RHP takes home 2016 Award for Employee Engagement


RHP Group won the 2016 Personnel Today Award for Employee Engagement, sponsored by Great Place to Work, at a glittering ceremony on London’s Park Lane. We take a look at its winning entry and at those of our runners-up.


RHP Group

About the organisation
RHP is a housing business with a strong social purpose. It was formed in 2000 following a transfer of stock from the council. It provides quality affordable homes to people unable to rent or buy in the local private housing market.

The challenge
The housing sector is facing unprecedented changes – it is operating in an increasingly risky environment with many “givens” from the past 30 years in the process of disappearing, including high levels of grant, long-term bank lending and rental incomes securely underpinned by housing benefit and paid directly to landlords. Housing businesses must be able to adapt and change if they are to continue to be successful.

What the organisation did

  • Refreshed its vision and strategy with the aims of: being one of the best service providers in the UK; being an excellent employer and growing the business.
  • Launched a cultural change programme called “iamrhp”. Iamrhp was designed to make it easy for customers to access services and for employees to deliver them in a way that customers want.
  • Carried out an end-to-end review of all people processes. Changed recruitment, aiming to engage prospective employees through their first interactions with modern job adverts and descriptions that reflected the new iamrhp personality and behaviours.
  • Created a learning organisation: placed a high importance on learning and invested around £200,000 a year on learning and development activities.
  • Developed “great place to think” – a monthly external speaker programme designed to improve business knowledge and awareness, broaden perspectives and stretch thinking.
  • Created the “great place to debate”, which is run like a political debate, where two teams of employees argue either side of a topical question in front of an audience who then votes for the team who swayed them most.
  • Introduced “4 in 4”. Once a quarter, four people pitch an idea that they want to the business to invest in. Their peers then vote for the one they want to support.

Benefits and achievements

  • Became the first organisation in the sector to deliver a full suite of digital services available any time, any place and on any device – giving customers more choice, convenience and control.
  • Operating surplus has increased from £13 million to £18.6 million (+43%) in the past five years.
  • More new homes secured (around 273) and funding secured for a major regeneration project in a key area of deprivation.
  • Achieved a double win at the CIPD People Management Awards, as overall winner and for best employee engagement strategy.
  • Won Investor in People Gold Employer of the Year and recognised as a Champion organisation.
  • Three-quarters of its customers think RHP is “easy to do business with”.
  • Achieved a 24% reduction in complaints, which were dealt with more quickly (1.6 days on average, compared with 4.1 days last year)
  • 117 customers were supported into work or job-related training

Judges’ comments
“This excellent entry showcases high performance in the sector linked to employee engagement and creating the right environment for innovation to thrive and drive business improvements and outcomes for customers.”

RHP Group collect the first trophy of the night from Tom O'Byrne, CEO of Great Place to Work

RHP Group collect the first trophy of the night from Tom O’Byrne, CEO of Great Place to Work



Award for Employee Engagement – the judges

Mark Withers, Mightywaters Consulting
Lucy Adams, The Disruptive HR Agency
Wendy Cartwright, University of East London

About the organisation
ClearScore is the UK’s fastest-growing credit checking service. It offers 100% free credit scores and reports for life.

The challenge
After launching, it was crucial that the company had the right team of technical and marketing experts in place to realise its ambitious mission of helping everyone take control of their money.

What the organisation did

  • Made its people the visible face of the brand, featuring prominently on the website. Encouraged team members to try new ways of working to find out what works best for them and the product.
  • Recognised individual and team achievements. Projects were organised into three-month long “races”, each divided into six “sprints”. Conducted mini-awards to acknowledge those who have contributed over and above what are already high expectations.
  • Encouraged a culture of leading, and giving candid and honest feedback. This engendered trust and allowed the organisation to bring new features and innovations to market quickly.
  • Ensured everyone felt the community spirit. Included perks such as free breakfast and fruit every day, company beer fridge on Friday afternoons and a courtyard for barbecues.
  • Introduced subsidised sports activities, ranging from boxercise to five-a-side football.
  • Offered key benefits to ensure high levels of engagement and attract talent, including: 25 days’ holiday with a “duvet day” on your birthday; pension scheme; health insurance; access to Perkbox rewards – the team can choose from a range of benefits such as restaurant deals and mobile phone insurance; and flexible and remote working.

