Customer Story

The Calico Group

Amplifying employee voice to create an inclusive and united organisation

The Calico Group is a range of charities and business, working together to create social profit. With services as diverse as their people—from social housing, construction and employability to rehabilitation, hostels and refuges—they put inclusivity at the heart of everything they do.

So much so, that Calico was awarded 5th place in The Inclusive Top 50 Employers 2020 list! Continuing their diversity and inclusion journey, up next on the agenda is amplifying employee voice to continue uniting their 700+ colleagues—which is where Hive come in.

Hive project goals:

  • Give Calico’s diverse and dispersed teams a permanent voice.
  • Empower employees to drive their own engagement.
  • Explore and measure diversity and inclusion—creating ‘One Calico’.
  • Build trust; create a space where people can be open and honest.

Introducing the Hive Project Team

Carmel Roberts, Learning and Development Manager, leads on diversity and inclusion initiatives at The Calico Group—playing a key role in their Hive project alongside Vicki Howard, Executive Director of Organisational Development, and Katie Willan, Head of HR.

Through authentic, people-first leadership they’re leading the charge on incredible initiatives to create a fair and inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued for who they are and can bring their whole self to work.

The team at Calico knows employee feedback plays a vital role in giving their diverse, dispersed and hard-to-reach employees a permanent voice so they can continue providing incredible support to their colleagues and communities.

Now well into their newly revamped People Strategy and Hive partnership, we had a chat with diversity and inclusion lead, Carmel Roberts, to find out how employee voice is helping to connect everyone together as One Calico, and driving their social purpose: to make a real difference to people’s lives.

Hey Carmel! Let’s kick things off by telling us about the diversity and inclusion initiatives that helped make Calico the UK’s 5th most inclusive employer in 2020.

“It’s hard to pin down exactly what it was that landed us 5th place. We run a lot of different initiatives, but I think it has a lot to do with our commitment to our communities during the pandemic. From growing our work with hostels and safe houses to housing homeless people suffering from COVID, we did a lot!

Then we have our internal initiatives that drive an inclusive culture here at Calico, like our ‘This Is Me’ groups, which are groups—such as LGBT+, Youth and BAME—who celebrate, champion and promote their own diversities to promote inclusion across the group and to wider communities. They’re very involved in decision-making at a leadership level, too, and help us to drive forward inclusive strategies. And we can’t forget about things like ‘Calico Come Dancing’. That’s a huge one for us, connecting not only our colleagues but our partners and families as well. Our last one included a same-sex couple and a wheelchair user; we make sure there are no barriers for those who want to get involved.

The overarching message behind our new people strategy is to create ‘One Calico’ where everyone across each group is united, happy and values-led—rather than feeling like a group of very different businesses. There are a lot of working parts to manage, but each of them helps us achieve our purpose of making a real difference to people’s lives.”

One Calico Logo

Inspiring stuff! Can you tell us a little about how Hive plays a role in your newly revamped people strategy?

“We partnered with Hive when Vicki, our Executive Director of Organisational Development, was working through rewriting our new people strategy. At that point, we hadn’t finished defining each aspect of engagement and experience. But, it quickly became apparent that we could use Hive to complete that process and shape the remainder of the strategy. 

When Jen [Hive’s Head of People Science] talked us through the engagement model used at Hive, it resonated straight away with our values and it was clear that it was the right approach for Calico. It supports exactly what we want from our people strategy—the two are just so interlinked and it means our new surveying approach aligns perfectly with our ethos.”

Match made in heaven! So what role does employee voice play in achieving your ‘One Calico’ strategy?

“Our people are our biggest asset. We have 5000+ properties, rehabs, refuges and more, but we know that none of that would work without our people and so their voice is no doubt critical to that success. 

It’s not just about hearing but listening with intent. Each company within Calico has an employee voice group and, within each, an employee voice champion who makes sure that information filters up. We meet every six weeks, where they’re included in decision-making and help to influence strategies moving forward.

And Hive has given us the perfect platform to be able to hear those harder to reach people. Our people come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are spread across various sites in the North West, so it’s important to get in front of as many colleagues as possible so that people can be heard in a way that works for them—and Hive gives us the ultimate flexibility to do that.”

The perfect people + tech combo! How did you, the team and your colleagues approach the transition from annual survey results to instant employee feedback?

“The buy-in amongst leadership was already there; as a group, we understand how important it is to know what colleagues are thinking, so moving to a platform like Hive was a natural step for us. There was no need to sell the concept!

It was also a shift for our colleagues, shaking up what people had known for a long time. We used the same annual survey approach for over 10 years, so it was important to get the word out there and explain exactly what the change meant. We followed Hive’s recommendations: we sent out emails, we held forums, we talked about Hive in our Executive Q&A, and we put it in our newsletter. After all that, we got a 74% response rate in our first survey, which shows that people trusted the process very early on.”

Fantastic news! Now you’ve knocked your first Hive survey out the park, what areas of employee experience will you focus on to drive your diversity and inclusion strategy?

“We’ve got a couple of immediate priorities that we’re going to focus on with Hive that will help drive our D&I strategy. 

The first is better understanding how safe people feel to share information about their demographics—including their protected characteristics—in surveys. We want to learn how we can increase trust and remove the barriers and challenges that people from less privileged or underrepresented backgrounds might face. When we understand that, we can work with them to drive their employee engagement and create a space where they feel safe to speak up.

Another one we’re focusing on is wellbeing. Firstly, because it’s one of our values! And secondly, because it will allow us to support people through COVID and beyond. We know when our people are feeling mentally and physically well, we can go one step further with our customers. That will help us drive our D&I strategy because they allow us to see whether there are certain pockets of protected characteristics that are feeling worse or better than others.

Both of these will give us tangible things to work on, instead of just feelings—which are just as important, really, but it gives us the solid evidence we need to justify driving real change.”

Sounds like a plan! And how have you found working with Hive’s People Science team so far?

“Well, the customer service has been fantastic. Jen [Hive’s Head of People Science] has been so supportive and so engaging from the get-go, and it’s been a real collaboration. There’s nothing prescriptive about Hive’s approach; it’s always been about what we want to achieve and how Hive can help us do that.

The insight we’ve received from Jen has been phenomenal. From working with us on our question strategy and presenting it to our group leadership forum (and then adjusting that strategy to fit the world of COVID!) to spending time with our employee forum—Jen and the team have played such an important role in helping us measure engagement, experience, diversity and inclusion and tell better stories with our feedback. It’s helping us to shape new strategies and drive positive change in a way that we couldn’t do without the support of People Science.”

Wonderful feedback! One last question: why did you choose Hive as your employee voice partner?

“The flexibility of Hive is essential to what we want to achieve. We’re able to adapt and change as we need to and we can influence what questions we ask and how we approach our surveys. Not forgetting other feedback tools, like Open Door and Hive Fives, which just make the platform everything you need under one roof.

Hive just works for Calico in a way that no other platform could—it helps us to reach our extremely diverse teams and it appeals to everyone.”

Team Hive love partnering with forward-thinking, passionate organisations like Calico, where all those facets of engagement—like employee experience, wellbeing and D&I—aren’t seen as separate strategies but are ingrained as one.

We’re honoured to support the Calico team in their employee voice journey, helping to create amazing working experiences for everyone. 🙌

Calico Come Dancing

Find out what it’s like to work at Calico

Check out Calico Come Dancing 2019

Take a glimpse into ‘This Is Me’

Follow Calico HR on Twitter