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Wendy Edie, Managing Director of the digital learning and assessment specialist, eCom, has joined the Strategic Skills Board of ScotlandIS, the body that builds,...

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Personnel Today Awards 2019 shortlist: Employee Engagement Award

The 2019 Personnel Today Awards take place on the 19 November. In the latest in our series of articles profiling our finalists, we introduce the contenders for the Employee Engagement Award. 


This care provider runs 70 care homes, looking after elderly residents. It has been working hard to increase team engagement, care quality and deliver financial goal in a sector pervaded by hierarchical leadership and blighted by blame culture.

Until 2016 Brighterkind used e-learning to meet its training needs but found learner engagement was insufficient. It was decided that employees needed far more support and would benefit from the creation of a culture that would propel people to develop their skills, have fun at work, feel more loyalty towards their employer and improve the quality of care they offered.

The appointment of pacesetters to help drive change was a key factor in creating a more positive culture. Pacesetters were inducted at residential, fun events, then delivered high-energy activities to colleagues in 30-minute sessions. Acting as conduits, they passed opinions, questions, suggestions and feedback to senior leadership from team members. Events were held, with incentives, to induce change across the organisation.

Additionally, e-training was replaced by face-to-face training for all statutory skills, a major investment for the company, and team members were offered paid training roles. All of this adds up to handing more control to the team, based on the idea that successes need to be championed across the board.

Since the changes, the company has logged a 35% increase in its employee net promoter score, a sharp fall in the number of complaints and a 15% lift in private occupancy. Culturally, the company is much better off with regulators noting that the teams in Brighterkind’s homes say they are happier and feel more empowered than previously.

Burton’s Biscuits

In 2013, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan bought this long established UK biscuit firm and soon afterwards came the sale of its longstanding Cadbury’s licence and a major board restructure. Its overall employee engagement results fell to a relatively low 58%.

A new HR director (Hayley Kingdom) was appointed and with the newly restructured board reset the HR strategy to help teams better enjoy their work. A learning and development manager was appointed to embed the cultural changes and group engagement and communications manager. Part of the restructure included moving the reporting lines of the HR teams from the factory general managers to the HRD to enable one culture across the business.

To improve engagement, Burton’s knew it needed to provide staff with greater clarity around expectations and a consistent tool to measure performance to build clear development plans. This led to the Being your Burton’s Best suite of tools, which is aligned to the company’s cultural values. It supports the whole employee lifecycle from interview toolkits and onboarding through to how the assessment and development of employees.

Among several initiatives set up by the new strategy were: four new Burton’s values that are easy to believe in and remember; new job grading to help everyone understand their role and performance better; a calendar of events to bring people together as a team; and new Vitality health cover.

Recent surveys suggest the significant improvements that have resulted in the business and overall engagement has shot up to 72%. Other indicators show a sharp rise in optimism within the business, a more positive feeling regarding support for work/life balance, clarity over the purpose of teams, and pride in working for the firm. Finally, employee turnover (down from 42% to 12%) and business performance have shown the benefits of the new approach.

Citipost Mail

Founded in 2006, following the deregulation of Royal Mail, Citipost Mail is a downstream access provider working with a broad range of businesses both in the UK and internationally.

It currently has 60 employees and recently appointed a dedicated head of HR. Embedding this role into the company structure, the firm saw an opportunity to align its company vision and mission with its HR policies and delivery to increase employee engagement.

Initial challenges included a company rebrand, increasing social media presence and engagement and encouraging all staff to recognise their role as stakeholders in marketing and the continued success and growth of the company. Under the umbrella of employee engagement, Citipost Mail sought to deliver more opportunities for staff to learn and develop, improve its reward and recognition scheme and Investors in People (IIP) status.

New initiatives designed to boost engagement include office Bake Off, escape rooms, mini-golf, office Olympics, cocktail-making and meals out. Regular one-to-ones are held with all employees to ensure they are engaged at work, progressing to their aspirations and can discuss how they feel. Every quarter the company’s values are reviewed in one-to-ones with all employees.

As a direct result of improved employee engagement, the firm has seen a reduction in staff sickness absence and has implemented an absence process whereby HR is now fully responsible for overseeing sickness absence within the business.

Companies House

The Civil Service-run registry is aiming to transition from inflexible, internally focused, directed behaviours to an environment where adaptable, bold and curious behaviours are the norm and empowerment is encouraged and utilised. It is actively working on increasing employees’ voice to engage in and influence change and wants to increase employee involvement and data relating to diversity.

Companies House’s Flourish engagement strategy has aligned workstreams and demonstrates a commitment to create the right conditions and culture, to help everyone to thrive. The strategy is built on three themes: building capability, health and wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion. Over the past six months more than 900 employees attended 133 learning events and an engagement survey revealed a 73% positive score that people can find suitable learning opportunities when needed.

Board sessions, coffee morning Q&As, the Charlie the Chameleon transformation brand and special phone apps have helped establish the desired curious behaviours and increased employees’ awareness of the whole organisation.

