Personnel Today Awards 2014 winners: Village Urban Resorts & De Vere Hotels win Employee Engagement award – more than 1,000 employees

Village Urban Resorts & De Vere Hotels
Village Urban Resorts & De Vere Hotels collects its employee engagement prize at the Personnel Today Awards 2014.

Oakleaf PartnershipEmployee engagement can have a dramatic impact on business results. Village Urban Resorts & De Vere Hotels were considered worthy winners of the Employee Engagement Award for companies with more than 1,000 employees, sponsored by Oakleaf, for dramatically increasing its employee engagement score. We profile the key changes it implemented, along with the achievements of the other finalists.


WINNER: Village Urban Resorts & De Vere Hotels

About the organisation

Village Urban Resorts and De Vere Hotels operates across 33 locations, with 25 Village Urban Resorts and eight De Vere Hotels. The group has an annual turnover of £220 million converting to £60 million profit. It employs a total of 5000 people.

Employee engagement – the judges

Mark Withers, managing director, Mightywaters Consulting

Wendy Cartwright, former HR director, Olympic Delivery Authority

The challenge

In 2012, the company identified a need to improve its business performance and crystallise value for shareholders. Its employee engagement strategy, the V Happy People Plan, will play a key role in attaining this goal. People engagement had been low at 71%, and this was affecting service.

What the organisation did

  • Created an employer brand where all aspects of the plan were instantly recognizable, and covered every part of employee journey.
  • Simple logo and philosophy: “Vhappy people = Vhappy customers”.
  • Introduced employee communication forum, with “Very Informed Person” engagement champions across the business.
  • Champions meet twice a year to discuss issues with the executive team.
  • Designed national competitions to recognised exceptional individuals in different business areas.
  • Ensured employees received a performance review against five newly created performance behaviours.

Benefits and achievements

  • Guest rate (service measure) increased by 20%; customer spend up by £15 per room.
  • Employee engagement increased by 15% to 86%.
  • Almost 9 out of 10 staff would recommend De Vere as a place to work.
  • Almost 9 out of 10 high performers retained through early identification of risk of leaving.
  • Twenty-four rising stars identified in last 12 months, creating robust talent pipeline.
  • Recruitment spend down by 80%, saving £400,000.
  • Labour turnover now stands at 24%, the lowest compared to competitors.
  • Unsolicited job applications up 16%.

Judges’ comments

“A very compelling narrative and very clearly articulated and quantified benefits.”


RUNNERS-UP

L&Q

About the organisation

L&Q is one of around 2,000 housing associations, founded in 1963. It manages more than 70,000 homes for 130,000 people, employing around 1,300 staff.

The challenge

L&Q’s two key objectives are to create a place where people want to live, and a great place to work where staff can thrive. Drawing on research showing that employee engagement affects profit, L&Q wanted a strong, purposeful culture where employees are totally engaged with its values.

What the organisation did

  • Set up Collaborative Learning Group to determine and embed the L&Q psychological contract.
  • Recruited 56 employee engagement champions from across the organisation who meet twice a year with CEO.
  • Training programme put in place to support champions.
  • Initiatives implemented as result of feedback include: staff suggestion boxes, surgery sessions, monthly directors’ blogs, engagement newsletters and team-building events.
  • Communications team delivers manager’s brief regularly to cascade corporate news to people at team’s meetings.
  • Staff conference at Wembley Stadium attended by 89% of workforce.
  • Rewards for outstanding performance from ideas and innovations programme.
  • Devised Integrated talent management strategy delivering initiatives such as management trainees’ scheme, apprentice scheme and mentoring.

Benefits and achievements

  • Almost half (44%) of appointments were through internal promotions over past financial year.
  • Percentage of respondents in engagement survey who say they are proud to work for L&Q is 88%.
  • Almost all (96%) respondents “understand the values of L&Q”.
  • Staff turnover is 9%.
  • Resident satisfaction is 79%.

Judges’ comments

“Good evidence of all employee engagement, leadership commitment and a wide range of communications tools being used.”


Arriva North East

About the organisation

Arriva North East operates local bus services across Teesside and the North East region. The company has depots at Whitby, Redcar, Stockton, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Ashington and Blyth, and is owned by Deutsche Bahn.

