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Case studies:

How employee listening helped deliver a significant change

Sunbelt Rentals

sunbelt rentals, People Insight
A great working relationship
“We have built up a great relationship with everyone we work with at People Insight. They really are experts at understanding the whole employee survey journey, and how to maximise the benefits of carrying surveys out.”

Steve Lynas, UK HR director

The challenge

Sunbelt Rentals UK is part of the FTSE100 Ashtead Group plc, the global leader in equipment rental. In the UK, they employ 3,700 people across 190 sites and are the largest specialist provider of rental equipment and managed solutions.

Most recently, Sunbelt Rentals UK has deployed its total solutions service for the Government, setting up over 450 NHS drive-through or walk-in testing centres across the country since the start of the pandemic.

At the same time as delivering operational success, Sunbelt Rentals UK has been on a significant strategic change programme. This case study describes how Sunbelt’s employee listening strategy has supported the company rebrand, launch of their vision, mission and values and helped embed new ways of working. Read on to find out how they have improved employee engagement, culture and retention.

Our vision


  • Sunbelt Rentals UK’s aim: To own the future of rental by consolidating 20 separate brands under a single umbrella brand and communicating a broader service offering.

  • Strategic plan: Project Unify to bring all brands together through operational, cultural and behavioural change.

Creating
change in an established organisation

When Steve Lynas, current UK HR director joined what was then A-Plant, he had an appetite for change. Fundamental strategic change was starting, with a new Group Chief Executive and new CEO, Andy Wright. Their strategy for growth involved consolidating their 20 separate brands under a single umbrella; Sunbelt Rentals UK, in line with the US and Canada operation. Not only does ‘Sunbelt Rentals UK’ communicate a broader service offering greater than the sum of its parts, but modernises the brand too.

Meeting the challenge

Internally, this was going to be a challenge. Said Steve:

“At that time, A-Plant wasn’t the people-centric, collaborative business it is today. We were very siloed – lots of successful divisions wedded to their traditional identities, but with little collaboration or common purpose. Leadership were seen as distant and central support services such as HR and finance viewed as transactional instead of value adding.”

And so began Project Unify, a year-long plan to bring brands and people together, so that Sunbelt could deliver the collaborative, total service offering that leaders envisaged. Steve was clear on the ingredients for success.

“We absolutely had to bring our people along with us. If our vision was for a more collaborative organisation – we had to start with that behaviour; collaboration, listening, empathy and understanding.”

Leadership focus groups
“The leader focus groups were really useful to get input on what the survey should prioritise. It was an important exercise in transparency and involvement in the process with a view to leaders feeling more ownership for the results.”

Steve Lynas, UK HR director

Project Unify
and Sunbelt’s listening journey

The first step in an ongoing programme of dialogue was to talk with customers, and listen to all staff via an employee survey. Steve chose People Insight for the survey because they were clearly aligned to the direction of travel and journey that Sunbelt Rentals was on, and the PEARLTM model of engagement fitted extremely well with the desired culture and values for the business moving forward.

The Your Voice survey programme started with leader focus groups.

Change at all levels
“We had real intent as an organisation to make change happen at all levels of the business. We made it clear that the leaders in the room would be responsible for, and empowered to make change happen amongst their teams.”

Steve Lynas, UK HR director

Your Voice
survey feedback provided the evidence needed for the change programme ahead and leaders committed to act.

“Looking at the results, we had some work to do around trust and only 30% of employees believed we’d act on the results,” said Steve. “However, overall engagement was pretty good (74%) with a lot of positivity about relationships, individual roles, pride in their work and the heritage brands. The results clearly supported the narrative that we needed; requests for more joined up, collaborative working, to feel more connected and valued, and to improve development and reward.”

Steve presented the results to the executive team and regional directors, linking the results to the priority areas identified in the early focus groups.

