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Case studies:

How Wolseley deliver an impactful employee survey programme

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Wolseley, People Insight
“Working with People Insight means we’ve got a robust and credible employee survey programme. Thanks to the expertise they’ve shared with us, our leaders, managers and colleagues are confident in the actions we take as a result of employee feedback. Actions which help us to develop our internal workplace culture, inspire our employees and enhance their engagement.”

Catherine Turner, Employee Engagement Manager, Wolseley

How Wolseley deliver an impactful employee survey programme

Wolseley is a specialist plumbing merchant that aims to be the first choice for trade customers across the UK. Employing 5,000 staff, Wolseley builds its businesses through the quality of their people, the excellent service they provide and their strong relationships with customers and suppliers.

Wolseley turned to People Insight to develop a more modern employee survey programme and expert advice on how to act on results to support their key HR objectives:

  1. To attract the best people.
  2. To motivate them to be the very best they can be.
  3. To engage and ensure they feel part of the bigger.

Catherine Turner, Employee Engagement Manager, spoke to People Insight about the ingredients for successful surveys and the award-winning programmes they’ve launched as a result of employee feedback.

Designing a modern employee survey programme

Wolseley wanted to improve their survey programme as the questions weren’t well structured and the data that resulted was hard to interpret. The process was difficult, time consuming and didn’t provide the insight for action required.

The first step for People Insight’s consultants was to redesign the questionnaire in line with the key HR objectives and our PEARL methodology, to provide the most robust employee engagement measure. We used a proven question index to demonstrate:

  1. Which factors were driving engagement at Wolseley
  2. What were the priority areas of action
  3. How this differentiated across the business and demographic

Planning the demographic groupings for analysis is one of the most important steps up front in survey design so that issues can be surfaced in particular teams or minority groups and acted upon. Said Catherine,

“The help with questionnaire design has been really valuable – we wanted to ensure we have the right metrics based on the latest best practice in this industry and beyond. I’m really pleased with where we’ve got to.”

Three years into the partnership, Wolseley run a full annual survey followed by pulse surveys at six-month intervals. The pulses focus on the most relevant questions to keep up with changes in employee sentiment and to track the impact of changes made in the business. Said Catherine,

“One of the bravest questions we ask is ‘What difference have you seen since the last survey?’ Our consultant encouraged us to ask this, and the feedback is vital for us to hear to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”

Impactful comms increase survey participation

Typically, participation rates at Wolseley are around 75%, thanks to the effort they put into communications explaining why the surveys are happening, what will happen as a result, and providing reassurances of confidentiality. £1 is donated to the nominated charity Mind for each survey completed as an extra incentive.

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The survey is branded ‘Let’s Hear It!’ which appears throughout the pre-survey campaign of team briefings, Yammer announcements, intranet banners, emails and posters.

Following surveys, a ‘Lets Act!’ feature appears in the monthly engagement-themed newsletter ‘We Are Wolseley’. This provides an update on what actions are being taken by leaders and across the business as the result of the survey. This keeps the survey programme current and reminds staff of the impact of their input, reinforcing that their voice matters.

In addition, there’s a Colleague Forum of elected representatives who attend a monthly online meeting to discuss employee engagement related items that they’ve brought from their business areas, or as requested by leaders. They relay outputs to the employees they represent.

Colleague Forum Rep Jamie Holleron, a Sales Advisor in Ellesmere Port said,

“It’s really encouraging that the company look to help colleagues build relationships with other business units, listening to the thoughts of colleagues alongside the engagement surveys. It’s great that we have that link with the directorate and are able to voice opinions and influence the direction of travel in such a way from the ground up.”

Results and expert insight are shared rapidly across Wolseley

Following the surveys high level results are shared via emailed videographics developed by People Insight, making it easy for everyone across the organisation to get the highlights quickly.

Said Catherine,

“The videos bring the results to life and give our colleagues a break from written communication.”

One of People Insight’s senior consultants delivers a feedback presentation to the leadership team after each survey. This is designed to not only communicate the results, key drivers and priority action areas, but also to provide industry comparisons and broader context. Catherine said,

“The feedback session is vital as the consultant’s evidence and perspective makes the recommendations credible. Having an external expert lead the session can mean it’s easier to deliver a message without any internal bias.”