The challenge

Arriva North East wanted to deliver a shift in behaviour, forming a culture of honest, freedom and enthusiasm. It developed a strategy called “Join us on our journey” aimed at helping people to focus on overall business goals, and to become an engaged and motivated workforce.

What the organisation did

  • Strong visual displays showing people from all areas of the business; centrepiece is a bus mural.
  • Revamped notice boards, locally focused newsletters, email updates and introduced more digital screens at sites, all branded “Join us on our journey”.
  • New monthly forum at head office, with breakfast for all employees.
  • Depot management teams encouraged to focus on monthly “wildly important goals”.
  • Annual “Mad Awards” to recognise and appreciate people across the business.
  • Revamped long-service awards ceremony.
  • Smaller scale “thank you” initiatives, such as bacon sandwiches, after keeping services running in severe bad weather.

Benefits and achievements

  • Recognised in parent company Deutsche Bahn’s awards, in corporate culture category.
  • Uplift in customer satisfaction of 9% at Durham, 11% at Ashington, 15% at Newcastle sites.
  • Increase in employee satisfaction levels of 9%.
  • Operational and engineering performance improved.

Judges’ comments

“Clear business goals and a comprehensive programme of engagement.”


Virgin Money

About the organisation

Virgin Money is a UK-based bank and financial services company founded by Sir Richard Branson in March 1995. At the beginning of 2012, it acquired Northern Rock in a deal worth up to £1 billion. Its ambition is to make “everyone better off” (EBO).

The challenge

In 2012, Virgin Money acquired Northern Rock, however, the post acquisition environment was challenging: Virgin Money’s workforce increased to 2,500 employees overnight and continued to grow. Engagement with colleague surveys was low, and despite an increase in engagement in 2012, more needed to be done to unlock discretionary effort.

What the organisation did

  • Created a more robust and detailed engagement survey.
  • Put in place action plan to address any issues raised. These included pay; career development; benefits; and action taken since last survey.
  • Worked on three-year plan to develop engagement survey and ensure that colleagues felt listened to.
  • Incorporated key messages into overall “People Plan”, including new pay architecture, flexible benefits, manager development and company-wide L&D.
  • Introduced development paths for all roles, upgraded learning facilities and launched Learning Lounge Online, an L&D portal.
  • Launched first “new” colleague survey in 2013.

Benefits and achievements

  • First new survey achieved 88% response rate and 85% engagement score (compared with 56% at Northern Rock in 2011).
  • Based on Gallup’s engagement benchmark Virgin Money showed engagement ratio of 15:1 (world-class organisations have ratio of 8:1, according to Gallup research).
  • Ninety-six percent of colleagues believe they always treat customers fairly.
  • More than nine in ten staff proud to work for Virgin Money.
  • Absence down to 2.61% at end of 2013 (compared with 3.73% at start of 2012).
  • Net promoter score grown from -2 points to +11.

Judges’ comments

“A really well-measured and very mature approach.”


Vaultex

About the organisation

Established in 2007 from a joint venture between Barclays Bank and HSBC, Vaultex is the UK’s leading cash processor. Vaultex supplies, collects and credits cash for customers such as high street retailers, supermarkets, financial institutions and ATM deployers.

The challenge

At the end of 2012, the HR team at Vaultex realised that the company’s approach to secrecy outside work was impacting on employees’ perception of the company. Added to this, Vaultex wanted to improve turnover rates, reduce absence, and increase the value of recruitment and training.

What the organisation did

  • Improved internal communications through a “You said, we did” policy – staff to receive regular updates on progress made.
  • Developed new intranet for news and updates, each of Vaultex’s sites have their own dedicated page.
  • Regular blog updates from executive committee and roadshows hosted by senior team.
  • Used focus groups to gather feedback before large-scale changes eg, introduction of common values across the company.
  • Company newsletter production brought in-house.
  • Spot prizes introduced for exemplary behaviour; awards evening revamped.
  • Created four regional roles to improve HR involvement with employees and also encourage community work.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee turnover down from 30% to 7% (below national average of 11.9%).
  • Reduction in sickness absence levels from 15% to 3%.
  • Increase in response to annual employee opinion survey to 87% (from 76% in 2011).
  • Almost all (98%) of Vaultex staff believe in the company values and their role in delivering them.
  • Reduction in recruitment costs thanks to lower turnover.

