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Case studies:

How Crest Nicholson Achieves Top Quartile Employee Engagement

Crest Nicholson

Crest nicholson, People Insight

Striving for employee engagement excellence

Top performing organisations like Crest Nicholson strive for employee engagement excellence as they know they’ll be more productive, grow faster and innovate more. They develop thriving cultures and winning people practices that propel them into the upper quartile of engaging organisations.

But how exactly do they do this? People Insight Peak Engagement Research (PIPER) 

To share the exceptional practices and skills developed by organisations such as Crest Nicholson, People Insight has created a unique research project. PIPER aims to identify in practical terms, what makes top quartile-performing organisations highly engaged workplaces. 

PIPER uses statistical analysis to identify the drivers of each organisation’s engagement scores. We then talk to highly engaged employees to identify practical examples of behaviours and activities that support them. People Insight then validates the findings with the organisation and brings to life the results with case studies that can be shared. 

The fact that the research comes directly from employees’ perspective is what makes this programme unique. 

This is the third in our series of PIPER reports. Read on to learn what Crest Nicholson do to sustain high levels of engagement, and find our previous studies here.

Our vision

Employees are proud of the company brand and product quality.

Employees feel valued and recognised for their hard work

Stand out areas

When applying key driver analysis to Crest Nicholson’s engagement survey results, three main contributing areas stand out:

1. Employees enjoy their work 

  • Employees feel that their work is challenging and interesting 
  • They have clear team aims and objectives, so they know what to do together 
  • They have learning opportunities, so they can grow their careers at Crest Nicholson 

2. Employees feel that the company has strong principles, and treats its staff well 

  • They trust that the company will look after them, fairly and with equality 
  • Crest Nicholson ensures staff wellbeing with a generous programme of benefits and initiatives 

3. People at Crest Nicholson feel a sense of achievement 

  • People feel proud of the company’s purpose and vision, and are happy to sell a quality product 
  • They feel valued and appropriately recognised for their efforts & outputs 

Why do employees enjoy their work so much?

Making your own decisions means you can craft a varied, interesting role 

Employees feel able to make their own decisions and are trusted to get on with their job. We hear this frequently – but what’s unique in this study, is how employees say this means they can naturally pick up responsibilities, and craft a varied role that makes the best use of their skills. 

This variation, such as physically going off site and getting out of the office helps make the roles engaging and interesting. 

However, what is particularly enjoyable is being able to see customers move into their new home. It is really rewarding to see the end result and the emotional impact it has helps staff feel proud of the Crest banner. 

“Being proud of what you are trying to sell, and having faith in the quality of the product are two things that not only make the job easier, but more rewarding. Particularly when customers share in your enthusiasm.”

Clear objectives outlined

Teams that have clear objectives and a lot of fun collaborate effectively

There are a lot of social activities at Crest Nicholson; football and rounders games, awards and celebrations all contribute to the family feel. Although it may just sound like ‘a bit of fun’ it is more than this – the benefits to the organisation are many:

  • Builds a sense of team spirit and a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture
  • Strengthens collaboration – everyone connects and interacts well with one another
  • People listen to what you have to say and are prepared to go the extra mile because they are connected
  • Senior leaders join in, giving the organisation a ‘family feel’

“Although it’s a huge company, working here makes you feel close together, from head office to site levels it’s like one big family”.

The social side is balanced with a real sense of goal clarity.

People know as a team what to do, and how to achieve realistic goals, which helps people work closer together.

At the start of the year, each department develops their objectives, executive meetings are held by directors and disseminated across the company. There are clear deadlines set by line managers and targets to work towards, which are set by line managers. Feedback is frequent, at least on a monthly basis.

Progressive training and development

Employees receive the training and development to progress, develop and grow

One of the most significant developments in the last few years at Crest Nicholson, has been the Delivering Professional Excellence Programme (DPE). They have revamped their appraisal & development programme to ensure career pathways are clear and transparent, to encourage employees to share aspirations. DPE is focused on two key areas: professional skills and management attributes, and technical skills and qualifications. 

It is a strong framework for managers and employees to have a development discussion twice a year, with managers demonstrating a real effort to follow up. The DPE focuses not only on where the employee can go next, but how they can get there. All managers are trained in how to use this programme, and the training is delivered by the HR department. 

DPE is supported with ‘My view’ – an online system for employees to book training, with rapid approval and arrangement. Anyone is able to apply for training, supporting fairness and equality. The initiatives clearly make a difference – with training and development scores over 30% above external benchmark in the 2015 employee survey. 

The Training Hub

Another recent development is The Training Hub, which takes on students to experience different fields of construction, such as plumbing on Monday, electrics on Tuesday, and bricklaying on Wednesday. Each day will consist of a different trade skill being taught. The training manager will take the students out to see others’ work.