Benefits and achievements

  • Team has grown from eight people to 38 in 12 months.
  • Received 100% five-star Glassdoor reviews.
  • CEO achieved 100% approval rating.
  • Salary reviews revealed that employees are paid on the higher side of average.
  • Organisation has only lost three permanent employees.
  • Nine in ten employees, in a recent team happiness survey, said that they are happy and proud to be working at ClearScore.

Judges’ comments
“Interesting and different challenge. Innovative approaches and great use of technology to foster understanding and collaboration. Clear benefits – and a mention of Glassdoor! Great submission.”

Geoban UK

About the organisation
Geoban UK is the backbone of Santander UK, providing critical support to retail banking, corporate banking, payments, business banking, cards, collections and customers. It employs over 3,500 people across 11 onshore and two offshore sites, which provide operational services to over 17 million Santander UK customers, 600,000 business and corporate customers, and 950 Santander UK branches.

The challenge

During several years of cultural evolution in Geoban UK, the business went through significant change. The HR team needed to create a high-performance culture, with strong leadership at its core.

What the organisation did

  • Established a communication and engagement framework to create a high-performing organisation.
  • Introduced annual conferences in 2012 that would encourage leaders to drive a cultural revolution.
  • Began a programme for the conferences, focused on developing and inspiring leaders as individuals and enabling them to inspire the business culture. Brought in a different motivational speaker each year to support managers in delivering engaging leadership lessons.
  • Developed a customer mindset. In 2014, “Leading towards Service Excellence” focused on the customer journey and delivering excellent service for Santander’s customers.
  • Delivered “Inspiring Operational Excellence”. Around 250 senior staff attended the 2016 leadership event, and more than 900 people managers, senior specialists and high-performing front-line employees attended other management events.
  • Clarified the business objectives and key areas of focus; equipped staff with skills and strategies to support them to lead and deliver objectives, and engaged everyone with a common purpose, language and strategies to apply in day-to-day roles
  • Shared content with all staff via cascades, via all communication and engagement channels – which has embedded and strengthened culture and engagement.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee engagement increased by 12% in 2014/15. Scores on every question in the employee opinion survey have gone up in that period.
  • Two areas that scored favourably in the 2015 employee engagement survey were “global vision” (91%) and “leaders” (90%).
  • Strongest business performance in Geoban’s history – recognised by stakeholders in the bank and global stakeholders in Geoban.
  • Significant improvement in efficiency – achieved a £20 million cost saving.
  • Santander has gone from being the worst bank for customer service to one of the best. Achieved a 30% reduction year-on-year in complaints and its 123 account is rated best for customer service.
  • UK organisational and cultural model recognised as the global “leader”, with a project underway to align all other Geoban countries with the UK.
  • After the 2015 and 2016 events, 99% of attendees responded that they felt engaged or very engaged and 98% responded that they were proud or very proud to work for Geoban.
  • Lowest absence levels (less than 4%) in Geoban’s history.

Judges’ comments
“Strong entry showing how engagement is built year-on-year, and having the confidence to continue to push and grow the engagement agenda by striving for high operational performance through excellent employee engagement.”

Lawn Tennis Association

About the organisation
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is a not-for-profit organisation and the governing body for tennis. With 57% of the population being Generation Y or millennial, its aim is to grow and sustain tennis. It employs around 300 people.

The challenge
In recent years, the LTA has seen participation in tennis decline, and endured a negative public perception in the media. The LTA needed to change the business model towards a mission of participation – getting more people to play tennis more often. Having an enthusiastic colleague base, the challenge was to develop a strategic framework, set of performance drivers and values that would push the organisation towards its goals.

What the organisation did

  • Ensured every team across the business participated in workshops led by executives to talk about what they felt the values should be. Provided an opportunity to develop understanding of the strategic framework, and the shift of vision from winning to participation.
  • Identified key values and defined measures – agreeing what a successful outcome would look like and developed “Enabling our people to deliver the strategy and live the values”.
  • Developed a colleague-led brand to ensure that teams identified with engagement opportunities and the results being driven from their feedback and action.
  • Identified solutions and badged them as “simple”, “quick wins” and “big”, which played to the GenY/millennial nature of the colleague base and generated momentum.
  • Held an all-colleague event to engage teams fully in the new values.
  • Shared feedback from the executive team meeting so that colleagues felt involved in the running of the business, enabled all colleagues to see how their day-to-day activity comes together to deliver the mission.
  • Embedded the values and strategic framework across the organisation. Investment was made in training and performance management, ensuring that everyone was clear on what they had to do to achieve the mission.

