Personnel Today Awards 2015 winners: C&C Housing Trust take home Employee Engagement Award (under 1000 employees)

Cecil and Central Housing Trust collect their award
Cecil and Central Housing Trust collect their award

great_place_to_workWe profile the winners and runners-up in the first of our employee engagement categories, for organisations with fewer than 1000 employees, sponsored by Great Place to Work.

WINNER

C&C Housing Trust

About the organisation

C&C (Central and Cecil) is a housing trust which provides care and support to older people, including those living with Dementia. C&C employs around 500 staff, based throughout London.

Employee engagement – the judges

Mark Withers, Mightywaters Consulting

Wendy Cartwright, University of East London

C&C’s aim is “to be recognised as an innovative provider of excellent homes and services for older people”. In August 2013, C&C refreshed its brand, with a new strap line “Where inspiration lives”.

The challenge

An Investors in People (IiP) assessment in November 2013 revealed that many employees did not understand what “inspiration” meant, and therefore were not living the brand. C&C wanted to do more to embed, and help employees understand, its refreshed brand, with a view to reaching its corporate target of achieving IiP Silver in November 2015.

What the organisation did

  • On the back of the report findings, the trust: developed a set of six inspirational behaviours; designed a new appraisal process that measured these behaviours; and rolled out “Inspiration workshops” to embed them.
  • Held a “Staff roadshow” to get employee involvement in the IiP findings and generate recommendations for improvement.
  • Developed action learning sets with the management group and staff to develop the recommendations further.
  • Held a managers conference facilitated by Henry Stewart, the CEO of training company Happy. This focused on inspiring managers to create a more autonomous, trusting and innovative environment for their staff.
  • Yoga classes were set up after work.
  • Encouraged staff to join the C&C staff choir, Singspiration, which brings together a diverse group of employees from across C&C.

Benefits and achievements

  • Singspiration has developed a repertoire that residents could engage with, particularly those with Dementia. It has performed at staff roadshows, care homes, Christmas celebrations and in a singing competition.
  • Brought a business case for the choir to senior management, highlighting benefits such as increased engagement and retention; recruitment and attraction; and enabling residents to express themselves through music.
  • Overwhelming majority of choir members (95%) reported that they felt more full of energy as a result of being a member.
  • Inspirational Development Grants were created – staff were inspired by the choir so much so that they asked for a contribution to develop their own inspirational passions, and are now granted £50 towards this.
  • Investors in People said that the vast majority of staff now talk positively and enthusiastically about the organisation’s rebranding.
  • In a staff poll, C&C asked how Singspiration’s presence had made them feel, and 89% said they felt inspired by the choir.

Judges’ comments

“Excellent articulation of the business case for aligning the employee engagement strategy with organisational and brand values. Clear evidence base and measurement of impact mingled with wonderful personal stories.”


RUNNERS-UP

 

Chelmsford City Council

About the organisation

Chelmsford City Council covers almost 158,000 people in the Essex borough, with this number expected to rise with the building of new homes in the area. It is responsible for services including refuse collection, recycling, council tax and benefits, parking, town planning, environmental health, housing and leisure.

The challenge

The council wanted to ensure improved business performance by developing effective leadership and promoting a sense of “family”. It also wanted to reinforce commitment to the authority. A fun and “organic” employee engagement model needed to be developed that would encourage the relationship between management and employees.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced “Meet the Chief’”, “Meet the directors” and Chief Executive roadshows, which provided a chance for staff to get information first hand, openly discuss issues and have an input in decision making.
  • Held Managers Action Conferences, where directors and heads of service meet to discuss strategic issues facing the council.
  • Organised creativity workshops, which all staff could attend with the aim of generating ideas and initiatives.
  • Rewarded staff who provided exceptional customer service.
  • Held staff engagement days and wellbeing events.
  • Implemented “ENGAGE” initiatives, such as inter-service sports competitions (netball, dodgeball, and mini Olympics), pedometer challenges and quizzes.
  • Partnered with external organisations to encourage cross-boundary working – for example, the Adult Community College provides taster workshops for staff as part of the council’s “Learning at Work” programme, the Book People provide an opportunity for staff to purchase books and Katie’s Therapies provides periodic onsite massages at discounted rates.
  • Monitored and evaluated the outcome of all engagement events with a yearly action plan produced and agreed by stakeholders.

