account staff who have developed their skills, knowledge or behaviours to such an extent that their contribution to the business has now significantly improved. Our new employee would hopefully also be motivated by the fact that outstanding performance can now be recognised by a ‘going the extra mile’ award of up to £5,000 for achievement in a specific project or activity or a £1,000 net ‘high performance’ award for consistent outstanding performance throughout the year. Nominations for performance bonuses are made by the relevant Executive Managers and approved by a Remuneration Panel including the Chief Operating Officer, Head of HR and chaired by the Chief Executive.

How employees are rewarded: benefits

All permanent employees are entitled to an impressive range of benefits including a contributory defined contribution group pension scheme, life cover of four times basic salary, income protection, sick pay and holiday entitlement. Manchester United has also stayed true to its paternalistic heritage by retaining its fully subsidised staff restaurant. Employee satisfaction with the pension scheme has shown one of the biggest increases across the 24 requirements. Our new employee could also take advantage of perks such as free access to MUTV and various discounts offered via Club Sponsors/Partners.

How employees are rewarded: recognition

Here’s the exciting bit for any new employee at Manchester United - recognition. Some recognition measures, such as company events to celebrate success, have been part of employees’ total reward package for many years. If the team enjoys success it is good for revenue but places more demands on staff as more matches will be accommodated at Old Trafford. To recognise their extra efforts, all employees plus their guest have been invited to company events in celebration of this success. Newly introduced recognition schemes include the Christmas Party and the end of season ‘Party on the Pitch’, which our new employee can enjoy with his whole family. There is also the established ‘VIP Employees of the Month’ scheme for ‘living the UNITED values’. All monthly winners attend a premier league match as guests of the Directors, dining in the VIP suite and watching the game from the Directors’ Box. Nominated by employees from the monthly winners, the first Employee of the Season, Tony Sinclair, received his trophy on the pitch at the Tottenham home game in front of a capacity crowd and millions of viewers on Sky TV. Tony, who works as Head Groundsman received his award for con- sistently displaying excellent levels of performance and ‘Living the United Values’ day in, day out. There is also the new SAS (Sports and Social Club, named by the staff), which the company subsidises. Amongst other staff events it organises staff football matches at the end of the season on the Old Trafford pitch, 5-a-side football, mixed netball, badminton, circuit training and ‘legs, bums and tums’ sessions. If our new employee is less worried about health and fitness, there are quiz and curry nights, trips to the races etc!

How employees are judged

Following the first employee satisfaction survey, Manchester United introduced its PDR (Performance and Development Review) Process. All permanent employees received training on the process and managers were trained on how to conduct annual reviews. The first goal of the PDR process is to link individuals’ objectives to their department’s objectives which, in turn, are aligned to the company’s strategic objectives. The second purpose is to enrich employees’ working life by encouraging them to identify personal development goals and by providing the necessary training or guidance to help them achieve their goals.

The PDR process has been a great success. Over the years, the biggest increase in employee satisfaction has been with ‘regular review of my performance’.

[p and d]

Personal development

In most SMEs the opportunities for promotion are necessarily limited compared with those in large companies with thousands of employees. This is exacerbated at Manchester United by the very low employee turnover rate. Whilst the company makes every effort to promote from within whenever possible, most employees recognise the limited opportunities for formal promotion as a fact of life if they choose to stay at the Club. This is why it has been so important for Manchester United to maximise employees’ opportunities for personal development and to introduce the performance-related reward and recognition schemes referred to earlier.

Caring and Community

All employees everywhere want to feel that they work for a caring organisation: one that cares for them and for its local community. Manchester United provides its employees with specialist counselling and support where necessary, it has a qualified counsellor in its HR Team, a Club Chaplain, a health and fitness scheme, and, as we have already seen, a great induction scheme to make our new employee feel welcome.

The Manchester United Foundation’s support for charity and the local community is legendary. Our new employee would soon get to hear about the Club’s strong links with UNICEF. At the Players’ Player events in recent years, for example, all proceeds went to charity. Players often make personal appearances for charity and signed merchandise is frequently donated to charities. All charity work is co-ordinated by the Manchester United Foundation, which also organises an extensive Football in the Community scheme to give thousands of local youngsters the opportunity to develop their footballing potential. MUDSA (Manchester United Disabled Supporters’ Association) organises free match tickets for its members and their carers, all housed in the recently refurbished disabled section of the stadium. The Club also fosters extensive educational links, investing in its own Curriculum Manager in the Club’s museum, plus a second Educational Officer employed by the local authority but based at Old Trafford. Both work full time on using football and Manchester United to increase local children’s engagement with the educational system.

As well as realising that Manchester United is a caring organisation, our new employee would hopefully soon realise that the company consults and listens to its employees and takes action to address areas of concern. At least that’s what the rest of the workforce think. In the last employee satisfaction survey, 84.1% were satisfied that Manchester United had taken positive steps in addressing feedback from the previous survey.

01484 517575
Taylor Hill Mill, Huddersfield HD4 6JA
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