David Walters: How I made a difference

David Walters, Resourcing and development director, group HR, Scott Wilson

We launched our employee engagement survey on the back of the implementation of an online, anonymous, exit questionnaire about 18 months ago. The survey has given us a huge amount of data about what’s important to our organisation and what’s great about it. And although we’re a global company, it taught us about cultural differences that we weren’t aware of.

We discovered that “salary and reward” was only the fourth most important reason for people staying with us. Co-operation was top, including working with like-minded people, job satisfaction and personal growth.

That’s not unusual for the kind of intellectual environment that we’ve got here. Our people are engineers, they like rolling up their sleeves and solving problems.

The level of dissatisfaction with things was actually very low so employee engagement was high, around 87%. That suggested to us that if you’ve got a very highly engaged workforce, you must be getting things right.

For us, the old adage that people leave their managers just isn’t true. People were leaving the company saying: “I’d really like to come back and work for you, in the right circumstances.” That’s made us consider establishing an alumni programme, and has shaped the way we look at talent management.

The survey gave us insights. We learnt that 65% of our leavers were considered by our managers to be high performers – that says something about how we cooperate with individuals. We have a very keen, egalitarian environment.

Some of the issues that came up were very localised – again, it taught us what turns people on and off in places that we don’t know particularly well. Knowing what’s causing people to leave has enabled us to arrange interventions, and staff are far more vocal than they were before.

We had board buy-in from the outset. In a business like ours, people are our asset – we don’t have factories or products – and we know how hard it is to get them. Knowing that some of the people who are leaving are those whom we fought tooth and nail to get hold of helped convince everyone of the importance of this survey.

Why it worked

  • We listened to our staff
  • We acted on their advice
  • We were willing to invest in themp


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