Benefits and achievements

  • Became the first authority in the East of England to be awarded the IiP GOLD – recognised as “Excellent” in previous audits ratings, and won the IiP Champion Award for Excellence in 2014.
  • Most recent staff survey: 75% stated their manager is easy to talk to and treats them with respect, 86% believed they were clear about what they were expected to achieve and 83% felt more confident in their role.
  • Suggestions from Managers Action Conference and 31 teams have resulted in £1.3 million savings.
  • Improvements in sickness absence levels, from 12.2 to 6.43 days – achieving approximate savings of £453,000. The annual record of employees achieving 100% attendance continues to increase (36%).
  • A major organisational change saw a 10% reduction of the workforce achieving £3 million in savings, but with better quality outputs.
  • Reduction in silo working and enhancing employee knowledge/confidence through information seminars.
  • Resignations have reduced by 60% compared with previous years.

Judges’ comments

“[Although] the challenge was not properly explained… sustaining engagement over time is tough. This is an organisation that is not striving around engagement, but is engaging employees because it is the right thing to do.”


Kadence International

About the organisation

Kadence International is a full service insight agency with offices in the USA, UK, UAE, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and China, founded in 1992. Through its global data collection centres, Kadence International offers fieldwork services and has become the agency of choice for some of the world’s largest management consultancies and market research agencies.

The challenge

In the 2013-14 financial year, Kadence UK experienced a decrease in revenue, had an employee turnover rate of 27.69% and an employee engagement score of 3.3/5. It realised from exit interviews and its 2014 employee satisfaction survey that the team was not clear on the business strategy and how they contributed to it. It wanted to make Kadence a “great place to work” and heighten employees’ awareness of what the business was trying to achieve.

What the organisation did

  • Used a competency and values-led framework as a starting point, and held feedback sessions with all employees to gain further insights and communicate its plans.
  • Created a new, clear and concise (one-page) HR strategy for the year that was closely aligned to the business strategy and values already in place.
  • Communicated the strategy at monthly team meetings, and referred back to it at each monthly team meeting thereafter.
  • HR led the creation, communication and implementation of a series of action plans, aimed at making Kadence UK a “Great place to work” and improve employee engagement.
  • These action plans were split into four areas: communication: strategy; communication: local updates; recognition and reward; and social and charitable activities.
  • Monthly reward scheme – “Kudos award” – was implemented, which allowed employees to access a dedicated page on the HR system to submit a “thank you” or “well done” note to an individual who has been genuinely helpful to other employees or clients, with the winner receiving a financial reward.
  • A new “social team” was created, KISS, which coordinates social events and activities throughout the year.
  • Other initiatives put in place included “Wen’s tea”, where each Wednesday afternoon the whole office takes a short break to enjoy tea, cake and catch up. Each month every employee is given the option to start late, or leave early, as an extra thank you for all their efforts.

Benefits and achievements

  • From January to June 2015 no one left the company, and the employee engagement figure is now 4/5 (latest employee satisfaction survey April 2015).
  • The number of employees saying they “would recommend Kadence as a great place to work” increased from 3.07 to 3.87 (+0.80).
  • The number that stated “I am proud to work at Kadence” increased from 3.44 to 4.09 (+0.65). There was also no “disagreement” with this statement.
  • The number of employees feeling valued and recognised by the organisation has increased from 3.11 before the schemes were introduced to 3.91 this year.
  • The statement “I understand the Company’s strategy and how I contribute to this” increased from a low 2.78 to 3.09 in 2015.
  • These results and new energy around the office indicate that the HR employee engagement strategy of creating a “Great place to work” is a great success.
  • This improvement is also reflected in the organisation’s commercial position, which shows impressive year-on-year growth and more than seven new clients in the last six months.

Judges’ comments

“Clear recognition/articulation of the business challenge. Much of the solution involved strengthening communications and leadership involvement.”


Origin Housing

About the organisation

Origin Housing is a medium-sized housing association with 274 permanent staff and a bank of around 60 volunteers. It manages 6,476 homes and offers care and support services to 3,750 people across Central and North London and Hertfordshire.

The challenge

Following extensive consultation, feedback and a number of focus groups held across the organisation, Origin’s HR team needed to put in place a clear competency framework to assist in further embedding the values into the organisation’s structure, and ensuring that these values/competencies underpin everything Origin does. Staff needed to understand their expected behaviours and managers needed assistance in having “powerful conversations” with their people.