Benefits and achievements

  • Monthly player participation up 2.2% from last year, against a trend of a 10-year decline.
  • In March 2016, Sport England commented on the statistically significant movement in their Active People survey.
  • New sponsors have been attracted in the last year, recognising the improvement in reputation.
  • Significant movement in performance and quality, with a doubling of the number of employees with outstanding ratings.
  • Almost all employees (99%) now understand what the business values are, while 97% are passionate about doing their job well.
  • More than nine employees in ten (92%) have a clear understanding of the business objectives, and the same number would recommend the LTA as a great place to work.

Judges’ comments
“Clear and interesting challenge linking external to internal. Structured approach to embedding with a good range of initiatives.”

London Overground Rail Operations

About the organisation
London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL) operates the London Overground rail network on behalf of Transport for London. The network carries more than 520,000 passengers on a typical weekday and keeps 160 million passengers moving annually.

The challenge
On 31 May 2015, the London Overground network grew by one-third overnight as West Anglia services became part of it. As part of this change, 300 employees, 31 trains, 24 stations and a depot became managed and operated by LOROL. West Anglia’s successful integration required new employees to be engaged with the business and their work.

What the organisation did

  • Set a clear vision to deliver a seamless transition of services, ensuring staff viewed the change as positive.
  • Ensured that all employees had a sense of “business as usual” in the lead-up to and post-transfer of services, in order to continue the safe delivery of rail services with negligible passenger and service impact.
  • Generated a sense of belonging to LOROL via the West Anglia employee intranet – content included transfer information, summary of top-level business plans, day-in-the-life articles from existing LOROL employees and various staff communications.
  • Held seven “Meet LOROL” roadshows for transferring staff. Over half the employee population met with LOROL employees, directors and senior managers and learned about the company and employee benefits.
  • Sent personalised welcome packs to transferring employees in April 2015. This included a letter of welcome from LOROL’s managing director, company information (history, key milestones, vision, values and business objectives).
  • Created the “Welcome to LOROL” programme, which let transferring employees better understand the Overground model. Each session was attended by a LOROL director and covered topics such as customer service and LOROL’s KPI regime.
  • Enhanced staff accommodation and facilities. A station deep-cleaning programme delivered positive feedback from passengers and provided clean, safe and welcoming work environments that have positively engaged and reassured employees.

Benefits and achievements

  • Annual employee engagement survey highlighted a high level of engagement on West Anglia route, with significant increases in participation: completion rate for the survey was 86.7%.
  • Almost all (97.5%) employees working on the route agreed with the statement, “I support LOROL’s vision” and 85.8% of respondents agreed that they “fully support the targets and strategy of the company”.
  • Route performance has also increased significantly. More than 96% of LOROL’s trains now arrive within five minutes of their scheduled arrival – a substantial increase on the 91.99% punctuality rate when LOROL took over.
  • Customer complaints on the route have more than halved. In May 2015, the level of complaints as a percentage of the total number of complaints received by LOROL was 40.33%. In March 2016, this had reduced to 18.23%.
  • Improving levels of sickness absence levels on West Anglia: on transfer, West Anglia sickness was 175 days long-term and 112 days short-term. Within the first six months, this dropped to 122 days long-term and 72 days short-term, a drop of 30% (long-term) and 36% (short-term) respectively.
  • Turnover stands at 4.4%, just below that of the wider Overground network (4.5%) and substantially below the average industry rate of 11.0%.
  • The West Anglia team further demonstrated their engagement at the 2016 LOROL Shining Star Awards: West Anglia employees won half of the categories.

Judges’ comments
“An excellent entry showcasing a textbook approach to engaging employees before, during and after a business acquisition with improved engagement and business outcomes clearly articulated.”

Parkdean Resorts

About the organisation
In November 2015, Park Resorts and Parkdean merged in a £960 million deal to create Parkdean Resorts with an estimated turnover of £200 million. The organisation now stands as the UK’s largest holiday park business with 72 parks, two central offices and one satellite office, providing over 7,000 jobs across the UK.

