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Best Companies, Who’s Getting it Right? session at Best Companies Live Q3 2022 event
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Best Improvers: Who’s Getting it Right?

Since early 2020, organisations have faced challenges unlike any in recent memory. However, despite such adversity, some organisations have led and managed their people in such a way that they have seen an improvement in their Best Companies accreditation status. During August’s Best Companies Live, we spoke to a selection of the best improvers, across all size categories, to find out how they’ve gone about listening to their people and implementing positive change to help create an even better workplace.

In the following article we share the highlights from the conversation. If you would prefer to watch the full session, please click the video above..

For over 23 years, Best Companies has played a part in helping organisations to listen to their employees and act on their feedback. The questions asked in our b-Heard survey enables organisations to listen quantitively, by measuring the responses with data, as we as qualitatively, by having access to the comments employees write around what’s great about their workplace, and what could be improved.

For some organisations, the way in which they have taken this information, analysed, and interpreted it and then subsequently implemented action plans based upon it, has been highly successful.

But after the challenges of the last two years, and new issues, such as the cost-of-living crisis, giving rise to new concerns, just how do organisations go about ensuring they are proactively addressing the needs and wants of employees, and what can we learn from those who have done so successfully?

“We went into our first survey with no expectations other than getting a starting point, and we leant a huge amount from it.”

For Victoria Stubbs, HR Director at automotive organisation, Vindis Group, the decision to undertake a Best Companies survey was based on a need to ensure consistency in engagement across the organisation and understand areas where improvements could be made.

“The reason we embarked on this journey to begin with is because we have 27 locations across very different geographies, and 750 staff, so we were really keen to understand engagement within those different locations and make sure our values, visions, and morals were consistent across them all,” she explained.

“We went into our first survey with no expectations other than getting a starting point, and we learnt a huge amount from it, such as new benefits and training programmes we could bring in. Our second, most recent survey, has been about checking that our employees think we’ve done things the right way.”

Stubbs said the improvement the organisation has seen between the engagement scores in the year between each survey was something she put down to listening and communicating.  

“A lot of the success we’ve seen in the last couple of months has been down to something as simple as communication,” she continued.

“With the cost-of-living crisis and other issues facing employees, you can’t always do what you would like to do, for the company or for them. But what we’ve found we must do is communicate why we can’t. So, we explain as an organisation what we’re trying to do, what we’re striving to do, and what we’ve done, and that we’re listening to feedback and working with it. It comes down to regular communication, so that people know you’re listening to what they’re saying.”

“It’s about making employees feel like they have a voice, but also being accountable to them.”

Also agreeing that listening is a huge part of any successful engagement plan is Katie Winstanley, Group HR Director at engineering recruitment company, Morson Group.

She explained that the feedback from the Best Companies data has allowed the organisation to continually benchmark itself year-on-year, to strive for continual improvement.

“We’ve been working with Best Companies since 2017,” she explained. “We use the data to understand exactly what it is our employees are wanting. It allows them to provide feedback, and it allows us to continuously measure the data we receive year-on-year. Listening is so important; it’s about making employees feel like they have a voice, but also being accountable to them.”

Winstanley also acknowledged that being open and honest with employees – about both what you can – and can’t – do for them, is something that has been a successful approach.

“Our approach is if you can't do something – explain why. We use something called 'you said we did'. This sees us use the feedback from the comments section of the Best Companies survey word for word and present it back to our people by way of saying ‘you said this, and we’ve done that’. Just as it allows us to say, ‘you said this, and we can’t do that, but this is why not.”

“We are now really clear as a result of the survey feedback on the things that are increasingly important to people.”

For Dawn Moore, Group People and Communications Director at construction firm, J Murphy & Sons, utilising the Best Companies survey data has allowed the organisation to understand the things that matter to employees, and implement new initiatives that have been highly successful in improving engagement.

“One of the things we’ve found being in our third year of surveying with Best Companies is we are now really clear as a result of the survey feedback on the things that are increasingly important to people,” she said.

“For example, from our very first survey, personal growth came out as something that really mattered. The feedback also showed us, however, that our people didn’t really understand the true breadth of what personal growth looks like in a company like Murphy, with many assuming it was just about how much training they received. So, that led us to invest an awful lot of time in educating people about the vast amount of personal growth opportunities they have – not just formal training, but also mentoring and the opportunity to work in different around of the business.”

Moore explained this process of education led the organisation to develop a concept that it has rolled out across all departments called ‘Personal Growth for All’, based on a philosophy that it accessible for anyone, regardless of their position or role.

“We’ve had feedback in subsequent surveys that not only has this improved engagement, but it’s actually improved the feeling of inclusivity within Murphy,” Moore continued. “People now know that it doesn’t matter who they are, at what stage of their career they’re at, or the type of job that they do, the organisation wants to invest in them. And that’s proven to be hugely engaging.”

“Our ‘Working Differently’ policy is all about – as well as for – our employees.”

Also using employee feedback from its Best Companies survey to drive effective change is technology firm, Phoebus Software. It’s Chief People Officer, Kate Langton, explained that the approach used to consistently monitor feedback and implement new plans on the back of it has led the firm to introduce a new style of working.

“Our ‘Working Differently’ policy is all about – as well as for – our employees,” she said. “When we went through lockdown, it became really apparent that the way we asked our employees to approach their working day was valuable to them, both for the flexibility and the work/life balance. We knew this from both the feedback sessions we had throughout lockdowns, but also from the ‘wellbeing’ factor scores in our Best Companies survey.”

Langton explained that because of the positive feedback from the initial change to working arrangements the company wanted to use both this, and further suggestions from its survey, to introduce a policy that went beyond flexible working, something that was more informal, and people focused.

“Now, it’s all about how people use their time,” she explained. “This ties in with a trust-based approach we have within the organisations where we are confident in our people doing what they need to do from a work perspective, and in the right way for them. Making these changes has had a positive impact on our people from a wellbeing perspective.”

To enjoy this session in full, see the full recording here.

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