Judges’ comments

“There is a lot of good practice here and the aim and ambition to build a connection between employees and their work is commendable.”


Wolseley

About the organisation

Wolseley UK is the UK operating company of Wolseley plc, a global distributor of heating and plumbing products and a leading supplier of builders’ products to the professional market. There are around 6,200 employees and 752 branches in the UK.

The challenge

An employee engagement survey identified that existing ways of recognising staff were not working effectively and needed to be updated. A previous scheme had generated negativity, so Wolseley needed to overcome this and at the same time create a clear link between desired behaviours and reward.

What the organisation did

  • Ensured that all employee communications made a clear link to how previous feedback had been addressed.
  • Introduced a dedicated website, information sheets for managers and used in-house magazine and other channels to communicate new strategy.
  • New programmed entitled “Thanks for making a difference!” to convey inclusivity and gratitude.
  • Communicated the recognition process widely so all managers knew how and when to send out awards.
  • Directly linked programme to the company’s RESPECT values and customer service principles.
  • Frequency of awards increased from quarterly to monthly.

Benefits and achievements

  • More cost effective because process is automated and no longer paper-based, meaning awards budget can remain the same at £6,000.
  • Business units have bought into the programme and are able to celebrate staff on a local rather than remote basis.
  • Higher awareness of staff being recognised more often and “Hall of Fame” e-newsletter includes pictures and names of winners.
  • Significant increase in nominations and awards (400 per year).
  • In staff survey, 58% of staff report feeling recognised by the business.

Judges’ comments

“What I liked about this entry was that there was a very clear business rationale for the work.”


Merlin Entertainments

About the organisation

Merlin Entertainments has more than 100 global attractions, spread across 22 countries and four continents. They include Sea Life, Madame Tussauds and Legoland. Last year the company floated on the London Stock Exchange.

The challenge

The company had already developed “The Merlin Way” as a way of engaging employees with its values. This was working well, but to ensure the company wasn’t resting on its laurels, it designed a survey called “The Wizard Wants to Know”.

What the organisation did

  • Survey in 2013 focused on basics such as new uniforms, better air conditioning, a bike shed.
  • Created a “Your Voice Counts” committee in every attraction around the world.
  • Shared findings and gained feedback on how to improve things.
  • Created new role known as “What the Wizard Wants to Know Champion”.
  • Built interactive microsite for communication and learning (Merlin’s School of Magic).
  • Online platform to capture employees’ ideas (and other staff can share and leave comments).

Benefits and achievements

  • Maintained employee engagement levels at 88%.
  • Response rate to staff survey is 97%.
  • Almost 9 in 10 staff say they are committed to the company’s goals and objectives.
  • Ninety-four percent say they are happy to go the extra mile at work when required.
  • Engagement scores are highest among UK employees.
  • Eight out of ten staff believe poor performance is dealt with fairly.

Judges’ comments

“Very compelling and magical narrative.”


Nationwide

About the organisation

Nationwide is the world’s largest building society and is also one of the UK’s largest savings and mortgages providers. It also offers current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans to its 15 million members.

The challenge

Nationwide’s challenge was to increase employee engagement in a time of significant internal transformation. In spite of financial constraints, the building society wanted to ensure its business prospered in the future by supporting the changing needs of employees.

What the organisation did

  • Refreshed “PRIDE” (an acronym for the organisation’s values) in 2013 to align more closely to customer brand promise.
  • Developed its “People proposition” to help attract and retain the right people.
  • Facilitated range of employee networks around diversity.
  • Annual awards to celebrate performance excellence.
  • Created total reward proposition to engage staff in both financial and non-financial benefits, including flexible benefits package, work-life balance and development opportunities.
  • Increased investment in and emphasis on developing senior leaders.
  • Introduced blended learning tool, Learning Zone.

Benefits and achievements

  • Citizenship team increased employee involvement in CSR from 6% to 55%.
  • Employee survey achieved industry leading response rate of 93% in 2013.
  • Ninety-five percent of employees understand organisational goals and how their job helps deliver them.
  • Income increased by 16% in 2013/14 to £2.9 billion; profit more than doubled to £924 million.
  • Reached top 25 in Sunday Times Best Companies list.
  • Absence and turnover historically low (rolling 12-month rate is 3.4%).

Judges’ comments

“A very strong focus on engagement than has depth and breadth in the plans that underpin this approach.”

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