The challenge
The organisation needed to ensure that the two newly merged businesses harmonised efficiently and enhanced the experiences of 1.8 million customers and 400,000 holidaymakers. It was important to reflect on both brands’ previous performance and to set a strategy for the success of the new business.

What the organisation did

  • Delivered motivational sessions from the CEO and directors to provide clarity on the long-term vision for the group. All employees progressed through a unique customer service programme designed to promote employee engagement.
  • Introduced uniforms, which enhanced the brand and supported the 7,000 employees to perform more like a single team.
  • Provided everyone with a programme to successfully fulfill the needs of our customers. “Creating Amazing Memories” was designed to provide teams with the capabilities to deliver the customer promise and to motivate, engage and retain the best people.
  • Created the Employee Business Forum – a more formal means of improving employee communication. It meets regularly and represents all departments and levels with a view to making changes that impact both to the business and its people.
  • Offered talented young people aged 16 years and over the opportunity to develop their skills via the apprenticeship scheme. The 12-month programme included high-quality training and a personal mentor. The target for 2016 is to employ 100 apprentices across the group.
  • Encouraged talented established and seasonal employees to undertake development, which drives greater commitment to the business through the Rising Stars internal programme to seeing them returning each year and develops them into a Head of Department role.
  • Ran the Star Performer Awards each month to highlight when an employee demonstrates excellence or innovation, increases revenue or reduces costs.
  • Rewarded 60 team members across the group with incentive trips to Las Vegas and Rome – recognising each individual’s outstanding contribution.

Benefits and achievements

  • Engagement scores have remained positive with 52% actively engaged employees and only 4% actively disengaged.
  • Seven in ten seasonal employees return to work for the organisation each year, demonstrating a successful engagement within teams in an industry that is highly competitive.
  • Internal recruitment team now concentrate on external engagement to attract quality candidates. Sourcing directly has saved over £400,000 in agency fees.
  • Eight months into the merger, the organisation is predicted to see a 16% increase in results.
  • Parkdean Resorts has won awards for outstanding achievement in people management. This includes an Investors in People gold award, Times 100 Best Companies and highly commended for employee engagement by National CIPD.
  • Parkdean Resorts collected both Gold and Silver awards at the British Travel Awards, voted for by customers.

Judges’ comments
“What impressed about this entry was the centrality of the values in shaping a new culture with employees and customers at the heart.”

University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust

About the organisation
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust is one of the largest acute teaching hospitals in the UK, comprising University Hospital in Coventry and the Hospital of St Cross in Rugby, which between them serve a population of over a million people.

The challenge
In March 2014, the national staff survey, local staff survey and other evidence showed that staff engagement was low. The organisation was reliant on one-way communications, with few opportunities for real dialogue.

What the organisation did

  • Launched an organisational development programme, Together Towards World Class (TTWC), to help achieving the vision of being a national and international leader in healthcare.
  • Developed five “World Class” workstreams: conversations; experience; services; people and leadership.
  • Introduced Listening Events (20 events held between April and May 2014) with an aim to develop values and gather staff feedback on what the organisation needed to do to become “World Class”. Around 330 staff from different departments and groups attended.
  • Recruited 80 Changemakers (members of staff from different backgrounds and professions who were hired to be a force for change in local areas) to gather feedback by holding their own events.
  • Held “Conversation Continues…” events across the Trust. Taking on board feedback from staff, chief officers hosted events in local departments, eg on wards and in reception areas.
  • Rolled out ward information boards letting patients and visitors know key things about each area.
  • Created a local staff survey called Staff Impressions. All of the feedback has been utilised to develop the Trust behavioural framework, and shape the direction of TTWC.
  • Celebrated the first birthday of the programme by having a series of birthday parties in local areas and departments. At these events, managers and chief officers updated staff on how they continue to use feedback to make changes.
  • Launched World Class Colleagues, a regular recognition scheme where anyone can nominate a UHCW individual or team for demonstrating behaviour in line with the six values. Everyone nominated receives a certificate and is named in staff newsletters.