It wasn’t just this audience that heard the message about taking action. Each employee received a personal letter committing the senior team to act on the survey results. A pivotal step in the journey was a series of regional roadshows, all about listening, collaboration, and involvement. They included:

  1. The Sunbelt Rentals rebrand – why it was happening and why it justified moving away from heritage brands that divisions had been wedded to for decades. Your Voice feedback provided the evidence from employees that they wanted a more collaborative, joined up approach.
  2. Workshops to enable everyone to input into the vision, mission and values of the new brand.
  3. Regional action planning from the results of the Your Voice survey – led by Regional Directors.

Walking the
talk: Leaders made
change happen as a result of the Your Voice survey

The intention of leaders to make change happen was real. At the same time as working on the rebrand, vision, mission and values, Steve’s team followed through, launching a broad range of initiatives:

  • The Academy: An improved online training platform – a one stop shop for all training and identifying future career aspirations
  • A revamped recruitment strategy and Aspire – a new recruitment platform to streamline the recruitment process (the HR Recruitment Team won Gold at the In-house Recruitment Awards (IHA) 2020 as a result)
  • Long service awards and the Hall of Fame Awards to recognise individuals who have gone above and beyond in demonstrating and living the Sunbelt values.
  • An extensive job role and pay evaluation grading project, with a multi-million pound investment.
  • ‘You said, We did’ communications – sharing progress on Your Voice actions achieved, and what was yet to come.
Then, Covid arrived
“A few weeks later and we wouldn’t have been able to come together. Thanks goodness we did – the mood was so positive. All the work we’d done through Project Unify – listening, pulling together under one shared vision, meant that trusting people to work from home flexibly was a given.”

Steve Lynas, UK HR director

Timing is everything: Launching a new brand on the cusp of Covid

A year’s tireless work in listening, collaborating and refining the new brand, vision, mission and values culminated in the internal brand launch conference with 850 leaders and depot managers. After a thrilling day, the emotional finale was a long service awards ceremony. Many employees were recognised for 10, 20, 30 even 40 years of service, with one employee amazingly having achieved 50 years.

No sooner was the conference over, than the dramatic events of a national lockdown unfolded. It wasn’t long before the ability of Sunbelt to deliver a total service solution was tested.

“On the evening of 25 March 2020, we were asked to provide equipment and expertise to create two NHS drive-through testing centres. We used all of our in-house capability to turn around the request within 24 hours. Now we are delivering 20-30 testing sites per week, and each month we provide after care services and more than 200,000 litres of fuel to keep the sites running.

“The change in behaviour driven by Project Unify meant we could pull together across divisions, win the business and deliver in record time. It’s fair to say everyone at Sunbelt takes huge pride in playing a part in the national response to the ongoing pandemic.”

Full support from People Insight
“The support we received from our People Insight consultant was fantastic. He really helped us to maximise the benefits of the survey throughout the whole journey with practical, relevant advice.”

Steve Lynas, UK HR director

The next Your Voice survey programme was more in depth

With the rebrand launched, and now the new Covid-related challenges, Steve and his team were once again keen to listen to all employees with the Your Voice survey. This time they expanded the range of services from People Insight:

  1. A revised question set developed by one of our psychologists. It not only tracks progress, but also monitors the impact of Covid, lockdown and the actions Sunbelt had taken during the early stages of the pandemic.
  2. People Insight’s survey results dashboard with iDeck. The dashboard gives leaders access to their personalised results, whilst the iDeck provides instant PowerPoint results presentations for depot managers.

    “We all love the iDeck – it is a brilliant tool for sharing results rapidly around the organisation in a really accessible way,” said Steve.

  3. Executive team results and analysis presentation – Our consultant provided practical solutions to the challenges they faced, informed by the knowledge built up about Sunbelt’s specific issues, and knowledge of the construction industry more broadly.
  4. Train the Trainer action planning workshops for HR Business Partners – equipping them to work with their regions on a consistent, best practice approach to action planning.
  5. Online action planning on the People Insight dashboard – There’s over 300 active action plans on the system which are easy to track and follow up.
The Feel-Good Factor is back
“Since the last survey we’ve had better interaction and communication from the Exec Team and a much clearer vision as to what the company want to achieve. The feel-good factor is back – doing right by our people and our customers is having a really positive effect!”

