The challenge of employee engagement (Part one: Trust)
23rd January 2015
While a little late, can I wish all of you a happy new year – I hope it is a good one for you.
For the next few weeks, I would like to talk specifically about the challenge of employee engagement – even though I may have alluded to it in passing in previous blogs.
2015 is a big year for SITA UK, as we are currently organising our third employee engagement survey – facilitated by Best Companies, the workplace engagement specialists – and following on from previous surveys in 2011 and 2013.
The logistics of managing such a survey for 5,000 employees across approximately 300 locations from Scotland to Cornwall, and all points in between, is not easy and needs careful preparation. At SITA UK, we plan for the survey about 12 months in advance. To make sure we do it properly, we have set up a working group, grandly entitled a ‘semafor’, consisting of up to 18 employees from all areas of the company. We recently added two non-managerial employee representatives from the SITA UK Works Council (the committee composed of elected employee representatives) to the semafor to ensure that our manual employees, who make up almost 80 per cent of our total employees, are adequately represented. Their thoughts and insight into what our employees think has been invaluable in our preparations to date.
This is particularly true for the 2015 survey, as we move from a paper-based system to an electronic one. I realise that many organisations already use such an approach, but it has never been quite possible or practical for SITA UK until now. My main concern , when embarking on this change, was the ability of our IT system to deal with it – some of our sites are very small and remote and have limited connectivity. However, in talking to the SITA UK Works Council, my key focused changed.
In 2011, we had a 49 per cent return rate and in 2013 it was 65 per cent, which, given the structure of our company, was extremely pleasing. One issue we had always had to approach carefully was that of anonymity. When we first talked of going electronic with the SITA UK Works Council, it was pointed out that the employees now understood how the old paper-based systems worked and trusted the company when it talked about anonymity. They pointed out that with the planned change, we will need to again stress the anonymity and maybe win the trust of the sceptics all over again.
This really brought it home to me how important the word ‘trust’ is in the workplace in a whole range of circumstances (e.g. health and safety, delivering promises, etc.), but no less when it comes to the completion of an electronic employee engagement survey!
I hope that the trust we have won in the previous surveys continues and we receive at least the same level of participation from our employees this coming September.
Human Resources Director, SITA UKTweet