GDF Suez – Achieving high response rates & making a real difference
GDF Suez is the world’s largest utility company employing 219,000 people worldwide. People Insight carried out an employee engagement survey with GDF Suez Exploration & Production UK, the UK Subsidiary that is specifically focused on southern North Sea oil and gas exploration and production.
Robert Jarvis, for GDF Suez E&P UK Ltd, explains the key drivers behind the company choosing People Insight and how the data from that survey has helped push everyone in the right direction.
“We talked about the survey for a year before we got going. At that point it was key for our MD, Jean-Claude Perdigues. The Company wanted an indication of how well we were doing as we are going through a period of considerable change. The Company started out as two people in 1998. Had we done this survey three years ago there would have been 48 people, so to have more than 250 people now shows we are in a really key part of our growth.
“From 1998 to 2012 we were firmly an exploration company but now we are preparing to become a production company. As a result of this change we wanted to know what our employees thought.
“Naturally we wanted to see what was on offer and approached three different employee engagement companies. What really struck us about People Insight and Tom Debenham in particular was how they were able to tailor-make a survey specifically for us. Just as importantly, Tom was able to give us an intellectual interpretation of those results.
“If I’m being honest, Tom had our business in about three minutes (notwithstanding the procurement process we had to follow!). We built up an instant rapport, he came across credible, knowledgeable and gave us advice and support at every stage, he put everyone at ease with the process.”
“We wanted to get a really high response rate but it was tricky to achieve because we have an unusual population – 40 per cent employees and 60 per cent contractors. We wanted to include everyone in the process, including those in-pats we had working with us from the French parent company, because we wanted to ensure everyone had the chance to have their say. People Insight tailored the survey so that contractors did not receive some questions that it would only be appropriate to ask of our employees.
“We brought in a PR company to help us come up with a campaign we could deliver to the staff to get them engaged in the process from day one. We had a countdown logo on our web portal page and we wanted to create some noise internally as to what we were doing.
“The design company came up with the title ‘Prospect’ and we used that throughout our internal communications to encourage people to have their say.
“We set a response rate target of 80 per cent and worked very hard to achieve that, even though we knew it would be tough because of the high volume of contractors we had working with us. In GDF Suez E&P UK we have circa 250 staff and we eventually ended up with a response rate of 78 per cent which we were delighted with.”
By donating £5 to charity for every person who responded, the company reinforced the message that the survey was important.
“The survey only took 15 or 20 minutes but when you have a million things to do it can often drop down the list,” explains Robert. “By adding in a charity angle we were able to underline the importance of getting involved. We raised more than £1,000 for the Child Poverty Action Group and it was another positive outcome from the survey.”
Like many companies who embark on staff surveys, the exec committee was prepared for feedback that may not have been what they were expecting. Yet what came out from the survey has helped embolden the entire company.
“The main message that came out was that 98 per cent of staff felt safe at work, which was hugely important for a company like ours given the work we do,” says Robert.
“All our responses were really discerning which shows that people had read the questions properly and were taking the survey seriously.
“We had 90 per cent saying they cared about the future of the company and 87 per cent were proud of the work they do.
“Even more importantly, People Insight was able to benchmark the results to show us how we compared with other UK plcs. 85 per cent of people said they had the equipment and resources they need to do their job, 18 per cent higher than the benchmark figure.”
Robert explained that all the results were presented to the staff at an off-site day in Edinburgh.
“It was hugely important that we were able to bring Tom in to present the results to the whole company,” says Robert.
“Tom came across brilliantly and we got a lot of feedback on how good he was and how well the results were presented back to us. People felt the results were fair. There was no attempt to spin them. We just wanted to give them the facts and then show them we were going to work on improving them.”
After the off-site the real work began in implementing changes.
“When we returned, we ran a series of detailed working groups with some of the departments. In areas where there were pockets of huge over-achievement it was important to congratulate them, and in other areas we had to tackle some of the failings that were apparent.
“What it showed overall was that we took the survey process seriously. This wasn’t a case of enjoying the positives but burying the negatives – we had to demonstrate to the staff that we wanted transparency and that we wanted to put things right.
“We have now collated all that information and have embarked on a big internal project looking at strategy, organisational development and behaviours and culture.
“I think the fact that we have done a survey and we have listened to people is a huge step towards becoming an employer of choice. You simply cannot put a value on being able to give people the facts about their job and the company they work for.
“We have identified problems we would never have known existed had we not carried out a survey, so it’s fundamental to the growth of this company and the people who work for it.
“Now we’re thinking about when to do the next one!”
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