Comment from survey participant

Your Voice
survey results show the dramatic impact of Project Unify

Steve and his team were absolutely thrilled with the Your Voice survey results. They’d come a long way to achieving the goals they’d set – to break down barriers, improve collaboration and communication, help employees feel valued and united under one vision.

The results dashboard showed that engagement is up by 6% in one year, a significant achievement in any organisation. Data algorithms showed that this increase was driven by the improvements in purpose, vision and action.

What’s more, the operational, cultural and behavioural improvements meant employee turnover reduced from 22% to 14%. The proportion of operational employees with more than 1 years’ service increased from 75% to 85%. Said Steve:

“I’m thrilled with the employee retention metrics. Our people are more engaged and involved, and we’ve a significant saving in terms of lost training, skill and expertise. Due to our ongoing growth, we have 140 vacancies currently, and I’m proud of our improvements in attracting and keeping talented staff.”

Of course, the journey is not over yet – the latest Your Voice survey results identify the next areas of focus.

“We’ve just launched an exciting leadership programme to help us create a world class group of leaders who can help us to deliver our vision of ‘owning the future of rental’. External recruitment has been successful this year due to our attractive proposition – now we must focus on succession and developing our talent internally.”

Steve’s tips for delivering change successfully

Listen, listen and listen again

We all know change can’t be ‘done to’ people. Invest the time in listening to every group of employees via surveys, workshops, focus groups and conversations as often as possible.

Involve, involve, involve

The first set of values leaders come up with are never the finished article! All employee groups have a role to play in inputting and evaluating. And you get a much better result when everyone plays their part and feels a sense of ownership in the values we finally agree on.

Action is everything

Remind your people what you said you’d do, what you’ve done, and what you’ve still got to action at every opportunity. People forget quickly amongst the melee of everyday tasks and lose trust if you aren’t transparent.

Go all out on merchandise

Launching a new company brand means changing everything from trucks to stationery to websites. Give your people the tools to help you – and you’ll find they are re-labelling everything that stands still with great enthusiasm.

Results

6%

increase

Employee engagement increase

20%

increase

Staff participation and belief in action

8%

reduction

Employee turnover

10%

increase

Operational staff retention

Your Voice
survey results show the dramatic impact of Project Unify

Steve and his team were absolutely thrilled with the Your Voice survey results. They’d come a long way to achieving the goals they’d set – to break down barriers, improve collaboration and communication, help employees feel valued and united under one vision.

“Since the last survey we’ve had better interaction and communication from the Exec Team and a much clearer vision as to what the company want to achieve. The feel-good factor is back – doing right by our people and our customers is having a really positive effect!”

Comment from survey participant.

The results dashboard showed that engagement is up by 6% in one year, a significant achievement in any organisation. Data algorithms showed that this increase was driven by the improvements in purpose, vision and action.

What’s more, the operational, cultural and behavioural improvements meant employee turnover reduced from 22% to 14%. The proportion of operational employees with more than 1 years’ service increased from 75% to 85%. Said Steve:

“I’m thrilled with the employee retention metrics. Our people are more engaged and involved, and we’ve a significant saving in terms of lost training, skill and expertise. Due to our ongoing growth, we have 140 vacancies currently, and I’m proud of our improvements in attracting and keeping talented staff.”

Of course, the journey is not over yet – the latest Your Voice survey results identify the next areas of focus.

“We’ve just launched an exciting leadership programme to help us create a world class group of leaders who can help us to deliver our vision of ‘owning the future of rental’. External recruitment has been successful this year due to our attractive proposition – now we must focus on succession and developing our talent internally.”

Finally, Steve; what’s it been like to work with People Insight?

Anecdotal feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with comments like:

“We have built up a great relationship with everyone we work with at People Insight. They really are experts at understanding the whole employee survey journey, and how to maximise the benefits of carrying surveys out.”

Steve Lynas, UK HR director – Sunbelt Rentals UK

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