People Insight have delivered all twelve functional level feedback presentations too, helping local leaders feel confident in the actions recommended and the way forward to make improvements. Catherine found this to be an efficient way of working; the speed of delivery meant that Catherine and her team could maintain momentum between closing the survey, communicating the results understanding next steps and moving to action.

Additionally, all managers across Wolseley with 10 or more direct reports are given access to the survey results via the results dashboard, along with advice from People Insight consultants on how to act upon the outcomes. So, not only can they be told their results, but they can interact with them, interrogating the data themselves, which is much more transparent, engaging and empowering.

wolseley update


How Wolseley take action following each survey

Initially, the action planning stage started with lots of briefings, guides, templates and focus groups to support managers in the action process. This effort paid off; in subsequent pulse surveys, Catherine’s team have been able to take a lighter touch, advising managers to focus on what has changed, what needs to be refreshed and optimised.

Said Catherine,

“Giving line managers dashboard access has been a game changer when it comes to action planning with their teams. They have more ownership and involvement – and have become healthily competitive about results!”

Award-winning career development programme

“One of the benefits of the employee survey programme is the clear evidence it provides to help us develop our programmes.”

Following extensive employee survey feedback, The Wolseley Talent Guild was created, which has since won the HR Excellence Award for Talent Management. Survey results showed clearly that employees wanted clearer pathways and methods for career development. More needed to be done to retain and develop existing talent.

The Talent Guild was launched with the intention of delivering an industry-leading approach to talent management with three key objectives in mind:

  1. To improve the engagement of existing employees
  2. To maximise their collective talents and ambitions
  3. To demonstrate to both existing and prospective future employees that Wolseley is the ideal place to learn and thrive.


The Talent Guild framework is broken down into three parts.

1.     Assessing and placing talent within the organisation

Ensuring each person in the most appropriate role on a salary befitting that role and level of talent is is achieved through internal vacancy adverts, interviews and psychometric tests, assessment centres, capacity planning, onboarding, talent centres and benchmarking.

2.     Providing opportunities for employees to learn and develop to move up the career ladder

The programme includes induction programmes, career progression training, professional qualifications, classroom training, eLearning, compliance training and on-demand content.

3.     Plan the career journey and provide support along the way.

This is achieved through probationary, mid-year and annual performance reviews, 9 box grid reviews, personal development planning, succession planning, mentor and coaching programmes, career ladders and pathways.

Vitally, the Talent Guild is inclusive, giving all employees access to a clearly defined, fairly applied and transparent range of opportunities. The prospectus showcases ‘Talent Boosters’ delivered by the internal team, which range in depth from 12 to upwards of 40 hours of learning. There are also over 40 professional qualifications available supported by training providers over a 12-month period resulting in a nationally recognised qualification.

Find out more about the Talent Guild here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fiig45tz2g

Impact on Employee Engagement

The launch of the Talent Guild has had a significant impact on overall engagement, on the indicators of engagement and particularly on development:

Wolseley results

Next steps for Wolseley

Since the last round of pulse surveys, Wolseley have launched new values to help ensure they are working together in a shared way, positive for employees, customers and suppliers. The values were launched using videographics developed by People Insight that follow on from the employee survey results comms.


Wolseley values


The values were carefully developed using feedback through the engagement surveys and the Colleague Forum, ensuring that these have been settled on collectively and democratically.

Each of the stories in the ‘We Are Wolseley’ newsletter is labelled with the most applicable value as a means of reinforcing their impact and keeping them in the collective consciousness.

In addition, the team are due to launch a business-wide annual internal awards scheme to recognise those who’ve measurably lived and breathed the values and have, in doing so, brought success to both themselves and the business.

Finally, the assessment criteria of performance reviews is being tailored so that employee performance will be assessed against the values.

Finally, what is it like working with People Insight?

Said Catherine,

“Working with People Insight means we’ve got a robust and credible employee survey programme. Thanks to the expertise they’ve shared with us, our leaders, managers and colleagues are confident in the actions we take as a result of employee feedback. Actions which help us to develop our internal workplace culture, inspire our employees and enhance their engagement.”

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