“Crest have provided me with the training and knowledge I need to have a successful career and I am forever thankful.”

Employees are treated fairly

Why do employees feel that the company has strong principles, and treats its staff well?

Employees feel that they are being treated fairly 

One of the most widely cited examples in our research of why Crest Nicholson is an engaging employer, was the culture they have embedded of fairness, respect and equality. 

“They are not looking at what sex or race you are, they are looking at whether you are a good employee to the business. It’s the individual and what they can bring to the business.” 

The company makes a lot of effort to ensure people are treated fairly regardless of position, region or level. This can be seen in how benefits are put in place. 

From a new recruit starting to long term employees no matter who you are, all employees will receive access to generous benefits. 

Although actual benefits individually are not necessarily the greatest drivers of engagement, it is how they have been introduced that demonstrates a strong sense of ‘care’ that employees really value. It’s this psychological contract that motivates employees. More generally, having incentives also makes people feel secure and confident that the company is doing well. For example, the health insurance benefits go above and beyond the necessities, and include alternative therapies.

The list of benefits includes: 

  • Share save scheme 
  • Private healthcare (automatically enrolled upon recruitment) 
  • Pension 
  • ‘My reward’ (discount in selective shops) 
  • Car benefits 
  • Ability to buy or sell up to 3 days annual leave – this gives people control and is particularly helpful for those with families 
  • Job flexibility 
  • Office based employees leaving at 4pm on Fridays – this motivates people, particularly at times of high pressure during the week (knowing that things will balance out and they can go home early) 
  • Incentives if you introduce someone to the company.

Crest are keen to ensure that monthly updates via email keep people both informed and updated on what’s new. Benefit initiatives are distributed via the company intranet, as well as through the company email address. 

“It doesn’t matter who you are, you are offered the same. (Crest are an) open minded company that moves forward with the times.” 

Sometimes it’s the personal things that have an impact, like managers showing consideration for the safety of their staff working in sales offices. There is also a strong sense of respect between staff at Crest Nicholson. They are open to suggestions and will not shoot them down without seriously considering them. It is not unusual for employees across the business to have their opinions asked, to take part in brainstorming sessions, to suggest how to make things better. 

Sense of achievement

How do people at Crest Nicholson get a sense of achievement from their work?

Employees are proud of the company brand and product quality 

Crest employees are super proud of the company, and what their brand stands for – quality, responsibly built homes. This pride comes over naturally for sales employees happy to sell a quality product – they feel honest and truthful when they hand over the keys to a new property. 

They make sustainability a key priority; part of the strategy is to ensure houses are built responsibly. A separate sustainability department exists, and it focuses on goals such as reducing waste. The company intranet communicates any sustainability initiatives, and the messages are cascaded to individuals. 

To help ensure that employees are better connected and informed, the company undertakes road shows in every region. Leaders present the strategy to employees, give an update on revenue/target objectives, projection of future projects and how they are building responsibly and ethically. Leaders interact with employees, listening, and are seen as ‘easy to talk to’. Relating back to the ‘equality’ focus, the company makes an effort to allow as many people off site to attend the road shows. There is a general theme of willingness for everyone to be heard.

Some employees undertake an activity called ‘comparables’, whereby they look at properties near a Crest development. This helps them as an employee to identify the big differences between a Crest building and another building, helping to build further confidence in the product. 

The company is seen as always wanting to improve, and this makes its employees see a future within it. They follow through on their ideas and implement them. Customer surveys are sent out, asking about issues such as quality. Customer issues, quality and feedback are communicated through the company intranet.

Value and recognition

Employees feel valued and recognised for their hard work

Recognising employees is embedded in Crest’s culture – so much so that employees interviewed couldn’t give specifically examples of big recognition moments; it is more of managers frequently saying ‘well done’ or a ‘good job’ and genuinely meaning it. And it’s not just managers, but peer to peer, manager to employee, and employee to manager. Recognition is seen everywhere. People report feeling as part of a team and being told that they are an essential member of the team, which boosts their morale. However, what is also essential here is that reward is fair. This makes people have trust and confidence in senior management, and people feel that senior management are sincere in their actions and beliefs. 

Outcome

Crest Nicholson is an upper quartile employee engagement performer, consistently 14% above the external benchmark with their overall employee engagement score. 

Closer examination of their organisation shows how this engagement is driven by employees enjoying autonomy and variation in their tasks, a real sense of being cared for by a principled organisation, and pride in fantastic products. The generous and well thought out benefits programme underlines the culture, and the learning and development programme has had a dramatic effect on employees’ intention to stay. 

Crest Nicholson has been able to create a thriving atmosphere, where employees are highly engaged and motivated to achieve, and by sharing this experience we hope others will achieve similar improvements on their engagement journey.

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