How People Insight helped Enserve connect with employees and develop a clear agenda for improvement
Human Resources Director
EnServe is a utilities engineering, contracting and analysis group with a mixture of blue and white collar workers spread across 40 sites in the UK. The company has gone through a prolonged period of acquisitions which took it to more than 5,000 employees. However, with the sale of non-core businesses, new investment and a focus on the core businesses, it has now stabilised at 1,800 members of staff.
Sarah Sayles, Human Resources Director at EnServe, explains how People Insight not only carried out the survey, but helped implement the actions to drive employee engagement throughout the company:
“I have been at EnServe for nearly thirteen years and have seen a huge period of change within the company. When I joined we had 250 employees and at one stage we had over 5,000 as we went on a sustained period of acquisition.
“Since a change of ownership in 2010, though, a number of those businesses have been sold. However, we still have a very diverse employee population, from the engineers and analysts through to those who dig holes and climb poles.”
We had some concerns over staff turnover in the past. Where possible, we conducted exit interviews as we wanted to get to the bottom of why people were leaving and be able to reverse that trend.
“People Insight guided us. We asked them to do the rollout and deliver the results back to our management team. It gave the whole process more gravitas as People Insight are experts in this area.”
Our CEO at the time had used an established research agency survey at a previous company, but it was an expensive outlay. While he really saw the benefits, he was keen for us to make the same impact but with better value for money.
We initially came across People Insight on Google and they were among the six businesses we shortlisted to come and present to us. What really stood out for all of us on the panel was People Insight’s fresh approach. They were different to the rest. They didn’t stand up and tell us what we needed; they listened instead, asking us what we wanted to achieve.
We had the same contact with the team throughout the whole process and that really helped. So much so that we brought them back in to work with us on implementing the actions they had suggested. It was a complete 360-degree approach.
There is always scepticism at the beginning from staff, particularly when it comes to anonymity. There is a widespread assumption that we secretly know who’s said what and that we will hold it against them. But the CEO and the senior team were great in getting people not only onside but enthused.
Half of our staff are office-based so it was simple for them to fill out the survey online, whereas the other half are mobile so they filled in the paper surveys. Naturally these mobile staff were our biggest challenge – chasing employees up to ensure they’d filled them in. Some went to home addresses and some people hadn’t received them, but then we didn’t want to be sending multiple copies out because that could skew the results. We ensured there was a PC with an open link to the survey but this didn’t really hit the mark. We needed to know how other businesses managed the returns as this problem couldn’t just be unique to us.
“People Insight were great in their analysis of our response rate and they came up with a number of ways to tackle the issue. Next year we’re going to try some of these!”
In year one we had some hugely positive reaction, as well as some concerns. People liked their jobs and were proud of the work they did for EnServe. It was clear from their feedback that they understood what their purpose was. There were areas to work on too, primarily staff wanting more training and development, plus the fact they didn’t expect anything to come from the survey.
In year two we again had problems with mobile staff completing our the survey. Not only do we have people working all over the country, a lot of them work from vans – collecting equipment from a depot and possibly not seeing any management for the whole week.
We tried to keep the questions broadly similar so we could do a proper comparison but there were a few things that caught us by surprise. The survey showed that pride in the organisation had slipped. A lot of that was down to the fact that we launched our new company values the year before and people were really unhappy about them changing. As a result, in one area of the business we put together a team of eight colleagues to relook at the values and we are about to relaunch those values now.
It would be incredibly daunting to just have the results and then work out, on your own, what to do about them. Thankfully, we’d built up such a good relationship with People Insight that we were able to ring them and bring them in on a number of occasions to help us work on our strategy. We moved the goalposts a lot, but, because we knew People Insight and they knew us, it never caused too much of a headache.
People Insight guided us. We asked them to do the rollout and deliver the results back to our management teams. It gave the whole process more gravitas as People Insight are the experts in this area. Staff loved the action planning section because it really hit home that this wasn’t just a paper exercise but a vehicle for real change.
We know we have to support managers and educate them. We cannot expect them to develop on their own. We also realise that the middle managers are in the toughest position of all, managing down and managing up also. That can be a lot of pressure.
Essentially we are a competitive company and all the departments within this business want to improve their scores. No-one wants to be at the bottom, so there’s a nice healthy rivalry!
This whole process has also shown us how important it is to give your employees an independent voice and to allow them to be involved in shaping the future of the business. You might think you have a happy workforce, but only when you are brave enough to ask them for their opinions will you really know what sort of company you are.