An engaged team can achieve great things…

By Catherine Allen, Head of Keeping People Happy, Ella’s Kitchen

Ella’s has delivered double-digit growth every year for the last 10 years, achieves a partners score of over 90% and has the highest consumer loyalty in the category.  Our employee net promoter score is improving with the last survey coming in at 68%.

Last year we entered the Best Companies awards coming 25th and certified as a B Corp.

I am convinced that the happiness of our team influences our commercial success. There’s no magic formula to creating a great place to work. But I do have 3 top tips that have worked well at Ella’s.

  1. Give your team a reason to feel engaged and proud. We keep the team close to our mission to ‘Improve children’s lives through developing healthy relationships with food’. A great example of this is employees helping on Ella’s funded school trips to a local farm and market garden.  We also have clear and simple values which live and breathe in everything we do at Ella’s.
  2. Have great leaders and managers. As all HR professionals know, our efforts are useless if leaders and managers are misaligned with the mission and values, or are poor people managers. ‘My manager’ is the most common reason people leave companies, so we help leaders and managers to role model the values via a bespoke management programme and invite 360 feedback on how well they live and encourage the values.
  3. Treat people as individuals. I know this seems easy in a smaller team like Ella’s, but all companies should beware of broad brush initiatives which assume everyone in a demographic group (eg mothers!) has identical needs. Our 2 surveys a year and our Show and Tell (employee forum) help us in understanding the team better, but last year we were early adopters of the Open Blend Method – a tech based coaching approach focused on open communication with leaders. Through leaders understanding their team members better, we’ve seen a measurable increase in the happiness of individuals.

Creating a happy and healthy workforce

By Charley Maher, Managing Director, Bristol Wessex Billing Services

Charley Maher

I created a vision for ‘Health & Wellbeing’ for my business a year ago and since then, my team have exceeded my expectations in terms of what we have achieved.

BWBSL is jointly owned by Wessex Water and Bristol Water and are responsible for the customer journey for their 1.5 m customers across the South West. Their customers rely on BWBSL to provide them with an efficient and helpful service.

I knew that people were core to the success of the business and wanted to ensure that my team of 380 people were not only focused on providing an excellent service experience to customers but I also wanted to create initiatives to support a healthy and happy team to enable brilliant employee engagement.

Our health and wellbeing initiatives over the last year have touched everyone across the business.  Each month is themed and a key objective for the H&W charter is to ensure that my entire team are happy and healthy at work. Mental health is high on my agenda too.  Interestingly, I was really pleased to read that ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ in 2016 focused on highlighting the impact of relationships on our mental health. The charity has asked people to commit to maintaining good relationships with friends, family and colleagues, which they believe is fundamental to our health and happiness.

We took this objective to a different level at BWBSL and set about creating stronger relationships in the workplace both within teams and cross-functionally.  New working groups and project teams were set up to pilot and launch the monthly health and wellbeing initiatives and in our recent employee engagement survey, there was overwhelming feedback from team members talking about improved relationships at work and how well team members support and help each other more than ever.  I also asked my learning and development team to design and launch a mental health awareness training programme, making it available to all team members.  This has received great feedback and increased levels of empathy demonstrated across the business.

The last year has been full of great achievements, in 2015 the business won ‘Best Place to Work’ at the UK Customer Experience Awards and earlier this year we were recognised with a total of four awards at the UK Employee Experience Awards, however, a happy and healthy, engaged team is by far the best achievement of all.

It’s a Wonderful Leader

By David D’Souza, Head of Engagement, London, CIPD

David D'Souza

If you were unlucky enough to have my company over a drink in the run up to Christmas you would be assailed/assaulted by my views on why ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is one of the greatest films ever. More specifically you would have had to put up with me talking about the character of George Bailey and how perfectly he is played by Jimmy Stewart.

Jimmy Stewart had an incredible career that included a number of exceptional films including Rope, Rear Window and Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Throughout them he embodies a charisma, charm and vulnerability that draws audiences and people to him. The character of George Bailey sees Stewart embody a sense of goodness, purpose, ethical commitment and humanity that is a lesson to any aspiring leader.

In a couple of interviews from 1973 Stewart talked about acting in a way that that I think applies wonderfully well to leadership.

Stewart described the art of acting as ‘the opportunity to create moments’ that had real resonance. Moments that stick with people for years and have a profound positive impact. He talked about the fact that people didn’t necessarily recall the titles of his films or the plots, but would often tell him that they had seen a film years ago and one scene had remained with them. His duty and role was simply to ‘prepare yourself as best as you can to make these moments happen’. They didn’t always happen, but when they did they mattered.

‘To think that I had been part of creating a moment that this man had liked and had remembered for 20 years, that was very special to me’. The role of a visionary leader is to draw people to them through engaging their heads and hearts. The very best leaders create environments that are memorable for the strength of culture and sense of purpose. They paint a possible future that people want to step towards and they understand that isn’t just a process, but an involving journey.

Stewart described a director asking for the same scene to be reshot 30 times. The actors eventually asked the director what was wrong. The director replied ‘You are perfect, but I’m just waiting for something to happen.’. It’s the same with leadership, it isn’t about the process – it is about the impact. The deep impact that you can have on another person, the kind of thing that resonates through the years. They don’t happen all the time and you need to respect and understand that. Good leaders just make these moments happen more often – and part of that is by embodying a movement towards a compelling vision.

When asked why characters he played were so timeless Stewart gave a lovely summary of what we might now term ‘authentic leadership’.

‘I’m a pretty good example of human frailty, I don’t really have all the answers, I have very few of the answers, but for some reason I make it. We get across that river’. Whatever the vision is, the best leaders help their people get across that river.

A final thought:

When Stewart started his career employees really were treated as assets. He was traded by his studio to another for 7 stunt horses.

Here is Stewart leading the way…

Talk to us