How People Insight worked with Marston's to develop programmes and strategies to implement change
Human Resources Director – Pub Operations
Marston’s is a leading pub operator and independent brewer running an estate of around 1,800 pubs situated nationally; comprising managed, franchised, tenanted and leasehold pubs. It is also the UK’s leading brewer of premium cask and bottled ales, including Marston’s Pedigree and Hobgoblin.
With a total workforce of 13,000 – 11,500 of which work in pubs – an upturn in employee engagement can have a positive impact on sales and profits.
Cheryl Evans, Human Resources Director – Pub Operations at Marston’s, explains how working with People Insight helped take the business in a confident new direction.
“Over time we had gone through a long period of acquisitions, but more recently have been expanding through investment in new build pub restaurants alongside establishing ourselves as a credible pub franchise partner. With a changing and expanding business it was at that point we thought ‘how does everyone else truly feel about this?’ Are they as engaged as we believe? How can we make working at Marston’s an even better employee (and therefore customer) experience?
“We also wanted to look at entering industry / employer awards, but we did not have a collective voice to say this is what our employees think. Once you arrive at the point where you want to know more about your employees and what drives them, you begin to look closely at everything you do and how you can make it better. For starters, we didn’t have a company intranet. We had a system for head office and one for all the pub managers, but there was no way of communicating with the vast majority of our pub staff.”
We did a lot of research before embarking on this project. We looked at about 12 companies online and then brought in five to talk to us at head office. People Insight stood out for a number of reasons. Firstly, they listened to what we wanted. A lot of companies came in telling us what we needed, but People Insight’s strengths lay in the fact they could create a bespoke model based on our needs.
Secondly, they weren’t just going to collect the data and give it back to us. This had to be more than just a ‘tick the box’ exercise and People Insight stood out because they are action planners. Not only did they collect the data but they explained what that data told us and then worked with us to develop programmes and strategies to implement change.
Lastly, we chose People Insight for the team. They are credible, know about the trade and are passionate about the subject area. Anything we asked for we got back promptly and it’s a huge credit to the People Insight team.
We had done a lot of work on developing the Marston’s career path as well as other pieces of training and development. But it was really important for us to have a piece not just about awareness but to get a real flavour of what people thought of the company on the ground, and to give staff the chance to have their say. So we asked them a range of questions as well as giving them the opportunity to put down one negative and one positive open text comment. Everyone has different views, which is one of the most important things to realise, especially in a big PLC, but you do get collective themes.
Admittedly when we started this process we did not know what we were going to get back. In some ways it was daunting but we were determined to ensure any findings did not get stuffed into a bottom drawer and forgotten about. Whatever came out of the survey we were going to tackle head on and, more importantly, act on.
We decided to use a benchmark across all industries, rather than just compare us to other organisations in our own sector. That way we could see how we operated on a wider scale.
The figures certainly made interesting reading. The feedback around our career path was quite amazing in that people really did feel they receive recognition and development within the business.
But there was definitely a feeling that we could do more to improve the rewards and incentives that we offered to our pub teams and People Insight worked with to develop a range of programmes to answer those points. 50% of our pub staff are 25 or under – some of them wouldn’t be here to collect their gold watch as they work with us part time whilst at university or college but we wanted to show that we valued them all the same. Using the data supplied by People Insight we were able to bring in a new long-service scheme which recognised people from five years upwards.
As a result, we have significantly improved our engagement scores between year one and year two, showing that we haven’t just surveyed our employees and done nothing with that data – we’ve acted and implemented change as a direct result.
Marston’s now offers a comprehensive benefits and rewards scheme, meaning employees get discounts on a whole range of products and services – including the weekly shop.
Personally I think I’ve saved about £500 already this year and others will have too. When you have a proportion of your staff on or around the minimum wage it’s important we do everything in our power to make their lives easier.
With so many pubs and, therefore, huge numbers of customers, Marston’s was also keen to understand as a business the link between the customer service experience and the employee engagement scores. We want to keep our customers happy because it is good for business, and the way to do that is to keep our employees engaged. It’s clear the managers on site running our pubs are hugely important to us in so many ways. They motivate and inspire but we have to give them the tools to do that job properly.
We continued building on our reward and recognition scheme to ensure on-site managers were incentivised, introducing long service awards at five years and also running a Golden Ticket competition where suggestions and ideas could win cash bonuses.
People Insight’s research and the follow-ups we have done since convinced the board that they had to empower the management team to take our business forward. We needed to educate the management structure about the importance of engagement and while every manager has a different strength – some are motivators, some are organisers, some are trainers – by getting them together and working as a team to solve the problems it has created a more focused approach and there is now an appetite amongst the staff to see the surveys deliver real change.
Indeed, we asked People Insight to be involved in running the action planning workshops which was hugely beneficial. We completed these with directors / managers from across the business, working to agree the actions we would take as a result of the engagement scores. Initially the workshop focused on improving understanding behind the importance of employee engagement, this was really useful. Then we worked on reviewing our scores and discussing what we would do, looking at when and who would take responsibility. The actions were varied and gained great buy in from senior managers and we continue to evaluate this all the time.
Of course, it’s a hugely involving process and one of the tasks for us in HR is to ensure we get the results back to people quicker. I don’t think we are fast enough in communicating the outcomes so we aim to speed that up with our next survey.
People Insight challenged us at every stage of this process. Before we started they ran focus groups to help us establish the questions relevant to our business. Then from carefully wording the questions to ensure there was no ambiguity, to taking the answers on the chin. After all, whether you like the results or not this is what the people that work for you think.
What’s been really exciting is the increase in scores over the years we’ve been working with People Insight. Indeed, we’ve had a six per cent increase to the question ‘I believe something will happen as a result of this survey’. It is hugely encouraging.
Other signs are equally positive. It is very easy for new employees to come in to the business and understand the opportunities for career development because of the time we’ve spent working on the career path. With 50% of our staff aged 25 or under, that’s a massive plus.
I suppose this has also shown us that we need to be a good proposition for employees, rather than viewing people as lucky to work for us. And it all comes down to one thing – happy employees make happy customers which make happy shareholders. Ensuring we are the best place to work is a key priority to ensure this is a reality.