Transforming culture and values with employee insights
Housing association Thirteen manages 34,000 properties from North Yorkshire to Teesside. But they aren’t just providing and building homes for their 70,000 customers; they’re providing services from homelessness prevention to employment support.
And the key to providing this amazing service is to provide an equally amazing working experience for their 1,500 people, by creating great days at work for everyone with the power of employee voice.
Introducing our Hive project lead
Say hello to Kelly Gaston, Senior Organisational Development Business Partner at Thirteen. Kelly works end to end on the Hive project, from planning question strategies to working with leaders, managers and colleagues on action planning and cascading results.
Hive project goals:
- Improve culture and colleague experience with expert people science support
- Put colleagues and customers at the heart; explore the link between employee engagement and customer service
- Engage leaders and managers with people data; embed a platform that’s user-friendly for everyone
Thirteen and their amazing People Team aren’t ones to rest on their laurels; they’re on a constant journey to revitalise their values, culture and colleague experience—putting their people and customers at the heart of everything they do.
Having worked with Hive since 2017, we reached out for a chat about their journey so far and what’s next up on the agenda. Kelly has worked extensively with our People Scientists on an array of internal culture projects, so settle in for the full scoop…
Hey Kelly! Let’s get started with why employee voice is central to all things culture and values at Thirteen.
“In the earlier days of using Hive, we identified the values of the organisation, which are: smart, progressive and considerate. Part of that project was developing our employee value proposition to help create great days at work, and Hive’s People Science team played a key role in that. They looked at where we were at that point in time compared to where we wanted to be in terms of our aspired culture. Then, they looked at ways to bridge that gap and helped us gather feedback to support the project.
Off the back of that they produced an in-depth report for us which included the responsibilities of everyone across the business to bring the project to life, from our leaders to our managers to our colleagues. That provided the basis of our messaging and comms covering how we were going to take our colleagues on a new engagement journey.
So many more internal initiatives were born out of that project; it fed into our performance review and talent processes which we’re rolling out into the business, our great days at work agenda and our value-based behaviours. We also have other avenues which we use to collect feedback to really give our people a voice, help us form the bigger picture and discover areas that are in alignment and common areas of focus.”
And where are you taking your employee voice and engagement journey next?
“For us, it’s all about putting customers and colleagues at the heart of everything that we do. We’re really interested in the link between the two—covering everything from our employee life cycle to our employee value proposition and how that then impacts our bottom line with the customer.
We monitor everything across our people and performance indicators so we can see how far we’re travelling and track the continuous improvements we’re aiming to make. People spend a lot of time at work, so it’s really important to us that everyone has a great day at work and is happy with the work that they do. So a large part of our employee voice and engagement strategies are based around that; we really want to work with our managers, develop an internal dashboard and look at all of our people metrics—from sickness to performance reviews—to understand the impact they have on our people and on our customer service data.”
Can you tell us how the team is making the most of employee voice to help you achieve that?
“Employee voice is key across so many internal projects, but where it really fits into the equation is our mobilisation project—which is looking at new ways of working as a result of COVID and our health and wellbeing strategy. Hive helps us to generate insight and intelligence so we can adapt our offering to make sure our colleagues always have the right support in place.
We started to look at the frequency of our surveys and how we could really link our questions into our employee value proposition. We’ve just developed our new engagement strategy, and we’ll be running our baseline surveys twice a year where we’ll ask our standard engagement questions to make sure we’re consistently tracking progress and benchmarking against ourselves.
We make sure to benchmark health and wellbeing through our surveys, too. It’s a really important area for us so surveys provide a great temperature check on the workplace and our colleagues—and we also use the results to shape and develop our wellbeing strategy.”
Health and wellbeing is at the forefront for so many organisations right now. How are you using Hive to keep an eye on that?
“We ask health and wellbeing questions in every survey, particularly around mental health, so we can consistently track how people are feeling—which is really important to us. We have a suite of questions which allow us to do our own internal benchmark and monitor the impact of our health and wellbeing strategy.
As part of that strategy, we have a number of mental health advocates that have been trained in how to best support our colleagues on those issues. Following each survey, we get our mental health advocates to use Hive Messenger to reach out to colleagues who have scored a 7 or below [on a 0-10 scale question], as well as those who have left comments.
They’re there to offer support to our colleagues and signpost them to the right people and resources. Since both Hive Surveys and Hive Messenger are confidential, people feel more comfortable opening up about how they’re feeling and engaging in a conversation with our mental health advocates; that’s been invaluable for us.
It goes down really well with our people. It shows we’re really listening, that we genuinely care and that we’re going to act on the results of our employee feedback. It makes people feel valued to know that there’s someone on the other side to make sure they’re okay. The external world has changed for lots of people; there’s been such a wide range of issues, and our aim is to put the right interventions in place to support people.”
So what does the future of work look like for Thirteen?
“We took a temperature check across the organisation to find out how our colleagues are feeling in line with the way they work, as well as if they feel they have the right support from their managers (plus the mental health questions, of course!). So, we’ve grouped our workforce into four categories that align with different ways of working remotely or on-site.
We’ve always operated on a hot-desk system at Thirteen, and it was our intention to work with flexibility and agility. But, of course, COVID escalated that so we’ve used it as an opportunity. As a housing association, we have such a wide variety of roles with different needs. Thankfully, we already had the kit and equipment to work this way and we made further investment into that to make sure everyone had the right tools to do their jobs. We want to make sure that everyone has the flexibility when it allows and that people have the right working conditions to make sure they’re having great days at work.
We’ve taken our colleague feedback into account, around how they’ve found working remotely and how they’d like both our head office and other sites to be used in future. It’s an ongoing process; there will be more collaborative spaces, but it also needs to be fluid and something we continue to monitor with employee feedback moving forward.”
How have you found working with Hive’s People Scientists on your journey?
“We’ve always used the support of People Science, which has been invaluable to us. Because while it’s great to have the platform, actually having those consultancy services helps you go in the right direction with the results. People Science produce our reports off the back of our surveys, covering the likes of eNPS and emerging themes and trends, and together, we deliver a session to our leadership team covering all of the results and the actions we plan to take. Then, it’s my responsibility to work with our managers across the business to make sure that they’re cascading those results, and delving a little deeper with teams to make sure that we understand why the results are the way they are and what areas the teams would like to focus on.”
And lastly, we always ask… why Hive?
“Having worked with Hive for a number of years, we went through a new procurement exercise when the contract came to its natural end so we went out to market and tendered, seeing a number of different presentations with different providers. I’m thrilled to say that Hive won that tender and secured the contract with us for a further 3 years!
Hive is so user-friendly; ease of use is important to us, especially on the admin functionality side. The entire team is very responsive and will always accommodate our needs. The support Hive gives us really is end to end; so, in the beginning they’ll work with us to identify smarter ways of asking questions to make sure it’s measurable and we gain the insight we need. And at the end, we get the in-depth report which is brilliant to be able to share with our leadership team and our managers, and Hive presents alongside myself and the team. We get such a great service from Hive and if I’m being honest, I can’t think of one thing off the top of my head that I would improve on!”
The Power of Employee Voice
How an open and honest culture drives employee experience and organisational performance