These various initiatives have seen attrition limited to 5%, absence levels reduced to 5.9 days (from 7.5) and £600,000 in savings thanks to employee contributions to an ideas hub. Companies House has now seen its highest participation rate of 92% in the Civil Service engagement survey and a score of 69%, 7% above the Civil Service average and the top-ranking Civil Service score for departments with 400-999 employees.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme

In 2018 FSCS formed a strategic partnership with Capita and needed to evolve its ways of working. Its strategy, Protecting the Future, was waiting to be unfurled across the organisation with new ways of working involving technology, the office environment and a new approach to flexible working. Engagement had to be increased with 200 employees in London and 200 Capita employees in Glasgow. To achieve this change, FSCS audited all its engagement and communication channels, conducted feedback polls and engagement staff attended team meetings to hear employee’s views and understand gaps in the current approach.

Activities were retired and others tweaked to make them more effective, and a new suite of engagement interventions was introduced. A major effort was made to increase understanding of the new approach and a new engagement platform, Hive, was launched. An Engagement Lead Network was created to educate colleagues about what engagement is and a peer-to-peer relationships programme introduced people in FSCS to their new counterparts in Capita using workshops and regular check-ins.

Roadshow events were held in London and Glasgow and an all-staff away day focused on the new strategy, where a short animated film was a springboard to interactive activities centred on the four pillars.

The results have seen an 11% increase in employee engagement inside a year and a net engagement promoter score of 30. These translated into significant business benefits: 100 days was removed from the end-to-end claim journey, customer satisfaction shot up to 83% from 59% in 2017 and 40% of claims are resolved within five days – quicker than ever before.

Great Western Railway

The railway company covering train services from Swansea and Penzance to Paddington, to the Cotswolds and the London Thames Valley is investing heavily in new trains and more frequent services.

It regards embedding and sustaining cultural change as key as it moves old habits, mindsets and behaviours to new, customer-focused ways of working. The company says it wants employees to experience the same understanding, care and respect that its customers do. This entails treating everyone as a trusted individual, helping everyone be their best, being honest, clear and transparent, and setting clear expectations of individual accountabilities.

The company sought to retain its recent 79% engagement score, meet its attrition target of 4%, and improve on its 2017 colleague empowerment score by 2%. It also wanted to reduce customer complaints and increase praise, helping staff to feel confident and supported in their jobs. It all means that we had a clear vision of how GWR should look and feel. GWR’s solution touched every part of its business, and involved almost all its people – from those involved in board meetings, to everyone on the frontline.

Board meetings were altered to focus on culture, leadership, and colleague experience, with the aim of ensuring cultural change was embedded from the top down. An empowerment project was launched of over 80 activities to help its staff understand when and how they are doing well, that they are trusted and have a voice, and that they can bring their whole selves to work.

Other initiatives include the launch of a new platform that enables everyone to publicly record ‘thank yous’ and nominate colleagues for gold awards. It allows managers to instantly recognise success anywhere in the business with reward points, and the data helps local teams measure their performance across the business.

In its latest staff survey, staff agreed they would recommend GWR to friends and family as a good place to work and 81% enjoy their jobs. Engagement increased by 2% to 79% and empowerment remained at 57%, a significant achievement in a heavily regulated business that has undergone massive transformation. Customer satisfaction is now higher than ever before at 89% and the net promoter score is now at +3 – very high for the rail industry. Women now represent 30% of GWR leadership roles and 6.3% of all engineering roles.

Mitie Group

This leading facilities management company, which offers services from security to catering, in 2017 launched Project Helix, to alter its culture. This is a three-year programme to rationalise the firm and build a winning culture.

Communication with staff was one of the main issues to tackle because only 30% of the firm’s staff have a Mitie email address and most work alone or in very small teams. In April 2018 the firm launched Upload, its first all-company engagement survey (in eight languages) designed to set the baseline of its employee engagement.

The executive leadership team redoubled its work as advocates for engagement. Extensive research was carried out with employee groups to identify challenges and address them. An external provider was used to provide analysis and benchmarking.

An engaging campaign underpinned Mitie’s approach. Given such a disparate and diverse workforce, it used a digital-first approach with the campaign being accessible on any mobile device. In terms of communications channels, Mitie used messages on payslips, posters, flyers, videos, webinars, manager toolkits and engaged a group of employees from across the business to champion Upload. It engaged directly with all 3,000 line managers below the group leadership team hosting webinars and providing detailed cascade packs to ensure their teams were kept regularly informed of the company’s progress and to demonstrate their feedback was being acted upon.

The results have been impressive: a 12 point increase in employee engagement to 45% was described by the survey provider as unheard of. The net promoter score increased by 22 points to + 12. Further initiatives include new HR systems, awards schemes, enhanced maternity policies and there a further Upload survey.

Book your table at the 2019 Personnel Today Awards now

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