Cathy Brown

Employee Engagement Summit Chair Report – Cathy Brown

It was a pleasure once more to be working with the EBM team and chairing the 2018 Employee Engagement Summit. A great start with a packed room and people standing at the back – not bad for a very sunny Friday at the start of a bank holiday weekend!

Our keynote sessions started with Professor Isaac Getz – we started the day thinking about hens laying golden eggs and how we treat them! Some great points about basic principles of engagement – being fair, keeping our promises, encouraging curiosity and respecting the individual. Professor Getz also pointed out that if we are gardeners, and things don’t grow in our gardens, it must be to day with the environment we are creating.

Creating and nurturing a respectful, happy and positive environment and culture was also the main theme for our second keynote – Rick Jackson at DHL Express. Rick was very much making the point that engagement is a way of working, rather than a destination reached.

We then had an alternative point of view from Professor Bruce Rayton from the University of Bath, reminding us that people are at the heart of all efforts and we need to have better conversations around the cost of engagement on our physical and mental wellbeing (the research from my own organisation, Engage for Success, shows that this can be a particular issue in the charitable and not for profit sector where people engage with a cause to the point of burn out).

Last but not least in our run of thought provoking keynote speakers was Stephen Robertson, CEO at the Big Issue. I think for myself, and for many of the audience, it was the first time we had thought of Big Issue vendors as running their own businesses, against the hardest of backgrounds. Truly eye-opening.

After a welcome break, refreshment and a trip to the Expo Hall, we were back in Hall 1, exploring Employee & Customer Engagement, Links to Profitability and Performance. Two great case studies in this session, from Gary at Vodafone and Glenn at Missguided – two really different cultures but with some really original ideas. Stand out insights for me were Vodafone’s emphasis on individual identity, and Missguided’s great use of language (think vibes, not values). We also heard from Peter Clarke at Qlearsite, again very insightful about language and meaning. I especially liked the example of changing the very dry and perhaps hard to answer, very subjective question of ‘do you have a ‘best friend’ at work’ to the much more human and accessible ‘work is the kind of place I feel I could make friends’.

We then switched tracks to Transformation and Change Management – hearing from another great brand, Spotify, with Veronica Harth sharing with us how radical transparency had transformed their R&D culture, and Victoria & Mavis from Instinctif telling us how Bacardi reclaimed their brand mojo through an employee driven campaign around social connection with customers, in the service of three great values – Fearless, Founders, Family. Then a very different home grown UK story from Thwaites showing that the basics of engagement, involving people, listening and celebrating can drive support for change throughout an organisation over time.

After lunch we picked up with Internal Communications and the Voice of the Employee. Charlotte Mummery (from Nestle) and Nick Lynn (from Willis Towers Watson) shared with us the story of taking Nestle employees through culture change and how they had intelligently used data and analytics to listen and understand better, and to cast aside big assumptions they had been making based on demographics. Catherine from Sky was up next – once again a really powerful case study around how releasing the voice of the individual can strengthen the whole. Finally, we went techie at Travelex with a case study on sales performance improvement through gamification from Becca and Elvin, with a great piece of insight – you can’t keep expecting people to get better – there has to be an end point, a rest and regroup stage!

Moving on to Reward and Wellbeing, Debbie Bennett-Jackson and Gemma Lines from Citi took us through their #BeMore campaign, leaving us with the realisation that you can’t bore (or scare) people to change. Jill King at Virgin Pulse gave us a wealth of insight into practical. implementable wellbeing strategies, and Dom Holmes from Taylor Vintners gave us another great, real world example of classic engagement activities updated, thought through and working well. In this case the good, old fashioned suggestion box turned into the ‘Pitch Up’ campaign!

Our final session (and many thanks to the hardy souls who stayed with us until 5.30 on a sunny bank holiday Friday!) Isabelle and Dace from the European Commission shared their story of IT change, with a particular emphasis on their subsequent sharing of best practice. Lou Banks of Rising Vibe did the impossible at that point in the day and re-energised us all with the point that engagement is our own responsibility – it’s not something done to us! And we finished on a high, with Chris Newstead from the Wellcome Trust. Chris very sensibly made us laugh, a lot. A great end to a super day.