How UKAR brought 2,500 colleagues together across two businesses with different operations and cultures
Internal Brand Development Manager
We often get asked “when is a good time to run an employee engagement survey?”, and many people believe that during periods of transition, engagement surveys are at best a distraction, and at worst a hindrance. Our experience suggests otherwise: leaders should have their ears on all the time, and particularly when making major organisation change. Our work with UKAR bears this out.
UK Asset Resolution Ltd (UKAR) was established in October 2010 to bring together the Government-owned businesses of Bradford & Bingley and Northern Rock Asset Management and facilitate the orderly management of the closed mortgage books to maximise value for taxpayers.
The challenge of bringing together 2,500 colleagues across two businesses with different operations and cultures, whilst continuing to serve around 900,000 customers was huge. UKAR is committed to helping colleagues make the transition by building a successful business and creating a great place to work.
People Insight were asked to help the business to measure colleague engagement.
Mark Lawson, from UKAR, explains.
“UKAR brought together two businesses with different customer products and operations as well as different pay and conditions, cultures and working practices.
“Colleagues from the heritage companies were proud of their history but had been through a great deal of uncertainty when the two businesses were nationalised. It was important to ensure they felt confident about the future and understood UKAR’s vision because major changes would be taking place to integrate the two companies and create a cost efficient, successful business.
“We asked People Insight to help us measure and manage colleague engagement as we progressed the integration. We wanted to ensure that all our 2,500 colleagues had an opportunity to speak their minds and could see that their voices were being heard.
UKAR is unique, too, in that it must manage its customer base on behalf of the UK taxpayer and once the government debt is paid back, its prime objective will be met.
“Yes, we are a unique business in that we are not open for new business but we put a lot of effort into encouraging a healthy and positive working environment to enable colleagues to benefit from the time they are working at UKAR. We put great emphasis on training which not only helps colleagues fulfil their current roles better but also provides skills for future employment.”
“We have harnessed the results of our engagement surveys in many different ways but it can be encapsulated with the phrase “You said, we did”. From day one People Insight enabled us to give colleagues a voice and then report back in a way which allowed us to act upon many of the comments and suggestions and increasingly we are encouraging ownership of positive change at a local level as well, with teams responsible for their own action plan.
“Of course, you can’t always please everyone and there will often be times in business when you have to take really tough decisions, such as closing a site. However this process proves that as long as you engage people in dialogue and do your best to consider their work-life balance you won’t go far wrong.”
UKAR continues to use People Insight, carrying out a full annual survey as well as quarterly pulse surveys to enable teams to keep track of progress.
Mark continues: “When we first started working with People Insight in the early days of 2011, a lot of the comments underlined concerns about integration. As a direct result of the feedback and comments, we introduced a ‘surgery’ schedule with our senior directors, in addition to existing feedback channels, where colleagues know they can just pop in and have a chat with one of our directors.
“We hold regular recognition events, such as celebrating our anniversies, with a series of visuals themed around ‘achievements we can all be proud of’. Cupcakes and morning coffees are served by members of our senior management team to all 2,500 colleagues as a small thank you for their dedication, professionalism and loyalty through some very challenging times.”
“Sharing positive stories about commitment, developing people and recognising great performance has given a tangible lift to the workforce and has enabled us to gain their trust by proving to each and every one of them that our people approach isn’t simply a paper exercise, but a dedicated effort to feel like a great place to work, and to enhance every colleague’s skill set along the way”