Benefits and achievements

  • Staff Impression Survey shows that in 2014, 88% of staff working in the Trust thought their overall experience was mainly good, but this increased to 90% in 2016.
  • Numbers of staff recommending the Trust as a place to work has increased from 64% in 2014 to 71% in 2016 and the amount of staff recommending it as a place of care has increased from 81% in 2014 to 87% in 2016.
  • Results from the National Staff Survey in 2015 indicate a positive shift in terms of staff engagement and motivation. The engagement score stands at 3.91, an increase from 3.78 in 2014 and is in the highest (best) 20% when compared with trusts of a similar type.
  • In 28 of the 32 key findings of the survey, the Trust performs better than other Acute Trusts, and in 18 of the areas it is ranked in the top 20% of Acute Trusts. This is a significant improvement from 2014, where it ranked worse than average in nine of 29 key finding areas and ranked in the bottom 20% of Acute Trusts for six of the key finding areas.
  • Increased levels of staff engagement is having a positive impact on patient experience – the Inpatient Friends and Family Test recommender percentage has increased from 90.82% in March 2015 to 91.82 in February 2016.
  • Sickness levels have dropped from 4.02% in March 2014 to 3.88% in April 2016.

Judges’ comments
“Clear challenge. Long-term strategy to increase engagement with a range of different interventions rolled out across the whole organisation. Obviously having to be done with little money and using what they have. Good use of infographics. Clear tangible benefits.”

Volkswagen Financial Services

About the organisation
Established in 1994, Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS) has grown into the largest captive automotive finance company in the UK market. From a standing start in 2006, it has achieved earning assets of £1 billion, and, by 2014, this became £10 billion. This growth in performance has resulted in an increase in headcount from 470 in 2010 to 922 in 2016.

The challenge

A substantial period of growth, combined with a highly diverse portfolio, placed significant operational pressures on the organisation, which had become increasingly more complex. In order to support its projected growth, it was clear that VWFS needed a new building to increase operational efficiency and to establish VWFS as the large corporate entity that it had become.

What the organisation did

  • Built a new head office with four times more space than the previous office, completed within a 24-month timeframe.
  • Liaised with colleagues to determine what was important to them. Feedback was incorporated into the building design – a total of 28 projects looked at a wide variety of topics including furniture, audio visual, refreshment areas, sustainability and wellbeing.
  • Provided learning and development support, where the team worked with employees and an external agency in the design of amazing artwork and structural pieces that demonstrated “Living our Values”: trust, customer, courage, responsibility and enthusiasm.
  • Incorporated different colour-coding on each floor to allow colleagues to acclimatise themselves to the larger multi-level building.
  • Designed refreshment hubs with comfy chairs for relaxation. Included space for a coffee shop and restaurant with healthy food.
  • Developed meeting rooms that are flexible and adaptable, eg walls that can be used as white boards and moveable partitions.
  • Built multi-function rooms to maximise space. They are used for a Christmas market, fitness sessions, quiz evenings, staff updates, board meetings, cycling awareness sessions and charity events.
  • Provided showers and changing rooms. This has led to a positive increase in cycling, resulting in quadrupling the number of colleagues cycling to work and VWFS becoming the number-one employer in Milton Keynes and 25th in the UK “Love to Ride 2015” event.
  • Set up a Wellbeing Centre staffed by professionals from Axa. Regular health checks take place on site with many other services provided including: chiropody; physiotherapy; massages; and complimentary fitness trackers.

Benefits and achievements

  • New layout of the head office has resulted in colleagues from different departments meeting up for a quick chat to decide on action plans rather than sending emails. This has improved relationships between departments, and encouraged more movement around the building, leading to better fitness levels.
  • Absence levels fell from 4.55 days to 3.96 days.
  • VWFS Great Place to Work Stats between 2014 and 2016, compared with the Great Place to Work UK Best 30 Companies in 2015 reflect significant improvements in key areas: 88% of employees say that VWFS is a great place to work; and engagement stands at 86%.
  • Achieved eighth place in the Great Place to Work 2016 UK Awards for Large Companies with over 500 employees.
  • Placed 12th in the Best Multinational Workplace in Europe 2016.

Judges’ comments
“A really excellent entry. Perfectly articulated challenges, and a comprehensive set of solutions including paying great attention to CSR, wellbeing, and getting employees fully involved in designing the new workspace.”

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