What the organisation did

  • Developed an holistic strategy, which helps staff to promote the founding principle, “Housing is not enough”, and encourages teams to deliver the best possible service for their residents and their communities.
  • Introduced initiatives including the “Lead to Succeed” programme, which aimed to raise the leadership capability of Origin Housing’s executive and senior managers.
  • Brought in external consultants TLC to deliver leadership coaching, which used 360-degree feedback for 42 leaders and senior managers, followed by bespoke workshops to develop skills.
  • Selected a number of those who took part in the programme to be “champions” to share the learning across the organisation through workshops, team meetings and one-to-one discussions.
  • Internal communication is supported through Origin’s internal intranet “O-Net”, the monthly “Origin Brief”, which reports important news and changes, and its quarterly newsletter, “O-Zone”, which highlights achievements within the organisation.
  • The HR team have implemented a structure to help empower staff through their extensive consultation programmes, via an annual staff conference, the active staff council and focus groups on specific topics.
  • Communicated five core values (one team; customer focus; integrity; committed; and adding value) through eye-catching infographics.
  • Built on the “one team” value through the staff volunteering policy, which allows all Origin staff to take one day a year out of the office to volunteer, helping some of Origin’s residents and service users.

Benefits and achievements

  • In the 2014/15 financial year, the staff survey showed unprecedented staff engagement levels (82%) and received a 98% response rate, which is 26% higher than the average across all UK housing associations.
  • Origin gained Investors In People (IiP) “Silver” status in December 2014, with the assessor reporting that “Origin Housing has a clear vision and purpose”.
  • The staff survey showed that 86% of Origin personnel feel their manager does a good job, 6% over the benchmark.
  • Majority (86%) of employees said they were “Proud to work for Origin”, an 8% increase on the 2012 staff survey, with a further 15% giving a neutral response.
  • Sickness days in 2010 were at an average of 11.7 days per annum, falling to 4.6 in 2014, and customer satisfaction is up from 70% to 78% across the organisation.
  • In the lettings division, the team have reduced average void levels in Origin management properties from 40 days in 2010, to 18 days in 2014.
  • The response to the new competency framework has been extremely positive, with 94% of Origin personnel confirming they understood the values, and 90% stating they feel committed to Origin’s goals.

Judges’ comments

“Holistic approach, and a good example of increasing engagement over time by focusing on organisational values and leadership development.”


Queens Cross Housing Association

About the organisation

Queens Cross Housing Association (QCHA) is a Scottish community-based housing association employing 204 people. It provides a range of services including building new homes in North Glasgow and offering shared support services to the elderly, adults with learning disabilities, people with mental health issues and the homeless.

The challenge

In June 2013, the QCHA employee engagement survey reported an employee satisfaction index of 57.8, which was much lower than expected. The company has seen significant changes between 2011 and 2013 and this had had a negative impact on morale. Results also revealed a lack of trust in senior management. It was clear that action needed to be taken at a corporate and local level, and drivers of engagement had to be identified.

What the organisation did

  • A key aim was to engage all employees in the company’s business plan for 2014-17, so the association ran workshops for employees’ views to be heard and so they could have input in the plan.
  • The new business plan, “Proud to be Queens Cross”, was launched in May 2014. Employees were invited to the launch event, which included a video showing how employees felt about being part of the organisation.
  • Hosted an awards evening in November 2014 to recognise and reward QCHA employees for their contribution. This is to be part of a wider recognition campaign to be rolled out during 2015/16.
  • International communications initiatives were rolled out, which included the introduction of “coffee and conversation” sessions with the CEO, and a monthly brief that was communicated to all employees.
  • A leadership development programme was implemented for the senior management and executive team, along with a specific manager programme, compulsory for all employees with managerial responsibility.

Benefits and achievements

  • Overall engagement has risen from 57.8 to 71.3 between June 2013 and December 2014 (engagement survey, December 2014).
  • The scores for every section of the survey were higher in December 2014 than in June 2013, with the largest improvement recorded in the senior management section.
  • The leadership development activity has helped to drive a 13.2 point rise in trust in senior management, which rose from 46.0 in June 2013 to 59.2 in December 2014.

Judges’ comments

“Great example of staff involvement in building a vision and values that authentically underpin a new business plan. Impact measured in terms of increased employee engagement and trust in senior managers.”

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