Aimee O'Leary
Written by
Aimee O'Leary

March has started fabulously at team EEA – together with over 100 people passionate about making the world of work a better place. Despite the UK weather trying its hardest to keep us apart with #beastfromtheeast, people from across the country battled failing public transport to get to the Employee Engagement Conference 2018 on the 1st March – if that’s not a sign of true engagement I don’t know what is.

The Employee Engagement Conference London March 1st 2018. Photos by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway

Originally, I planned to write a quick summary with highlights from the day but there was so much valuable information that instead, I will write a series of short blogposts that pick out the key stories – firstly: The need to Listen and Act, not tell.

An annual survey just won’t cut it.

What does listening to your employees mean? If you think about it in terms of a conversation, listening needs involvement from both parties. This is no different when we’re trying to engage our employees. ‘Listening’ just once is not enough either. What I’m getting at here is that many companies rely solely on annual employee surveys as a way of listening but this simply doesn’t work.

Employee engagement cannot be seen as a HR initiative but should be created by employees for employees – a huge annual survey is not only quite clearly a management initiative but also means you are only actually getting feedback from your employees once a year.

Continue the conversation…

As Rod Bulmer, Former Exec Director, Co-op, said, the annual employee survey as a standalone is dead. In today’s world we should be thinking in minutes and hours, not days weeks and months. One of the problems of employee surveys is that they don’t allow you to be responsive enough.

Rod Bulmer at The Employee Engagement Conference London March 1st 2018. Photos by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway

Andrea Kilgour, Head of People at EE, explained how monitoring the Plusnet Perks Rewards scheme and making improvements meant that uptake in the second year rocketed from 38% (which is already high in comparison to industry average) to 65% – an increase of 71%. You need to make sure that you are constantly talking to your employees and re-evaluating accordingly.

So, what do you do? I’ve mentioned the importance of conversation – how about using your management to have them. Tim Robson Managing Director, NSU Media, and Jo Moran, Head of Customer Service, M&S, highlighted the importance of Frontline managers. Not just for listening, but also customer satisfaction which I will discuss in an upcoming blogpost (in the meantime have a look at our webinar with Tim on the topic). As Paul Devoy, MD, Investors in People, mentioned, something as simple as using your management to have regular and honest conversations with your employees will do more for you than surveys. If you train your line managers correctly you will get huge benefits (increased retention, employee advocacy, customer satisfaction etc.) without much effort.

Are you being responsive enough?

Ok you’ve had some feedback, but what are you actually doing with it? Are you just feeding the results back to your employees, or are you involving them to change and innovate? Part of the reason employee surveys don’t work is because of how they are used. If you are using them to make your employees feel listened to, but don’t make any valuable changes off the back of it – what is the point?

Your employees need to be able to give instant feedback and have almost instant responses. Immediate change seems impossible when you have to collate a huge amount of data – the turnaround of an annual survey can take weeks. But it really doesn’t have to be that stressful.
The conference showcased many examples of effective listening and acting and it seems the most effective are the simplest.

John Greeves, Brand Director, HomeServe, explained that employees didn’t feel they could help customers when they needed to, so management set up daily meetings for anyone to flag up problems. This drove policy changes and meant not only did employees feel connected and empowered but HomeServe experienced immediate business results from something as simple as a daily meeting. Culture changes drove increased retention (49% of Customer Service Representatives have been there 6+ years) and customer satisfaction rates which increased share price (A blogpost on this topic will be up soon). This doesn’t mean that you have to make drastic changes every time an employee flags up an issue, just to give an explanation if you choose not to act.

Elliott Bryant-Jeffries, The Employee Engagement Conference London March 1st 2018. Photos by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway

Elliott Bryant-Jeffries, HR Manager, Southampton FC, explained how they used a co-creation approach. Basically, they got all their staff in a room, asked them how they felt and made changes accordingly – simple right? Well yes, a simple concept that built award winning company culture. A co-creation approach like theirs not only establishes a sense of trust and unity but also ensures that you are building engagement into your organisation in ways that relevant to your employees. It is essential when building engagement programs not to emulate other companies but to create your own initiatives driven by your people – a topic that was highlighted by Amy Brann in our Midlands event last month.

So what steps should you be taking?

  • Listen: Don’t rely solely on surveys and train your managers – it needs to be a back and forth conversation.
  • Act: Make sure you aren’t just collating masses of data and not doing anything with it. Actually show your employees you are making changes instantly – if you aren’t then explain why.
  • Continue: Have regular touch points to make sure you are getting constant feedback, whether that’s from an online platform that gives immediate results such as Peakon’s continuous listening employee feedback tool, regular meetings or just through honest conversations between line managers and employees.

If you want to know more on the topics mentioned, don’t forget to keep updated with what we’ve got going on at the EEA by subscribing to our newsletter at the top of this post or become a member.

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